Latest on the Bruins – August 24, 2016
Why the Boston Bruins defense still needs improvement, plus the five best available free agents who could help them.
NBC SPORTS: Joey Alfieri reports the Boston Bruins defense still needs some work. The Bruins’ front office has acknowledged since the end of last season the need to land a transitional defenseman. So far, however, their efforts to address that issue have been unsuccessful.
St. Louis Blues rearguard Kevin Shattenkirk was reportedly available via trade, but the Blues have hung onto him. Unless the Bruins can swing a deal soon, Alfieri believes they’ll start the season with their current corps. Captain Zdeno Chara is aging and no longer a dominant force, while Torey Krug is their only significant puck-moving defenseman. Alfieri suggests the Bruins blueline could struggle against the rest of the Atlantic Division.
CSNNE.COM: Joe Haggerty lists forward Jiri Hudler, defenseman Kris Russell, Winnipeg Jets blueliner Jacob Trouba, forward Brandon Pirri and aging rearguard Marek Zidlicky as his five best free agents who could help the Bruins.
SPECTOR’S NOTE: The Bruins were believed among the suitors for Shattenkirk, but the Blues apparently set a very high asking price for him. Blues GM Doug Armstrong has indicated he’s willing to start the season with Shattenkirk, so the Bruins will have to look elsewhere.
One possibility could be Cam Fowler of the Anaheim Ducks, as there’s speculation he could be shopped once the Ducks re-sign Hampus Lindholm. Fowler’s a left-handed shot, but I doubt the Bruins would pass over an opportunity to land him for a reasonable price.
Of the two forwards listed by Haggerty, Hudler has a proven record and could be a decent short-term addition to provide depth on the wings. Pirri has size and some scoring potential, but he’s been plagued by inconsistency in his short NHL career.
As for the defensemen, Trouba is the best of the bunch, but he’s also a restricted free agent. The Bruins will have to pay big to pry him away from the Winnipeg Jets. They could go the offer sheet route, but Haggerty considers that unlikely. Russell is a fine shot-blocking defenseman with some puck-moving abilities, but he won’t address the Bruins need for a transitional d-man. Zidlicky is now past his prime and won’t help the Bruins.