The Boston Bruins were uncharacteristically thin on serviceable defensemen this past season. With former captain, Zdeno Chara and power-play quarterback, Torey Krug both departing via free agency, in their wake, the burden of picking up the slack fell largely on young unproven players in Boston’s system, to varying degrees of success.
Now, if healthy, a Bruins’ top-four of Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, and the recently retired Kevan Miller would have been more than enough to crunch difficult minutes against top-tier competition.
However, this past season that simply was not the case for the Bruins. Of a possible 224 games played McAvoy, Grzelcyk, Miller, and Carlo combined for a mere 143 contests. In turn, this required Connor Clifton, Jeremy Lauzon, and NHL newcomer Jakub Zboril to participate in over 40 games apiece respectfully, a feat matched only by Charlie McAvoy.
From a development standpoint, this was an excellent opportunity for Don Sweeney to truly get a sense of what he has in his trio of young defenders. But if the idea was to seriously contend for a Stanley Cup it’s not surprising that Boston came well short of expectations. Especially when you consider Lauzon and Clifton combined for over 36 minutes in the decisive 6-2 Game 6 loss against the New York Islanders.
Interestingly enough Scott Edwards of the Kraken Chronicle noted earlier this week that Clifton, Lauzon, or Zboril could be selected by the Seattle Kraken in the upcoming expansion draft. Certainly, time will tell if this comes to pass, but it stands to reason there is interest there.
Boston should add much-needed depth to their blueline
Just yesterday Don Sweeney and Brandon Carlo came to terms on a new six-year contract. Assuming McAvoy and Grzelcyk will return as Boston’s top defensive pair the focus should now swing towards finding Carlo a long-term partner as adding much-needed depth for a long playoff push.
The five-foot-eleven, 185-pound left-shot defenseman won’t bring the mean streak that, say, Kevan Miller could. But unlike Miller, the 35-year-old Goligoski hasn’t played less than 70 games in a season since 2010-11. Additionally, he’s successfully eclipsed the 20 point mark in consecutive seasons dating back a decade. Not only is Goligoski the exact player Carlo is referencing but provides additional special teams depth as an offensive option on the blueline.
Coming off a five-year $27.3 million dollar contract with the Arizona Coyotes it’s fair to assume that Goligoski could be willing to accept less to compete for a Stanley Cup.
If the idea is to insert pure offense into your rotation look absolutely no further than the pride of Milton, Massachusetts, Keith Yandle. Having played over a thousand NHL games and scoring 600 points instantly makes Yandle an intriguing asset for most teams on the cusp.
Over the years Yandle has developed a reputation for being an offensive defenseman with little upside elsewhere. So it’s safe to assume Yandle would primarily be utilized in the offensive zone and power-play situations.
Regardless, Yandle coming home seems like one of those things in sports that are bound to happen.
As a whole, the Dallas Stars woefully underperformed this past season and Mark Pysyk was no exception. At six-foot-one, 196 pounds his frame alone can bring some of that lost grit back to the blueline. Financially Pysyk only cost the Stars $750,000 last season and the expectation is he could be had for a similar dollar amount.
Fascinatingly enough his best years as a pro came with the Florida Panthers. According to Hockey Reference from 2016-17 to 2018-19, he tallied 311 blocks and 307 hits in 234 games played. If Pysyk can re-create some magic he would be a wonderful piece to round out Boston’s right side.
A criminally underrated piece of the Chicago Blackhawks dynasty, Niklas Hjalmarsson remains a serviceable stay-at-home defenseman. Standing at six-foot-three, 197 pounds the left-shot Swede has spent the last four seasons with Arizona and is fresh off a 2 year $10 million dollar contract.
Replacing Kevan Miller’s minutes on the penalty kill is of paramount concern and it is obvious Hjalmarsson could be a candidate.
Obviously, his best hockey is behind him, but Boston presents the three-time Stanley Cup champion with the chance to be a regular starter, lead the team in penalty kill time, and most importantly a shot at one last ring.