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How many Bruins free agents will remain in Boston this offseason?




Bruins

Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, Pat Maroon, and Matt Grzelcyk are just a few of Boston’s pending free agents.

Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk, left, Charlie McAvoy, top, and a teammate celebrate a goal by left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) against the Seattle Kraken during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, in Seattle. The Bruins won 6-5.
Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk could both be on the move this offseason. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

With more than $20 million in cap space at his disposal, Don Sweeney and the Bruins will have the means to add to the current roster in free agency.

Even with a pending pay raise on tap for Jeremy Swayman, Boston should have the cap flexibility to add at least one marquee free agent like Elias Lindholm or even Steven Stamkos. 

But what about the pending unrestricted free agents currently on Boston’s roster?

Based on Sweeney’s comments Thursday, the Bruins are planning on letting almost all of their internal UFAs to hit the open market on July 1. 

“All those players, we haven’t signed all those players,” Sweeney said. “I’m having a conversation with Danton [Heinen] and another one of our guys. They kind of know what our position is — each and every one of those individuals and their representation. … It’s a safe bet they [hit the market].”

So just how many Bruins players are set to hit free agency on Monday, and what is the likelihood of any of them being back in a black-and-gold sweater moving forward?

Jake DeBrusk, F

While polarizing, DeBrusk has been a top-six fixture in Boston for years, chipping in offensively while developing into a steady two-way winger in 2023-24. This past season was a down year offensively for the 2015 first-round pick, with DeBrusk limited to 19 goals and 40 points over 80 games.

He was hindered by a broken hand that he played through in the middle of the regular season, but he played his best hockey down the stretch — scoring five goals and 11 points in 13 playoff games.

While some Bruins fans might be irked by DeBrusk’s up-and-down offensive contributions and his inability to develop into a consistent 30-goal winger (for now, at least), his dependable defensive game, playoff performance, and speed (something that Cam Neely has placed a premium on this offseason) make him a player that Boston ideally would want to remain somewhere in its middle-six for the long haul.

Odds of being back? 20 percent.

In a perfect world, the Bruins re-up DeBrusk on a long-term deal, finding something around the $5-5.5 million AAV mark and benefiting from his speed and well-rounded game. 

But be it DeBrusk’s focus on a higher payout or perhaps a preference to play further west, it does seem as though contract talks between DeBrusk and the Bruins have ceased. 

“I don’t have any update at this point in time,” Sweeney said Thursday of DeBrusk. “I suspect that Jake will head to the UFA and test the market. … haven’t had any productive talks in quite some time. But at end of the day, that’s his prerogative to see what July 1 brings for him.”

With DeBrusk likely signing elsewhere, the Bruins will need to be on the prowl for another top-six winger this offseason. While there are plenty of targets who can replicate DeBrusk’s baseline offensive production, replacing his D-zone play and versatility as a strong penalty killer is another matter. 

Danton Heinen, F

One of the best value adds for any team this past offseason, Heinen returned to Boston last fall on a professional tryout contract (PTO) — winning a spot during preseason action and eventually signing a one-year deal for a league-minimum $775,000.

The 28-year-old forward became a Swiss Army Knife in Boston’s forward corps — capable of elevating up to the top-six unit when needed while chipping in across several areas of the game for Jim Montgomery on the third line. 

He’s far from a flashy player, but Heinen lit the lamp 17 times and recorded 36 points last season for Boston. Even though he’s due a well-earned pay raise, Heinen’s versatility and ability to chip in with 15 goals and 35+ points would make him a valued asset for Boston. 

Odds of being back? 50 percent.

While Sweeney acknowledged that Boston’s free-agent grouping is likely going to market, he did add that he circled back with Heinen’s representatives once again to discuss a new deal. 

“You get closer to July 1, you know that other teams recognize and acknowledge what Danton did for us this current year, so it always factors in,” Sweeney said. “In a perfect world, you get Danton back because of the versatility and the quality of the person and what he brought to our hockey club. There are other areas that we’re trying to target in our free agency period. So you know, to be determined on that front.”

Heinen would be a solid pick-up for Boston given his ability to play up and down the lineup, especially if he’s willing to sign for something around $2-2.5 million per year. But will Boston have that much money around once they re-sign Jeremy Swayman and (ideally) add a top free agent or two on July 1? 

As much as the Bruins value Heinen’s skillset, they might opt to move ahead with a bottom-six group that does have plenty of options already in place like Morgan Geekie, Trent Frederic, Matt Poitras, Justin Brazeau, Johnny Beecher, and Mark Kastelic. 

James van Riemsdyk, F 

Another great value add for the Bruins last offseason ($1 million cap hit), van Riemsdyk was on pace for a 50-point campaign with Boston midway through the season. His netfront skills and underrated passing added a welcomed element to Boston’s forward corps. 

But the 35-year-old veteran slowed down as the season went on, with a cold stretch after the bye week further hindered by an illness that saw him drop 15 pounds. He recorded just one point over his final 20 regular-season games with Boston, but did add five points in 11 postseason games. 

Odds of being back? 20 percent.

It seems like the Bruins are willing to let JVR walk this offseason, especially given the aforementioned abundance of bottom-six forwards already on the roster. But if Boston spends most of its cap space on a top-line center, Swayman’s new deal and a left-shot D, could Boston circle back and sign JVR as another bargain-bin option to add some scoring punch? 

Pat Maroon, F 

He only played a grand total of 15 games for the Bruins in 2024, but the imposing winger and three-time Stanley Cup champion added some heft, veteran mettle, and a strong presence to Boston during this recent playoff run. 

Boston might want to do a deeper dive on Maroon’s medical history after he underwent back surgery last season, but the 36-year-old forward expressed a desire to stick with Boston moving forward — adding that he was not operating at 100 percent coming off that surgical procedure. 

Odds of being back? 50 percent — if the price is right. 

The Bruins might already have their fourth-line grouping in place with Beecher, Kastelic, and Brazeau.

But if Maroon is willing to sign a low-value signing, he could hold plenty of value as a veteran leader who can command the room, slot in when needed to add some more snarl, and win puck battles. If the Bruins do have some fiscal wiggle room after July 1 (and barring any bad news regarding Maroon’s back), it wouldn’t come as much of a surprise if Boston gives him a call. 

Jesper Boqvist, F

Boqvist carved out a role as speedy fourth-line regular on Boston’s roster as the 2023-24 season carried on, scoring six goals and 14 points over 48 games. His skating ability allowed him to put opposing players on their heels, while he helped drive play next to other checking-line forwards like Beecher and Brazeau.

Odds of being back? 10 percent.

With Boston choosing to not offer Boqvist a qualifying offer, the Bruins seem intent on letting Boqvist pursue a more lucrative deal in free agency — rather than retain him at a price higher than the $775,000 he commanded last season.

Derek Forbort, D

A relatively unheralded blueliner during his three seasons with Boston, Forbort was tasked with logging taxing minutes on the penalty kill, blocking shots and earning plenty of starts in the D-zone. The 32-year-old had a brutal 2023-24 season on the injury front, appearing in just 35 games while undergoing three surgeries to fix two groin injuries and a torn ligament in his thumb. 

Odds of being back? 5 percent.

While Forbort was a solid, unflashy blueliner over his three seasons with Boston, his injury woes make him a player that the Bruins likely won’t want to invest in moving forward. 

Kevin Shattenkirk, D

Another strong value signing ($1.05 million cap hit) from Sweeney last offseason, Shattenkirk stepped in as Connor Clifton’s replacement on the right side of Boston’s defense, recording 24 points over 61 games.

Along with his playmaking on the blue line, the 35-year-old Shattenkirk’s greatest contribution last season might have been his speech before Game 7 of Boston’s first-round series against the Maple Leafs.

Odds of being back? 5 percent.

While Shattenkirk could be a useful asset as a third-pairing D, the Bruins have seemingly shored up his spot in the lineup after Boston traded for fellow right-shot blueliner Andrew Peeke in March. There should be plenty of suitors lining up for Shattenkirk on a low-cost deal that will offer him more playing time. 

Matt Grzelcyk, D

A fixture on Boston’s blue line for the last seven seasons, Grzelcyk trudged through a tough year in 2023-24. Injuries limited him to 63 games, while his sterling underlying statistics also took a hit, even when paired with his former BU teammate in Charlie McAvoy.

The Charlestown native ideally wants to stick around in Boston, but there was little progress in contract talks during the season — while getting scratched in back-to-back postseasons stands as an ominous sign for his future in Boston. 

Odds of being back? 10 percent.

Even if the Boston native wants to keep playing for his hometown club, his usage during critical stretches of the past two seasons signal that the Bruins might want to move on, or augment their D corps moving forward. Grzelcyk could be a useful pickup to another team this offseason that needs some puck-moving prowess and transition skills on their blue line.





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