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Bruins to have an "aggressive" offseason

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Bruins 'are going to be aggressive' in offseason, GM Sweeney says

New contracts for Swayman, DeBrusk, finding more offensive production among top priorities

Swayman Ullmark hug

© Peter Joneleit/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ByAmalie Benjamin
@AmalieBenjamin NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- While admitting they are still “bitterly disappointed” at not extending their run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs beyond Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Second Round, which they lost Friday to the Florida Panthers, general manager Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins have turned their attention what could be a very interesting offseason.


The Bruins are looking at $20 million in space under the NHL salary cap for next season, some of which will need to be allocated to signing restricted free agent goalie Jeremy Swayman to a long-term contract, which Sweeney called a priority, and some of which will be used to try to improve a team that ultimately did not have enough offense to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.


“We’re bitterly disappointed that we did not push this, to the very least, to a Game 7, to extend that series, to continue to challenge for what our ultimate goal is, and it’s to win at the most important time of the year,” Sweeney said.


“We put together a team that was very, very competitive in the regular season. We fell short in the playoffs in some areas that certainly this summer we need to continue to address.”


Sweeney said the team will be “aggressive” in trying to get better.


“We are in a situation where we can look to add to our core group of guys, and that includes also some of the younger guys, as [Bruins president Cam Neely] mentioned,” Sweeney said. “But we are going to be aggressive, to be able to complement what we currently have in some areas.”


That starts with offense.


Outside of the five goals they scored in Game 1 against the Panthers, the Bruins were able to score no more than two goals in any of the last five games, totaling only eight goals as they fell in Game 6 in the best-of-7 series.


“It reared its head at the most inopportune time," Sweeney said, "that we weren’t able to finish in quality chances, and in some cases, guys that generally do finish in quality situations of that nature.”


Sweeney had thought Boston would score enough goals this season, knowing it wouldn’t be dominant offensively, especially with the losses of centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci last summer.


But the Bruins went “dormant,” as he put it, during the series against the Panthers, especially on the power play, which converted once in 16 opportunities. That’s something that will be a priority in the offseason.


“This game is fast,” Neely said. “We’re not as fast as we’d like to be. Some of that had to do with last offseason, what we were really kind of hamstrung in trying to accomplish. I think Don and our pro staff did a really good job last season and built a team that competed the way that they did.


“But there’s areas where we still need to improve. And we’re going to address that this offseason, for sure. We need to get a little faster and I’d like to see a little more 50-50 puck battle wins. That’s an area where you have to want the puck more than the other team.”


Sweeney acknowledged it's paramount, at this time of year, to find a way. Boston couldn’t.


“There are some things that we need to address -- and I need to address -- from the standpoint of free agency and/or internal growth,” Sweeney said. “We have to complement. I have to be able to find some players that can come in and provide secondary scoring for us at key opportune times.”


Part of that will be looking outside the organization, where adding depth at center could be a priority. It could also be in re-signing the Bruins’ most offensive-minded unrestricted free agent, forward Jake DeBrusk, who expressed some disbelief he had not yet been signed at the team’s break-up day on Sunday, but whose future with Boston is far from certain.


“Negotiation is a two-way street,” Sweeney said. “We took an aggressive position with Jake, no different than other players that have chosen not to re-sign and explore. That’s within his right, certainly at this time of the year. Do I see a path? Yeah, there’s a path. … I would prefer to have Jake DeBrusk on our team.”


Sweeney also said the Bruins would pursue signing captain Brad Marchand to a contract extension -- he has one year remaining on an eight-year, $49 million extension (average annual balue $6.125 million) he signed on Sept. 26, 2016 -- with the idea of him being “a lifelong Bruin.”


The other issue Boston will need to contend with is in net.


Swayman took the Bruins to arbitration last season and was awarded a one-year contract for $3.475 million. He will be due a raise after starting 12 of 13 playoff games for Boston with a 2.15 goals-against average and .933 save percentage.


“It’s clearly a priority,” Sweeney said of getting a long-term deal done with Swayman. “And Jeremy knows, I’ve told him this. … We clearly engaged in conversation during the regular season to find a longer-term extension. We haven’t gotten there yet.


It’s a priority now and it’ll continue to be a priority until we get that across the finish line.

“He’s a big part of our current team and the run that he went on in the playoffs and our future.”


But he may not be the only big-name goalie the Bruins have on their roster next season. Linus Ullmark, who won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s best goalie in 2022-23, remains signed for one more season and will be paid $5 million.


“We’re going to find a landing spot with Jeremy Swayman, and if we can make the math work, we’re going to have the best tandem,” Sweeney said. “If we can’t, we’re going to explore and/or Linus may come to us and change his mind. That may occur as well.


“Right now, he’s really happy. We were very happy to sign Linus. In a perfect world, we would keep the tandem because I think it’s [darn] good. But we’re going to explore opportunities. My phone’s going to ring, I’m going to make calls. That’s just what the job requires.”

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