There are still a number of details that both the NHL / NHLPA need to hammer out before submitting the framework of a new season for approval, but one facet of an augmented NHL campaign that appears to be a no-brainer is the need for expanded rosters. While NHL clubs usually carry a maximum of 23 players, the current COVID climate — in which players could be forced to miss weeks of action due to positive testing — should necessitate the need for all 31 teams to have extra bodies ready to go if such a scenario plays out.
Last week, TSN's Frank Seravalli noted that discussions regarding the 2021 NHL season involved the expansion of an NHL roster from 23 to 26 players — with four additional players serving as part of a "taxi squad". The four players on the taxi squad will earn AHL salary and likely play most of their games with Providence, but will be at the ready to make their way up to Boston if need be, and will also earn NHL benefits and per diem.
So if the Bruins' roster is set to expand to 26 players – along with four "taxi squad" representatives — for the upcoming 2021 season, what exactly does Bruce Cassidy and his staff have to work with?
With training camp potentially getting underway in as little as three weeks, here's an early look at the revamped roster Boston might roll out if games do get underway by Jan. 13 — starting with the club's forwards:
1. Patrice Bergeron: Who else to start off with than Boston's first-line center? Even though there's a good chance Bergeron will be without at least one — if not both — of his wingers to start the 2021 season, the 35-year-old pivot should continue to excel in his two-way role at the top of the B's forward corps. While a fewer number of regular-season games should benefit a player usually plagued by nagging injuries like Bergeron, the likely inclusion of numerous back-to-back slates this winter means that Boston will still need to appropriately manage its franchise center in 2021.
2. David Krejci: Another year, another season in which Krejci will likely be looking for a surefire right winger to play alongside on Boston's second line. Unlike previous campaigns, at least Krejci should have a couple of intriguing options in Ondrej Kase, Craig Smith and perhaps even David Pastrnak upon his return from injury. Krejci, who turns 35 on April 28, is entering the final year of the six-year, $43.5-million contract he inked back on September 2014.
3. Charlie Coyle: Coyle, entering the first year of a six-year, $31.5 million contract extension he signed last November, should remain in his regular role as Boston's third-line pivot. As much as Coyle thrives when placed in a consistent role, it remains to be seen if he'll operate with a set pair of wingers for this season, given the logjam of viable middle-six options on the B's roster.
4. Sean Kuraly: The key cog on Boston’s fourth line, Kuraly and his crew will be looking for a bit of a rebound in 2021 after failing to replicate the production that had solidified them as one of the more effective bottom-six units during the 2018-19 season. Kuraly, who will become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021, stands as one of Cassidy's most trusted and versatile forwards, and could move up in the lineup or to the wing if needed to get the most out of Boston's forward grouping.