Boston Bruins: Could do far worse than targeting these unqualified players

Boston Bruins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Boston Bruins (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Boston Bruins don’t have a great deal of cap space, especially once new deals are sorted out for their pending restricted free agent defensemen. However, there’s a few guys around the league that haven’t been extended qualifying offers that may be worth the gamble.

When a team chooses not to extend a qualifying offer to a restricted free agent, that player ends up becoming an unrestricted free agent. Not just that, they become exactly the sort of free agent that is ripe for a ‘prove yourself’ one-year deal on a league minimum salary; that is where this could be interesting for the Boston Bruins.

Now, there are plenty of players that haven’t been extended qualifying offers that will are little more than lifetime AHL players, but there are a few surprising options that could offer a bit of value depth on the Boston Bruins roster.

They’re the sort of players you can take that gamble on; it gives you a chance to mature your prospects that little extra amount of time and if it doesn’t pan out, it’s not like you’re on the hook long-term. If it does pan out, you probably can’t renew them come the year-end, but by that point, you’ve likely got some strong production at a very low-cost.

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Looking around the league, the names that jump are Kerby Rychel, Brendan Leipsic, Ty Rattie and Pontus Aberg. All offer different skill sets but would potentially offer something, even if we are literally just talking depth or maybe as a first-up option in Providence.

Kerby Rychel

Kerby Rychel would be tallying a fifth team at just 24 years old having suited up already for the Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and most recently the Calgary Flames. That would suggest he’s viewed as not quite NHL-level, but a useful piece in trades. 43 points in 57 games this past AHL season suggest that there’s certainly a level of talent there.

The big appeal for the Boston Bruins with someone like Kerby Rychel would be that he uses his body, plays the game with a physical edge but can also back it up in front of net, or at least he can at the AHL level.

Maybe it’s purely a case of never being given the right opportunity in an NHL line-up. As a former first-round pick (19th overall in 2013) and with the family pedigree (his father having won a Stanley Cup in 1996), you’d be willing to hedge a bet on him, surely.

Brendan Leipsic

Brendan Leipsic offers something different to what you’d get from Kerby Rychel. He has at least somewhat proven himself to have a bit of a scoring touch in the NHL. He just hasn’t found the right opportunity, whether by virtue of those ahead of him, as was the case as a Toronto Maple Leafs player or by virtue of getting injured at inopportune times.

Having been surrendered to the Vegas Golden Knights in the Expansion Draft, he seemed to have found a solid place in their bottom-six; tallying 11 points in 44 games before being traded to the Vancouver Canucks. He found himself alongside rookie sensation and eventual Calder Cup winner, Elias Petterson at times during that run, tallying points at a decent rate as a result before finally finding his way, via waiver claim, to the Los Angeles Kings.

Given Los Angeles last year was all about giving the youth a bit of a chance, Leipsic actually saw 45 games, meaning the 2018-19 season was the most ice he’d ever seen in the NHL with 62 all-up (including those with Vancouver).

The only negative to bringing Leipsic in to the Boston Bruins organisation is that he probably has reached his ceiling, being 25 years old now. However, his speed, skill and tenacity make him the perfect piece to plug in lower down the line-up and potentially squeeze onto the second power-play unit. He’s very much worth gambling on.

Ty Rattie

Ty Rattie is one of those guys that can’t quite make it stick at NHL level, but looks almost too strong for the AHL. However, given his right-wing position, maybe he’s someone worth the Boston Bruins throwing down a minimum salary deal to.

He has good hands and hockey sense, but can also be relied upon to play a strong game defensively. He’s the ideal kind of go to slot in on your fourth line in the modern NHL, but therein probably lies the issue; the Boston Bruins have already proven to have a fourth-line that has chemistry that isn’t worth tinkering with.

Maybe Ty Rattie is someone the Boston Bruins consider should they not end up renewing Noel Acciari. If Acciari asks for more than just above league-minimum, do you opt for a cheaper alternative from free agency?

Pontus Aberg

The final guy that I’ve seen go unqualified is Pontus Aberg; he could offer the Boston Bruins a bit of versatility as a depth winger. It seems like both the Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild gave up too early on him. Granted he’s no spring chicken, now being 25 also, but he is a guy with 127 games of NHL experience and 43 points across those games.

Whilst he probably hasn’t been helped by being a second-round pick (37th overall in 2012 by the Nashville Predators) and thus possibly having higher expectations placed upon him; he has shown ability in the AHL to score at almost point-per-game rates.

Surely that shows that the guy has the hands and play-making ability to be useful on the Boston Bruins roster, potentially?

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Around the league they’ll be other players that don’t have qualifying offers extended to them and we’re sure among that cohort they’ll be plenty of other players worth a look by the Boston Bruins. Whether they’re willing to hedge their bets is the big ask – I think they’d be wise to dish out a few ‘prove yourself’ deals, for sure.