Tommy Wingels

A look at Bruins free agents: Tommy Wingels

A look at Bruins free agents: Tommy Wingels

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.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Wingels replaces Schaller on B's fourth line for Game 3

Wingels replaces Schaller on B's fourth line for Game 3

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins are looking for more production of their third and fourth lines a couple of games into their playoff series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, so they’re making a change on their fourth line headed into Wednesday night’s Game 3 at TD Garden. 

Veteran winger Tommy Wingels will jump into the lineup after being a healthy scratch in the first two games and will replace Tim Schaller on the fourth line left wing. Bruce Cassidy confirmed the move after the morning skate Wednesday at Warrior Ice Arena and said the move was made to bring a little more experience and physicality to the lineup after they were pushed around in a Game 2 loss in Tampa Bay.

Wingels has played three games for the Bruins in the playoffs with a plus-1 rating, but hasn’t played since the Game 6 loss to the Maple Leafs in Toronto where he got a look on the second line with David Krejci.

Clearly, the Lightning have received some pretty solid play from their more experienced fourth line with Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz bringing their veteran big-game experience to the table, so perhaps Cassidy also trying to match that quality.

“Timmy has played well for us and so has Tommy. At the end of the day, Tommy has experience and provides some physicality,” said Cassidy. The fourth line that was on the ice for a goal against in Game 1 and combined for just a single shot on net in the Game 2 loss. “I think we’re a little short there. It’s just a gut [instinct] move to make sure we’re not too comfortable, and that we get the urgency that’s required. I think we lacked some of that up [front] at times. It certainly wasn’t both games in all 60 minutes, but I think [Wingels] can help us with that tonight.”

Other than Wingels replacing Schaller, the Bruins will go with the same lineup of forwards and defensemen pairings along with goalie Tuukka Rask for Game 3:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Wingels-Kuraly-Acciari

 
Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

 
Rask

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Heinen over Donato, Wingels for Bruins Game 7 lineup

Heinen over Donato, Wingels for Bruins Game 7 lineup

BRIGHTON, Mass – Headed into an all-or-nothing Game 7 on Wednesday night, the Bruins are going to go with the lines and pairings that they envisioned headed into the playoff series. Essentially, Bruce Cassidy is going to show some faith in his team that they’ll pull things out against the Toronto Maple Leafs with everything on the line at TD Garden.

That means Ryan Donato, an offensive gun that might have been able to pop one past Frederik Andersen, will remain out and the Bruins will be going back to rookie Danton Heinen over veteran, gritty forward Tommy Wingels. Clearly, the lines and pairings will be mixed and matched quickly if Bruce Cassidy doesn’t like what he sees after the Bruins have lost two in a row, but the B’s bench boss said it was important not to overthink things headed into a decisive playoff moment.

“This is the groups we envisioned and the group we trust to get it done,” said Cassidy. “Those are tough decisions, but that’s what we’re going with. [Heinen] has played really well for us this season, and we’d expect that to be the case again tonight.”

That means Ryan Donato, Wingels and Brian Gionta will be out for the decisive Game 7 and it’s the most reasonable choice for the Bruins in a crucial moment, even if there could have been some undeniable energy and a jolt if it had been Donato instead. Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on the morning skate:

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash

Heinen-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari

 
Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

 
Rask

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE