When the 2021 NHL season begins, the Boston Bruins blueline will look different from a few months ago. Torey Krug left for St. Louis and the status of Zdeno Chara is uncertain for the foreseeable future. While the Bruins will have some unfamiliar faces their returning veterans will be taking on new roles. Prospects such as Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen could also begin to make their mark in Boston.
Earlier this week, the Bruins resolved one of their biggest question marks by re-signing Matt Grzelcyk to a four-year deal. The Boston University product was a restricted free agent and had an arbitration hearing set for October 20th. With his future secured, Grzelcyk is expected to see a more significant role next season.
The Charlestown native began his career in Boston when he was selected in the third-round of the 2012 NHL entry draft. Over the past three years, he has appeared in 197 games and become a staple on the blueline. In that span, Grzelcyk has recorded 54 points and had a career-high 21 last season. The Bruins are hoping that with in an increased role, Grzelcyk’s production will improve even more.
Additionally, this offseason, the Bruins re-signed Kevan Miller to a one-year deal. The veteran defenseman is expected to serve as a depth piece since he has not appeared in an NHL game in 18 months. Miller will be highly motivated and provide the Bruins with a veteran presence on the blueline.
Furthermore, the Bruins are preparing for a youth movement as Zboril and Vaakanainen are expected to see increased roles. Vaakanainen has appeared in seven NHL games over the past two years, while Zboril recently signed a two-year extension. The duo have high expectations and will be looking to prove that they belong in the NHL.
The rest of the Bruins blueline will look the same with the returns of Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, Jeremy Lauzon, and Connor Clifton. It is a group with promise that will be looking to prove themselves after a disappointing playoff run.
Regardless of what the roster looks like opening night, one point of emphasis for this group will be offense. It was an issue in the playoffs and will not get easier without Krug. The former Bruin was the only defenseman on the roster last season to score more than five goals. It is a challenge that they are prepared to overcome, as Grzelcyk has already made it a focus this offseason.
As the Bruins look to return to the playoffs, how this group develops will be vital to their success.