The Boston Bruins are coming off of yet another disappointing finish in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and with the offseason almost in full swing, it’s time for them to make some moves to improve the team. With Kevan Miller announcing his retirement and Jeremy Lauzon getting snatched up in the expansion draft, the Bruins have a lot of work to do to improve their blueline.
With an obvious stud at the top of the defensive depth chart in Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins need to focus on building a true NHL defensive core around him that they were lacking for most of last season. With free agency just around the corner, there are two names the Bruins should certainly be looking to pursue this offseason.
The first player that should be on the Bruins radar is recently bought out defenseman from the Minnesota Wild, Ryan Suter. Suter is an NHL vet with nearly 1,200 games of experience with both Minnesota and the Nashville Predators. Suter provides stability to any defensive core as he has consistently stayed in the lineup throughout his career with minimal injuries.
Coming in at 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, Suter doesn’t blow any other defensemen out of the water in terms of size, but he plays a physical brand of hockey that makes him a formidable opponent for other team’s offenses. Similar to Kevan Miller who was an average-sized player who played bigger than his size, Suter can help bring sturdy defensive skills to the lineup.
The Bruins have shown a lack of ability to hang with physical teams in the playoffs in recent years (St. Louis, 2019, Tampa Bay, 2020, New York, 2021), and adding a physical guy with defensive skills who isn’t under 6 feet would be a huge plus for the B’s.
Suter’s offensive capabilities can’t be overshadowed either as he is a really, really good puck mover from the back end. He has 172 assists in the last 5 seasons, and despite having one of his least productive seasons in 2021, he can still provide a bit more depth offensively that the Bruins could use. Suter can play with pretty much anyone on the Bruins’ current roster as his skills should complement an offensive or defensive defenseman.
The Bruins should also be taking a close look at offensive defenseman Keith Yandle. Yandle, who was bought out by the Florida Panthers, currently holds the longest iron man streak in the NHL with 922 games played without a healthy scratch or injury. Yandle, like Suter, provides durability and reliability that the Bruins need on defense.
Along with durability, Yandle is consistently one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL. The Bruins need more offensive depth, and could benefit from getting more offense from their defensemen. The Bruins lacked puck movement and offense from their defense last year so bringing in an offensive defenseman would be key for the team.
Yandle does lack some of the physicality that Suter would bring which is certainly notable as the Bruins need more grit and grind from every position on their team. That’s not to say that he isn’t a physical player, but he certainly won’t move the needle much physically for the Bruins.
Both targets are getting up there in age at 36 and 34 respectively. Although some may see this as a negative, the Bruins could use some veteran experience on the back end. It was clear last year with Zdeno Chara gone, that the Bruins lacked the defensive experience necessary to win in big situations. Adding a couple of veterans to complement what is a decent crop of young defensemen could bring the bruins defense from underwhelming in 2021, to overpowering in 2022.
Charlie McAvoy will obviously be on the top pair this year, but with his frequent partner Jeremy Lauzon gone, he and Ryan Suter could make a strong top pair with Suter being able to cover for McAvoy when he takes offensive chances and having the experience to be a sturdy partner for McAvoy who is still only 23 and could benefit from playing with one guy all the time.
Yandle is at a point in his career where if he were in Boston he would be playing on the second or third pair on a nightly basis. Yandle matches well with Brandon Carlo who is a very defensive defenseman. He could also be a strong powerplay addition, likely with the second unit as Matt Grzelcyk should have the responsibility of playing on PP1 this year.
The Bruins need, need, need defenseman and depth all around and Yandle and Suter could provide just what the B’s need moving forward.