By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Bruins president Cam Neely held his end-of-season press conference on Tuesday in Boston. His answer for the Bruins' immediate needs was not surprising.
As they enter yet another offseason without a clear choice for that sixth forward on the top two lines, Neely admitted that it will once again be a priority for the Bruins to fill that role. Preferably with a consistent, reliably productive player to fit on the right side.
"What do we need moving forward or next year? Yeah, well, obviously I know it’s been talked about at length about another top-six forward, so we’ll see where that ends up," Neely said. He also mentioned the need for centers to come through the system with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci getting a year older.
The immediate priority, though, should be right wing. Whether it's for the Bergeron or Krejci lines, the Bruins absolutely without question have to find someone who can entrench himself in the top-6. David Backes ain't it. Karson Kuhlman is a fine injury call-up, but not a No. 2 right wing on a Stanley Cup-winning team. Trading for Rick Nash a year ago essentially blew up in their face.
Neely also spoke at length about the defense. His comments, while not directly implied by him, illustrate how they would be dealing from a position of strength if they turned Torey Krug or Matt Grzelcyk into other assets via trade.
"Our back end, I’m pretty comfortable obviously with [Brandon] Carlo, [Charlie] McAvoy. [Matt] Grzelcyk played really well for us this year. Torey [Krug] had a strong year," Neely said. "You know, obviously Zdeno’s [Chara] another year older, but we’ve got a couple good, young left-handed prospects coming."
The Bruins have a glut of left-shot defensemen in the system, including Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and Dustin McFaul. Vaakanainen may never score enough to be a true No. 1 left defenseman, but has the upside of a top-pairing blue liner with his smooth skating and defensive acumen. Lauzon flashed in 16 games this past season that he could at least be a serviceable two-way NHL defender. Zboril may be a lost cause at this point, but McFaul remains a bit of a wild card.
At some point, Neely is going to have to decide on who he wants to commit to and who to cash in on before the leave for nothing. If the Bruins are going to make a trade, it almost has to be from the left side of the defense. Because there's no other positional group with nearly that kind of strength or depth.
Silver lining? Neely recognizes the Bruins' needs and may not be comfortable going yet another season gambling on internal options. The B's remain a team to watch closely with the 2019 NHL Draft coming up on Friday.
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 protected].