The Boston Bruins were two wins shy of a second championship in three seasons and are positioned to make another run at the Stanley Cup in 2013-14.
There was some turnover this offseason: Five of the 18 skaters who appeared in at least 14 of the Bruins' 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games are no longer with the team. Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr and Andrew Ference signed elsewhere as free agents. Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley were traded to the Dallas Stars.
Jarome Iginla was signed to replace either Horton or Jagr, and Loui Eriksson, the prize in the Dallas deal, likely will replace the other. The Bruins will have a new-look third line, but the "Merlot Line" is back.
2013-14 FANTASY PREVIEW: BRUINS
Under-valued: Loui Eriksson -- His 0.60 points-per-game, minus-9 rating and 2.17 shots per-per-game last season were his lowest in five years. A change of scenery and playing alongside Patrice Bergeron could be exactly what helps this 28-year-old wing bounce back.
Over-valued: David Krejci -- Krejci posted an NHL-best 26 points in the playoffs, but outside of his 73-point performance in 2008-09 he has never eclipsed the 62-point mark. The forward doesn't shoot or score enough, won't record a lot of penalty minutes, and doesn't rack up power-play points -- don't overpay for his playoff heroics.
Sleeper: Dougie Hamilton -- Most will be looking at Torey Krug as a sleeper defenseman after his playoff totals, but Hamilton possesses immense upside (17 goals, 72 points in 50 games in the OHL in 2011-12). His minutes likely will increase (17:07 per game last year) and so would his production (five goals, 11 assists in 42 games).
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The Bruins have three young defensemen who saw action in the postseason, and a combination of Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski will absorb Ference's responsibilities. Tuukka Rask signed a monster contract extension, and Chad Johnson was added to be his new backup in goal.
Boston should begin the 2013-14 season as the favorite in the Atlantic Division and one of two or three teams most likely to represent the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Final.
Here is the projected 2013-14 lineup for the Bruins:
NOTES: Eriksson, a strong defensive player, seems a natural fit next to perennial Selke Trophy candidate Bergeron and Marchand on a line that could dominate teams in plenty of advanced statistical categories. That would mean Iginla plays with Krejci and Lucic in the spot vacated by Horton.
Smith, the other player added in the trade with the Stars, could fit on the third line. He, Soderburg and Caron could be pushed for roster spots by prospects Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight. Paille or Thornton could move up a line if needed, but coach Claude Julien would probably like to keep them with Gregory Campbell on the "Merlot Line," so named for the color of their practice jerseys.
Julien likes to put Chara and Seidenberg together during the playoffs, but they often skate apart at even strength during the regular season. Hamilton played in seven postseason games, but expect the Bruins to give him a long look during camp in a top-four role; he has the most upside of the younger players on the blue line.