Thursday, November 30 2023

Why Bruins should run it back with Ullmark-Swayman tandem in 2023-24 originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston]]>

The Boston Bruins won’t have as much depth and talent in the 2023-24 NHL season as they did last year. It’s just not possible with the salary cap crunch the team is facing.

The Bruins have a little less than $5 million in cap space, per CapFriendly, and more than 10 of their own players eligible for unrestricted or restricted free agency. Bringing everybody back isn’t going to happen. In fact, a few players might need to be traded or bought out for the Bruins to field a full roster and get under the salary cap, which is projected to be $83.5 million in 2023-24 — just a $1 million increase from last season.

One player the Bruins could potentially trade to free up cap space is starting goalie Linus Ullmark, who has a $5 million cap hit for two more seasons, plus a no-trade clause (details here).

His value might never be higher than it is right now after a Vezina Trophy-worthy regular season during which he became just the seventh goalie triple crown winner for leading the league in wins, save percentage and goals against average (GAA). The odds of him repeating his .938 save percentage and 1.89 GAA are not high. That doesn’t mean he won’t be a top-tier goalie again, but before the 2022-23 campaign he had never posted a save percentage above .917 in a full season.

The Bruins have strong organizational depth at goaltender, too. Ullmark is very good, backup Jeremy Swayman is a top 15 goalie himself, and Providence Bruins (AHL) netminder Brandon Bussi shows promise as well.

So, why wouldn’t the Bruins deal Ullmark and use their strength in net to create cap space that can be used to address areas of weakness on the roster?


Well, if the Bruins want to remain a contender in the Eastern Conference next season, they’re going to need elite goaltending. The last 15 years represent one of the most successful periods in team history. During that span, the Bruins have reached the playoffs 13 times and lead the league with 688 regular season wins. They’ve had some high-scoring and middle-tier offensive teams over that period, but one area that has consistently been excellent is goaltending. The B’s have finished top 10 in both goals allowed and save percentage in 14 of those 15 seasons.

!function(){“use strict”;window.addEventListener(“message”,(function(a){if(void 0![“datawrapper-height”]){var e=document.querySelectorAll(“iframe”);for(var t in[“datawrapper-height”])for(var r=0;r<e.length;r++)if(e[r].contentWindow===a.source){var[“datawrapper-height”][t]+”px”;e[r].style.height=i}}}))}();

As painful as the first-round exit to the Florida Panthers was for the team and its fans, and even though some good players won’t be coming back, the Bruins still have a very good roster. They won’t win 65 games next season, but finishing first in the Atlantic Division certainly isn’t out of the question. There are high-end players like Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak up front, two No. 1 defenseman on the blue line in Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm, plus the league’s best goalie duo with Ullmark and Swayman.

That core has the potential to be a real threat to win the East with fantastic goaltending.


Let’s not forget the Bruins currently have just seven forwards under contract for next season. If Patrice Bergeron and/or David Krejci retire, the center position all of a sudden becomes a big problem. If the Bruins trade Taylor Hall for more cap room, they’ll be down another forward. We could see a few prospects, such as John Beecher and Georgii Merkulov, start the season on the NHL roster in bottom-six roles. The Bruins ranked No. 2 in goals scored at 5-on-5 last season. They almost certainly won’t have an offense that potent in 2023-24, which, again, makes goaltending more important.

The Bruins allowed 36 fewer goals than any other team last season and led the league with a .928 save percentage. The next-closest team was the New York Islanders with a .914 save percentage. Even if Ullmark’s play regresses a bit in 2023-24, he’s still a very good player and the Bruins likely would have the best goalie duo in the sport for a second consecutive season.

Trading Ullmark doesn’t mean that Swayman can’t become the No. 1 goalie at some point next season. Swayman just put together his best NHL campaign by far in a backup role. He ranked fifth in save percentage (.920), fourth in high-danger save percentage (.862), fourth in GAA (2.27) and 11th in goals saved above expected (15.27), per Natural Stat Trick. If he plays hot out of the gate, there’s no reason why he can’t take over the starting role, just like Ullmark did last season with his awesome start. Swayman also has never started 40 or more games in a single regular season, so we still don’t know if he can hold up playing 50-plus if Ullmark isn’t on the roster.

<img class="caas-img caas-lazy has-preview" alt="Apr 9, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports” decoding=”async” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTQyNg–/”><img alt="Apr 9, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTY0MDtoPTQyNg–/” decoding=”async” class=”caas-img”>
Apr 9, 2023; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) makes a save against the Philadelphia Flyers during the third period at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Another reason to hold on to Ullmark for another year is the fact that the Bruins don’t have a great option within the organization to back up Swayman next season. Bussi played fantastic for Providence as a rookie last season and his .924 save percentage was the second-best among AHL goalies. But he needs more seasoning in the AHL to improve certain aspects of his game like rebound control. Bussi is probably a year away from being ready for a full-time jump to an NHL backup role. Trading Ullmark and promoting Bussi next season puts a ton of pressure on Swayman to play well and stay healthy. If Swayman were to struggle or get injured, Bussi would be the No. 1, and that’s far from an ideal situation for Boston.


There are also contractual reasons to wait on trading Ullmark. His cap hit is $5 million but his total salary for next season is $6 million. Ullmark’s total salary drops to $4.5 million in 2024-25, making him a little easier to move to a team that doesn’t want to take on a ton of money. It’s also typically easier to trade veterans on expiring contracts compared to when they have multiple years remaining on their deal. The salary cap should be a fair amount higher for the 2024-25 season than the upcoming 2023-24 campaign. In that scenario, there could be more teams willing and/or able to take on Ullmark’s $5 million cap hit.

The robust goalie market is another case to keep Ullmark for another year. It’s definitely a buyer’s market right now. Connor Hellebuyck of the Winnipeg Jets, Juuse Saros of the Nashville Predators and John Gibson of the Anaheim Ducks are some of the netminders to watch on the trade market. The list of UFA goalies is fairly deep, too, headlined by new Stanley Cup winner Adin Hill, Frederik Andersen, Joonas Korpisalo, Tristan Jarry, and Semyon Varlamov, among others. Teams that want to make an upgrade in net will have plenty of options, leaving the Bruins without a ton of leverage if they explore Ullmark’s trade scenarios.

Maybe the Bruins’ hand will be forced and they’ll need to trade Ullmark to receive the cap space required to make other roster moves this summer. But the best-case scenario for the Bruins is running it back with the Ullmark-Swayman tandem and once again having elite defense and goaltending. That’s a really strong foundation for success and would give them the best chance possible of making a deep postseason run.

Source: Yahoo Sports


2023 NBA Draft: One trade idea for all 14 teams in the lottery ranging from realistic to utter fantasy


Girgensons gets a 1-year, $2.5 million contract to return to the Sabres for a 10th season

Check Also