BRIGHTON, Mass -- On the face of it all, the signing of rugged, young defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to a two-year, $1.7 million contract was simply good business for the Bruins.
The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder is just developing into an NHL defenseman at 22 years old that plays the kind of hard, physical defensive game that the Bruins have missed a little bit this season with Kevan Miller sidelined with kneecap issues.
With Miller still nowhere close to a return despite skating on his own a bit and in the last year of his contract, one suspects that Lauzon is going to be part of the equation to replace a player in Miller that sadly might not ever skate in a game again for the Bruins based on his injury, age, and contract.
Clearly, the contract also makes Lauzon a very tradeable asset leading up to the Feb. 24 trade deadline now that he’s got cost certainty with an $850,000 cap hit for the next couple of seasons. If the Bruins traded for a hard-nosed veteran defenseman like Brenden Dillon, then there’s a chance a young, affordable player like Lauzon might be headed the other way to replace him as part of the trade package.
But the more likely scenario for the Bruins is that they will retain a cheap, usable player in Lauzon that employs the kind of big, strong and unapologetically physical game that B’s fans still demand from a healthy portion of their NHL roster.
Lauzon just finished up a two-game suspension for his hit to the head of Derek Stepan last weekend and indicated after Friday’s practice the punishment wasn’t going to stop him from playing the heavy, physical game that got him to the NHL in the first place.
“I’m a physical player. That’s why I’m here. I’m just going to play my game,” said Lauzon, who has a goal and 16 penalty minutes in seven games for the Bruins this season. “I was a little bit nervous, but everything was fine [with the hearing]. I had some great people around me to guide me through the whole process.
“I just try to concentrate on myself. I don’t think serving two games is going to bother me. At the break I had four days off and when I came back I felt really good, so if I’m in [against the Red Wings on Saturday] then I’m going to be ready.”
Now that Lauzon is essentially playing at a minimal cap hit of $850,000 for the next couple of seasons as a bottom-pairing defenseman candidate, the Bruins would get some good cap savings if they traded away a player like veteran defenseman John Moore.
The Bruins would essentially shave $2 million off the books if they were able to move the 29-year-old Moore ($2.75 million cap hit for the next three seasons) prior to next season, either ahead of the trade deadline or in the summertime. Moore has been fine since signing with Boston before last year and he’s played better this season now that he’s further removed from last summer’s shoulder surgery, but he hasn’t been a mainstay in the Boston lineup and really hasn’t really been a good, permanent fit anywhere he’s been tried in the lineup.
There may come a time in the near future where a change of scenery makes sense for both the player and the team, though it goes without saying a team with Cup aspirations can never have enough blueline depth headed into the stretch run.
If the Bruins were to move Moore and retain Lauzon while Miller’s money also comes off the books on July 1, there would theoretically be a few extra million dollars in the couch cushions to sign Torey Krug rather than let him walk in free agency.
Some will look at the signing of Lauzon for modest dollars as a sign that the Bruins are going to be dealing Krug, Matt Grzelcyk or Connor Clifton (another cheap defensive asset at $1 million per season starting next year) at the deadline, but it feels more like this is a long term strategy to free up money for a Krug signing down the line.
Credit where it’s due: The two-year deal for Lauzon also puts the young D-man into the NHL picture for the Bruins over the next few years while giving the Bruins a couple of solid second hits in their 2015 NHL Draft with Brandon Carlo and Lauzon as the selections. As much as the Bruins missed on a few of their first-round picks in that infamous draft, they did some excellent drafting in the second round that’s helped fortify their back end for the foreseeable future.