Twenty-two of the 30 NHL teams are already watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs from home. Whether it was being on the receiving end of a first-round exit or not making the top eight in either conference altogether, the hockey season ending in April is a difficult thing to swallow.
While the players have the luxury of participating in their own regiments in the summer months, the front office personnel of each team will be drinking a lot of coffee. They will be working those diligent and grueling hours in order to improve their team in the offseason.
The Boston Bruins will be one of those franchises. It may be a blessing in disguise that the Black and Gold are eliminated from Cup contention this season. While seven of the remaining teams will be in the same situation as the Bruins two months from now, they now have a head start and that could be beneficial.
The Bruins will have a plethora of cap space in the offseason, pending on what happens with the new collective bargaining agreement. Targeting free agency is almost a necessity for Boston. They also have the ammo to pull off a trade that will increase their offensive firepower. Options are aplenty for the Bruins. The question is what will they do with those options?
It never hurts to have depth at the blue line. While the Bruins have five of their top six defensemen signed beyond next season, they could still target a big name to accompany them.
Ryan Suter’s name has been thrown out there as one of the top free agents this offseason. He posted 7 goals and 39 assists in 79 games for the Nashville Predators this season. The Bruins could sign him and pair him with Zdeno Chara. That would be one of top defensive pairs in the league.
While Suter is only 27 years of age, he could be the franchise’s top defenseman of the future. With Dougie Hamilton waiting in the wings, these two players could be exactly what the Bruins want long term. If they were to pull this off, they would be all set defensively for the next 10 years.
This scenario still looks unlikely. On the other hand, Boston could target a player like Brad Stuart of the Detroit Red Wings. He is an avid shot blocker (115 blocked shots during the regular season) and he is a top-four defenseman on most teams in the league. Stuart fits the style the Bruins like to play. If Stuart does not wish to re-sign with the Red Wings, look for the Bruins to pursue the veteran blue-liner.
Offensively, Zach Parise is the big name out there. He posted 31 goals and 38 assists during the 2011-12 campaign and he is overdue for a pay day. He would fill the scoring void that has been lacking on the top line ever since Nathan Horton went down with his concussion.
Alexander Semin is another name that the Bruins could target. He had a bit of a down year for the Washington Capitals, but that does not take away his ability of being a sniping power forward. He will find a home next season. It is possible that home could be on Causeway Street.
Those are some free agents that the Bruins could zero in on during the offseason. They could also work out a trade with some teams if the free agent price of a player becomes too high.
Ever since Marc Savard went down with a severe concussion, Boston has been in desperate need of a first-line center. Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are solid players, but neither one could fill the void left on the top line. With that being said, Boston drafted Tyler Seguin to be the first-line center of the future. His time could come sooner rather than later.
One possible trade that could work out for both teams involved is if the Bruins trade forward Milan Lucic, goaltender Tim Thomas and a draft pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for R.J. Umberger and a prospect.
Lucic led the Bruins in 2010-11 in goals scored with 30. His drop off this year was only four as he posted 26 goals this season. However, it is the postseason where he disappears. Only five goals in his last 32 playoff games is not the kind of production that the Bruins are looking for. With the Blue Jackets looking for a goaltender and a physical power forward, this could work out.
In hindsight, parting ways with Thomas will not be too painful since Tuukka Rask is ready to assume the starting role. The only bump in the deal is that Rask is a restricted free agent, but he will most likely receive an extension with the Bruins. Rask finished with a 2.05 goals against average and a .929 save percentage in an injury-plagued regular season.
In return, Boston would receive Umberger who is a physical player and a gifted goal scorer. If Horton is healthy, Boston could insert Seguin into the first-line center role. The potential Umberger-Seguin-Horton trio would be a highly productive top line and the contracts would be affordable for both teams. It just makes sense all around.
Boston could attempt the same trade with the Chicago Blackhawks in exchange for Patrick Kane, but they might have to give up a little more. Perhaps another prospect or multiple draft picks? Kane is set to make $6 million next season. He recorded 23-43-66 totals in a down year for the Blackhawks, which could make him more valuable to teams looking for a scoring punch.
The Bruins have several options at their disposal. Let’s see exactly how they will attack the 2012 offseason.