With NHL free agency set to get underway at noon, here are six questions facing the Bruins as Don Sweeney looks to add some pieces around this current veteran core:
1. Can the Bruins close on an Oliver Ekman-Larsson deal?
The biggest determinant in just how active Boston will be on Friday afternoon hinges on whether or not Don Sweeney can close a deal for Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson and his agent, Kevin Epp, have set a Friday deadline for a potential deal between Arizona and the only two suitors he'd be willing to waive a no-trade clause for — the Bruins and the Canucks.
If a deal does not come to fruition Friday, then 29-year-old defenseman puts an end to any trade (via his no-movement clause) and stays with Arizona — a result that the Coyotes likely won't be too keen on, given that the fiscally hurting franchise is desperately trying to unload the remaining seven years and $57 million remaining on his mega-deal.
Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, Boston appears to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to a deal for the Coyotes captain, but any movement on a potential deal has appeared to stagnate — as the Bruins are currently unwilling to budge from Arizona's high asking price.
There is plenty of risk when it comes to making a deal for Ekman-Larsson, whether it be taking on most (if not all) of that huge contract or the declining metrics in his play over the last few seasons. Granted, there are a number of ways that Boston can make a megadeal more palatable — such as Arizona taking on a contract in return from the Bruins or retaining some of OEL's cap hit.
But for that to happen, Arizona needs to face the facts that they need to make some concessions to rid themselves of this contract, and either lower their asking price or agree to eat some money. Ultimately, the Coyotes don’t have a whole lot of leverage here, and the Bruins are in the right for holding steady. We'll have to see how long this stalemate lasts, because time isn't on either the Bruins or Coyotes' sides here.
2. What happens with Torey Krug?
In a development that we've all expected for months now, it looks as though Torey Krug will hit the open market when free agency opens up in a few hours. So far, Boston hasn’t budged on their current offer to Krug (six years, $6.5 million AAV), with the 29-year-old blueliner expected to field multiple offers from teams in need of help on the blue line and power play on Friday, per TSN’s Frank Seravalli.
While Krug could circle back to Boston's offer if he doesn't receive a contract to his liking on the open market (this flat cap has spooked plenty of teams from either dealing or handing out major paydays so far), it does seem as though a larger payday should be in the cards for the playmaking defenseman shortly — with Krug finally set to receive the long-term extension that he's absolutely deserved. It just may not be here with Boston.