This was Don Sweeney’s third free agency as general manager of the Boston Bruins and by far his least expensive. While some teams made big splashes during the first day of free agency, the Bruins’ front office was a little less noticeable. Sweeney was able to keep calm, stay patient and stay on plan. But, that does not mean they were completely inactive.
Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins Patient in Free Agency
In prior years, Sweeney’s expensive moves came in the form of Matt Beleskey in 2015 and David Backes in 2016. Beleskey signed a five-year $19 million contract. While in his first season with Boston he recorded a career high 37 points, last season’s production dipped heavily as he was plagued by injuries and only recorded a total of eight points in 49 games. Backes also signed a five-year deal at the price of $30 million. Again, his playing did not live up to the veteran expectations Boston was hoping for. He finished last season with 38 points in 74 games. Along with other 2016 contracts in Riley Nash, Anton Khudobin, Tim Schaller, and John-Michael Liles, Sweeney’s ability to spend come July 1st is clear.
Some of these past deals seemed geared towards the aggressive and “tough” Boston style of play they were known for under Julien. However, this year’s moves fit the progressive style of growth and development preached by Boston brass. They demonstrate Sweeney’s faith in some of the young guys coming up and the veteran experience of those who have been the face of the spoked “B” for years now.
“We made offers to players that signed elsewhere, again, for different reasons. That’s entirely up to the player themselves, whether the term wasn’t right or the dollars weren’t right or the location wasn’t right,” stated Sweeney in a press conference yesterday. It’s a good sign that he was able to stay patient and did not fall into any bidding wars with some of the bigger names on the market. It seems his plan may be finally coming to fruition.
Time for JFK and McAvoy to Shine
While the team appeared quiet on Saturday, it comes with good reason as some moves worth noting had already happened. Some late-season signings include Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Anders Bjork and Charlie McAvoy. McAvoy immediately showed the ability to handle himself at the professional level is most likely a top-four defensive lock and JFK appears to be a solid third-liner in the upcoming season. Both Bjork and Karlsson will keep pressure on some of those already in the line-up and under performing.
Boston did lose a few players ahead of free agency. They lost young defenseman Colin Miller to Vegas in the Expansion Draft and they did not extend a qualifying offer to RFA Joe Morrow, who then signed with the Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins also bought out the contract of hometown forward Jimmy Hayes, who is coming off a struggling season where he underperformed and found himself outside the starting lineup many times. With those two losses, the Bruins now have nobody left on the roster from the infamous Tyler Seguin trade with Dallas. Lastly, the B’s lost a strong PK man in Dominic Moore. Moore was integral part of one of the NHL’s top PK units and will surely be missed.
Bruins Sign AHL MVP and Veteran Defenseman
So whom did the Bruins actually sign yesterday? They signed AHL MVP Kenny Agostino to a one-year one-way $875,000 deal, Winnipeg Jets defenseman Paul Postma to another one-year one-way deal worth $725,000 and P-Bruins forward Jordan Szwarz to a one-year, two-way deal worth $650,000. These are all relatively low spending deals and each with an expected role of their own. Agostino has been bouncing around the AHL and NHL level and is hungry to compete full time in the NHL. The Bruins expect him to pressure the offensive left side which, after Marchand, has struggled from the likes of Beleskey, Schaller and Frank Vatrano. Postma, a right defenseman, can play both sides and brings a veteran presence in the defensive zone. He recorded 14 points in 65 games last season in Winnipeg.
Boston has obviously been looking for help on the blue line and more specifically the left side. While there were rumors of potentially landing Michael Del Zotto, Dmitry Kulikov, Trevor Daley or Kevin Shattenkirk, it should not be seen as a negative that no big names were brought in. With these potential contracts, Sweeney has to think about the future. Three years from now, you have to think about an over loaded free agent class and being left with an empty blue line.
Sweeney’s plan seems to finally be coming together. He was able to stay patient, avoid the bidding wars and potentially over pay someone for the third off-season in a row. While some weaknesses, like a stronger left side offensively and defensively are still there, Sweeney has put the Bruins in a good spot in the form of both assets and cap space. At this stage, the Bruins are still very much playoff contenders and time will tell what other moves Sweeney will make this summer.