The Bruins’ most significant items of business remain unresolved.
Tuukka Rask, recovering from hip surgery that will sideline him until at least January, remains without a contract. David Krejci is still mulling his playing future. Another big-name free agent, Taylor Hall, remains unrestricted, though that’s not a surprise, given general manager Don Sweeney said he will wait until after the expansion draft to put quill to parchment.
Business is about to pick up. Rosters for 2021-22 will be altered once the Seattle Kraken reveal their picks July 21, four days after the Bruins and other teams submit their protected lists. The NHL Draft is July 23. The start of free agency, July 28, is less than three weeks away.
A few state-of-the-team summer updates:
▪ The Bruins have yet to hear from Krejci about his plans for 2021-22, according to two team sources. Krejci’s agent, Robert Hooper, did not return a message from the Globe.
At 35, Krejci remains a high-end No. 2 center, particularly with Hall motoring around on his left wing. Krejci (8-36—44 in 51 games) finished with the best assists-per-game mark of his 14-year career. In the near term, replacing him with Jack Studnicka or Charlie Coyle would be a downgrade, because of Studnicka’s inexperience and Coyle’s health.
▪ If Krejci returns, Coyle will resume his role as the No. 3 center. It may take a few weeks, but his camp, and the Bruins, hope he is the Coyle of old.
Coyle is recovering from mid-June surgery to repair an avulsion fracture in his left kneecap and a small tear of the patellar tendon, according to his agent, Bob Norton. Doctors have told him he should be on the ice by September, when training camp begins.
It’s unclear when the bone chip happened, but it cost the physical center some of his burst and puck-possessing power. Coyle played in 51 games and scored at a career-low pace (6-10—16). Coyle, like defenseman Kevan Miller, spent a healthy amount of time with the Bruins’ training staff, trying different kinds of therapies to relieve pain.
“It was really bothering him all year,” Norton said. “He was clearly affected by it but he fought through it.”
▪ According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Maple Leafs have interest in Hall. It’s unclear how much interest Hall has in Toronto.
The Bruins believe Hall wants to return — when he arrived in April, he already was expressing his desire to earn a contract extension — and one member of the front office dismissed the report as little more than trying to drive up the price.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to make some good money in this league, and at this point, it’s about more of a fit for me than maybe money, or a long-term thing,” Hall said after the season. “You want to find a home for the next few years here and we’ll see what happens.”
The website Evolving Wild does yearly contract projections based on comparables and analytics, and doesn’t take into account personal factors such as hometown discounts (or predict where players sign). They pegged Hall at a $7.3 million Average Annual Value on a seven-year deal. The Bruins would hope that negotiations start a couple million cheaper, given the flat cap ($81.5 million) and their other financial matters, including: reaching deals for Rask, who could sign and go on long-term injured reserve; Krejci; Brandon Carlo as a restricted free agent; finding a top-four, left-side defenseman; and Charlie McAvoy’s contract ending after next season.
As for Hall, who turns 30 in November: last year, two 29-year-olds, Brendan Gallagher and Chris Kreider, signed for $6.5 million cap hits. In 2019, Islanders captain Anders Lee (age 28 at the time) and Mats Zuccarello (age 30) signed for $7 million and $6 million AAVs, respectively. Jordan Eberle, Hall’s ex-Oilers running mate, went for $5.5 million. He was 29. All of those deals were between five and seven years in length.
Evolving Wild’s projections for Krejci (two years at $4.7 million AAV) and Carlo (two years, $2.5 million) sound about right, as does Mike Reilly (three years, $3.8 million). Their call on Nick Ritchie (four years, $4.4 million) seems high.
▪ Vladimir Tarasenko, who according to the Associated Press wants out of St. Louis, doesn’t look like an option for the Bruins. Or at least, he shouldn’t be one.
He has played 34 games in the last two years because of shoulder injuries. Before that, he was one of the best right wingers in the league (218 goals in 531 games), an automatic 35 goals and a threat to score anywhere below the tops of the circles.
Tarasenko, 30 in December, is owed $9.5 million in salary this year, $2 million more than his cap hit. He has two years left. Unless the Blues retained a large chunk of the money, the Bruins would not be involved.
Would St. Louis do that? It has to re-up its top three left wings — Jordan Kyrou (RFA), Jaden Schwartz (UFA) and Zach Sanford (RFA), has forwards Ivan Barbashev and Robert Thomas and defenseman Vince Dunn as RFAs and depth forwards Mike Hoffman and Tyler Bozak as UFAs.
Tarasenko, who has a no-trade clause, may not have the Bruins on his list. He has no former teammates or coaches in the organization. He is, for whatever it’s worth, a close friend of Rangers star Artemi Panarin.
▪ Development camp is back. The Bruins will put their prospects through drills for five days, beginning Aug. 2 at Warrior Ice Arena. Players we’re hoping to see at camp include center Johnny Beecher, whose sophomore season at Michigan included a bout with COVID-19 and a shoulder surgery. His father, Bill, said Thursday he was “in the home stretch” of recovery and was eager to see everyone in Brighton. That might include defenseman Mason Lohrei (second-rounder from 2020, who had a breakout season in the USHL) and whomever the Bruins take in the upcoming draft.