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The Bruins are Bringing the Band Back, But at What Cost?

Hockey article at Knup Sports

Within a matter of hours on August 8, the Boston Bruins announced they had signed captain Patrice Bergeron and center David Krejci to one-year deals for the 2022-23 National Hockey League (NHL) season. The moves were hardly a surprise after the Bruins’ Twitter account hinted as much early in the morning.

What was surprising was the ridiculously low salary cap hits for both players. Bergeron will make only $2.5 million in salary, but could earn as much as $5 million if he hits his signing bonus, which includes playing just 10 games. Krejci, who didn’t play with the team last season, is also returning on a one-year, bonus-laden deal. The players have a combined cap hit of $3.5 million this season.

To give some context: Bergeron is the reigning Selke Trophy winner and possibly the best defensive forward in league history. He’s also fourth in Bruins all-time scoring with 982 points. Krejci, meanwhile, ranks ninth all-time with 730 points.

“The fire, desire and passion were too strong for me to take that path right now,” Bergeron, who briefly considered retiring, told reporters. “I’m not ready, I guess, for the next step of my life. I still have some in the tank, something to give.”

While it’s a shrewd move for the Bruins, it doesn’t exactly position them as Stanley Cup favorites and, more than anything, seems to be delaying an inevitable rebuild by a year. Perhaps it’s a last-ditch attempt to entice David Pastrnak, whose contract is up next year, to signing a team-friendly extension. Either way, Boston should have embraced a rebuild this season.

The Atlantic Division is Simply Too Good

Yes, the Bruins still have Charlie McAvoy, who is among the best defensemen in the league, and elite winger David Pastrnak. But there’s not much to like beyond that. The aging team could possibly compete for a playoff spot with Bergeron and Krejci back in the fold, but at what cost?

Both players should hit their bonuses, which will hurt their salary cap situation for next season. Moreover, the Atlantic Division is simply too good right now for the Bruins to be competitive.

The defending Eastern Conference champions, Tampa Bay Lightning, might take a slight step back, but there’s no way they’re not finishing top three in the conference.

The Florida Panthers will have a different look with Matthew Tkachuk in the lineup and should also be considered a playoff lock. The Toronto Maple Leafs can’t be counted to get past the first round, but it’s hard to imagine they won’t have another great regular season.

That leaves Boston fighting with the Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Detroit Red Wings for a possible Wild Card spot. Ottawa has improved dramatically, while the other three teams have taken steps in the right direction.

Connor Bedard and the Top-Heavy 2023 NHL Draft

The Bruins bringing back Bergeron and Krejci ultimately guarantees they won’t be a lottery team. They may not make the playoffs, but they’ll be competitive. They should have taken a page from the Chicago Blackhawks and just gave up.

Connor Bedard is the projected top pick in the 2023 NHL Draft and, depending who you ask, he’s about on the same level as Connor McDavid was in his draft year. He’s a game-changing, can’t-miss prospect who will immediately help whatever team picks him. But he’s not the only prized prospect.

Russian forward Matvei Michkov is also an elite forward who possesses incredible hockey sense and could even challenge Bedard for the top spot. Other top prospects include Adam Fantilli, Zach Benson, and Dalibor Dvorsky.

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