With the Bruins suffering a disappointing first round playoff exit to the Washington Capitals, they will look to tinker and revamp their roster for the upcoming season and try to get back to their cup winning ways. The following are my six keys for the Bruins off-season.
1. Re-sign center Chris Kelly
The most important thing the Bruins have to do this off-season is to re-sign Chris Kelly. Coming off a 20 goal and 39-point season, the center was a key member of the Bruins third line this season and during their Stanley Cup run a year ago. A valued leader in the locker room, Kelly was acquired last season for a second round pick from the Ottawa Senators. With the Bruins re-signing forwards such as David Krejci, and Shawn Thornton during the season, they decided to wait to negotiate with Kelly until after the season was completed. This could prove to be a poor decision since Kelly now has more leverage in negotiations after coming off of such a fantastic season. Kelly is also a player who does more than what comes up on the stat sheet. He is a great defender and has been a key penalty killer for the Bruins. He will be commanding a lot of money but it would be wise for the Bruins to sign him to a 3 or 4-year deal.
2. Sign or trade for a top six forward.
The Bruins need more scoring; that was evident towards the end of the season and the playoffs. With Nathan Horton returning from injury this year, the Bruins will no doubt get more scoring, but it would be a good idea for the Bruins to add another winger to help the Bruins score more. The biggest fish on the market is Zach Parise. The Jersey winger will command upwards of seven million dollars a year. The Bruins should steer clear of him since they have five free agents to re-sign next year. This includes Brad Marchand, Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic. Alex Semin, Ray Whitney, Alexander Radulov, Kris Versteeg and Jiri Hudler all being players the B’s could go after. However, Semin might fit the best. The former 40-goal scorer could be added to the top line and work magic with David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron. He can also be put on the penalty kill and power play, which will add more depth to the lineup and more scoring chances.
3. Stay away from signing a puck moving defenseman
Experiments such as Dennis Wideman, Derek Morris, Tomas Kaberle and Joe Corvo have not worked in recent years. Since Corvo will not be re-signed, this leaves a roster spot open for last year’s first round pick, Dougie Hamilton. The prospect was said to be last year’s best defenseman in training camp beside Zdeno Chara but was sent down to juniors for another year of seasoning. There is no doubt he will be a top-4 defenseman in the league one day and it would be wise for the Bruins to bring him up to the NHL level next season.
4. Re-sign Beniot Pouliot and Tuukka Rask to long-term deals.
Both of these guys are restricted free agents meaning any team can offer them a contract but the Bruins have the right to match said offer if the player accepts it. Pouliot impressed in his first season in black and gold. The former fourth overall pick was a disappointment in both Minnesota and Montreal but was rejuvenated under Claude Julien’s system. He was a mainstay on the Bruins third line and found chemistry with Kelly and Brian Rolston towards the end of the season. He has plently of potential and could easily be a 50-point man for the Bruins. Rask, on the other hand, has always been thought to be the successor to all-star goalie Tim Thomas. Now with Thomas taking the year off, Rask is slated to be the number one goalie. The Bruins should lock him up to a 4 or 5-year deal so they don’t have to worry about him for awhile.
5. Don’t go after Rick Nash.
Many people think this is a stupid idea for the Bruins and I agree. Nash has been a perennial all-star for the Blue Jackets for over eight years and has only scored under 30 goals once and that was his rookie season. The Blue Jackets will ask the world for Nash not to mention he makes over seven million dollars a year, which is a huge salary cap hit. Columbus will want at least Tuukka Rask and David Krejci or Milan Lucic to start and probably prospects and draft picks after that which is a lot more than they should give up.
6. Get younger
Prospects such as Jared Knight, Ryan Spooner and Jordan Caron have all pretty much proved themselves in the minor leagues or juniors. The Bruins should give them all a chance at the NHL level. This would mean not re-signing veterans such as Brian Rolston and Gregory Campbell. Breaking up the chemistry of the team does prove to be wrong, but the talented youngsters need to grow and could surprise people at the major league level.
Pierce Arrow Sports Editor