Following an incredibly disappointing game 7 loss to the Florida Panthers, the Boston Bruins have a lot of roster decisions to make this offseason. With two restricted free agents (RFA’s) and nine unrestricted free agents (UFA’s), there could be a good deal of roster turnover over the summer.
Let’s look at the nine UFA’s and see who the Bruins should re-sign and who they should let walk.
Nick Foligno, F
After a miserable first season in Boston that saw him only net two goals and 13 points, Foligno rebounded to post 10 goals and 16 assists, doubling his point total from the season prior. However, the acquisitions of Tyler Bertuzzi and Garnet Hathaway combined with the emergence of Jakub Lauko left Foligno fighting for playing time come the postseason.
It also doesn’t help that Foligno was injured from the end of February until the end of the regular season. He was a valuable clubhouse leader but given that there are plenty of fourth liners with a similar game and the aforementioned emergence of Lauko, it doesn’t make a ton of sense hockey wise to bring back Foligno.
Verdict: Let walk
Patrice Bergeron, C
This one is a very cut and dry case. If Bergeron wants to come back, Don Sweeney will re-sign him. If Bergeron wants to retire, he’ll retire. It’s Bruins or retirement for the captain. Bergeron’s future is entirely in his hands, and if he wants to come back, there will always be a spot for him.
Tyler Bertuzzi, LW/RW
Acquired at the trade deadline in the wake of injuries to Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno, Bertuzzi fit in very well with the Bruins, scoring four goals in the regular season and adding five goals and five assists in the first round against the Panthers.
He said in a recent interview that he would take a few days to decide whether or not he wants to stay as he hits free agency. If he wants to come back, I think the Bruins should take a serious look at re-signing him, but if he demands too much money, given the Bruins cap crunch, they might be priced out.
Tomas Nosek, C/LW
In the final season of a two-year contract, Nosek had a typical Nosek season. Strong fourth liner, very capable at the faceoff dot, blocks a bunch of shots. He even scored seven goals, one off his career high set in Vegas.
Nosek is a very capable fourth line center who is very valuable in his role while also playing an important part on the league’s best penalty kill. If the price is right, I think Nosek is worth bringing back.
Garnet Hathaway, RW
Another trade deadline acquisition, Hathaway was a very effective fourth line winger for the Bruins alongside Nosek down the middle. He finished the regular season with 18 blocks in a Bruins uniform while laying down 70 hits, adding four goals and two assists.
Hathaway, who made $1.5 million last season, won’t cost a lot to bring back, so he is definitely a candidate to re-sign. I have no quarrels with bringing him back, and it would likely be a one-year deal too.
David Krejci, C
I could copy/paste what I said for Bergeron right here with Krejci. It’s either Bruins or retirement for him. Just like Bergeron, if he wants to return, there will be a spot for him.
Dmitry Orlov, LD/RD
Acquired alongside Hathaway from the Washington Capitals, Orlov had a fantastic run with the Bruins, scoring four goals and adding 13 assists in 23 games in the regular season, adding eight assists in the playoffs.
That performance has earned Orlov a good chunk of money in the offseason, and rightfully so. At age 32, Orlov has already said his next contract could be his last, so he wants more term on his deal. A longer-term investment on Orlov when you have a logjam on defense doesn’t seem like a great idea, especially when he’s due a raise from his $1.275 million cap hit last season.
Verdict: Let walk
Connor Clifton, RD
Clifton had a fine season on the third defense pair with Derek Forbort, taking a big step forward offensively with career highs in both goals and assists with five and 18 respectively. It’s also worth noting that the Bruins right shot defenseman depth chart behind Clifton gets murky, with the Bruins having used Jakub Zboril and Orlov on the right side, which isn’t their strong side.
During the playoffs, the Forbort-Clifton pair got exposed by the Panthers, leaving Clifton out of the lineup for Matt Grzelcyk in four of the seven games. Clifton’s 60 penalty minutes in the regular season were also a career high by a hefty amount.
There’s a perfectly realistic scenario where Clifton returns, due to both depth chart concerns and the fact that he probably wouldn’t be making a lot more than his current $1 million cap hit. But I can also see the Bruins looking more at the negatives of Clifton’s play and opting to move on, and I think they could ultimately do that.
Verdict: Let walk
Chris Wagner, RW
Wagner spent all but one game this season playing for the AHL Providence Bruins in order to bury his cap hit. He had 19 goals and 12 assists for the P-Bruins, but also racked up 69 penalty minutes.
I just don’t see a scenario where Wagner is signed by the Bruins and has an impact on the NHL team going forward. Plenty of players have passed him, and the cap hit was unnecessarily large.
Verdict: Let walk