The Boston Bruins went into 2021 Free Agency with a lot to do. They needed to add a left-shot, big, physical defenseman, add bottom-six forwards, and add a goaltender. Surprisingly, but satisfyingly, B’s general manager Don Sweeney was able to get all three of these things done.
However, some of these moves require additional transactions as Boston has a surplus of the same position or need to upgrade the position (in some fans’ opinions).
In this piece, I will be going through each position group — forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders — and breaking down and analyzing each move (or non-move) that the B’s made on the first day of 2021 Free Agency.
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These breakdowns and analyses will include my thoughts on the transactions as well as what it could mean for the B’s in the near future as well as what it means for the team now.
Bruins’ moves at forward on the first day of 2021 Free Agency.
The B’s went into this offseason knowing that they needed to inject physicality, grit, toughness, heart, and soul into their bottom-six forward group. And with wingers Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase being non-tendered and allowed to become unrestricted free agents (UFAs), it was clear Sweeney was about to significantly change up the B’s bottom-two lines.
With Ritchie not being tendered, I first thought that Jake DeBrusk would be given another chance playing on his strong side in the 2021-22 season. My suspicion was further evidenced by the link of the B’s to former Tampa Bay Lighting third-liner, Blake Coleman, by insider Elliotte Friedman.
However, this idea was thrown out the window once it was announced Coleman had signed with the Calgary Flames on a long-term deal and the Black and Gold had signed veteran left-shot forward, Tomas Nosek, to a two-year deal with an average annual value (AAV) of $1.75 million.
Nosek played for the Vegas Golden Knights this past season and was a very effective fourth-liner. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder scored eight goals and 18 points in 38 games and has been described as “a pain to play against.” He’ll be an upgrade over Sean Kuraly.
Speaking of Kuraly, the 28-year-old forward signed with his home-state team, the Columbus Blue Jackets, on a four-year deal with an AAV of $2.5 million.
Haula signed a two-year contract with an AAV of $2.375 million. The 6-foot, 193-pounder has spent the last three seasons on pretty good teams, going from Vegas to Carolina to Florida. He gives the B’s some scoring depth in the bottom-six as he registered nine goals and 21 points in 51 games in 2020-21.
Foligno was brought in on a two-year deal with an AAV of $3.8 million. Like the other two forward signings, Foligno can play both center and the wings. Which could be very important this upcoming season as there still isn’t a timetable on David Krejci, and, according to Sweeney, second-line center with be “by committee.” There are rumors that Krejci and Boston are close to a deal, but as of Wednesday night, he is still not signed.
With three left-shot forwards being added to the roster, it looks like DeBrusk will not be a Bruin when the 2021-22 season begins. He’s still young at just 24 years old and has the skill to be a good second-line left wing. The B’s may be able to package him and a draft pick or Matt Grzelcyk for a legitimate top-four, shutdown defenseman.
Overall, I like the forward additions the B’s made. They knew that the bottom-six was a weakness and decided to almost completely change the group.
Other Bruins forward news.
Wednesday, the B’s also signed forwards Samuel Asselin and Steven Fogarty. Asselin signed a two-year, entry level contract (ELC) and Fogarty signed a one-year, two-way contract. Both deals carry an NHL-worth of $750,000.
Additionally, now former-Bruin Greg McKegg signed back with his once former team, the New York Rangers. He’s signed to a one-year deal worth $750,000.
Former B’s restricted free agents (RFA) Ritchie and Kase are still unsigned. Ritchie reportedly has a good amount of interest, so he should be signed soon. There was even a rumor that the Black and Gold were circling back to him. However, there hasn’t been any news on Kase.