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Bruins Breakdown: Free Agency

Nashes, Khudobin among seven set to hit the market on July 1

by Eric Russo @NHLBruins / BostonBruins.com

BOSTON - With the offseason now in full swing, Don Sweeney and the rest of the Bruins front office have turned their attention to the future.

And there is no shortage of work to be done, as Boston enters the summer with nine free agents (seven unrestricted, two restricted) on the NHL roster and another nine (five unrestricted, four restricted) that spent most of their time this season in Providence.

"Our team accomplished a lot to get to the 112-point level. Ideally, you'd like to bring everybody back and think you take another run at it. I don't think that's realistic in a cap environment," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said during his end-of-season media availability last week at TD Garden.

"We can afford the salaries they're currently at, but some of the guys had very good years, and you expect that to change. I've had discussions periodically with some of those players and will have with their representatives going forward in the next month or so and a couple weeks.

"I don't have clarity on any of the players at this point in time that are in the UFA status, but we're going to see clarity. We've got some players that we think, internally, will continue to push and carve out goals, and we'll see how we piece the jigsaw puzzle back together.

"But all great contributors, and in an ideal world you'd like to entertain bringing them back, but I don't know if that's realistic today."

Here is a look at all of the Bruins that will become free agents on July 1:

Rick Nash (UFA)

The burly winger was Boston's prized acquisition at the trade deadline. The 33-year-old was brought aboard from the New York Rangers in exchange for the B's 2018 first-round pick, Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, defense prospect Ryan Lindgren, and a 2019 seventh-round pick.

Nash played mostly alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk as the right wing on Boston's second line. The Brampton, Ontario, native notched three goals and three assists in 11 games, before missing the remainder of the regular season (12 games) with a concussion.

He returned for the playoffs, picking up three goals and two assists in 12 games - highlighted by his two-goal performance against Tampa Bay in Game 1 of the Second Round.

"It was disappointing with having a concussion, and having some effects during it, and only playing a certain amount of games, and then coming back for the playoffs," said Nash. "But, everything was positive. The organization was great, guys were awesome…it was a great chapter here and hopefully it can continue."

Nash, who was in the final season of an eight-year deal with an average annual value of $7.8 million, said during the team's Breakup Day that he had yet to have any discussions with Sweeney about a possible return.

"No, nothing. It's kind of a time to relax now a little bit, and obviously all that stuff is going to pick up pretty soon, but nothing yet," said Nash. "I would love to [return], for sure. They've got a special group here, and a lot of talent. It's a great place to play."

Video: Rick Nash speaks to media on break-up day

Riley Nash (UFA)

Boston's original Nash put together a career campaign in the final season of his two-year, $1.8 million deal. The 29-year-old pivot manned the middle on Boston's third line, collecting career highs in goals (15) assists (26), and points (41).

Nash was also a critical member of the Bruins' penalty kill and provided coach Bruce Cassidy with a dependable replacement for Patrice Bergeron on Boston's top line when the center was sidelined with a broken foot.

"I think there was a lot of opportunity we had," said Nash, who missed time at the end of the regular season with a concussion. "Bergy was hurt for a month, two months of the season, so I think that, and then playing with [Danton] Heinen and [David] Backes for a while - we had some good chemistry going, so I think it was just, overall, a good year. I was able to capitalize on more chances this year."

With his career year still fresh, Nash could be in line for a hefty new contract.

"Hopefully things go all right, open up some discussions, possibly, see what way they want to go, and what way we want to go," Nash said about a return to the Bruins.

Video: Riley Nash speaks to media on break-up day

Anton Khudobin (UFA)

The zany netminder was a critical part of turning around Boston's rough start in 2017-18, taking over for Tuukka Rask for a perfect four-game stretch in mid-November that jumpstarted the Bruins' torrid stretch towards the top of the league standings.

Overall, Khudobin played in 31 games - providing Rask with the requisite rest ahead of the postseason - and posted a 16-6-7 record with a 2.56 goals against average and .913 save percentage.

The 32-year-old Kazakhstan native was in the final season of a two-year, $2.4 million contract - his second stint with the Bruins after his spending parts of three seasons with the team from 2010-13.

"I want to be here. I like it here…I've been in a lot of cities and a lot of states, and Boston is my favorite one," said Khudobin. "How much is it going to be a factor in signing a new contract? I don't know. I don't think it will be a factor. I don't think it matters. It matters what they can offer, and how much I'm willing to take. But for me personally, I would love to stay here."

Sweeney said during his end-of-season presser that the team is exploring the possibility of re-signing Khudobin to serve as Rask's backup.

"I thought Anton did a really good job this year," said Sweeney. "We're exploring brining Anton back and see if that might work. If not, we may have to go to an alternative."

Video: Anton Khudobin speaks to media on break-up day

Tim Schaller (UFA)

The New Hampshire native teamed up with Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari to form one of the best fourth lines in the National Hockey League this season. As the trio's left wing, Schaller played all 82 regular season games, posting career highs in goals (12), assists (10), and points (22).

Schaller joined the Bruins in 2016-17 on a one-year, $600,000 deal, before re-upping for another year at $775,000 last summer.

"I would love to stay," said Schaller. "Being from just an hour up the road, 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."

Video: Tim Schaller speaks to media on break-up day

Tommy Wingels (UFA)

Acquired from Chicago at the trade deadline for a 2019 fifth-round pick, the 30-year-old provided valuable veteran depth, particularly on Boston's fourth line. Wingels picked up two goals and three assists in 18 games, before suiting up for four postseason contests.

"I enjoyed my time here," said Wingels. "I was treated incredibly well, from the management to the coaches to the guys in this room. There are certainly certain things to look for in a team going forward, and this team possesses a lot of that - 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."

Video: Tommy Wingels speaks to media on break-up day

Nick Holden (UFA)

The 31-year-old blue liner was acquired from the New York Rangers in exchange for defenseman Rob O'Gara and a 2017 fourth-round pick. Holden played in 18 regular-season games (one goal, four assists) and two playoff games (one assist) and displayed an ability to play both the left and right side and contribute on the power play.

"I mean, absolutely," Holden said when asked if he'd like to return. "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. So for me, that's something I would like to be a part of, if it's possible."

Video: Nick Holden speaks to media on break-up day

Brian Gionta (UFA)

Fresh off captaining Team USA at the 2018 Winter Olympics, the 39-year-old signed with the Bruins just before the trade deadline, playing 20 games with two goals and five assists. Gionta, who suited up for just one playoff game, said he has not yet decided if he will return for a 17th NHL season.

"We'll see," he said. "We'll reassess things, get back with the family and kind of go over some things, but we'll see where things stand."

Video: Brian Gionta speaks to media on break-up day

Sean Kuraly (RFA)

The 25-year-old center burst onto the scene during last season's playoffs with a two-goal performance - including the double-overtime winner - against Ottawa in Game 5. Kuraly, who is still under team control, followed that up with a strong rookie campaign, notching six goals and eight assists in 75 games, while anchoring the team's fourth line and providing speed, energy, and versatility. He added two goals and two assists in 12 playoff games.

"I'm really loving Boston, love the group of guys that we have here," said Kuraly, who finished up his two-year, entry-level contract. "I think we've got a great mix of some pretty extraordinary young talent with some of the younger guys, and then a great group of older core guys that have proven that they can win."

Video: Sean Kuraly speaks to media on break-up day

Matt Grzelcyk (RFA)

The Charlestown native - like Kuraly, still under team control - solidified himself as Boston's left-side, third-pairing defenseman after being called up to the big club in late November. Grzelcyk, who played out the second and final year of his entry-level deal, had three goals and 12 assists in 61 games, while also contributing to the Bruins' second power-play unit.

"You never know what to expect, coming in each year, how it will play out," said the 24-year-old. "If you told me that I was going to be here, I'd obviously take it, so it was a great experience and it was tough that it had to end the way it did.

"There's a lot of things that I can work on, so looking to improve that. But obviously I wish we were still playing."

Video: Matt Grzelcyk speaks to media on break-up day

Boston's other free agents include:

UFAs - Kenny Agostino, Chris Breen, Tommy Cross, Austin Czarnik, Paul Postma, and Jordan Szwarz.

RFAs - Anton Blidh, Colby Cave, and Justin Hickman.

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