Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has plenty on his plate leading the Original Six franchise and one of those items is the July 1 free agency date bearing down on him. Sweeney had a handful of potential UFAs following last season and laid out a bit of his plans moving forward with each of them on a Friday conference call with reporters ahead of the June 26 NHL Draft.
Sweeney re-confirmed that fourth-line grinder and penalty killers Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell won’t be returning to the team, an item announced by Peter Chiarelli prior to him being fired as GM. Furthermore, Sweeney said it was “highly unlikely” that the Bruins would be able to bring back UFA center Carl Soderberg. Tthat’s been clear since a conversation with his agent J.P. Barry a few weeks ago.
The Bruins GM didn’t say it, but there’s also virtually no chance that Matt Bartkowski will be returning to the Black and Gold either after a rough, mistake-prone season in Boston.
Sweeney said there was one of the five upcoming UFAs that the Bruins would like to potentially have back on the roster and multiple league sources have indicated to CSNNE.com that Adam McQuaid is the player Boston would like to re-sign.
“Peter told Greg Campbell and Daniel Paille they weren’t coming back and I have not changed that,” said Sweeney. “I have spoken to the representatives for both Carl [Soderberg] and Matt [Bartkowski] as to what our intentions are [with them], and with Adam McQuaid’s representatives as well. It’s obviously coming down to the wire with their abilities to interview elsewhere.
“I have had several talks with teams [about trades] that may or may not present the opportunity to bring one of those players back. But I can guarantee you at this point in time that all three of them [collectively] won’t be back.”
McQuaid’s then-agent Paul Krepelka told CSNNE.com that they hoped to get a deal down with the Bruins, but it was contingent on the Bruins freeing up some salary-cap space.
“We’re holding out hope [to get something done],” said Krepelka to CSNNE.com two weeks ago. “He’s a good fit here [in Boston].”
McQuaid played in 63 games last season after missing big chunks of time the previous two seasons with injuries. Last season, he averaged a career-high 18:26 of ice time along with one goal, seven points and a minus-2 rating. McQuaid is coming off a three-year, $4.7 million contract where he admittedly struggled, mostly due to injuries, to replicate his first two full NHL seasons. He had his challenges in an attempt to play a top-four role last season.
But he’s still a rock-solid bottom pairing D-man that showed at least some ability to play up into the top four last season, and serves as a great mentor to younger players about what being a pro is all about.
McQuaid also is one of the few B’s players still capable of dropping the gloves and instilling fear in opponents and that’s an asset that shouldn’t be undervalued given Boston’s roots. It would be in Boston’s best interests to sign McQuaid sooner rather than later to take advantage of what should be a clear hometown discount from a player still feeling a huge tug of loyalty.
“My priority, my goal would be to come back here. I don’t know if that’s realistic or not,” said McQuaid on B’s breakup day back in April. “I guess time will tell. I’ll wait and see if it comes to [hitting free agency], and then obviously you have to go down that avenue.
“But this is where I want to be. It’s the organization that…they’ve given me so many opportunities, and worked with me. I’ve said before that they’ve stuck with me through some tough times, and there were times that I felt like – there were things I couldn’t control, obviously, with injuries and stuff – but I felt like I wished I could have done more and been available, and I wasn’t. There were times I felt like I hadn’t held up my end of the bargain as far as that stuff is concerned. It wasn’t anything I could necessarily control, so it was hard that way.”
If McQuaid were able to enter a weak free agent class on July 1 and begin negotiating with other teams, a contract such as the three-year, $8.75 million signed by Deryk Engelland with the Calgary Flames would be a fair comparable for the rugged 28-year-old D-man. The two-year, $4.5 million deal signed by Nick Schultz with the Philadelphia Flyers would make sense as the likely neighborhood the Bruins would be looking at for McQuaid, a fair raise from the $1.8 million salary he made last season in the final year of his deal with Boston.