Wanted: left-shooting defenseman to log big minutes in the Bruins’ top four. Must have shutdown ability, touch with the puck and acumen at the offensive blue line, perhaps working as Brandon Carlo’s partner. Candidate will report to Brighton in advance of September training camp.
This is the same need the Bruins had last year, before acquiring Mike Reilly at the deadline. Reilly, a pending free agent, acquitted himself well as a puck-mover. The door is open for a return, financial needs depending. Still, in their year-end Zoom calls this week, team president Cam Neely, general manager Don Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy all said they want a stouter, more complete player.
“The elusive left D we’ve been looking for that can chew up a lot of minutes,” Neely said Tuesday, when asked about the team’s most significant needs. “As we saw, you can never have enough D and we never seem to have enough. For some reason or another, we get banged up.”
In review of his defense corps, Sweeney revealed Tuesday that the Bruins had “eight concussions alone on our back end.” Neither he nor Neely, who referenced the same figure, provided further detail.
That’s not including forwards like Ondrej Kase, who had two known concussions this year. Neely called it “something I don’t know how to combat.”
Brandon Carlo accounts for two of the blue line concussions, on hits from two of the league’s most prolific jackhammers (the Capitals’ Tom Wilson on March 5, the Islanders’ Cal Clutterbuck on June 3). Carlo, who has had at least three concussions (Alex Ovechkin hit in 2017) said Friday he didn’t think his long-term health was in jeopardy.
“It’s no fun, but I’m not going to sit here and get discouraged or think that my career is heading down a wrong path,” he said. “I hope this is the last one of my career and hopefully I can play as long as possible, but for how I’ve recovered from these. I don’t feel like there’s any issue there.”
In his breakup day Zoom call, Kevan Miller confirmed he was concussed May 21, when Washington’s Dmitry Orlov hit him in the chin.
Jarred Tinordi, who suffered what the club called an “upper body injury” when the Penguins’ Brandon Tanev decked him into the boards March 16, may have sustained one on that play. He may have had another on a beak-busting, April 18 hit from the Capitals’ Garnet Hathaway. Tinordi’s history includes being knocked out during an AHL fight in 2015.
The Bruins were vague about an April injury to Matt Grzelcyk, who missed five games with an upper body ailment. Jakub Zboril missed a handful of games, and the whole postseason, with an upper body injury. Urho Vaakanainen and Jack Ahcan never pushed through.
The free agent market lacks left-shot options (arguably the biggest prize, Dougie Hamilton, shoots right). One candidate that seems to fit the bill: Dallas’s Jamie Oleksiak, the Northeastern product.
Particularly if they lose Reilly, Miller, Tinordi and Steven Kampfer, all of whom are UFAs, the Bruins will be hunting for D.
“That position is something that we’ve been looking for, for a while,” Neely said. “And hopefully we can do something to grab someone that’s going to help, maybe play 20 minutes a game for us.
Coyle to have surgery
Sweeney revealed that Charlie Coyle, the third-line center, will have an offseason surgery to fix an undisclosed issue. In the postseason, Coyle showed flashes of his puck-possessing, physical best self, but was not able to drive the third line as hoped. The third and fourth lines struggled, and were outplayed in the loss to the Islanders.
Coyle (goal), Nick Ritchie and Karson Kuhlman (assist each) were the only bottom-sixers to score in the second round. In Game 6 alone, the Islanders got three goals from their lower two lines (Clutterbuck, Kyle Palmieri, Travis Zajac).
It’s yet another issue the Bruins hope to fix. Sean Kuraly (UFA) and Ritchie (RFA), the latter of whom could be exposed in the Seattle expansion draft, could be out the door.
“You get into playoffs, you pray for health. You pray for good goaltending. You pray for timely scoring,” Neely said. “We didn’t get the depth scoring that we thought we might get, and we expected to get. That was a little frustrating for us for sure.”
Tending to important business
Like Cassidy, Sweeney and Neely were noncommittal about a Tuukka Rask return. The netminder’s upcoming hip surgery will determine if the Bruins scour the free agent market for a veteran stopper (UFA options include Philipp Grubauer, Petr Mrazek, Chris Driedger, Jonathan Bernier and Frederik Andersen), or roll the dice with Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar.
“Which is a tall task,” Sweeney said of the idea of two youngsters sharing the net. “Make no mistake about it, it’s a tall task.”
Neely, on the other hand, sounded confident in using one of them, at least in the early going.
“Haven’t seen enough of Vladar but Swayman gave us a little bit of a taste of what type of goalie he can be in the National Hockey League,” Neely said. “So, we feel pretty comfortable starting the season with him.”
Krejci mulling it over
Sweeney said David Krejci asked for a few days to discuss his future with his family, before sitting down with the Bruins’ brass to decide on a contract: “He’s made it pretty clear that if he’d like to continue his career, this is the place he’d continue to play should he choose to stay at the NHL level.” Krejci said he could return home to play in the Czech Republic, where his parents could watch him and his children can learn his native language . . . Sweeney confirmed he has had initial talks with Taylor Hall’s camp . . . Teams and players can have general discussions, Sweeney said, but not agree to terms before free agency opens July 28. The new CBA, signed last July, eliminated the “interview period” before the UFA market opened.