With slightly less than a month before preseason camp starts, we now know several things. We have 3 RFA's un-signed, Torey Krug, Reilly Smith and Matt Fraser. It is likely if or when signed, and I believe all 3 will be, they will all make the opening day roster. Simon Gagne has been invited to camp on a try out basis. I do not believe he will be on the team on opening night, nor do I believe he will be on the P-Bruins roster either. As of today, Kevin Hayes has signed with the New York Rangers so there will be no surprises about who will be in camp. The Bruins will enter camp with 5 Goaltenders, 15 Defensemen and 28 Forwards. The coaching staffs are set, management is adjusted and the new season will be a journey of uncertain fate. They players are tuning themselves up to arrive in camp ready to compete and healthy. It is hoped that Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid and especially Dennis Seidenberg will arrive in camp healthy and in good enough shape after surgeries to get medical blessings to compete. We hope the core members of the team shall be prepared to be ready to compete on opening night with few or no questions as to their fitness and contract status.
Goaltenders will be vying for 4 positions in Boston and Providence. I expect Tuukka Rask and Niklas Svedberg to be the opening night goaltenders in Boston and Malcolm Subban and Jeremy Smith will be the starters in Providence. Adam Morrison may start his season in the ECHL or be carried as a third goaltender in Providence, we will wait to see how that will pan out.
Contrary to accepted practices, I believe and agree with Bruins Management that a team needs 8 NHL defensemen for a season on the depth chart. Seven will start the season in Boston and seven or eight will be in Providence. Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Doug Hamilton, John Boychuk will start the season in Boston. In Providence, Chris Castro, Tommy Cross, David Warsofsky, Zach Trotman, Joe Morrow, Linus Arnesson will start in Providence. Adam McQuaid if still on the team on opening night will be on the Boston roster. Matt Bartkowski or Kevan Miller could find themselves in Boston or Providence. Christopher Breen will be on the Providence roster if Torey Krug remains un-signed heading onto opening night. Breen may become excess to needs if Torey Krug re-signs on the Boston team. Word is that there is a multi-million dollar on the table for Krug to play in the KHL, but I don't feel he'll go to the KHL as an American in this time of uncertainty in Russia. So, I expect Krug to swallow some crow and pride and sign a 1-2 year bridge contract if for no other reason than to play for the contract he can earn at a latter time for greater gain. I'm not certain that Krug has the ability to be a top 4 or 6 defenseman in this league long term because of his size, but one can not question his talent to earn a spot on the team because of his offensive skills. I hope Coach Julien will experiment with Krug as a forward during camp as there ways to get the best out of Krug and not hurt the team defensively. It would also open the door for the Bruins to carry 8 defensemen on the active roster and take away a forward spot that might be too expensive to carry because of the cap crunch. At some point, I expect the Bruins to move either McQuaid or Bartkowski but not both. Other possible defensemen that might be moved include Warsofsky or Breen. Should the injuries start to pile up, expect call ups of Trotman, Arnesson and Morrow. One needs to look to the future during the season to see and plan that perhaps Boychuk or Krug may move in free agency next season.
The Boston Bruins are wondering where the goals scored by Jerome Iginla are going to come from next season. How to replace 30 goals and the Bruins are going to need equivalent seasons from David Krejci, Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for starters. It is also hoped that when and if Reilly Smith re-signs, he will also replicate his offensive numbers from last season. If he doesn't re-sign, another 20 odd goals shall have to be replaced and that may be difficult and too much to expect of the rest of the Bruins forwards over the course of the season. Two players that will be expected to fill the breach will be Carl Soderberg and Loui Ericksson. Between the two of them they should be able to get back about 25 of the goals that will go missing that Iginla scored last season if they can remain healthy. Soderberg also becomes a free agent after the season and will be expecting a pay raise if he has a 20+ goal season and 45+ point season. It may be even greater if he continues to be paired with Ericksson. But we may see Ericksson elevated to the Krejci line. Krejci will also be a free agent going into next season and needs to find the magic that deserted him in the playoffs right from the beginning of the season as he will be expecting a raise and longer term deal. Currently we have Ryan Spooner and Alexander Khokhlachev that could possibly replace Krejci to some level and the idea of moving Soderberg and Ericksson onto a line with Lucic should be looked at and considered during the season. This experiment would require building a new line around Krejci as a new third line and could show some promise with Krug on the leftwing and Fraser on the rightwing. Soderberg may also find himself paired with two new wings in a new third line format which may slow down his potential to put points on the board. Dan Paille and Greg Campbell will anchor the fourth line again this season in all probability with a new right winger, likely Justin Florek or Matt Lindblad. How Matt Fraser fits will first be determined by him re-signing with the Bruins. Others that will get big looks in preseason will be Spooner, Khokhlachev, Craig Cunningham and a dark horse Jarad Knight. Though Jordan Caron is signed, I don't expect him to make the roster this season as it seems to me several players have moved past him in the depth chart and at least deserve to have equal opportunities to be evaluated at this point. I'd wrap up Caron for some kind of minor trade at this point, his total game lacks consistency and he can't find the net or fight well for pucks in corners. David Pastrnak will also get a look, but I believe his camp will be all show and expect him to return to the Swedish Elite League after camp. The real dog of preseason will be Simon Gagne. He will be in camp for others to compete against by worrying fringe players that he'll get a roster spot. Frankly the Bruins just can't afford him at any price and like Caron, his overall game doesn't fit the team system. He's hoping to play well enough to get a look and contract from another team that will need an experienced minor piece and I wish him well.
Other forwards certain to earn a spot down in Providence are Anthony Camara, Seth Griffin, Brian Sexton, Bobby Robins, Rob Flick, Brian Ferlin, Alexander Fallstrom and Tyler Randell. Some players that may find themselves on the trade block before the season starts are Chris Kelly, Spooner, Knight, Lindblad and Robins. During the season as free agency approaches if trades early don't develop, you may see players such as Campbell, Paille move as they become free agents after the season as well.
I expect the Providence Bruins to have Subban and Smith with Morrison on the Bubble in Goal. On defense, Warsofsky, Trotman, Arnesson, Castro, Cross, and Morrow, with Breen on the Bubble. Forwards will likely be Camara, Griffith, Sexton, Khokhlachev, Knight, Robins, Flick, Ferlin, Fallstrom, Cunningham, Randell and Lindblad.
On the Boston Bruins, I expect Rask and Svedberg in Goal. On defense Chara, Seidenberg, Hamilton, Boychuk, Bartkowski, Miller and Krug. At Forward I expect Bergeron, Marchand, Smith, Lucic, Krejci, Ericksson, Soderberg, Fraser, Campbell, Paille, Florek and Spooner.
I think Kelly, Caron and McQuaid if they start the season with the team, may not be on the team very long. How do some of you see the team rolling into the new season? We'd love to hear from you!
Until Next Time!