After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is taking a look at where each team stands. Today, the Boston Bruins:
It has been a disappointing end to the past two seasons for the Boston Bruins, who finished one point out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2015-16 and two points out the season before. That qualifies as a very long postseason absence for this iteration of the Bruins; the first miss led to the firing of general manager Peter Chiarelli.
His successor, Don Sweeney, is doing his best to remake and rebuild the team on the fly, while still keeping the Bruins in playoff contention to utilize the primes of players like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and to not miss out on the final years of Zdeno Chara. But it isn't easy, and the Bruins will again have to have patience with their defense. The question is whether Sweeney and Bruins president Cam Neely will continue to have patience with coach Claude Julien, who they retained this summer. This, ultimately, is a team still on the bubble.
Here is what the Bruins look like today:
Video: DAL@STL, Gm3: Backes nets two in Game 3 win for Blues
KEY ARRIVALS: David Backes, F: Backes qualifies as the big fish the Bruins were able to land in free agency, replacing the money (and most of the term) they would have had to commit to unrestricted free agent forward Loui Eriksson. Backes brings greater flexibility -- he can play center and right wing -- and Boston signed him to a five-year contract; Eriksson got six years from the Vancouver Canucks. The former St. Louis Blues captain is changing teams for the first time after a decade when he had 460 points (206 goals, 254 assists) in 727 regular-season games for the team that drafted him in the second round (No. 62) in the 2003 NHL Draft. The 32-year-old also brings leadership and a desire that comes from narrowly missing a trip to the Stanley Cup Final last season. … Anton Khudobin, G: Backup goaltender has been a problem area for the Bruins over the past two seasons, with Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson failing to adequately fill in for Tuukka Rask when he's getting the rest he requires. Khudobin did exactly that in his previous stint with the Bruins, in 2012-13, when Boston went to the Stanley Cup Final. The goalie got a two-year contract worth $2.4 million and likely will compete with prospect Malcolm Subban for the backup position. … Riley Nash, F: Nash should help the Bruins get back to the days of four-line hockey, which they haven't had for a couple of seasons. He can play center and wing, and can provide more depth on the penalty kill, with the Bruins losing Eriksson and Chris Kelly in free agency. The 27-year-old had nine goals and 14 assists for the Carolina Hurricanes last season.
KEY DEPARTURES: Loui Eriksson, F: The Bruins spent all season trying to re-sign Eriksson, holding on to him at the NHL Trade Deadline, but were not able to get a contract done. That leaves a gaping hole for Boston, which is light on right wings. Eriksson, who had a rocky start in Boston with two concussions in a five-week period in 2013, ultimately was a very productive two-way forward, including 63 points (30 goals, 33 assists) last season. His steadying influence will be missed. … Dennis Seidenberg, D: Seidenberg reached the end of the road with the Bruins, who opted to buy him out this summer. The defenseman had been hampered by injuries, including back surgery at the start of last season, and his play had tailed off. Rather than pay him for the last two years of his contract, each at $4 million, the Bruins opted to sever ties with the soon-to-be 35-year-old who helped bring the Stanley Cup to Boston in 2011. … Brett Connolly, F: Connolly never quite worked out for the Bruins, just as he never quite worked out for the Tampa Bay Lightning. The right wing scored nine goals and had 16 assists in 71 games for the Bruins last season. The No. 6 pick in the 2010 draft did not receive a qualifying offer and signed a one-year contract with the Washington Capitals. … Chris Kelly, C: Kelly didn't always get the support he deserved from Bruins fans, especially at the end of his tenure, but he was a crucial piece of the 2011 Stanley Cup team. He spent six seasons in Boston, the final one cut short by an ugly femur fracture that made some question whether he was done in the NHL. The 35-year-old said he was not interested in retiring and signed a one-year contract to return to the Ottawa Senators, who drafted him in the third round (No. 94) in 1999.
ON THE CUSP: Brandon Carlo, D: The Bruins need defense, and Carlo is a talented up-and-coming stay-at-home defenseman. He's big (6-foot-5, 203 pounds) and can skate well. The 19-year-old was a second-round pick (No. 37) in the 2015 draft and got in seven games at the end of the season for Providence of the American Hockey League after spending the season with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League, where he had 27 points (five goals). ... Danton Heinen, F: The 21-year-old signed his entry-level contract in April, leaving the University of Denver after two seasons that saw him shoot up the prospect charts. The fourth-round pick (No. 116) in the 2014 draft had 20 goals and 28 assists in 41 games last season, after he had 16 goals and 29 assists his freshman year. The Bruins could use his scoring touch, and it would stand to reason he believes he has a chance to make the team, given that he took the plunge and left college early.
WHAT THEY STILL NEED: Defense, defense, defense. Though the Bruins did re-sign John-Michael Liles to round out their group, they are sorely lacking in top-tier talent on defense. There was virtually none available on the free agent market, with Alex Goligoski (Arizona Coyotes) and Keith Yandle (Florida Panthers) each signing before free agency opened and Jason Demers joining the Panthers on July 2, leaving the Bruins searching for a trade partner or relying on their prospects to blossom this season. It appears Boston is leaning toward the latter, hoping 23-year-old defensemen Colin Miller and Joe Morrow each continue in his development while waiting on the next group to come of age. Or it could try for a trade. The Bruins have a surplus of right-handed centers with Backes added to their top two of Bergeron and Krejci. Although Bergeron is untouchable, it is possible Boston could use Krejci or Ryan Spooner as a trade chip to get back a defenseman.
Video: BOS@NJD: Marchand finishes nifty move on the backhand
PETE JENSEN'S FANTASY FOCUS: With the Bruins missing the playoffs for the second straight season, it's easy to lose sight of Brad Marchand finishing sixth in the NHL in goals (37). He also shattered his previous career high in shots on goal with 250, but a huge fantasy question is whether he'll take a step back in 2016-17. He should provide category coverage and a high shooting percentage as always, but his lack of power-play time and production is concerning. He finished 16th overall in Yahoo's performance-based rankings, but fantasy owners shouldn't target him until the fourth round at the earliest.
Brad Marchand - Patrice Bergeron - David Backes
Frank Vatrano - David Krejci - David Pastrnak
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Spooner - Seth Griffith
Jimmy Hayes - Noel Acciari - Riley Nash
Zdeno Chara - Colin Miller
Torey Krug - Adam McQuaid
John-Michael Liles - Kevan Miller