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Bruins prioritize acquiring puck-moving defenseman

General manager also says Boston could trade one of two first-round draft picks

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

There's no doubt that Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney's biggest goal this offseason is to acquire a high-end puck-moving defenseman who can improve their transition game and help them bounce back after missing the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second straight season.

"Time will tell on that one," Sweeney said Wednesday. "Either through free agency or through acquisitions, it's a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace. But we're going to be aggressive."

Sweeney's offseason makeover of the Bruins roster began Tuesday when he announced he re-signed defenseman Kevan Miller to a four-year contract with an annual NHL salary-cap charge of $2.5 million. The 28-year-old has mostly played on the Bruins' third pair but has succeeded playing up in the lineup for stretches and gives them another stay-at-home defenseman with toughness and the ability to kill penalties.

The Bruins ranked 20th in goals allowed per game (2.78) this season. They were fifth in scoring (2.88 goals per game), but Sweeney made it clear he'll be shopping for help at center and right wing.

The Bruins recently had their organizational meetings and are excited about some of the young players possibly pushing for jobs next season. However, the depth of the organization and the Bruins' possession of two first-round picks in the 2016 NHL Draft put them in an enviable position for making trades for established NHL talent. The Bruins have the No. 14 selection, and one from the San Jose Sharks, which will be somewhere from No. 27-30 depending on how the Sharks finish in the postseason.

"I think we're in a position with two first-round picks to either select two really good players or to be in the marketplace," Sweeney said.

The Bruins should also have a little more space under the salary cap to sign free agents and make trades than they've had in past offseasons.

Sweeney said the Bruins are in ongoing talks with the representative for forward Loui Eriksson, who can become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. Eriksson was second on the Bruins with 63 points this season. He completed a six-year contract with an annual cap charge of $4.25 million.

"We'll see whether or not we can find common ground there," Sweeny said. "But we have been in ongoing negotiations on that front. As I've always said earlier, Loui is a player that had a fabulous year and we'd love to be able to retain him."

Defenseman Torey Krug, who had 44 points this season, is scheduled to be a restricted free agent and should be in line for a raise after playing on a one-year contract with a cap charge of $3.4 million. Sweeney seemed confident Krug would be re-signed.

"Whatever term that winds up being, we'll find a contract for him," Sweeney said.

The Bruins also announced Bruce Cassidy, who was coach of Providence of the American Hockey League, and Jay Pandolfo, who was the Bruins director of player development, will be assistants to coach Claude Julien. The Bruins hope the additions will be able to better develop and integrate younger players.

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