Boston Bruins roster reset: List of 2023 free agents, salary cap update
Bruins roster reset: List of 2023 free agents, salary cap update originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
It would have been unfathomable just a few weeks ago to think that on May 3 the main topic of conversation involving the Boston Bruins would be the future of the roster and not analyzing their second-round series in the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But the Bruins never made it to Round 2. They were upset in the first round by the Florida Panthers, who sent the Bruins home in stunning fashion in overtime of Game 7 last Sunday.
These four areas proved fatal in Bruins' stunning first-round exit
It's going to be a very busy and interesting offseason for the Bruins. They have a lot of tough decisions to make from a roster perspective with over 10 players eligible for free agency. The salary cap will be a challenge, too. The cap is projected to rise just $1 million to $83.5 million for the 2023-24 campaign. The Bruins also have more than $4 million of bonus overages to apply to next year's cap.
Bringing back the exact same roster is pretty much impossible. Some players will have to go.
Here's a list of every Bruins player on the NHL roster who is an unrestricted or restricted free agent this summer.
Patrice Bergeron, UFA
2022-23 Stats: 78 GP, 27 G, 31 A
Bergeron is still an elite player after 19 NHL seasons. He is a finalist for the Selke Trophy again and probably will win it for a record sixth time. He continues to make a strong impact offensively, too, evidenced by his 27 goals, which extended his streak of consecutive seasons with 20-plus goals to 10. He was the second-best faceoff center in the league, in addition to being one of the best penalty killers. Performance is not a concern with Bergeron at all.
The issue is wear and tear. He's dealt with plenty of injuries over his almost-two decades in the league. He missed the first four games of Round 1 with a herniated disc and played through the injury in Games 5, 6 and 7.
There's also not much left for him to accomplish both from a team perspective and individually. So, is this the end? Will he retire? Bergeron reiterated Tuesday during the team's breakup day that he will take some time and talk with family before making a final decision on whether he'll play next season.
Bergeron doesn't have an exact timeline on how long it'll take to make that decision about his future.
"Not yet, I mean it’s early right now to even make a sound decision, so I really want to make sure, obviously you make, I make the right call, and we make the right call as a family, so I don’t know I guess, how long it’s going to take," he said at breakup day.
Patrice Bergeron talks lasting impact on Bruins franchise should he retire
David Krejci, UFA
2022-23 Stats: 70 GP, 16 G, 40 A
Krejci returned to the Bruins this past season after spending a year playing in the Czech Republic in front of family and friends. He was still a pretty productive player with 56 points in 70 games. But he's also played 15 seasons and 1,192 games including the playoffs.
"There’s lots to think about," Krejci said at breakup day when asked about his future. "I’m going to go home soon. Talk to my family, but definitely want to make a decision soon.”
He also noted that his decision will be playing for the Bruins or retirement. Playing another season in the Czech Republic is not being considered.
“Now it’s either come back or be done. If I come back, then yeah it would be NHL," Krejci said. "I did what I did last year and I’m happy I did that. No regrets. But I closed the door so I will make a decision soon. It would be NHL. Obviously be the Bruins."
If Krejci retires, Pavel Zacha likely will take over as the new second-line center.
Tyler Bertuzzi, UFA
Position: Left wing, right wing
2022-23 Stats: 50 GP, 8 G, 22 A (21 GP, 4 G, 12 A in Boston)
If you look at the three players the Bruins acquired before the trade deadline, Bertuzzi is the one the team should try the hardest to retain. He proved to be a tremendous fit on the second and third lines. Specifically, he was a very strong fit with David Pastrnak. Bertuzzi's ability to win puck battles in dirty areas of the ice and then set up Pastrnak (and other teammates) with great scoring chances is really valuable. Bertuzzi can score between 20-30 goals over the course of a full season, but his playmaking ability might be the most impressive aspect of his skill set. The veteran winger also can be a key component on both the power play and penalty kill.
His salary cap hit this past season was $4.75 million. It could take $6 million or more per season to keep him, especially after he improved his stock with a stellar first round that included 10 points (five goals, five assists) in seven games.
What is Bertuzzi thinking right now in regards to his upcoming free agency?
“Yeah, I haven’t really thought about it honestly too much," he said at breakup day. "It’s kind of been a whirlwind here, only kind of two days after, so talk with some family and then we’ll go from there.”
Could Bertuzzi see him and his family settling in Boston long term?
“Yeah, we loved it," he said. "We honestly had such a blast. We were in the North End. Ate pasta everyday, went for walks, we had a lot of fun, and we enjoyed it here. So yeah, we could definitely see it."
Even if the Bruins have to trade a contract to be able to afford Bertuzzi, it's worth doing based on his talent, age and roster fit.
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Nick Foligno, UFA
Position: Left wing, right wing
2022-23 Stats: 60 GP, 10 G, 16 A
Foligno was a respected voice and leader in the locker room throughout the season, and his offensive production also saw a large uptick compared to his 2021-22 debut season in Boston. The veteran forward saw his goals scored increase from two to 10 and his points improve from 13 to 26.
Foligno was a solid bottom-six player, but unless his next contract is very team-friendly, it makes sense to let him walk and give his role to a younger, more skilled, more athletic and cheaper forward. Durability also is a concern with Foligno at this stage of his career. He's 35 years old and missed 18 games in 2021-22 and 22 games this past season.
He prefers to return and accomplish the goal of winning a Stanley Cup in Boston.
"I think it’s no secret, I love it here," Foligno said at breakup day. "I’ve bonded with these guys, and we’ve gone through a lot, and I’ve felt like I’ve given what I can to this group, and I hope to come back and finish what we’ve started. That’s my biggest thing, I don’t know, I can’t control what (Don Sweeney), and Cam (Neely) and the staff decide, I think the feeling’s mutual, just got to try to figure out something, but we’ll see how that goes. Obviously, I would prefer to come back, especially with the way things ended and what I foresee for this group, there’s still a lot of great players, and it’s hard to see because there’s going to be change, but you hope to be part of it and rectify what went wrong this year.”
Tomas Nosek, UFA
2022-23 Stats: 66 GP, 7 G, 11 A
The Bruins had the best penalty kill in the regular season and Nosek was a huge reason for that success. His defensive abilities are fantastic, and he was also strong on faceoffs with a 59.3 win percentage. He scored seven goals after finding the back of the net just three times in 2021-22. Keeping Nosek around would be great, but it can't be an overpay. Teams get into trouble when they extend fourth-line guys for too much money. A one or two-year deal with a salary cap hit of $2 million or less would be ideal for the B's, but Nosek might be able to get more money elsewhere.
That said, he definitely wants to remain in Boston if possible.
"Like, I want to stay here, it’s my No. 1 priority," Nosek said at breakup day. "We love Boston, my family love Boston and if there’s a chance I sign here, I want to stay here, but it’s not up to me, right now, and we’ll see what’s going to happen."
Garnet Hathaway, UFA
Position: LW, RW
2022-23 Stats: 84 GP, 13 G, 9 A (25 GP, 4 G, 2 A with Boston)
Hathaway was a decent fit after arriving in Boston as part of the pre-trade deadline deal with the Capitals (which also included Orlov), but the Bruins aren't in a position where they can afford to overpay bottom-six forwards. Giving Hathaway's minutes and role to younger, cheaper players such as Jakub Lauko or Oskar Steen would be a smarter move than to keep the veteran winger around for more money than he made in 2022-23.
Does Hathaway want to stay?
"I’ve loved it here, but like I said, it’s one of those things were both sides need to come together and make an agreement and talk and that just hasn’t happened yet," he said at breakup day.
Trent Frederic, RFA
2022-23 Stats: 79 GP, 17 G, 14 A
Montgomery's uptempo style and more aggressive approach offensively helped unlock Frederic's potential as he tallied career highs in goals, assists and points. He also played a more responsible game that saw him take fewer bad penalties while still bringing a strong physical presence to the ice. Frederic hasn't produced at the rate expected of a late first-round pick, but he is a valuable and versatile bottom-six forward with more room for improvement. He should be prioritized over veterans such as Foligno and Hathaway.
Frederic also would like to remain in Boston.
"My agent and (Don Sweeney) will talk. I don't know much about it. I want to be here for as long as I can," Frederic said Tuesday. "I want to be a Bruin as long as I can. I’ve had fun being here this year, been awesome, and hopefully we can do it again next year."
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Dmitry Orlov, UFA
2022-23 Stats: 66 GP, 7 G, 29 A (23 GP, 4 G, 13 A with Boston)
Orlov was a nice addition. Sure, there were a few defensive lapses in the playoffs, but overall he was a strong addition to the blue line. His playmaking ability was on full display in the first round when he led all players in the series with eight assists.
The Bruins should probably pass on re-signing him, though. He's 32, and this might be his last chance at a good-sized contract. Should the Bruins really give a 32-year-old defenseman a four- or five-year deal worth $5 million or more per season? Probably not.
Clifton Connor, UFA
2022-23 Stats: 78 GP, 5 G, 18 A
Clifton had a really strong season. He improved defensively and saw his offensive production go way up with career highs in goals, assists and points. His 78 games played was a career high as well. Unfortunately for Clifton, the lasting memory of his season will be his awful performance in Game 6 against the Panthers when two of his turnovers resulted in Florida goals. Clifton's salary cap hit was $1 million in 2022-23, which is a pretty team-friendly figure for a solid third-pairing defenseman. Bringing him back for depth isn't a bad idea, but there are some younger, cheaper alternatives such as Jakub Zboril and prospect Mason Lohrei in the pipeline.
Jeremy Swayman, RFA
2022-23 Stats: 24-6-4, .920 save percentage, 2.27 GAA
Swayman is the No. 1 goalie of the future and should be retained at all costs. He ranked top four among all goalies in both save percentage and GAA during the regular season, while also ranking No. 2 in high-danger save percentage among netminders with 25-plus appearances. At just 24 years old, he fits the same timeline as David Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy. These three players should be pillars of the Bruins' foundation for many years.
“I would like to be playing hockey, and ideally in a Bruins sweater," Swayman said Tuesday when asked about his future.
When asked if there’s any reason that wouldn’t happen, he responded, "Again, I’m just taking it day by day and letting my agent be involved and take control. I have no doubt it will be a fun contract and good things will happen."
What kind of contract could Swayman get as an RFA? Jake Oettinger of the Dallas Stars signed a three-year, $12 million deal in September of 2022. His stats were pretty similar to Swayman's when he signed the deal. Oettinger is a little bit better than Swayman and has a stronger playoff resume, but his three-year contract is a good template for the Bruins to work around.
The real question is what will the Bruins do if they end up paying around $9 million for their goalie tandem next season. Ullmark has two more years remaining on his contract with a $5 million cap hit. His no-movement clause will end in July and become a no-trade clause (16-team no-trade list), per CapFriendly. This makes it easier to trade him if the Bruins really need cap space. Ideally, both goalies return, but if it can only be one, Swayman should be kept.