Looking at the long-term ramifications of the Jeremy Lauzon signing

Looking at the long-term ramifications of the Jeremy Lauzon signing

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.

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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.

Bruins' David Pastrnak gets wistful in tweet about missing hockey

Bruins' David Pastrnak gets wistful in tweet about missing hockey

There’s no doubt it’s hurting hockey fans to not have the NHL as a welcome distraction from the global coronavirus pandemic currently ripping through North America.

But there’s also little question it pains those involved in the NHL even more to not have hockey at a time of year when teams are finishing up the regular season, and gearing up for the best time of year in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Bruins hotshot right wing David Pastrnak sent out a tweet over the weekend that was simple and short with its actual words, but truly conveyed exactly the kind of heartbroken emptiness that the 23-year-old is feeling while house-bound amidst what was the best season of his excellent NHL career.

“Haven’t done the thing for a while…” wrote a wistful Pastrnak without any need to elaborate that he was talking about playing hockey and scoring goals.

For young, single NHL players like the happy, go-lucky Pastrnak this period of time has to be particularly difficult with no immediate family to keep their minds off just how much they are missing hockey in their lives.

Pastrnak was approaching both 50 goals and 100 points for the first time in his NHL career (48 goals and 95 points in 70 games) and was destined to be a Hart Trophy finalist when the NHL regular season was suspended nearly three weeks ago. It feels like hoping for more regular season games is more fantasy than reality at this point, but hockey players like Pastrnak are still clinging to the hope that there will still be some kind of hockey playoffs when some sense of normalcy hopefully returns months from now.

The good news is that guys like Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk are doing something good with their downtime as they played on a Fortnite tournament over the weekend to raise money for the COVID-19 Solidarity Relief Fund for the WHO (World Health Organization).

NHL players are still currently in quarantine after a handful of them tested positive for the coronavirus over the last week, most notably in Colorado and Ottawa, but at least the league is beginning to host video conference calls between players and the media to make certain that fans can still keep an eye on what their favorite players are up to these days.

Shawn Thornton, Mark Recchi reflect on Bruins' Game 7 vs. Canadiens in 2011

Shawn Thornton, Mark Recchi reflect on Bruins' Game 7 vs. Canadiens in 2011

The Boston Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup run was unbelievable -- especially since Claude Julien's team was considered an underdog throughout the entirety of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Although Tim Thomas, David Krejci and Nathan Horton played key roles in the 2011 championship, everyone did their job, including Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton. 

Recchi and Thornton reflected on that historic 2011 Cup run in a recent interview with SportsNet's Eric Engels and solely focused on Game 7 of their quarterfinals matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.  

"The whole series was so intense like it always is with Montreal and Boston and it just got elevated because you're in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs," Recchi said of an epic Game 7 against the Habs. "Just the energy and the passion in both teams displayed was just incredible to be a part of. There was a lot of ups and downs throughout the whole game and it just showed you how even everything was throughout the whole year with our two teams." 

Thornton had a similar take but also mentioned how much the B's-Habs rivalry impacted his career. 

"This rivalry was everything for my career," Thornton said. "I loved playing Montreal. I love being involved. I loved the passion, the fire. This game... was I even on the ice for most of it? I think I just had the best seat in the house. I think most people in Boston paid $1,000 bucks and I just got to sit there for free and watch Recchi do his thing.

"But you know, we were lucky we ended up moving on and had a great finale to that season. Being there was a lot different than the Game 7 my first year when I was in Boston when we lost to Montreal. That rivalry was at its height when we were playing there and I'm just happy to have been a part of it. Doesn't matter what side you're on really. I mean, I'm a Bruin in those days but either side you just had to enjoy the rivalry."

And of course there would've been no Stanley Cup victory without former Bruins head coach Claude Julien, and Thornton reflected on how much of an influence Julien had on that 2011 team throughout the entire season.

"I remember Lake Placid the most. We were going to Lake Placid to hide but when you go to Lake Placid there's nowhere to hide so all the media knew we were going there and it ended up being a bigger fishbowl," Thornton said. "But, Claude [Julien] was amazing at the one game at a time or the one period at a time. Like we don't have to win four straight guys. We don't even have to win the next two games, we just have to win the next period and then take it from there.

"I think our team really adopted that. He should also send Recchi and Horton some of his paychecks that he's still getting because he wouldn't be getting those sheets in Montreal if it wasn't for us winning that game. We were there for a lot of years together and he definitely had a calming influence when it came to those situations and our leadership group in the room too was huge for us."

After defeating Montreal in seven games, the B's went on to sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinals, crush the Tampa Bay Lightning's hopes in the conference finals, and well, we all know what happened in the Stanley Cup Final. 

That team was something special, and the only members from that squad still with the Bruins are Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask. 

If one thing's for sure, those four guys will need to become leaders in the 2020 playoffs, provided they happen, and help Boston avenge its 2019 finals loss to the St. Louis Blues. 

You can watch the full interview below or by clicking here.