By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) -- It was painfully obvious throughout the 2015-16 season that the Boston Bruins needed serious upgrades on defense. Re-upping much-maligned blueliner Kevan Miller to a four-year extension on Tuesday was not the improvement they needed - but Bruins GM Don Sweeney says the team is not done adding pieces.
They're not done re-signing assets that they already have, either. In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Sweeney said that the team plans to re-sign pending restricted free agent Torey Krug and also add a puck-moving defenseman to the roster.
"I think we need to look for another transitional D-man," Sweeney said. "We've had talks with Torey. Whatever term that ends up being, we'll find a contract for him.
Krug is on track to miss the start of next season as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery, which would leave one of the younger defensive prospects taking his place in that time. But once Krug is ready, he should be expected to again play a prominent role on the Bruins defense.
With Krug and Miller, along with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, and Adam McQuaid, under contract for 2016-17 - and a logjam of defensive prospects that may not be ready to assume a regular roster spot in Boston - where is the improvement on defense going to come from?
Sweeney hinted that the Bruins may be looking to trade for a top-four defenseman in the offseason, as the team is armed with two first-round picks and plenty of prospects. That could mean the team could target young pending free agents such as the Blues' Kevin Shattenkirk, the Wild's Matt Dumba, or the Ducks' Sami Vatanen, but that's not the kind of move one should expect, especially if it involves a pending restricted free agent, such as Dumba or Vatanen.
It's more likely that the Bruins explore the unrestricted free agent market, which this year is more than a little underwhelming. As far as puck-movers, the Bruins could target the likes of Keith Yandle or Alex Goligoski, who alone would not exactly make the Bruins contenders again but would certainly upgrade the defense in its current state.
"It's a matter of finding a trading partner or finding a match in the marketplace," Sweeney said, "but we're going to be aggressive."
Head coach Claude Julien said the team needs to find "balance" after it endured a season filled with plenty of scoring but little resistance in their own end.
"I would like to see us improve on the defensive side of the puck and get that goals-against down a little bit," he said, adding that the team needs to "be tighter, have better gap [control] and better retrieval where our Ds can wheel the puck and have good support from our forwards."
In English: The defense stunk, and it needs to stink a lot less.
One significant addition on the level of a defenseman acquired in a trade, such as Shattenkirk, would absolutely qualify as an "aggressive" move. But it would not be enough for the team to simply add one guy to a defense that was one of the worst in the NHL last season and, as of today, appears to be bringing almost the entire same group back. Unless one of those defensemen is on the move in a trade, or perhaps selected in the upcoming expansion draft, the Bruins will be hard-pressed to deliver enough of a tangible improvement to return to the playoffs.
Miller probably will be far from the only move Sweeney makes this season. But to start the offseason with such a sideways investment sets an ominous tone for the team's prospects of returning to prominence in the near future.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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