Noel Acciari

Noel Acciari on moving on from Bruins: 'There are no fans like Boston fans'

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Noel Acciari on moving on from Bruins: 'There are no fans like Boston fans'

In hockey, tough players are not hard to find. But it might be hard to find many tougher than Noel Acciari. 

Acciari, the Johnston, RI native, has played all four of his NHL seasons for his hometown team. The hard-hitting center dedicated everything he had to the team, and played most of last year's Stanley Cup Final run with a broken sternum. On Tuesday, in a Q&A with The Athletic, Acciari expressed gratitude to New England and the Bruins organization, provided some clues as to why he signed with the Florida Panthers, and hinted at what his role will be going forward. 

"I would thank them for everything and all the support they’ve given me," Acciari said. "There are no fans like Boston fans. Even now I’m getting (fans) wishing that I would be back but they still support me with my decision. I’m truly honored to play in front of them for four years. It was a special bond between the team and the fans."

Last season, Acciari posted a career year with 14 goals, eight assists and 221 hits (12th among NHL forwards). 

One of the biggest reasons Acciari decided to move on from Boston, despite his admiration for the fans, was his connection to the Panthers organization. Acciari played his first three seasons in Boston with Frank Vatrano, who's now with the Panthers. He also grew up watching Shawn Thornton, now in the Panthers' front office, play in Boston. Thornton has helped Acciari get settled and provided advice about life after the Bruins, Acciari said. 

As for what his role will be in Florida, Acciari plans to revel in what he does best: being a bruiser and energy guy. Except now, he'll get paid significantly more at roughly $1.6 million per year. Still, it wasn't an easy decision for the 5-foot-10 two-way forward.

"(Playing in Boston) was special. Not many people can say they played for their hometown team, and I was very fortunate. Boston and New England will always be my home and will always have a special spot in my heart. But, all good things come to an end and things happen for a reason."

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Noel Acciari thanks Bruins and their fans in heartfelt Instagram post

Noel Acciari thanks Bruins and their fans in heartfelt Instagram post

After growing up in Rhode Island, attending Providence College and spending four years in the Boston Bruins' organization, Noel Acciari is finally moving on from New England.

The free-agent forward agreed to terms with the Florida Panthers on a three-year deal worth $5 million Monday, ending his tenure in Boston.

And while the Panthers presents an exciting opportunity for Acciari, the 27-year-old holds the Bruins close to his heart. Here's Acciari's message for the B's and their fans on Instagram:

Acciari had broken through as a reliable, physical bottom-six forward in Boston, playing in 132 games for the B's over the last two seasons and contributing to Boston's 2019 Stanley Cup Final run with two goals and two assists in the playoffs.

But as he explained to NHL Network on Monday, Florida will offer Acciari the chance to advance his career.

The Bruins made a few minor moves on the first day of free agency Monday, but general manager Don Sweeney suggested a big splash isn't coming as they aim to get back to the Cup Final in 2020.

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NHL Rumors: Noel Acciari leaving Bruins for 3-year deal with Panthers

NHL Rumors: Noel Acciari leaving Bruins for 3-year deal with Panthers

The Bruins will have a new look on their fourth line next season as they’ve lost hard-hitting Noel Acciari to an Atlantic Division rival in free agency.

The Rhode Island kid has signed a three-year contract worth around $5 million in unrestricted free agency, which isn’t huge money at $1.67 million per season but certainly more than the B’s are willing to pay for fourth line forwards at this point.

While the Bruins will miss Acciari’s physicality, his willingness to play hurt after playing through a broken sternum in the playoffs and his occasional offense, they have Joakim Nordstrom already signed and ready to slide into a fourth line role at $1 million per season. Acciari picked a good time for free agency with a career-high 72 games played along with six goals and 14 points, and it seemed clear given Boston’s salary cap situation that a fourth-line forward was a luxury they are not going to be able to afford.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney indicated that the B’s had made offers to the 27-year-old Acciari ahead of free agency, but it couldn’t have been for much more than the $1 million Nordstrom will be making next season.

Still, Acciari was broken up at the end of the season about the thought of potentially leaving Boston after playing in New England his entire career with Providence College and the Boston Bruins.

“I love all of these guys. They are my family. I had a lot of fun with them this year. It’s a bitter ending, but we had a great locker room and a great coaching staff,” said Acciari during Bruins breakup day while coming off a deal that paid him $725,000 in each of the last two seasons. “I’d love to come back to Boston. I love all of these guys. I love everybody here. This is all I know.

“We’ll see what happens going forward. You can’t predict anything. Boston has it all. I’m a local guy. I’m not just saying it. I’ve lived it. This is a special, special place. I’m looking for this family [in my next contract]. I’ll take my time and see how things go. But Boston has been my home for my entire life.”

With a three-year deal in Florida, Acciari will be able to visit quite a bit sticking around in the Atlantic Division to face off against the Black and Gold for the foreseeable future.

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