Bruins look to remain Stanley Cup contender after adding Smith

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After the NHL Draft, free agency and other offseason moves, NHL.com is examining where each team stands in preparation for the 2020-21 regular season, which is targeted to start Jan. 1. Today, the Boston Bruins:

The Boston Bruins will look different from the team that won the Presidents’ Trophy last season for having the best points percentage in the NHL.

The Bruins (44-14-12, .714 points percentage), eliminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning in five games in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round, have yet to offset the departure of defenseman Torey Krug, who signed a seven-year contract with the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 9, and possibly the loss of captain Zdeno Chara. The 43-year-old defenseman, who has played for Boston the past 14 seasons, is an unrestricted free agent, but the door has not been closed on bringing him back in a more limited role.

“No, we’ve again communicated consistently with Zdeno and (agent) Matt Keator,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Oct. 17. “We’re just waiting for him to initiate what he’d like to do moving forward. I feel very comfortable allowing that to take the necessary time and let Zdeno … make the decisions along that route.”

 

[RELATED: Complete Team Reset coverage]

 

The Bruins did improve their depth at forward by signing Craig Smith as a free agent. He likely will add scoring and solid two-way play on the third line, but Boston has not made any other major moves. Though Sweeney said he still is looking to add experience, he also said he expects younger players and prospects to compete for ice time, especially early in the season when first-line forwards Brad Marchand (sports hernia) and David Pastrnak (shoulder) each is expected to still be recovering from offseason surgery. 

“As I’ve mentioned before, we have several players that are knocking on the door that we’d like them to see them continue to push, both in our forward group and our back end,” Sweeney said. “A little bit of a growth opportunity in — we still have to figure out how the season plays out, but we’re comfortable at some point in time we’re going to be up and running, and our guys will be ready to go. We felt all along that we were going to need some internal growth.”

Here is what the Bruins look like today:

 

Key arrivals

Craig Smith, F: The 31-year-old signed a three-year contract Oct. 10 to provide depth scoring. He scored at least 21 goals five times in nine seasons with the Nashville Predators and scored 31 points (18 goals, 13 assists) in 69 games last season. … Greg McKegg, F: The 28-year-old signed a one-year, two-way contract Oct. 14. He’s played 185 NHL games with six teams. With the New York Rangers last season, he scored nine points (five goals, four assists) in 58 games.

Video: STL@NSH: Smith buries rebound to kick off scoring

 

Key departure

Torey Krug, D: Scored 49 points (nine goals, 40 assists) in 61 games to lead Bruins defensemen and finish fourth on Boston. He averaged 20:29 of ice time in the regular season, tied with Brandon Carlo for third on the Bruins behind defenseman Charlie McAvoy (23:10) and Chara (21:01), and had six assists in 13 postseason games.

 

On the cusp

Trent Frederic, F: The 22-year-old center has played 17 games with Boston during the past two seasons and is still looking for his first NHL point. He scored 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 59 games with Providence of the American Hockey League last season. … Jack Studnicka, F: The 21-year-old led Providence in scoring with 49 points (23 goals, 26 assists) in 60 games during his rookie season. He played five games for the Bruins in the postseason and did not look out of place. … Urho Vaakanainen, D: The 21-year old had a five-game call-up with the Bruins last season but did not score a point. He will be among those trying to break into the regular lineup after Krug’s departure and the possible loss of Chara. … Jakub Zboril, F: The 23-year-old was re-signed as a restricted free agent and is a candidate to be a bottom-six forward. He has played the past three seasons in Providence, scoring 19 points in each of them.

 

What they still need

A power-play quarterback. That role was handled by Krug, who scored 28 power-play points last season, including a Bruins-high 26 assists. Pastrnak played the role at times last season, including during the postseason, but he is out until February after he had a right hip arthroscopy and labral repair Sept. 16, so the Bruins may look to go outside the organization to address the need.

 

Fantasy focus

With two top 10 fantasy players, Pastrnak and Marchand, expected to miss the start of the season, forward Jake DeBrusk should take the next step for the Bruins. Touted as a fantasy sleeper candidate in each of the past two seasons, DeBrusk can finally break through with exposure to elite center Patrice Bergeron. With a prime role at even strength and on the power play for a safe fantasy team, DeBrusk is an obvious late-round target. — Pete Jensen

 

Projected lineup

Brad Marchand — Patrice Bergeron — David Pastrnak

Jake DeBrusk– David KrejciOndrej Kase

Anders BjorkCharlie Coyle — Craig Smith

Nick RitchieSean KuralyChris Wagner

Jeremy Lauzon — Charlie McAvoy

Matt Grzelcyk — Brandon Carlo

John MooreConnor Clifton

Tuukka Rask

Jaroslav Halak

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