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Finding a top-six center and a proven goal scorer on the wing should be the Boston Bruins’ top priorities in NHL free agency, but it wouldn’t hurt to add some depth on the blue line as well.

There’s never enough good defensemen, much like there’s never enough starting pitchers in baseball.

Three veteran defensemen for the Bruins—Derek Forbort, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Matt Grzelcyk—can become unrestricted free agents next week. There might not be much room on the blue line even if all three of them sign elsewhere because Parker Wotherspoon and Andrew Peeke might have bigger roles in the upcoming season. After a fantastic rookie season, Mason Lohrei also needs more ice time to reach his exciting potential.
Dillon Brenden
33 years old

Stats for 2023–24: 8 G, 12 A in 77 GP

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, Dillon is a defensive defenseman who, should Derek Forbort not be re-signed, could offer toughness, shot blocking, and penalty killing.

Last season, the veteran defenseman blocked 111 shots in addition to recording 241 hits, which was the 11th-highest total of any player. He also contributed 2:11 per game during the penalty kill.

Although he won’t be expected to score a lot of goals, Dillon is a useful player on that end of the rink. He has scored more than 20 points in each of the last three seasons. Not only that, but he can play 18–20 minutes a game, which is pretty valuable, even in the playoffs. Dillon has also played in 83 playoff games.

Age: 31 Shayne Gostisbehere

Stats for 2023–24: 10 G, 46 A in 81 GP

Although Gostisbehere isn’t a particularly good defenseman, he is still an excellent offensive-minded defenseman with good puck movement and shot penetration. Over the course of 81 games with the Red Wings last season, he recorded 56 points (10 goals, 46 assists). Additionally, he has three years in a row with ten or more goals scored. Gostisbehere’s 29 points (two goals, 27 assists) from last season’s man-advantage show that he is still a potent quarterback.

It makes sense to pursue Gostisbehere if the front office wants to add a little more scoring to the mix. Charlie McAvoy was the only defensive player to break 30 points last season, which indicates that the Bruins did not produce enough offense from their blue line.

The Ekman-Larsson Oliver
32 years old

Stats for 2023–24: 9 G, 23 A in 80 GP

Before Ekman-Larsson was traded from the Coyotes to the Canucks in July 2021, the Bruins were previously connected to him. Ekman-Larsson helped the Panthers win the Stanley Cup earlier this week after agreeing to a one-year deal with them last summer. He can now become a free agent without restrictions.

Though he is no longer a top player, the Swedish defenseman still has impressive offensive ability. He can contribute to the power play, move the puck well, and set up teammates’ scoring opportunities. Ekman-Larsson has recorded more than 20 assists in 12 straight seasons. It’s crucial that he can play for 20 minutes every game.

For the Bruins, Ekman-Larsson wouldn’t make a big difference, but he’s not the worst option on the left side of the third pairing.

Carrier, Alexandre
27 years old

Stats for 2023–24: 4 G, 16 A in 73 GP

In Nashville, where he has played with numerous other extremely talented defensemen over the years (Roman Josi, Mattias Ekholm, Ryan Ellis, etc.), Carrier is an underappreciated player who has kind of gone unnoticed.

In back-to-back playoff runs, the Bruins have struggled to effectively counter the Panthers’ forecheck because Carrier moves the puck well under pressure. In addition, he defends zone entries well and maintains a near-constant position. His 5-foot-11 height and 175 pounds help compensate for his lack of size. Carrier also played a significant role in the Predators’ penalty kill.

Though the Bruins may not require another right-shot on their blue line, it is difficult to find defensively astute defensemen who can be relied upon against the best in the league. At 27, Carrier is still in his prime and fits that description.



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