Poor Protecting: How the Boston Bruins Shot Themselves in the Foot for Free Agency

Boston Bruins
Jan 16, 2021; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Boston Bruins center Brad Marchand (63) and Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) celebrate BergeronÕs goal during the second period of their game against the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Boston Bruins really messed up this time. The Bruins and the other NHL teams, except for Vegas, will lose one player to the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft. Each team had to protect ten players, including one goalie. With just under 25 million in cap space, Boston has the ability to make some trades and bring in free agents. However, because of who they protected, free agency may not matter because they ruined their own plan.

Here is who the Bruins chose to protect.

Patrice Bergeron, C 

Brad Marchand, LW 

David Pastrnak, RW

Charlie Coyle, C 

Craig Smith, RW

Jake DeBrusk, LW

Trent Frederic, LW/C

Charlie McAvoy, D

Matt Grzelcyk, D

Brandon Carlo, D

Dan Vladar, G

As a result of this, they have now limited their options in free agency. Coyle and DeBrusk should not have been protected. DeBrusk has not been good and there has been a problem with effort. To be fair, Coyle was dealing with a fractured knee cap and torn patella tendon. But, Coyle has a huge contract. If the Bruins got rid of it, that would have given them more financial flexibility. On top of that, if they waited to sign Carlo to that six year extension, they could have protected Nick Ritchie. Ritchie was far more deserving of protection than DeBrusk.

Addressing Needs

Since Coyle and DeBrusk were protected, it’s safe to assume they are part of Boston’s plans moving forward. The status of center David Krejci is in limbo, so Coyle now becomes the top candidate to replace him on the second line. The center free agent market isn’t great this time around. The Bruins could have traded for a center, I’ve mentioned Jack Eichel and Pierre Luc-Dubos before. Eichel is from North Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Barring something completely unexpected, that seems very unlikely now. Keeping Coyle in the fold could also mean Krejci is done in Boston.

DeBrusk has played both left and right wing. None of them well, but he has played both. If DeBrusk goes on the left side, that means the Bruins likely can’t pursue Tyler Bertuzzi, Brady Tkachuk, Jakub Vrana, Kevin Fiala, or Anthony Beauvillier. If Debrusk plays on the right side, the Bruins are also probably out on Patrik Laine, Alexander Nylander, and Connor Garland. Garland is originally from Scituate, Massachusetts. Reportedly, the Bruins are interested in him.

Finally, the Bruins need a boost on defense. Nikita Zadorov sticks out as a veteran defenseman with some good years left. Travis Sanheim is another example. The Boston Bruins could have pursued one of them instead of keeping Grzelcyk who at times can be inconsistent.

Reoccurring Problems

By bringing back the same personnel, the Bruins are setting themselves up for failure. Scoring depth and physical play have been missing for so long. The front office seems content to run it back with that core group without adding anyone new. What is the point of cap space if it isn’t going to be spent? They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Well, this plan certainly fits that model.

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