The craziness of free agency begins Wednesday in the NHL. Everyone will be looking to improve their rosters for the 2022-23 season and give them a chance to knock the Colorado Avalanche off their perch as Stanley Cup champions.
Just about all the teams have an idea of what they are going to do, except maybe the Boston Bruins. General manager (GM) Don Sweeney had an interesting quote following the 2022 NHL Entry Draft in Montreal. He kind of shed a light on what his plans might be for free agency as they currently only have just under $2.4 million in open cap space (from ‘For Bruins, nothing is more important than negotiations with David Pastrnak,’ Boston Globe, July 9, 2022).
“We have to add to the depth of the club overall, create some internal competition,” Sweeney said. “There’s not going to be a high-end player coming in (via free agency), that’s just a result of where we are in our cap situation.”
Last summer, Sweeney handed out contracts like it was nothing. Erik Haula, Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, Linus Ullmark, and Derek Forbort were brought in, while Taylor Hall and Mike Reilly were given new offers after being acquired on expiring contracts at the 2021 trade deadline. This season, in order to make some additions, even if Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci do in fact come back, subtractions have to be made to clear cap space. Are the Bruins going to be as quiet as Sweeney says they are? We’ll have to wait and see, but the gut feeling here is that some things are going to be done. Here a three free agent targets that the Bruins should look at that provide forward depth.
Over the last two trade deadlines, the Bruins have been linked to Rickard Rakell with the Anaheim Ducks, but he was dealt in March to the Pittsburgh Penguins. After scoring 154 goals in 10 seasons with the Ducks, he had four goals and 13 points in 19 regular-season games in Pittsburgh. He was injured in their first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers and was limited to two of the seven games.
Rakell is 29 years old and will see an increase from the $3.789,444 annual average value (AAV) he saw on his six-year contract that just expired. He will most likely get in the $5 million range, but he has been someone that Sweeney has had his eye on for a couple of years. Craig Smith is entering the final year of his contract, but he has not lived up to what the Bruins thought they were getting in a player that was a 20-goal scorer for five of his first nine seasons with the Nashville Predators. He is someone who could be moved to make room for Rakell, who is very good friends with newly acquired Bruins’ defensemen Hampus Lindholm.
Like Rakell, Andrew Copp is another player that the Bruins kicked the tires on at the trade deadline in March, but the Winnipeg Jets traded him to the New York Rangers, and the 28-year-old produced and produced big time with his new team. In 16 regular-season games, he had eight goals and 10 assists, before scoring six more playoff goals and dishing out eight assists in 20 New York postseason games, advancing to the Eastern Conference Final before falling in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
At 6-foot-1, Copp can play both at center and left-wing and would be a perfect fit in the middle for the Black and Gold. He will be entering his ninth NHL season in the fall, but if Krejci does not return and Rakell is out of the picture, Copp would slide right into the middle-six for the Bruins. Another obstacle facing Sweeney this offseason is Brad Marchand is out of the lineup until late November recovering from offseason surgery. Without their leading scorer from the 2021-22 season, Boston will need to find a way to keep its head above water until he returns. Moving Jake DeBrusk is still an option despite him rescinding his trade request to open up $4 million in cap space.
With Marchand out, there is a need for a left-wing and Mason Marchment would be a sneaky-good addition by Sweeney. Last season in his first full NHL season, he had 18 goals and 29 assists in a breakout season with the Florida Panthers, playing a part in them winning the Presidents’ Trophy.
At 6-foot-4 and 209 pounds, Marchment would add some beef to the forward grouping. He had a plus/minus of plus-29 in 2021-22 and had 121 shots on the net. In comparison, Smith had 16 goals for the Bruins with 187 shots on the net. Marchment would be a solid addition to the middle-six for the Black and Gold and would most likely get a new payday in the $4-5 million range, something that is doable for Boston if some moves to free up space are made.
A lot of questions about the Bruins are going to be answered in the coming days. How active are they going to be? What direction are they taking for the 2022-23 season? Are they going to try and compete, go into a rebuild or run it back with basically the same roster? By the end of the week, we should have a lot of those answers, and one of these three forwards would be a welcomed addition for next season.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.