Buffalo, N.Y. (WGR 550) – For the Buffalo Sabres to make the playoffs in the next few years, they’ll have to find a lane in.
Looking back at last season, a team needed 100 points to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. Buffalo finished the 2021-22 season with 75.
If general manager Kevyn Adams' plan works, I think Buffalo won't be in the playoffs this year, but would have a definite chance next season. The question is, what team would they target to get past in the standings?
Are the Boston Bruins a candidate for this conversation?
Boston just signed captain Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to one-year contracts. Krejci left the Bruins for one season to play in Czechia, then decided to come back because he says he wanted one more chance with David Pastrnak.
In his NHL career, the 26-year-old Pastrnak has averaged 39 goals over 82 games. He has one more season before he has to make a decision with unrestricted free agency.
You would have to think that Krejci knows a lot more about what Pastrnak may be thinking, which means maybe there’s a good chance he’ll leave the Bruins next summer.
Boston has nine players currently on the roster that will be eligible to become unrestricted free agents after this season: Pastrnak, Bergeron, Krejci, Pavel Zacha, Nick Foligno, Craig Smith and Connor Clifton.
If the Bruins can stay with Jeremy Swayman in goal, they should be OK. If they have to depend on Linus Ullmark for any period of time down the stretch or in the playoffs, it could be trouble.
I think you need to look at the age of this team too. Bergeron is 37, Krejci is 36, Brad Marchand is 34, Foligno is 34, Smith is 32 and Taylor Hall is 30. Many in Boston don’t believe that general manager Don Sweeney is up for the task of reloading this team or rebuilding it.
If this is the final season in Boston for Pastrnak, Bergeron and Krejci, I have to believe this team is in trouble. That leaves a huge hole in the middle of this roster.
If you look at recent drafts, the Bruins have had just two first-round picks in five years. In 2021, they took Fabian Lysell 21st overall and in 2019, Boston selected John Beecher 30th overall.
Lysell is a winger from Sweden and scored 22 goals and 40 assists for 62 points in 53 games with the Vancouver Giants of the Western Hockey League.
Beecher is a center who played three years of college hockey at the University of Michigan, scoring six goals and nine assists for 15 points in 34 games with the Wolverines this past season. He then got 11 games, including the playoffs, with the Providence Bruins, picking up six points.
Bergeron signed with the Bruins for $2.5 million, but according to CapFriendly, he can make $5 million with bonuses. Meanwhile, Krejci signed for $1 million, but CapFriendly says he’ll make another $1 million if he plays 10 games, $500,000 if he plays 20 games, and another $500,000 if Boston makes the playoffs.
CapFriendly has the Bruins currently around $2.2 million above this year’s salary cap, so they will have to shed some salary.