Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said he was not planning on making a big splash on the opening day of free agency, and he was true to his word. However, about the only noise the Bruins made on day one was a giant thud.
The Bruins lost a player and gained a player (in theory) on the opening day of NHL free agency, as winger Michael Ryder signed a nice deal (two years, $7 million) with Dallas while the Bruins decided to sign much-maligned former Montreal forward Benoit Pouliot to a one-year, $1.1 million deal.
Let’s start with Ryder. Chiarelli made the right call in letting Ryder walk. Though he had a phenomenal postseason with 8 goals (including a pair of game-winning goals) and 9 assists and solid play at both ends of the ice, Ryder disappeared for long stretches of time. If he had been willing to come back for $2 million or so a season, it might have been worth it. However, the Stars offered up a very nice deal for Ryder and he jumped on it. Good for him.
Good luck to Ryder and thanks for helping to bring the Stanley Cup to Boston. I doubt I will miss him that much – especially during those 20-game stretches where he is about as valuable as Shane Hnidy or a broken stick.
As for Pouliot, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to the signing. He is soft, lazy, and a turnover machine. Jack Edwards called him “the biggest disappointment in NHL history.” Of course, Edwards is prone to hyperbole, and though Pouliot is not the biggest disappointment ever, he has not performed like a No. 4 overall pick (or a seventh-round draft pick for that matter).
Pouliot has been with Minnesota and Montreal (he is best known for beating up David Krejci during the brawl game and for throwing a cheap shot during this year’s playoffs), and at both stops the GMs spoke about his size and skill. I can’t argue with the size (6-foot-3, 199 pounds), but the skill is debatable. Pouliot has 37 goals and 35 assists in 183 games, and spent 4 of Montreal’s 7 postseason games watching from the press box. At 25, the potential tag that he has carried with him should be changed to bust. Think Blake Wheeler with less talent.
The good news is the Bruins signed him for a paltry $1.1 million and can pack him off to Providence if they see the change of scenery does not benefit him. The best case scenario is Pouliot cracks the top 9, scores 15 goals, and doesn’t kill you defensively. The realty is he will likely fall somewhere in between and spend many a day frustrating fans in Boston as he did in Minnesota and Montreal.
In the end, the signing is not a big deal. He won’t kill the team and he won’t be a star. In all likelihood, he will end up in the press box often and spend some time on the fourth line with Gregory Campbell, Daniel Paille, and/or Shawn Thornton.
Bruins fans better hope Peter Chiarelli has more on his plate than Benoit Pouliot. With every other team in the East making moves – and Detroit perhaps on its way to the East in 2012-2013, the Bruins need to keep getting better, They have the money and the ability to do so, and now they just need the courage to make the moves that need to be made.