Much of the talk of "making a big splash" in free agency for the Boston Bruins revolves around one name: Marian Hossa. We'll have to wait until July 1, at the earliest, to see if the B's can get Hossa in a spoked B uniform. Until then, it sure is fun to imagine the possibilities when you pair Hossa up with Savard, Bergeron, Kessel, and the other up-and-coming youngsters in the Bruins lineup.
When talking about Hossa and the Bruins, a bigger question comes to mind. What if the Bruins can't get Hossa signed? What do they do next? I've got four names to throw into the hat for discussion. If no Hossa, the Bruins need to bring in at least two of these players. Two of the players are currently with the Canadiens. Wouldn't it be wonderful to steal a player or two from the much-hated Habs?
One of the biggest weaknesses the Bruins face in the future is a lack of depth at right wing. Hossa would help clear up that weakness. Here are two other players who have to be considered if Hossa isn't signed.
Brian Rolston – Rolston has played the last three years for the Minnesota Wild. He signed with the Wild as a free agent after leaving the Bruins. Why the Bruins ever let him go in the first place is another discussion altogether. He may be a little old (35), but he would bring a ton of experience to the team.
His stats are outstanding for a defensive-minded team. His last seven years, he's scored between 48-79 points each year. He’s been over 30 goals each of the past three years. He plays on the power play and the penalty kill. He gets back on defense. He won't be able to give a team as many years as Hossa would, but he'd provide scoring, playmaking, leadership, and special teams play for a team that needs help.
Michael Ryder – Ryder is only 28 years old, and could be signed to a longer-term contract than Rolston. He's had two 30-goal seasons in the past three years; his first year he scored 25 goals. His numbers dipped slightly this year. Outside Hossa and Rolston, Ryder would be the most affordable option available.
One of the bigger needs the Bruins have is a puck-moving defenseman that can serve on the top line with Chara or take charge of the second line. Aside from Dennis Wideman, who showed promise toward an ability to man the power play, the Bruins have a lot of youngsters coming up through the organization who aren't ready for serious playing time on the big club. Here are two defenders that would provide an immediate boost to the B's lineup.
John-Michael Liles – Liles is probably the most talked-about free agent defenseman the Bruins are rumored to be interested in. Brian Campbell is out there, but the Bruins just don’t have the money to bring him to Boston. Liles would provide just what the defense needs. He’s a little smallish (5'10" and 185 lbs.), and is not as physical as others. But he can move the puck, he can play the power play, he can provide some offense when necessary. Liles would be a welcomed addition to Boston.
Mark Streit – The second of the Canadiens on my list. Streit is versatile enough that he can play forward in addition to defense. Liles had 20 points on the power play in 2008; Streit had 34. He doesn't play as many minutes per game as Liles, and he’s a few years older, but he’s a little bigger. His penalty numbers are almost exactly the same as Liles.
Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins management have some difficult decisions ahead of them. Do they pursue Hossa? Instead of Hossa, do they pursue other free agents and try to fix more problems with the club? Or do they stand fast with what they have now, depending on trades and their youngsters to develop?
The next few days will be most interesting around the NHL. Whatever they do, I hope the Bruins can come away with a stronger team and a brighter future.