Matt Grzelcyk

With two-year deal in place, Grzelcyk ready to work on 'weaknesses'

With two-year deal in place, Grzelcyk ready to work on 'weaknesses'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Now that Matt Grzelcyk has put a full NHL season under his belt and holds a two-year NHL contract for $2.8 million after signing with the Bruins last week as a restricted free agent, it’s on to becoming the best player he can be.

The 24-year-old posted an impressive three goals and 15 points in 61 games last season as a rookie who really never looked back after winning a job early last season.

Grzelcyk showed excellent skating wheels and a real knack for breaking the puck out of the defensive zone without a lot of hesitation or costly mistakes normally associated with a first-year D-man. Even better, he managed to avoid opponents taking advantage of his 5-foot-9, 174-pound frame. Now, Grzelcyk is looking to remove some of the weaknesses in his game. 

“I don’t ever want to be too comfortable and I always want to make sure I earn everything that I get,” said Grzelcyk, while talking about his new deal in the Bruins dressing room at Warrior Ice Arena on Monday afternoon. “It helps from a piece of mind standpoint to not constantly be looking over your shoulder, but there’s still a lot of competition. I’m looking to forward to coming into camp stronger and healthier, and ready to earn my ice time.”

Some of that is about the obvious: as one of the smallest D-men in the NHL, he'll need to get bigger and stronger. Grzelcyk is also looking to improve his shot from the point, a skill that could make him a much more attractive candidate on the Bruins power play. Torey Krug and Charlie McAvoy are the main trigger men on the PPs with big cannon shots from the point. That’s the kind of company Grzelcyk would like to join if he can turn his long-distance shot into a weapon.

“I can always get bigger and stronger. That’s something I’m always working on,” said Grzelcyk. “I think offensively I can use my feet to my advantage more on the blue line and obviously my shot is pretty much the No. 1 thing I’m looking to improve this [upcoming] year. I’m working hard toward that, so hopefully, that will pay a difference come training camp.”

“[I really learned] what I need to do to be successful and help the team, which is using my feet to my advantage. I think that’s huge as a smaller defenseman. Just getting that number of games under my belt and knowing what I have to do each night on the ice to get the wins, it gives me a lot more confidence and allows me to work more on my weaknesses.”

Clearly, a bigger shot and a bigger role in the offense would mean bigger point production for Grzelcyk, but it remains to be seen how high his offensive ceiling can be after a promising NHL beginning.

The question now is, how much bigger his role might be next season after averaging 16:44 of ice time last season as a bottom-pairing D-man? There is certainly room to grow, but it will all depend on how the rest of the roster comes together this fall after what’s expected to be a fairly action-packed offseason for Bruins GM Don Sweeney.  

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Could the Grzelcyk two-year contract be a harbinger of B's trades to come?

Could the Grzelcyk two-year contract be a harbinger of B's trades to come?

The term (two years) and the money involved (a total of $2.8 million for a $1.4 million cap hit each of the next two seasons) from the Bruins are pretty much dead on for restricted free agent Matt Grzelcyk after a deal was announced late Friday afternoon. 

The timing, however, was a little interesting from the Bruins as Grzelcyk marks the first of a large group of free agents that B’s general manager Don Sweeney has to make decisions on ahead of the July 1 open of NHL free agency. One could surmise the Bruins wrapped up talks with the 24-year-old D-man to get some cost certainty for him ahead of next week’s NHL Draft weekend in Dallas, and that all might just factor into trade discussions next week. 

Clearly it’s good value for Grzelcyk after three goals and 15 points along with a solid plus-21 in 61 games for the Bruins last season while just scratching the surface of his efficient, smooth-skating puck-moving abilities. 

If the Bruins were to dangle Torey Krug, for instance, in trade discussions next week in Dallas amid greater efforts to bring a big, left shot D-man like Noah Hanifin or Oskar Klefbom back in return, they would already want to have Grzelcyk locked up ahead of any such hockey wheeling and dealing. The Bruins have a number of different avenues that could go down whether it’s attempting to dump big salaried contracts like David Krejci or David Backes, or flipping several blue-chip prospects/young players to get a young D-man like Hanifin. 

But the largest amount of trade interest they’re going to find for one of their higher-salaried players is for the 27-year-old Krug, who piled up 110 points over the last two NHL seasons in Boston. Krug is at the apex of his value around the league after amassing all those points over the last two seasons, and his QB skills on Boston’s top power-play unit have been a key part of the B’s special teams’ success story over the last few years. But the Bruins have a budding, young power play QB in Charlie McAvoy ready to take on more responsibility and pump up his own point production, and they have a younger, small left shot puck-moving D-man in Grzelcyk that brings some Krug-like qualities to the table minus some of the high-end offensive finish.

The big difference when it comes to Krug: He’s making in excess of $5 million per season while McAvoy and Grzelcyk are still low-cost young players. It’s pretty simple to do the math as to what makes the most logical sense for the Bruins from a salary cap perspective with a couple of young players set to get some salary raises after this coming hockey season.  

There’s also the simple truth that the 5-foot-9, 186-pound D-man has wound up injured in each of the last two postseasons. A left side of Boston’s back end with a soon-to-be 42-year-old Zdeno Chara and smaller D-men in Krug and Grzelcyk isn’t sturdy enough or diversified enough to really be effective against the good teams deep in the playoffs, so it’s pretty clear that a change needs to be made for the Black and Gold. 

Could the two-year contract for Grzelcyk be the first domino to fall in a succession of moves in the next few weeks that leads to Krug getting moved to a team desperate for some power play punch like Carolina or Edmonton? It could be a coincidence that the Bruins took care of this deal ahead of next week’s NHL Draft, or more likely the Bruins are getting their ducks in a row in case they need to pull the trigger quickly on something they believe will end up making them a better, more well-rounded hockey club. 

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Grzelcyk looks 'good to go'; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

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File Photo

Grzelcyk looks 'good to go'; Rooney one of refs for Game 4

TORONTO – It looks like Matt Grzelcyk will be making his return to the Bruins lineup after a one-game absence with a lower body injury.

The Bruins rookie D-man took part in an optional skate at the Air Canada Centre for the Black and Gold on Thursday morning, and will be playing provided he gets through the pregame warm-ups without any hitches. A healthy Grzelcyk will replace Nick Holden in the B’s lineup and give Boston that puck-moving, fast-skating D-man that can be pretty effective counteracting a speedy, aggressive Toronto fourth line that’s been pretty good in the series thus far.

“He’s out there [skating] now, so he should be good to go. Obviously, it will be warm-ups and a game-time decision, but I anticipate he’ll go in,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s complemented well by his partner, who is usually [Adam] McQuaid or [Kevan] Miller. So you get a duo where he’s able to transition the puck very well by himself, and get out of some piles with the D-zone coverage and make a good first pass.

“He can track down pucks before defenses get set or during a line change, he’s good at getting it up [the ice] and seeing who is available. He’s very low risk generally in his game, and he does some very good things at the O-zone blue line to keep plays alive for us.”

The return of Grzelcyk appears to be the only change to the Bruins lineup ahead of a pivotal Game 4 made a little more intriguing by the NHL’s selection of South Boston native Chris Rooney as one of tonight’s referees (along with Gord Dwyer). Rooney has always carried the well-worn reputation of a referee that goes extra-hard on the Bruins to prove there isn’t a bias toward the hometown team, and the Bruins have a 7-9 record over the last three seasons in games officiated by Rooney. It’s not a main reason for the Bruins to either win or lose the game, but certainly something to keep an eye on as things unfold tonight in Toronto.

Here are the Bruins projected line combos and D-pairings vs. the Maple Leafs in Game 4 based on morning skate:  

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

Rask

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