Previously in the series:
It was certainly a statement of sorts in the first round of the playoffs when Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy selected veteran forward Tommy Wingels for the Game 6 lineup against the Maple Leafs with a chance to close them out in Toronto. Cassidy inserted Wingels on to the second line and dropped Rick Nash to the third line for that game and in doing so, showed plenty of trust in a player that had just arrived in Boston at the trade deadline.
As it happened, Wingels wasn’t much of a factor in a road playoff game that the Bruins dropped before ultimately coming through in Game 7 at home. It was a credit, though, to the way Wingels played and carried himself after arriving from the Chicago Blackhawks even if there were no special bells and whistles with his arrival.
That’s no surprise for Wingels, 30, a grinder-type who finished with nine goals and 17 points in 75 games played between Chicago and Boston. Wingels may not get back to the level where he averaged 15 goals and 37 points in a couple of seasons for the San Jose Sharks earlier in his career, but his blend of skating ability, physicality, effort and smarts are the kind of qualities that are highly valued in a bottom-six forward. Mix in the fact that Wingels can play any of the forward positions and he’s got some legitimate value to the Bruins as they face some question marks in their bottom-six.
Could Wingels be a quality contingency plan for the Bruins if Riley Nash walks away in free agency?
Most certainly he’d be a good veteran option to pair with young third-line center candidates Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. He'd also be a solid veteran to mix in with the overwhelming youth on Boston’s bottom two forward lines. Perhaps that’s why Don Sweeney certainly left the door open on re-signing Wingels when he was asked about it several weeks ago at the NHL scouting combine.
“We’re trying to figure out – that’s another right shot, so where they all fit together. In a depth role, in a situation...in the right situation, he could [return],” said Sweeney. “Tim Schaller follows the same category in terms of what he may feel internally versus externally for opportunities for him.”
In other words, it may come down to whether Wingels wants to play a lesser role for the Bruins, a team with Cup aspirations, or if he wants to play a bigger, perhaps everyday role for a team with more holes to fill up front. For his part, Wingels enjoyed his brief time with the Bruins where he posted two goals and five points in 18 games with the Black and Gold after the trade deadline.
“I enjoyed my time here. I was treated incredibly well, from the management to the coaches to the guys in this room. You know, there are certainly certain things to look for in a team going forward, and this team possesses a lot of that,” said Wingels. “You know, a winning culture, the ability to go far in the playoffs and a good group of guys, it’s certainly a desirable place to play, but we’ll see what happens.
“I filled the role I was asked to do, I think. Like you said, I moved around, played different spots in the lineup, a little bit of power play, little bit of penalty kill, and just did what I was asked, and that’s fine, you know. Like I said, it’s part of my game, just kind of filling those roles, and it’s a great group of guys here. They didn’t need too much added to the lineup. I thought at the deadline, they were a very deep team already. I just tried to come in and help and I thought I did that.”
Wingels signed for one-year, $750,000 with the Blackhawks last season after spending most of his NHL career with the Sharks, and, at 30, is probably looking at something very similar, more or less, for this season. Certainly, the Bruins are going to looking to hedge their bets if Riley Nash does walk away. They should be in the market for more of a veteran fourth-line presence on their roster regardless of what happens with their own free agents, whether it’s a versatile hustle guy such as Wingels or more of a heavy-hitting, intimidator-type, such as Ryan Reaves or Matt Martin.
One thing we do know is that Wingels already has the trust of the coaching staff and that’s the kind of thing that can go a long way when building a new roster in the offseason. Like many veteran players, it will probably take a couple of things breaking right for him to return with the Bruins next season after serving dutifully in the final few months of last season.
Still, Wingels certainly has more than a few things going for him if both he and the Bruins decide that Boston would continue to be a good landing spot for him.
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