Possible 2018 free agent targets for the Boston Bruins

BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 24: Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, left, chats with Bruins president Cam Neely as they watch the camp from the stands during training camp at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston on Sept. 24, 2016. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
BOSTON - SEPTEMBER 24: Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, left, chats with Bruins president Cam Neely as they watch the camp from the stands during training camp at Warrior Ice Arena in Boston on Sept. 24, 2016. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images) /

It’s never too early to start planning.  The Boston Bruins have established themselves as a team ready to be guided by youth.  But you have to couple that with experience to really compete.  Who could be available next season and would be a good target?

The youth movement for the Boston Bruins has brought a breath of fresh air to an organization that typically had been made up of veterans.  However, there’s something to be said for having experience on your team when it comes to competing for playoff spots and making a run for the Cup.

Boston Bruins
NEWARK, NJ – NOVEMBER 22: Jake DeBrusk /

When it comes to the current Bruins NHL roster, only nine players are pending some form of free agency next season.  Riley Nash, Tim Schaller, Zdeno Chara, Paul Postma, and Anton Khudobin will be unrestricted free agents.  Ryan Spooner, Sean Kuraly, Frank Vatrano, and Matt Grzelcyk are all arbitration-eligible restricted free agents.  And then, you have the gaping black hole that is Matt Beleskey and his $3.8 million deal through 2019-2020.

Could this be the year Spooner leaves Boston?  Have we seen everything Vatrano has to offer, and is he worth keeping?  Chara wants to play more, but will he be willing to take a discount to stay here for another season?  All of these are unknowns.  But, assuming the worst and there being spots to fill, what players that could be available come July 1, 2018 should the Bruins consider for the NHL roster?

James van Riemsdyk

Boston Bruins
TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 10: James van Riemsdyk /

In his career against Boston, whether it be in a Flyers jersey or a Maple Leafs jersey, James van Riemsdyk has performed remarkably well.  In 26 career regular season games, he has 24 points.  He is probably one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated players in the entire NHL.

In 556 career games, JVR has 178 goals and 181 assists for 359 points.  He has hit 30 goals only one time, but also has seasons of 27 and 29 goals.  He has 13 goals and 7 assists this season on a loaded Toronto Maple Leafs team (hence why he probably is under-rated and under-appreciated).

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JVR played his college hockey at the University of New Hampshire in Hockey East, so he’s no stranger to New England hockey.  He would be a great addition on the left-wing of David Krejci, or even Ryan Spooner on the 3rd line.  He’s currently on a very affordable $4.25 million AAV deal signed in 2012-2013.  He’s likely in line for a pay-bump, but the question is, how high?  If Boston had the cap space and could land him in the $5.5 million – $6 million range, he’d probably be a bargain.

Other possible forwards to sign:  Josh Bailey (NYI), Evander Kane (BUF, but probably too pricey), Matt Calvert (CBJ)

John Carlson

Boston Bruins
WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 05: John Carlson /

Okay, this is probably a pipe-dream, but could you imagine a John Carlson-Charlie McAvoy defense pairing?  Carlson is 27 years old, and is entering the prime of his career.  He is in the final year of a 6 year, $23.8 million deal ($3.96 million AAV).  I imagine that he is going to pull in significantly more than that come next July, whether it is from Washington or on the open market.

He has quietly been one of the best all-around defensemen in the league for the past few seasons on one of the best teams in the NHL.  He’s had some durability issues, but when he played a full season in ’14-’15, he put up 12 goals and 43 assists for a 55 point season.  In 29 games this season, he has 22 points.

I imagine that Paul Postma will be done in Boston after this year.  So this would really hinge on whether Chara returns.  All signs point to him wanting to keep playing in Boston, but like I said, we can dream.

Other possible defenseman to sign:  Tobias Enstrom (WPG), Jack Johnson (CBJ), Calvin De Haan (NYI).

Michael Hutchinson

Boston Bruins
OTTAWA, ON – JUNE 21: 77th overall pick, Michael Hutchinson of the Boston Bruins is interviewed during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft at Scotiabank Place on June 21, 2008 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images) /

Michael Hutchinson was supposed to be Winnipeg’s answer in net a few years ago.  However, he struggled in a few of his seasons there, behind a team that wasn’t exactly defensively strong.  Winnipeg has since found their goalie of the future in Connor Hellebuyck, and veteran Steve Mason is signed through 2018-2019.

Hutchinson, who formerly was in the Bruins organization and put up decent numbers in 2012-2013 with Providence (coached by none other than Bruce Cassidy), is having a dominating season in the AHL this year for the Manitoba Moose.  In 11 games, he sports a cool 1.73 GAA and a .952 save percentage, for 2nd and 1st in the AHL respectively.

He’s on a 2 year, $2.3 million deal, something the Bruins definitely could afford.  Zane McIntyre still could use some seasoning time in the AHL, given the fact that he has a 2.84 GAA and a .901 save percentage, and is being outplayed by the unheralded Jordan Binnington right now, on loan from the St. Louis organization.

Other possible goalies to sign:  Anton Khudobin (BOS, because why the heck not?), Carter Hutton (STL), Aaron Dell (SJ).

Next: Bruins Trade Target: Wayne Simmonds


Obviously, this is all speculation at this point.  All of these players could sign extensions with their respective teams.  They could all perform so well this season that they price themselves out of Boston’s market.  Or, the Bruins could be perfectly content with what they have going on in-house, and decide to stay the course.