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Boston Bruins Next Moves and Goaltender Decisions

The Boston Bruins faced significant challenges in the 2023-24 NHL season. After losing key players Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to retirement, many predicted the team’s struggles, expecting them to miss the playoffs or slip away as a wild card team. Contrary to expectations, the Bruins had a strong regular season, competing against top teams like the Florida Panthers, New York Rangers, and Carolina Hurricanes for Eastern Conference dominance. They ended up finishing second in the Atlantic Division, just behind the Panthers.

The Bruins’ postseason was marked by a dramatic first-round victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs, capped off by David Pastrnak’s overtime goal in Game 7. However, their journey ended in the second round. It couldn’t win a home game, where it was shut out in six games by the Panthers, echoing its shutout last year.

Despite not making the playoffs, the Bruins have shown more promise than many expected. However, for the 2024-25 season, general manager Don Sweeney will need to take strategic steps to position the Bruins as true Stanley Cup contenders.

Key Move #1: Find the First Line Pivot

After the retirements of Bergeron and Krejci, the Bruins leaned on Charlie Coyle and Pavel Zacha as their top centers, two players who had been second- and third-stringers for most of their careers. While both performed impressively during the regular season, they fell short in the playoffs. In order to improve their competitiveness, the Bruins should explore the free agent market for a high-level center.

Potential candidates include veterans Steven Stamkos and Joe Pavelski, although Stamkos is likely to stay with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and Pavelski’s age raises concerns. A more viable option would be 29-year-old Sean Monahan from the Winnipeg Jets. Last season, Monahan scored 26 goals and 33 assists, making him a promising prospect for the Bruins. Monahan signed a one-year deal with Montreal last season before being traded to the Jets and is likely to seek a 4-5 year deal.

Elias Lindholm could be the other way around, though his performance has declined since his trade to Vancouver. Lindholm managed just 12 points and a minus-6 average over 26 regular season games with his new team. With Vancouver getting Elias Pettersson long-term, Lindholm appears to be a short-term option.

There were even rumors at the trade deadline about Lindholm being involved in a three-way deal that would send Jake Guentzel to the Canucks and Lindholm to Boston.

Key Move #2: Add a Scoring Wing

The Bruins’ failure to score goals in the playoffs highlighted the need for a consistent scoring defenseman. While David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand remain valuable assets, Jake DeBrusk’s inconsistency is a concern. Players like Trent Frederic, James van Riemsdyk, and Danton Heinen fill certain roles but lack the ability to score goals.

The Bruins should look to free agents like Sam Reinhart, Jake Guentzel, Tyler Toffoli, or Jonathan Marchessault to deal with this. If these players are unavailable, trading for a star like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins from the Edmonton Oilers would be a good strategy.

Goaltender’s decision

The most important decision facing Bruins GM Don Sweeney this offseason deals with the goaltending situation. This is a good challenge, as their success in the 2023-24 season was largely supported by the impressive performances of two goalies, Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark. Ullmark, who won the Vezina Trophy last year, and Swayman played key roles. Swayman excelled in the playoffs, allowing the team to rely on him in their regular rotation.

The future of Jeremy Swayman

Swayman, a standout performer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, can become a restricted free agent. He expressed a strong desire to sign a long-term deal with Boston following a season in which he posted impressive statistics: 25-10-8 with a 2.53 goals-against average, .916 save percentage, and three shutouts in the regular season. and 6-6 with a 2.15 GAA and .933 save percentage in the playoffs. His consistent performance warrants a raise, and negotiations are expected to go well this summer.

The uncertainty of Linus Ullmark

Ullmark, a Vezina Trophy winner, has been a backup during key playoff games. This change was a challenge; he had to go back and forth mentally while supporting Swayman. Despite this, Ullmark remained professional and supportive, sentiments that Swayman appreciated.

With one year remaining on his four-year, $20 million contract, Ullmark faces an uncertain future. The Bruins, who need to manage their salary, may consider trading Ullmark, a move they are exploring before the NHL’s 2024 trade deadline. Ullmark, though based in Boston, acknowledges the unpredictable nature of professional sports.

Beantown Outlook for 2024-25

The Bruins have significant cap space next season, which they plan to use to re-sign Swayman and improve their roster, especially in the middle and at the linebacker positions. While the team faces tough decisions, including a possible trade for Ullmark, their strategic moves in the offseason will be crucial in building a team that can contend for the Stanley Cup in 2024-25.

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