Bruins free agents: Who stays and who goes?
With the Bruins 2017-18 season officially in the books, the attention now shifts to the offseason and preparing the team for a deeper run in 2018-19. Doing so starts in-house with the Bruins pending free agents.
The Bruins enter the summer with seven unrestricted free agents and two restricted free agents. Let’s take a look at the nine pending free agents and see which ones I think will or won’t be back.
Rick Nash: UFA, 2017-18 Cap Hit: $7.8M, 2017-18 stats: 11GP, 3G, 3A, 6PTS
The biggest name on the Bruins’ free agent list, but also the one who I think is most likely to not come back. After being acquired from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline, Nash got off to a fast start with two goals in his first three games, but then disappeared after that with just three points in his final eight games. Nash suffered a concussion at the end of the season that caused him to miss the Bruins final 12 games.
The Bruins knew acquiring Nash was a bit of a risk as the 33-year old has been on the decline through the last few seasons. The playoff narrative surrounding Nash was front in center during the Bruins 12 playoff games. Multiple scoring chances, a few goals and all-around average play from a guy who should be producing more. Nash finished the playoffs with three goals, but two of the three came in Game 1 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Nash’s body type and style of play is the exact fit the Bruins need alongside David Krejci,—and now presumably Jake DeBrusk—but the Bruins would be better off finding that elsewhere as it doesn’t seem the soon-to-be 34-year old Nash is going to give the Bruins what they need from a second line winger.
“Yeah, definitely, I would love to [stay], for sure,” said Nash. “They’ve got a special group here, and a lot of talent. It’s a great place to play.”
Prediction: Nash goes
Riley Nash: UFA, 2017-18 Cap Hit: $900k, 2017-18 stats: 76GP, 15G, 26A, 41pts
The Bruins’ other Nash is coming off a career year in goals (15), assists (26) and points (41). When the Bruins lost Patrice Bergeron for a few weeks due to a foot fracture, Nash stepped into Bergeron’s role and was solid in doing so.
Like most of the Bruins’ forwards, Nash had a rough go of it in the playoffs, with just one point in nine games. Nash was a scratch for three of the Bruins 12 playoff contests, with two of those due to injury. Nash suffered from a concussion and an ear injury after taking a puck up high at the end of the season. When it comes time to decide if they should let Nash walk, or bring the 29-year old back, the decision may be the Bruins most difficult of all pending free agents.
Nash should expect a bit of a raise from his current salary of $900,000 per season. He’s a guy who can chip in offensively, win a big faceoff when needed and can give you stability on the penalty kill. Nash averaged 1.54 of shorthanded time on ice per game, fifth most of all Bruins. I think another solid season from Nash has forced the Bruins hand and Nash will find some more money on the open market.
“Yeah, I think I’ll have a better understanding after our meeting today [last Wednesday], so hopefully things go alright, open up some discussions, possibly, see what way they want to go, and what way we want to go.”
Prediction: Nash goes
Anton Khudobin, UFA 2017-18 Cap Hit: $1.2M, 2017-18 Stats: 31GP, 16-6-7, 2.56GAA, .913SV%
As a backup goalie, Khudobin did exactly what the Bruins needed him to do. When Rask needed a night off or was battling through a tough stretch, Khudobin more often than not was up to the task, providing the Bruins with some much needed stability behind Rask.
Khudobin picked up four consecutive wins in mid-November, at a time that we saw Rask struggling between the pipes. The stretch provided the Bruins with some much needed juice, and gave Khudobin some added confidence.
With a thin backup market out there, and a solid year under Khudobin’s belt, it makes sense for both sides to come to an agreement on a new contract. A one-year deal would be a perfect fit for both sides.
“I want to be here. I like here. I’ve been in California, I’ve been in Texas, I’ve been in Carolina, I’ve been in Minnesota. I’ve been in a lot of cities and a lot of states, and Boston is my favorite one,” said Khudobin. “That’s clearly, and it’s not because I want to give it a shot, or try to say I’m so nice, I’m going to just sign here. This is my favorite city. That’s the way it is. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to sign here, or if I’m going to go away or if I’m going to sign here. Boston is still going to be my favorite city.”
Prediction: Khudobin stays
Tim Schaller: UFA, 2017-18 Cap Hit: $775K, 2017-18 Stats: 82GP, 12G, 10A, 22pts
Schaller was one of two Bruins—David Pastrnak being the other—to play in all 82 games in the regular season. He developed nicely into a reliable penalty killer for the Bruins, averaging 1.53 of shorthanded time on ice per game, sixth most of all Bruins. Schaller provides the Bruins with stability on the fourth line and came in very cheap for the Bruins. As another player who has played themselves into a pay raise, I think we’ve seen the last of Schaller in a Bruins’ uniform.
“Yeah, I would love to stay,” said Schaller. “Being from just an hour up the road [New Hampshire], obviously it’s a dream come true to play here, but at the end of the day, it’s a business, and whatever they want to do, it’s up to them. We’ll find out in a month or so.”
Prediction: Schaller goes
Tommy Wingels: UFA, 2017-18 Cap Hit: $750K, 2017-18 Stats: 18GP, 2G, 3A, 5pts
Wingels was acquired at the trade deadline as a move to provide the team with some offensive depth and NHL experience. Wingels played a bottom-six role and didn’t do much to help the team, nor did he do much to hurt them. It’s highly unlikely Wingels will be back in Boston next season.
“You know, I haven’t thought about it too much,” Wingels said of staying in Boston. “I enjoyed my time here. I was treated incredibly well, from the management to the coaches to the guys in this room. You know, there are certainly certain things to look for in a team going forward, and this team possesses a lot of that. You know, a winning culture, the ability to go far in the playoffs and a good group of guys, so it’s certainly a desirable place to play, but we’ll see what happens.”
Prediction: Wingels goes
Brian Gionta: UFA, 2017-18 Cap Hit: $700K, 2017-18 Stats: 20GP, 2G, 5A, 7pts
Much like Wingels, Gionta—a free agent at the time—was brought on to provide the team with depth and experience. Gionta sat out the start of the 17-18 season to focus on training for the Olympics where he was the captain of Team USA. Gionta played in just one playoff game where he struggled to match the speed of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Gionta surely won’t be back in Boston and is now contemplating retirement.
“We’ll see,” [if he has a year of hockey left]. “We’ll reassess things, get back with the family and kind of go over some things, but we’ll see where things stand,” said Gionta.
Prediction: Gionta goes
Nick Holden: UFA, 2017-18 Cap Hit: $1.65M, 2017-18 Stats: 16GP, 1G, 4A, 5pts
Acquired from the New York Rangers at the trade deadline to give the Bruins an extra body on their blue line, Holden was solid for the Bruins when called upon. He provided the Bruins with some offense as he registered five points in 16 games. Holden appeared in two playoff games, picking up one point in the process.
“Right now, being able to spend the last part of the season and the playoffs, you see how young and how good this team is going to be,” said Holden. “So, for me, that’s something I would like to be a part of, if it’s possible.”
Prediction: Holden goes
Matt Grzelcyk: RFA, 2017-18 Cap Hit: $858,750, 2017-18 Stats: 61GP, 3G, 12A, 15pts
After being recalled from Providence in late November, Grzelcyk took his opportunity and ran with it. Grzelcyk understood his role and played very well in it. What opened eyes the most about Grzelcyk was his smarts with the puck. He’s quick to react and quick to get the puck out in transition. His small frame is not going to scare most NHL forwards, but his hockey IQ and ability to move the puck up and out of the zone makes him a solid option on the Bruins’ blue line.
Prediction: Grzelcyk stays
Sean Kuraly: RFA, 2017-18 Cap Hit: $808,750, 2017-18 Stats: 75GP, 6G, 8A, 14pts
Looking at the stats won’t give you the full story, but Kuraly was one of the Bruins’ better forwards in the playoffs. He was tasked with shutting down the opponents, a task he did very well. Kuraly also developed into a reliable option at the faceoff dot. His relentless attack on the fore check is another positive aspect of his game.
”Obviously, I think, something ought to come up here soon, but no, haven’t really given it too much thought,” said Kuraly. “Obviously wanted to play the season out and, you know, when it ended, kind of work it out.”
Prediction: Kuraly stays
AHL Free Agents: