2022 NHL Free Agents: Five Players Bruins Should Target originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins are entering the 2022 NHL outdoor season without much room for a salary cap, but there are ways to create more room for free desk.
The list of B players who have had out-of-season surgeries is a long one. Boston could free up cap space by putting some of them, including: Brad Marchand or Charlie McAvoy, long-term injured reserve (LTIR). However, the Bruins should be cap compliant when those players return sometime in the first half of the regular season.
The Bruins were also able to create cap space by swapping out a defender. They currently have eight d-men signed to NHL contracts, including five or six who play on the left. Swapping out a veteran striker like Nick Foligno, Craig Smith or even Jake DeBrusk would also free up over $3 million in space.
The Bruins are unlikely to be big players in free agency, but given the options they have to generate cap space, it would be wrong to give up entirely on the idea of adding a player to the open market.
Let’s take a look at five players the Bruins should seriously consider signing a free agency this summer.
2021-22 stats: 28 G, 59 A in 71 GP
Kadri has a history with the Bruins. He was suspended for the last five games of the 2019 first-round playoff series between the Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs after the Veterans Center cross checked Jake DeBrusk in the head during game 2.
But that incident was three years ago and while Kadri is still on the brink, he doesn’t cross the line as often as in the past. Kadri has also grown into a fantastic attacking player. He recorded a career-high 87 points (28 goals, 58 assists) in 71 appearances for the Avalanche last season. His previous career high in scoring was 61 points during the 2016-17 campaign.
One of Kadri’s major contributions to the Avalanche was his playoff scoring. He has scored 34 points in 33 playoff games for Colorado over the past three years.
Kadri would be an upgrade at number 2 in Erik Haula’s center. The problem for the Bruins is Kadri’s age and cost. Giving a six- or seven-year deal worth between $7-8 million per season to a 30-year-old is definitely a risk. The Bruins’ window to win the Stanley Cup is probably already closed. A renovation does not seem far away.
But we’re talking about the Bruins. They don’t like to rebuild. Perhaps the Bruins wouldn’t worry about the end of Kadri’s contract. They need to maximize the rest of Bergeron’s career, and finding a number 2 center is the team’s most glaring weakness.
If the Bruins want to make a substantial upgrade in the middle, clearing room for a salary cap for Kadri or swapping JT Miller from the Vancouver Canucks are two of the best options.
2021-22 stats: 21 G, 30 A in 71 GP
A cheaper option for the Bruins in pursuit of a second-line center is Trocheck. He has just had his best offensive season since 2017-18, hitting 20 goals for the fourth time in his career.
Trocheck is not only a high quality attacking player but also a pretty good defensive center. He won 54.6 percent of his face-offs, and the Hurricanes earned a plus-197 advantage in shots, beating opponents 48-28 when Trocheck was on the ice in 5-on-5 action last season.
Trocheck’s offensive production, two-way skills and power-forward-like play style make him a good match in Boston. The problem for the Bruins is that he should be a hot item in the free-player market, especially after Kadri and Claude Giroux disappeared from the board.
2021-22 stats: 25 G, 27 A in 62 GP
Nichushkin had a good rookie season with the Dallas Stars in 2013-14 and deteriorated significantly over the next three years. He revived his career with the Avalanche, with 25 goals and 27 assists for 52 points in 62 games last season.
The Russian forward plays the kind of powerforward-esque game that would make him a great match in Boston. He is 1.80 and 210 pounds, and he doesn’t mind going to the dirty parts of the ice to gain puck possession and score some big goals.
Another positive point of Nichushkin is that he is only 27 years old. If you look at the best UFA forwards expected to hit the market, he is one of the youngest.
Position: C, LW/RW
2021-22 stats: 21 G, 32 A in 72 GP
The Bruins reportedly had an interest in Copp before the trade deadline, but the New York Rangers bought him instead. He made the difference for the Rangers, scoring 14 points in 20 playoff games as New York surprisingly reached the Eastern Conference final.
Boston should go after Copp again during free agency. The veteran striker set a career high last season with 21 goals and 32 assists in 72 games between the Winnipeg Jets and Rangers. Copp plays with speed, toughness and he is 27 years old. His most prolific offensive years are yet to come.
One of the main reasons for drawing Copp is his versatility. He can play left and right, but also in the middle. He can play on the second and third line with all kinds of different players. This plug-and-play skill would be valuable to a new head coach as he figures out which line combinations are most effective.
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2021-22 stats: 20 G, 21 A in 71 GP
Rakell would have been a nice trade deadline for the Bruins, but he went to the Pittsburgh Penguins in February. The veteran winger has been quite consistent offensively, scoring 18 or more goals in five of the last seven seasons. Rakell also has a lot of play-off experience (48 career games). The Swedish forward would be an upgrade over Craig Smith, Nick Foligno and Tomas Nosek.