Since their Stanley Cup Final loss, the Boston Bruins have parted with four right wingers, necessitating a major roster shake-up. Although some of the vacancies have been filled, an empty spot still remains on the third line, raising questions about who will occupy it.
With Nathan Horton and Jaromir Jagr testing free agency, the Bruins dealt Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley to Dallas, leaving Shawn Thornton as the only remaining right winger from the 2013 Eastern Conference champions.
Loui Eriksson came to Boston in the Seguin trade, and he should slot right into the top-six. A day after Eriksson was acquired, Jarome Iginla signed on to become the No. 2 man on the right side.
Now the Bruins are left to identify a third-line player capable of providing depth scoring and two-way play. Although a trade could still be in the works, here are the five players either on the free-agent market or already within the Bruins' organization most likely to be given the spot.
Of the available options, Damien Brunner has the most upside. The 27-year-old has just one year of NHL experience under his belt, after spending most of his career in Switzerland, but his blazing speed and lethal shot could make him a star next season.
After leading the Swiss National League A in points despite the presence of locked-out NHL stars like John Tavares, Henrik Zetterberg, Patrick Kane and Tyler Seguin, Brunner finally made the move to North America for the shortened season.
Jumping straight into the NHL fire, Brunner looked good, scoring 12 goals and totaling 26 points in 44 games. With a full training camp under his belt, Brunner could be even better next season.
Brunner would be a great fit for the Bruins, but he is probably out of Boston's price range. He left Detroit in search of a big deal, and some team is likely to pay him like the top-six forward he truly is.
If general manager Peter Chiarelli somehow convinces him to come to Boston, he could battle Jarome Iginla for a spot alongside either Patrice Bergeron or David Krejci on one of Boston's top two lines. However, with salary cap space at a premium, Brunner probably won't be wearing the spoked B anytime soon.
Intent on re-signing Nathan Horton, the Bruins told 41-year-old trade deadline acquisition Jaromir Jagr to seek different pastures for next season, but with Horton signing in Columbus, the Bruins may reconsider.
After learning of Horton's decision to leave Boston, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said the following to the media about the prospect of re-signing Jagr, according to ESPN's Joe McDonald: "We have thought about circling back. We may re-visit."
The NHL's active scoring leader has lost more than a few steps, but even at a snail's pace, he can possess the puck like no one else. Despite a postseason-long goal drought, the grey-bearded Jagr simply refuses to walk away from the game that consumes his life.
According to NHL.com, at least three teams have expressed interest in the player, and one of those teams could be the Bruins.
If the 12-time All-Star returns to Boston next season, he will have to accept a reduced role, which could be tough for the well-documented ice hog.
Jagr would be a relatively cost-effective option, but the five-time Art Ross Trophy winner might be too proud to come back after being deemed unnecessary.
Former Bruin Brad Boyes' career looked to be in decline after two awful seasons in Buffalo, but a one-year stint on Long Island proved that the 31-year-old has plenty left in the tank.
Playing with John Tavares and Matt Moulson, Boyes enjoyed his best season since a 72-point campaign with the St. Louis Blues back in 2008-09. The veteran winger posted 10 goals and 35 points in 48 games, including a whopping 13 points with the man advantage.
Boston's anemic power play can be summed up by the fact that their leading special teams scorer, David Krejci, managed just seven points with an opponent in the box. Meanwhile, Boyes put up as many power-play points than the top two Bruins combined.
Of course, Boyes' numbers were inflated by Tavares and Moulson's incredible talents, but nonetheless, he proved that he can produce with talent around him. If he snags a spot in Boston, he'd almost definitely give the power play a cost-effective boost.
Boyes scored 26 goals as a rookie in Boston seven years ago, and a return could result in similar success.
Rather than make another splash in free agency, the Bruins will most likely promote a player from within their organization. New acquisition Matt Fraser should be a prime candidate.
One of the newest Bruins, Fraser came to Boston as one of four Stars involved in the Tyler Seguin trade. The free-scoring power forward brings a superb shot and a whole lot of toughness to Boston.
The undrafted 23-year-old scored 70 goals for the Texas Stars over the last two seasons, leading the AHL in that span. With 13 NHL games under his belt, the minor league superstar could be ready to establish himself at the highest level.
If Fraser can provide Clarkson-like production, he'd be a perfect fit on Boston's third line. A strong training camp could win him the job.
Jordan Caron has been the favorite to fill this job opening for a long time, but the 2009 first-round pick has bounced back and forth between Boston and AHL Providence countless times in the last few years.
Caron is an NHL-ready player with excellent defensive instincts and a high work rate. He is a proven commodity on the penalty kill, and he fits well in Claude Julien's defense-first system.
For all of the positives, there is one glaring negative to Caron's game: a total lack of offensive upside. Never considered to be much of an attacking threat, Caron seemed to regress as a scorer this past season.
Caron mustered just 18 points in 47 AHL games, marking his least productive year as a professional. In 17 games in the NHL, the results were not much better, with the 22-year-old getting on the scoresheet just three times.
With 88 NHL games on his resume over the last three seasons, Caron is the safe bet to be on Boston's opening night roster, but his inability to provide depth scoring might make him better suited to a fourth-line role.