After a disappointing five-game exit from the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals, the President Trophy winning Boston Bruins have given notice that they are open to roster adjustments this off-season. According to Fluto Shinzawa (subscription required) at The Athletic, the Bruins will closely scan the free agent market and look to spend some of the cap space cash they have available.
In his September 9th “Trade Winds? Bruins are all ears prior to free agency” feature, Shinzawa made specific mention of fourth-year Bruin defenceman Brendan Carlo. After commenting on Carlo’s somewhat average playoff performance and recognizing that Carlo is entering the final season of his two-year, $5.7 million contract, Shinzawa added: “Carlo, however, may have a greater chance of changing addresses…The Bruins, (sic), have Connor Clifton as right-side depth. Jeremy Lauzon can play the right side.”
The imminent question that comes to mind after reading the article: will the Bruins actively market Brandon Carlo as a trade asset before he becomes an RFA in 2021/22?
Bruins Without Carlo?
First, it is hard to believe that after four full seasons with the Bruins, Carlo is still only 23-years old. The former Tri-City American and 2015 2nd round Bruins pick, Carlo made the significant jump from junior to the NHL playing 82 games during a rookie season in 2016/17. Carlo suited up for 16 bubble playoff games this post-season, and he also played a significant role during the Bruins 2019 Stanley Cup run.
With Torey Krug set to test the free agent market this Fall, and an aging Zdeno Chara in the twilight of his career, the Bruins may want to establish the pieces that will now make up the defensive core on the back end. Before factoring in a potential free agent signing and assuming Charlie McAvoy is nearly untouchable, the options are…fairly average. Boston may decide to re-up on soon to be RFA, and local product Matt Grzelcyk. After that, the other 2020 roster players to choose from include the 29-year-old John Moore or previously mentioned Clifton and Lauzon. Other non-roster options might also include European defence prospects Urho Vaakanainen (Bruins 2017, 1st round pick) and Victor Berglund (Bruins 2017, 7th round pick).
Without knowing the contextual dynamics of the situation (and there is always layers of context with these decisions), Carlo has the potential to be a long-term, defensively stabilizing factor for the Bruins. Maybe Carlo’s 2020 bubble ridden playoffs were not spectacular, and his offensive upside might be limited but how do you quickly replace a fluid, right-handed, 6’5 D defenceman? Not to mention the fact that the Carlo has already played in 37 playoff games including a Stanley Cup Final series – all before his 24th birthday.
The Bruins defensive core will undoubtedly have a different look in 2020/21, but by keeping both Carlo and McAvoy, Boston can solidify the right side of their top four in the short and long-term.
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