By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Matt Grzelcyk is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason. But while the Boston Bruins defenseman is in line for a new contract, it’s unclear what kind of deal he ends up signing – and how long he’ll continue to don the spoked B.
The 24-year-old Charlestown native is reaching the end of his entry-level contract, having earned $925,000 in each of the last two seasons. He’s certainly due for a raise in terms of average annual value, but not likely by a ton.
As far as what the B’s end up doing with Grzelcyk’s next deal, the question is essentially how much term they give him. It’s possible the two sides agree to a one or two-year “bridge deal”, pushing back his next negotiation for when he hits the unrestricted market. Another possibility is that they agree to a long-term deal, perhaps for three or four years.
RFAs in the NHL have been able to nab lucrative deals with plenty of term on it in recent years. But those deals have typically been reserved for stars like Connor McDavid. And while Grzelcyk may have exceeded expectations in 2017-18, he’s certainly not a star and hasn’t played a full season in the NHL. Not yet, anyway. A big-time deal – the one historically saved for free agents on the open market – will be saved for Charlie McAvoy.
Could the Bruins keep Grzelcyk in the fold for one or two years at a deal worth between $1-2 million per season? He likely hasn’t yet proven enough to push his salary over the $2 million threshold. But despite that, he could prove to be a valuable third-pairing defenseman at that affordable price range.
The smooth-skating Grzelcyk scored 15 points in 61 games with the NHL club in 2017-18, finishing with a plus-21 rating and averaging 16:44 of ice time. A skilled puck-mover and aggressive shooter, Grzelcyk also posted an impressive 54.8 Corsi rate and finished second to McAvoy among Bruins D-men with a 1.9 Corsi relative to the rest of the team. But beyond the numbers, Grzelcyk provides the kind of creativity and hockey intelligence that Don Sweeney places a premium on, especially on the back end.
Ultimately, don’t be surprised if the Bruins find a way to keep Grzelcyk around for at least one more season. His future in Boston could also be contingent on what they end up doing with Torey Krug, a similar player who’s signed for the next two seasons at $5.25 million each. If they could find a suitable trade partner for Krug’s services, perhaps they swap him. It’s a move that wouldn’t be ideal for a defense that still has room for improvement, but at the same time would have a chance to bring commensurate value for arguably the team’s most tradable asset.
The last – and probably least likely – outcome for Grzelcyk is that the Bruins do what would be the NHL equivalent of a “sign-and-trade” in the NBA. That’s essentially what happened with former Bruins blue liner Dougie Hamilton, whom the Bruins traded to the Calgary Flames as an RFA just before the start of the 2015 NHL Draft. Hamilton signed a six-year, $34.5 million deal with the Flames just four days later.
It’s unlikely that Grzelcyk would be sought after as highly as Hamilton, a former top-10 pick who had scored 42 points as a 21-year-old in the season prior to the trade. That could allow the Bruins and Grzelcyk to work out a deal that works for both sides. The question is how much longer the B’s will keep the promising young defenseman around.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.