There are obviously a lot of question marks when it comes to the Boston Bruins roster entering free agency. One of the biggest ones is what the defense will look like come the 2021-22 season.
The left side on defense already was a concern coming into the season, with Matt Grzelcyk as the No. 1 defenseman on that side, and depth issues certainly became a concern come playoff time when injuries caused Bruce Cassidy to find others to insert into the lineup.
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Now, the Bruins have both Mike Reilly and Kevan Miller as impending free agents, and very likely that either Jeremy Lauzon or Jakob Zboril could be gone in the expansion draft.
So what should the Bruins do about it? Well, there is a certain veteran defenseman that when it comes playoff time, there’s no questioning his ability to contribute positively and that’s Alec Martinez.
What would Martinez bring to the table if Boston were to sign him?
Playing the last season and change with the Vegas Golden Knights, Martinez is coming off his best season in his career, 32 points in 53 games which included nine goals and 23 assists. Out of the impending unrestricted free agent defensemen, only Tyson Barrie and Dougie Hamilton had more points than Martinez. And he would have had the second-most among defensemen if he was on the Bruins, behind only Charlie McAvoy.
Injuries and a poorer Kings team caused Martinez’s stats to decline in the back end of his tenure in L.A. It appears as though Martinez has turned that around in Vegas with a better team. Martinez can still eat minutes, as he’s averaged over 21 minutes of time on ice since the 2015-16 season in a reliable top-4 role.
He’s a proven veteran with two Stanley Cup wins under his belt, and very well could have a third by the end of this postseason if Vegas wins the cup. Currently, Martinez has four points in 13 games this postseason with the Golden Knights.
The problem is Martinez is going to cost a pretty penny. His value is at the highest it’s ever been, even higher than when he scored two game-winning OT goals in the 2014 playoffs with the Los Angeles Kings, one of which was the Cup clincher. The six-year, $24 million deal he finished up was signed right after those playoffs, and he should be in for a bigger payday.
At his best, Martinez can be a play-making, positionally sound defenseman. He proved that the statistics towards the end of his time in L.A. was a fluke, showing vast improvements with the Golden Knights. It’s something that the Bruins certainly could use, especially if they don’t bring back Reilly.
The Bruins have roughly $23 million in cap space to work with, and with Tuukka Rask, Taylor Hall, and David Krejci all up for new deals, shelling out decent money for a soon-to-be 34-year-old defenseman isn’t exactly smart.
Should the Bruins kick the tires? Absolutely. If they can re-sign any or all of Rask, Hall, and Krejci to cheaper deals, that may leave enough cash left over that they can afford a slight overpay. Martinez will likely be looking for a deal with an AAV between $5-6 million and with his performance the last season, he certainly can demand it.
But when it comes to Boston, paying that much for veteran defensemen may be too much. They can find better deals for an older blue liner and be willing to take a hit on the talent. Unless Martinez is willing to take lesser pay or a shorter contract, it should be a phone call between the Bruins’ front office and Martinez’s agent, but not a signed deal.