As ludicrous as it sounds, 2020 NHL free agency began on Oct. 9, which in a normal world would’ve been the opening week of the 2020–21 season. Since COVID-19 has radically changed the sports world this summer, NHL front offices struggled to adapt to the revised offseason schedule. Scouting reports on various draft prospects were unavailable due to COVID-19 restrictions, and free agency meetings occurred over Zoom. Although many teams overlooked this offseason, the Boston Bruins were attempting to juggle a roster that was inching toward the salary cap, containing many players that were due for contract extensions. Even with the limited mobility the Bruins held in the free agency market, they still managed some large moves during the unorthodox free agent season.
The Craig Smith signing: Grade A-
Formerly a member of the Nashville Predators, Craig Smith is a perfect fit in Bruce Cassidy’s scheme. Signing a contract for three years worth $9.3 million, Smith brings longevity and playoff experience to the Bruins’ forward lineup. Additionally, he finds the back of the net often, averaging 18 goals a season over a nine-year span. Smith will most likely slide into the left wing slot on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork; however, with David Pastrnak on injured reserve with a hip injury, Smith could play alongside Patrice Bergeron on the first forward line. This move was a solid bargain for a team tight on cap space and gives the Bruins a versatile forward that can play multiple positions in their offensive scheme.
Letting Torey Krug walk: Grade F
This offseason move was just adding insult to injury. With the Bruins falling short of expectations once again in the Stanley Cup playoffs, their fanbase suffered through yet another heartbreaking playoff ending. Following their quick exit, the Bruins’ front office was quick to enter contract talks with Torey Krug, who was an integral part of the Bruins’ defense. However, due to salary cap issues and miscommunication between both parties, a contract was never offered and Krug signed with the St. Louis Blues for seven years, worth $45.5 million. Even if the Blues partially overpaid for Krug, it will be extremely difficult to replace his powerful presence on the blue line. He was the perfect combination of offensive and defensive and was effective in all three zones, and many Bruins fans will remember his earth-quaking hit on Robert Thomas during Game 1 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final. His tenacity, work ethic and leadership presence will be missed in Beantown; this loss will significantly cripple the Bruins’ depth on the blue line and their savvy power play.
Other than the Craig Smith signing and the decision to let Torey Krug hit the open market, the Bruins were relatively quiet during the free agency period. They were able to lock up Matt Grzelcyk, who has a similar playing style to Krug and could possibly fill the open role on the power play, to a four-year contract. He’s still no Torey Krug. As more questions loom on the Bruins’ roster, including captain Zdeno Chara, an unrestricted free agent, its holes will continue to pile up. The Craig Smith and Matt Grzelcyk signings were sound decisions by the Bruins’ front office; Nonetheless, the Bruins’ roster is far from perfect and still needs one or two more cheap acquisitions in order to compete for another Stanley Cup.