Monday, June 24 2024

Bruins roster reset: Salary cap space, free agents entering offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins‘ run in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs is over.

They were eliminated by the Florida Panthers in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference second-round series Friday night at TD Garden.

Overall, it was a successful season for the Original Six franchise. After losing so many important players (such as Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci) last summer, the Bruins were expected by most experts and fans to be a wild card team in 2023-24, but they actually were in contention for the Presidents’ Trophy right up until the last couple days of the regular season.

They also advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2021 after beating the rival Toronto Maple Leafs in a dramatic overtime of Game 7 in Round 1.

The Bruins have a good foundation to work with entering the summer, but there are plenty of roster weaknesses to address. One that immediately comes to mind is getting another top-six forward, either a natural goal scorer or a playmaking center.

Here’s some important information to keep in mind as we get ready for what should be a busy offseason for the Bruins.

Salary cap

The salary cap for the 2023-24 season was $83.5 million, but for the Bruins it was essentially $79 million because they had $4.5 million in cap overages from Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci’s 2022-23 contracts.

The salary cap ceiling is expected to rise $4.2 million to $87.7 million for the 2024-25 campaign. Using that number, the Bruins are projected to have $20.9 million in cap space this summer, per CapFriendly. This number could increase if the Bruins make a trade or two. For example, trading Linus Ullmark (and his $5 million cap hit) would free up some extra room.

The Bruins had almost no salary cap space last offseason and were forced to go bargain bin shopping in free agency as a result. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney deserves credit for finding some good value in those signings, most notably Kevin Shattenkirk, James van Riemsdyk and Morgan Geekie.

Sweeney will have much more flexibility to work with this summer, but as we detail below, the Bruins also have some important players who are able to become free agents. Some of them won’t be cheap to re-sign.

2024 NHL Draft picks (and beyond)

The Bruins currently don’t own a pick until the fourth round in the 2024 NHL Draft. Unless the B’s trade back into Round 1, they will not make a first-round pick for the fifth time in the last seven drafts.

They also don’t have a second- or fourth-round pick in 2025. The next year in which the B’s own all their draft picks is 2026.

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If the Bruins want to be active in the trade market this summer, their first-round picks in 2025 and 2026 would be among their best assets.

Boston has some good young players at the NHL level, most notably center Matthew Poitras and defenseman Mason Lohrei, but the prospect pool is not loaded with high-level talent. In fact, The Athletic’s most recent prospect pool rankings from January had the Bruins at 30th out of 32 teams.

Trading first-round picks would be a risk for the Bruins given their lack of high-end prospects, but if Sweeney can find an impact player who will be with the team long term, then parting with another first-rounder wouldn’t be so bad.

Free agents

Jeremy SwaymanJeremy Swayman
Jeremy Swayman is able to become an RFA for the second straight summer.

Here’s a list of the notable Bruins players who can be an unrestricted or restricted free agent in the offseason.

Unrestricted

DeBrusk is an interesting case. He was again very inconsistent this season, but middle-six forwards who can score 20-plus goals (which DeBrusk has done two of the last three years) are not cheap in free agency or in the trade market. If the Bruins let DeBrusk walk as a free agent, replacing him won’t be easy, and they are already short on proven goal scorers. DeBrusk led the B’s in playoff scoring with 11 points (five goals, six assists) in 13 games.

Danton Heinen was a very effective player for Boston on a cheap one-year deal. He tallied 36 points (17 goals, 19 assists) in 74 games and played multiple positions and on multiple lines. His versatility is valuable, so bringing him back would be a smart move.

Three veteran defensemen have expiring contracts, too. Grzelcyk hasn’t been very productive in recent playoff runs and didn’t play in Boston’s last eight postseason games in 2024. Forbort has battled a lot of injuries over the last two years. Shattenkirk is 35 years old and played in just six of the Bruins’ 13 playoff games. Will any of them re-sign?

Restricted

Swayman is obviously the big one here. His excellent playoff run probably helps his positioning in negotiations. He exited the postseason as the league leader in save percentage (.933) and goals saved above expected (11.27). Swayman was the Bruins’ best and most valuable player in the playoffs and proved he could handle a heavy workload. The Bruins now need to make sure Swayman is the team’s No. 1 goalie for a long time to come.

Bussi didn’t have as good of a campaign in 2023-24 as he did in 2022-23, but he’s still an exciting prospect who could potentially be the backup in Boston next season if the Bruins trade Ullmark over the summer.

Source: Yahoo Sports

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