For the Boston Bruins, golf season came a lot sooner than anticipated. Bowing out with a murmur in six games against the heavy forecheck of the New York Islanders in Round 2. While injuries undoubtedly played a key role in their eventual demise, it was obvious that Boston simply was not suited for four rounds of playoff hockey.
Take into account how after being swept by the far inferior Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2019 playoffs, Julien Brisebois, the general manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning, vowed to turn his Ferrari of a hockey club and morph it into a Dodge Charger.
Adding forwards Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow, and Pat Maroon along with bolstering his blueline with Luke Schenn, Zach Bogosian, and Kevin Shattenkirk paid instant dividends, capturing the Stanley Cup in 2020 and being well on their way to a repeat this summer.
Free agency for the Bruins should be about adding some serious grit.
As the series against the Islanders progressed, the tread on Boston’s first and second lines began drastically fading. It was almost as if Bruce Cassidy ran his third and fourth lines solely to provide his top-six forwards rest between shifts. Assuming both David Krejci and Taylor Hall are back with Boston next season, it’s abundantly clear that both lines three and four need to be disassembled and put back together again.
Considering there is an expansion draft to prepare for and free agents of his own, Bruins’ general manager Don Sweeney is balancing a number of responsibilities at once. However, if he is serious about making due on his promise to give his aging core one last push for a Stanley Cup it makes much more sense to target “grime” over “shine” this offseason.
Here are a few candidates to consider.
Brock McGinn- LW
The career-long Carolina Hurricane is far from an offensive dynamo with a career-high watermark in points being 30, which came during the 2017-18 campaign. This past season he posted an 8-5-13 stat line. However, the 6-foot, 187-pound left winger missed 19 games due to an undisclosed upper-body injury. Despite that, he was highly effective in the playoffs with four points in 11 games.
His ability to skate coupled with his frame and offensive potential makes Brock McGinn a very attractive piece for Boston to pursue. Even more so when you should be considering replacing Nick Ritchie after he scored a career-high in goals. Perhaps his ability to patrol the rink will ignite Charlie Coyle’s game.
Joel Armia- RW
A former first-round pick of the Buffalo Sabres in 2011, Joel Armia played just one game for the club that drafted him. Since then, he has checked in with the Winnipeg Jets and currently finds himself battling for a Stanley Cup with the Montreal Canadiens. In six NHL seasons, Armia has failed to eclipse the double-digit goal mark just twice. Conveniently enough, one of them was this past season.
Armia fancies himself as a penalty-kill savant, which should have Bruins fans salivating — god forbid Bergeron or Marchand miss time due to injury. The 6-foot, 212 pound right wing provides all the intangibles you want from a bottom-six forward. Not to mention, he looks rather annoying to play against.
Mathieu Perreault- LW
It seems like wherever Mathieu Perreault has gone he has consistently delivered the type of offense you love to get outside of your top forward lines. The 33-year-old has crafted quite the career for himself since being selected in the sixth round. However, his age and slight regression in offensive contributions since the start of the pandemic would lead many to believe his days in Winnipeg are over.
Offensively, it never hurts to add options to your special-teams rotation. Unlike Armia you will typically find Perreault on the powerplay. Despite his 5-foot-10, 188-pound frame, he is unafraid to plant himself in a prime scoring position as evidenced below.
Financially, Perreault would make the most sense for Boston given his age and offensive output. He still has the skill and can absolutely fly around the rink. You just have to wonder if he would be worth the risk.
Zach Hyman- RW
Simply put, Zach Hyman is the exact player every NHL coach would love to have on their roster. He brings grit, scoring touch, and leads by example. Routinely plugging in wherever Sheldon Keefe has needed him in the Toronto Maple Leafs lineup, in turn, Hyman found a home this season playing alongside Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews.
While most clubs will be calling his agent it comes down to contract and fit. Since 2017-18, Hyman has been on the books for $2.5 million a season. When you realize how consistent his offensive production has been, that’s one of the best steals in the league.
Hyman wants to stay in Toronto and Toronto wants him in their lineup but the salary-cap-scrapped Maple Leafs may run into an issue attempting to meet Hyman’s demands financially. SportsNet’s Rory Boylen broke down some league-wide contract comparables which range from $3.9 million to north of $5 million per season. So, your guess is as good as mine.
In order to pry Hyman away from Toronto, Don Sweeney will need to orchestrate the most intricate game of salary cap chess I’ve ever seen. Rask, Krejci, Hall, and Carlo will need to be put under team-friendly deals. DeBrusk will need to be dealt likely with draft pick compensation going with him. Finally, there will need to be enough left over to address their thin blue line. Oh, and I almost forgot how Charlie McAvoy will be looking for a massive pay raise next offseason.
But hey, a guy can dream, right?