Jordan Caron Likeliest Choice to Join Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley on Bruins Third Line
Things have gotten relatively quiet around the NHL now that the initial wave of free agent signings has come and gone. The Bruins never got involved in those bidding wars this year, but that doesn't mean there aren't plenty of questions about what the club has, and has not, done so far this offseason. I've tried to hit upon as many of those topics as possible in the latest edition of the Bruins Mailbag. As always, I'd like to thank all the readers who sent in questions and apologize in advance if I wasn't able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I'll answer as many of them as I can throughout the offseason. Who's going to play on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley? -- Matt LeBlanc via Facebook That could be the most interesting battle in camp this fall. Right now, the job appears to be Jordan Caron's to lose, and the Bruins want to give him a chance to prove he's ready to be an everyday player in the NHL. I believe that is part of the reason the Bruins haven't added a veteran through free agency to vie for this spot, though it's still possible they could do that before camp. Barring that, Caron will have to hold off the likes of youngsters Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner, plus Chris Bourque, Christian Hanson and Carter Camper. It's also possible that the Bruins could give Daniel Paille a look on that line, especially if Lane MacDermid has a strong camp and appears ready to take a spot on the fourth line. All those players will also be in contention to stay with the team if the Bruins carry an extra forward or two. But based on how he played down the stretch last season and the fact that Claude Julien even trusted him enough to play him in the playoffs, I would be surprised if Caron does not open the season in that spot. The other variable is Nathan Horton's status. If he has any trouble returning from his concussion, Peverley could slide up to a top six role, leaving two spots on the third line open. While it appears unlikely that the Bruins will make a major move this offseason to add a top six forward either by trade or free agency, if they do that it would obviously shake up the lines and impact that third unit as well. Is Ryan Spooner going to make it this year? He's too good to be sent down I think. -- Ken Pickering via Facebook I like Spooner's game a lot and think he will earn a long look in camp for a spot with the big club, but it's most likely that he'll begin his first pro season in Providence. He and Jared Knight are both done with their junior careers and are eligible to play in the AHL this season. While Spooner has had some experience there playing a handful of games at the end of the last two seasons after his junior campaigns were over, he still will likely need some additional seasoning in Providence. That doesn't mean he's not capable of being a pleasant surprise in camp and forcing his way onto the team. Heck, he nearly did that two years ago with a great showing in the preseason. But the Bruins' depth up front, especially down the middle, gives them the luxury of bringing him along at a more conservative pace and allowing him to develop in the AHL for a bit. There are always injuries and the need for call-ups though, so I wouldn't bet against both Spooner and Knight making their NHL debut at some point before the season is over, just not necessarily right out of camp. Do you see the Bruins doing anything to sign a veteran depth D-man in case of injury to any of the top 6? Like a Scott Hannan? -- Steve Simonelli via Facebook Even though the Bruins signed Garnet Exelby this week, I think it's possible they will still look to add another veteran who could fill that role. I'm not sure that Exelby is the guy for that job at this stage of his career. He's spent the last two years in the AHL and I think that signing may have been done more with an eye toward giving the Providence blue line an experienced anchor with so many young defensive prospects likely playing there this season. I do think it would be more beneficial to have a veteran in that role rather than a youngster like Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski. Those guys would be better served playing regularly in Providence than sitting in the press box in Boston. Exelby might be able to fill that need, but it wouldn't surprise me to see the Bruins look at adding another veteran that may be a little more of a secure option to call upon. Hannan could be a possibility, though I wonder if he is at the point in his career yet where he would be interested in a role that would keep him out of the lineup on most nights. Bringing back Mike Mottau is an option I've discussed before and still think would be a good fit, or perhaps someone like Jim Vandermeer, Mike Commodore or Brett Clark, or even an ex-Bruin from further back with a wise but grizzled vet like Steve Staios or Sean O'Donnell. There are still a lot of options for players of that ilk on the market. The Bruins may wait until closer to camp to see what kinds of defensemen are still available and maybe more willing to accept a limited role at that point.