BOSTON – The Bruins face a number of decisions with their free agents, and perhaps the toughest will be upcoming unrestricted free agent Adam McQuaid.
The B’s already informed Daniel Paille and Gregory Campbell on Monday that they wouldn’t be re-signed in Boston, and it’s difficult to see circumstances where a cap-strapped team would be willing to pony up money for Carl Soderberg and Matt Bartkowski. But the 28-year-old had a pretty solid season for the Black and Gold with a goal and seven points in 63 rugged games. He was one of the few players to consistently play with a hard, physical, punishing style. In other words he was one of the few players to actually, consistently play like a Bruin.
McQuaid made $1.8 million in salary in 2014-15, and had a cap hit of $1.55 while playing a career high of 18:26 of ice time per night. He finished third on the team with 141 registered hits, and third with 91 blocked shots in a season that ranked only behind Milan Lucic and Dennis Seidenberg in numeric ruggedness. If he’s willing to sign for those kinds of numbers to again be a No. 4-5 defenseman for the B’s, then perhaps he can return to Boston despite the presence of the very similarly skilled Kevan Miller.
Certainly that’s what McQuaid wanted on Monday while packing up his things in the B’s dressing room, but plenty can change between new and the July 1 opening of free agency.
“Obviously I want to be back. I’ve had so many great memories here with this group and this organization. I guess it goes without saying…I don’t know, I can’t picture not being here,” said McQuaid, who has been a regular with the B’s since 2010-11. “It’s a different situation for me this year with some uncertainty. I guess we’ll see how things play out. My priority, my goal would be to come back here. I don’t know if that’s realistic or not. 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.”
Certainly among the restricted free agents, the Bruins will be re-signing Brett Connolly, Dougie Hamilton and Ryan Spooner with Niklas Svedberg’s status probably still a little bit of a question mark. That doesn’t leave a ton of money for other players if the salary cap ceiling doesn’t rise much for next season based on the dropping Canadian dollar, and the NHLPA potentially once again voting down the escalator that goes hand-in-hand a sizeable escrow deposit from the players.
The Bruins already have roughly $59 million committed for next season with a cap ceiling that might not be much more than $70 million, and that doesn’t leave much room at all for anything beyond re-signing the RFA’s and bringing in another player or two fill out the roster. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli certainly wasn’t avoiding the tough questions on Monday, but it didn’t sound like there was much of an offseason game plan on the shocking heels of missing the playoffs cut.
“It’s a challenge every year to keep good players, and that challenge will exist this year also. So it’s a challenge to do that and not ignore your loyalty to players who have given you real good years of service, and a Cup, and a final, and all that stuff,” said Chiarelli. “That’s a challenge. But every team has their own challenges in team building, and we’re no different. We’ll be facing a number of those [challenges] this summer too, this spring and summer.”
While it might not be viewed as a make-or-break decision for this roster and could become moot if another team looking for more toughness throws a bigger contract at McQuaid, the tough, endearingly humble defenseman should give the B’s front office plenty of pause before potentially considering moving on from him.