Top Storylines to Follow in Final Month of Boston Bruins' 2014 Offseason
The NHL finalized its 2014 preseason game schedule Tuesday afternoon with extramural action set to commence on Sept. 21. The Boston Bruins will conduct their intra-squad scrimmage in Providence, Rhode Island, that evening before visiting Montreal two nights later.
As of Wednesday, that whittles down the wait for another game to 32 days. A full month with a remainder of 24 hours, give or take.
So far this offseason, the biggest news coming out of Boston was the loss of the rights to prized veteran Jarome Iginla. They are still, at least in terms of numbers, looking to plug the resultant void on the right side.
The Bruins have a copious supply of players at other positions—an imbalance they might want to remedy before normal business resumes. They also have yet to re-sign a couple of key youngsters in their restricted free agent class.
Concrete developments on each of these fronts may or may not surface prior to the start of the 2014-15 season. But until that happens, there will be no shortage of buzz on these topics as the Bruins hit their hibernation homestretch.
Here is more on the four key areas for New England hockey followers to monitor over the next four-plus weeks.
Deal with a Defenseman?
On Aug. 14, while answering the first of a handful of fan questions, csnne.com reporter Joe Haggerty addressed Boston’s overstock of NHL-caliber defensemen. In his words, “David Warsofsky and Adam McQuaid are the favorites to be moved...Warsofsky is similar to Torey Krug in many ways, and McQuaid is essentially a higher-salaried Kevan Miller.”
That does not necessarily mean any moves will occur before games, much less practices, begin. But circumstances that would signal an opportunity to dangle a spare piece could arise at any time.
Teams seeking to deepen their blue-line brigade through other means, but falling short, might come calling and thus set off the rumor mill in advance of training camp. In that event, anticipation of McQuaid’s latest bill of health will intensify.
As Haggerty’s testimony would suggest, whether Warsofsky surfaces on the trading block ought to depend on Krug’s contract saga. On that note…
Final Free Agents
Haggerty dished up another juicy nugget last week with a report that Krug has a potential KHL contract. Assuming the accuracy of that report, the young American defenseman's willingness to consider the offer is debatable.
Technically, Krug is available to anyone with the will and ability to sign him as long as he is a restricted free agent. The same goes for winger Reilly Smith, whom the Bruins have yet to re-up after his 50-point breakout.
Because he has yet to play a full NHL season, Matt Fraser is a lower-profile case. But he is an RFA all the same and one of the few natural right wings Boston might be able to fit under the salary ceiling while rounding out the depth chart.
Annie Maroon of Mass Live speculates that any and all re-signings will wait until training camp. That logic owes to the fact that Marc Savard cannot officially go on long-term injured reserve until then.
However, to tie this in with the point about defensive overstock, Maroon later mentions Matt Bartkowski as another trade candidate.
Per CapGeek, the Bruins are presently $809,143 above the ceiling and Bartkowski carries a cap hit of $1,250,000. If another party were to assume his contract, however, there would be a minimal, but existent, opening of space.
But if everything stays quiet on Boston's end for the next month, rumors of the team's RFAs looking elsewhere will only grow.
This comes two days after the Providence Journal's Mark Divver tweeted that both Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli and head coach Claude Julien had reached out to express their interest in the Boston College-bred free agent.
This means the black-and-gold brass has suffered a setback in its quest to find a fresh, affordable right wing for 2014-15. Depending on how the aforementioned trade bait on defense shapes up, it would make sense if they seek to shave off a spare piece in the back in exchange for reinforcement up front.
There is also an outside chance that a homegrown specimen could provide a solution. High-end prospect David Pastrnak appears keen on a what-the-heck bid for immediate NHL employment.
The team’s latest first-round draft pick recently generated headlines with a few highlight-reel plays for the Czech Republic. Nesn.com’s Nicholas Goss believes Pastrnak could be ready to hang with the established professionals in a month.
Goss writes that “the B’s need a right winger with high-end offensive skill and a right-handed shot.”
He later adds:
Pastrnak adds an element of speed, goal-scoring ability and playmaking skill that Boston currently lacks in its bottom-six forward group, with the exception of Carl Soderberg. He plays the game at a high rate of speed and uses his quickness to beat stronger opponents.
Naturally, the fact that Pastrnak checks in at 5’10” and south of 170 pounds will continue to pose questions as to his short-term NHL aptitude. The key question leading up to training camp is how much he can refine his strength and swiftness to offset his modest size.
Even if he falls short of a roster spot in 2014-15, Pastrnak’s stock won't drop. But he'll need to be ready to demonstrate his value during training camp if he's going to be a serious candidate to make the team.