The best of what's left in free agency for the Bruins
The best of what's left in free agency for the Bruins
The Bruins have basically done nothing this offseason, and that’s perfectly okay. They signed second- and third-tier free agents Paul Postma and Kenny Agostino on July 1, they’ve avoided throwing away good money to pay high free-agent premiums and they have also pushed away the temptation of trading prospects for short-term gains. Some have painted the Bruins as being “stuck” due to their inactivity, but this feels like it’s by design given Boston’s intriguing combination of proven veterans and young players just coming into their own.
So, it’s entirely possible that the Bruins are done adding to their roster and will be entirely comfortable headed into camp with the group they have. Still, the B’s also added veteran free agent Dominic Moore late in the game last summer and he proved to be a very useful player after coming along in the later waves of free agency leading up to camp.
The B's may have another shrewd signing or two still up their sleeve, so here’s the best of what’s left from a Bruins perspective, with the re-signing of David Pastrnak still serving as the most important task left this summer:
Here’s an intriguing name who might be worth a shot with the Black and Gold. Gelinas, 26, is a former second-round pick who had a couple of pretty strong seasons with the New Jersey Devils. He's 6-foot-4 215 pounds and is a left-shot defenseman who could be much better away from situations in Jersey and Colorado where he was on some pretty weak defensive corps. He posted just one point in 27 games with the Avs last season and wouldn’t cost the Bruins much in terms of a contract, but he could have some high upside and is still young enough to show another level in his game. He’s just three years removed from posting six goals and 19 points with the Devils while showing off a strong shot from the point, decent physicality and some pretty strong production on the power play. This isn’t a game-changing type player to bring into camp, but he could be a shrewd investment if he came to Boston with a chance to rejuvenate his career. These are the only kind of free agent D-men still on the market after all of the high-quality ones were scooped up quickly on the first day of free agency.
We put the Iginla, 40, on the list because he just bought a house in the Brookline area and he’s already had a stint with the Bruins where he showed some pretty good chemistry with David Krejci. He slumped to 14 goals and 27 points along with a rough minus-30 for the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings last season and it sure looks like he’s deep into the back nine of a brilliant NHL career. Still, the rugged power forward averaged 25 goals and 50 points in his first two seasons with the Avs before last season’s team-wide disaster in Colorado. He's still in search of that elusive Stanley Cup. Would another go-round with the Black and Gold energize him if he was willing to perhaps once again play on his weak side and fill out a left-wing role with Krejci after scoring 30 goals playing with him just a few years ago? This is all very doubtful and Iginla’s reason for buying the Boston home was one of his children reportedly now off to the Dexter School to play prep school hockey, but perhaps it’s worth a look if the future Hall of Famer was willing to report to B’s camp on a PTO rather than a guaranteed contract.
There’s no way this is going to happen after Jagr couldn’t manage a single goal in the Bruins' playoff run to the Cup Final in 2013, but there’s always room for The Jagr on any list. It’s clear that he’s another veteran who will have to figure something out closer to training camp. From a Bruins perspective, they’d be much better off simply giving the reps to evaluating their young wingers Jagr, 45, was still good for 16 goals and 46 points with the Florida Panthers last season, but also had a very slow start interspersed with some stretches where he looked exactly as old as his listed age. Big, older and slower is simply not the way that the Bruins are going and Jagr never really showed the kind of chemistry with Krejci that the Bruins are looking for out of somebody on that second line. While another go-around with the legendary mullet might be a fun, fanciful thing to kick around for Bruins fans, it shouldn’t happen for a team that’s building around youth, speed and skill.
Here’s another available right wing with a storied history and a long, proven NHL career, but it might be close to the end of the road for Gionta, 38, after a standout career at Boston College followed by 15-plus seasons in the NHL. The 5-7, 178-pounder managed 15 goals and 35 points while suiting up for all 82 games with the Sabres last season, and he’s been a tremendous leader at all of his stops as evidenced by his stints as captain in Buffalo and Montreal. Once again, this is probably a veteran who's going to have to come into camp and win himself a job on a PTO if he wanted to potentially join up with the Bruins. He’s not a perfect fit for a need they might have on the left side. But he could be a really interesting piece if the Bruins don’t find a youthful solution on the right side with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. He'd bring plenty to the table above and beyond his diminished offensive production at this point in his career. Gionta hasn’t cracked the 20-goal mark in seven years and has settled in as a grinding two-way option on the wing. I’d give this a better chance than either Iginla or Jagr returning to Boston, but once again it feels like the Bruins are shying away from the stopgap veteran players in order to give the kids a chance.
If there’s one guy on the list of available free agents that truly checks a lot of the boxes for the Bruins, it would be the natural goal-scorer Vanek, 33. He’s a left wing and a guy who's routinely killed the Bruins throughout his career. He posted 17 goals and 48 points between the Red Wings and Panthers last season. Clearly, he can still score and Vanek, 6-2, 214, will go to the net when the mood strikes him and he’s exactly the kind of skill guy that could mesh very well with Krejci and David Pastrnak. Unfortunately, he also has a work ethic that can be lacking when he puts it in relax mode and that’s something that seems to happen more and more as he gets older. Vanek hasn’t cracked 20 goals or 50 points in three seasons despite still being a relatively young player. Perhaps Vanek would be rejuvenated if put into a high-leverage situation in Boston as a top-six guy. It’s clear he would be signing for less given that he’s still hanging around at this point in the summer. Why not sign him to a small money, short-term deal and see if he’s motivated to raise his value around the league with a strong stint in Boston? If he doesn’t play well, then it’s very little ventured or risked, and if he does bring his “A” game, then you’ve made another smart, low-risk signing late in free agency for the second year in a row. If the Bruins roll the dice on a winger late in the summer, Vanek would be the guy that makes the most sense despite some of the baggage coming with him.