After another disappointing postseason exit that continues to accelerate the closing of this groups window, the Bruins have plenty of questions going into next season.
First and largest question is in net with Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak. While Rask has made it clear that he only wants to play in Boston, he won’t be available until approximately the mid point of the season due to his torn labrum. Does Boston decide it is time to move on and ride with Jeremy Swayman and re-sign Jaroslav Halak? Can they move entirely away and do something similar to the way the New York Rangers parting with Henrik Lundqvist and going with two young goaltenders? Concern could be had that making such a move can have a backwards effect with no veteran to lean on or to grow off and serve as a security blanket of sorts. There is also the potential of re-signing Rask and with him coming into the mid-point of the season healthy and rested being a strong factor in the postseason as he will not have to shoulder more than 50% of the starts.
David Krejci while many times finds himself hit by the injury bug has to be a player that is brought back by the team. One would imagine he would come in at a significant discount from his current contract that was paying him north of $7 million but with his playoff pedigree alone, Krejci still serves an important role in the top 6 for the club.
Taylor Hall is a big question for the team. Again the front office went out and made a big move at the deadline and while this one worked out far better than the Rick Nash disaster (imagine having Ryan Lindgren and Charlie McAvoy on the top pairing), the results still did not end in a deep run or Stanley Cup. Hall was dynamic since being acquired from the wasteland of Buffalo but fell off the map in the second round against the Islanders. While the wallet should certainly take a hit, are the Bruins prepared to throw down a long term deal with Hall in hopes that this go around was not a flash in the pan and he will be a strong consistent contributor in the lineup?
On the backend, Boston needs to work on shoring up the strength of the blueline. While the Bruins have strong pieces already in place, losing Brandon Carlo really exposed the depth of the blueline. While McAvoy did all he could, adding a strong veteran defenseman to this very young group should have a solidifying presence for the blueline.
This season saw a few key missteps by General Manager Don Sweeney which in the end played a major factor in the early exit. Even though aging and his best hockey is behind him, Zdeno Chara could have filled that veteran void on the backend and still been a key figure in a limited capacity. Losing Torey Krug and not having a true viable replacement or depth replacement also came back to haunt the club. One could also still look back at Sweeney and the scouting group’s colossal failure in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft’s first round. How would Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor and Thomas Chabot look for the team? One could say the Bruins window would have been blown wide open, a much more favorable chance at the 2019 Stanley Cup and the window would still be open today rather than rapidly closing.
It will and interesting offseason to see where Sweeney and Co. go from here. One thing for certain is that the Bruins will continue to be a battle in the east but can Sweeney make the moves needed to get them back over the hump? Only time will tell.Embed from Getty Images