The Boston Bruins have been operating on borrowed time for some time now.
Last year was the first time that the Bruins addressed it so openly, and you saw it play out in 2021 with the team moving on from veteran mainstays Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug in an attempt to get younger on defense. But as Cam Neely revealed in his exit meeting with the media, the Bruins’ core (namely Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand) are entering this offseason with the hope that the front office will make the moves for yet another ‘final kick’ at the can for this era of B’s hockey.
“I can tell you this, I know that March and Bergy understandably would like us to take another run,” Neely said when asked about the team’s next steps. “If we get the pieces signed that we’d like to, I think it’s worth taking one more shot at it here.”
Knocked out in the second round in three of the last four seasons — and losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final in the outlier year — this constant fight to stave off a ‘rebuild’ or ‘retool’ and keep the Black and Gold’s Cup window open has been taxing. In every possible way, really. But especially with the violent wave that crashes into the minds of the B’s core with each letdown.
“Every year, as you don’t achieve your goal and the further you go in your career, you get to realize it’s a year closer to retirement, so, obviously it’s tough,” Bergeron acknowledged. “From one year to the next, it’s always a missed opportunity and you want to keep going at it. It’s hard. As you get older, you know that you don’t have that many chances to achieve your goal and have a team that can actually compete for a Stanley Cup, so it’s always disappointing.”
“It is tough to look at,” Marchand offered. “You’re aging and I try not to look at how much longer I have left because I obviously don’t know. But you look at the group around us and obviously guys are getting older. Again, it’s not something I try to dwell on, but facts are facts. We’re getting older every year. And who knows what’s going to happen with the core and obviously the guys are going to start moving on. It’s tough.”
Among some of those aging, core pieces in need of new deals this offseason? Second-line center David Krejci, who gave a brutally honest exit interview, and noted that his next contract will not be about the money. He turned 35 in April. Then there’s defenseman Kevan Miller, the Bruins’ Masterton Trophy and a close friend of Marchand, who skated in 28 games in 2021 and another four playoff games before a concussion shelved him for the remainder of the postseason. Miller, who battled horrible injury luck even before the knee issues, is unsure what the future holds for him. And career-long Boston netminder Tuukka Rask, who will undergo hip surgery and will be out until January or February, will also need a new deal.
The Bruins have also highlighted areas of improvement, and have significant money to play with this offseason, with their $31 million and change of projected cap space currently standing as the fifth-most in all of hockey.
There’s a lot on the Bruins’ plate, and Neely knows the various directions in front of the franchise with that to-do list.
“It really is going to depend upon what happened with some of the UFAs that we’re going to look to try and sign,” Neely said of potentially loading up for one more Cup run. “We have some holes if we can’t get those guys signed and that will certainly dictate what direction we may have to go in. Dependent on what we can do on the back end as well.
“Tuukka is up in the air with his surgery, so we’ll see where that goes. But we’re pretty confident in our goaltender with Jeremy Swayman and also [Dan] Vladar. Haven’t seen enough of Vladar but Swayman gave us a little bit of a taste of what type of goalie he can be in the National Hockey League. So, we feel pretty comfortable starting the season with him.”
Not a lot of promises in there, to be honest.
“It’s not up to me,” Bergeron said of the changes that the Bruins will make this offseason. “You always want to keep the same group and I feel like we have a great group here. We’ll see what happens.”
Marchand, meanwhile, seems confident that the team will ultimately do right by their core given their shared goal in mind.
“The management group and coaching staff and ownership, they want to win so bad here that they’re going to do what they have to to make sure that we’re a competitive team and that’s why I love being a part of this organization,” said Marchand. “They want to win just as bad as any player and they do whatever they can every year to make sure they we’re a competitive group.
“I know we will be again next year and I’m looking forward to that opportunity here.”
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.