Did the Boston Bruins do enough in free agency to compete with their Atlantic Division rivals?

The Boston Bruins epitomize what a great franchise looks like, and they once again showed us why they’re one of the NHL’s premier organizations.
Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins - Game Six
Florida Panthers v Boston Bruins - Game Six / Rich Gagnon/GettyImages

The Boston Bruins are once again looking like they will challenge the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers, but both teams made a few moves, too. Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning may have lost Steven Stamkos, but they found the ultimate replacement in Jake Guentzel. 

So, did the Bruins do enough to keep pace with their division rivals in free agency, and should we be optimistic that they can retake control of the Atlantic over the Florida Panthers? Let’s talk about it. 

For one, you couldn’t have asked for a better one hour (or so) of free agency from any team, except for perhaps the Chicago Blackhawks, who may have won the day. Honorable mentions to the Utah Hockey Club (with prior trades) and the Washington Capitals. But wow, signing Nikita Zadorov and Elias Lindholm, even if it meant seeing Jake DeBrusk going elsewhere, is a testament to general manager Don Sweeney. 

Few enjoyed a more productive free agent frenzy than the Bruins

While they technically play different positions despite being forwards, if you were to ask me whether I’d rather have Elias Lindholm or Jake DeBrusk, I’m taking the former. Sure, I did state on my offseason checklist that I wanted to see the Bruins keep DeBrusk, but I also said that they needed to not just make a splash on July 1st; I also had Elias Lindholm listed as “ideal” alongside Sam Reinhart and Jake Guentzel.  

Overall, he’s an upgrade over DeBrusk, who ironically signed with the mighty Vancouver Canucks. Lindholm can win faceoffs, something the Bruins did just 49.5 percent of the time in the regular season last year, and when he finds his groove, the seasoned veteran can score.  

Elias Lindholm, Nikita Zadorov both upgrade the Bruins substantially

Best yet, Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov have been teammates stemming back to their days in Calgary, so there’s also chemistry here, something that’s always a plus. Zadorov should play second or perhaps even third-pairing minutes, and the big hitter will further upgrade an already sound penalty kill. 

There’s also a good chance he won’t be caught out of position too often, and with Jeremy Swayman in the net, don’t expect him to be responsible for too many goals allowed. Lindholm is also a physical player who can pitch in defensively, and you can expect such play to continue in Boston, as this team is built to hit - 27.5 per game last season. 

So, we’ve established that not only is Lindholm an upgrade over DeBrusk - despite struggling through the regular season following his trade to Vancouver, we can also conclude that both players fit the Bruins identity. Chalk that up as another plus, since it implies they will build chemistry with their new teammates sooner rather than later. 

Further, since they’ve already been teammates, it will be an even easier transition to head coach Jim Montgomery’s system. That puts them ahead of teams like the Lightning, who just lost their captain to the Nashville Predators despite the Jake Guentzel signing, and that there will be some transition there. 

The Panthers kept one of their star players in Sam Reinhart, but they also lost backup goaltender Anthony Stolarz, forwards Ryan Lomberg and Kevin Stenlund, and defensemen Oliver Eckman-Larsson and Brandon Montour. 

But Florida only added Tomas Nosek and a few other low-tier players, all of whom will be no more than depth players, so you can argue the Bruins at least inched closer to the Stanley Cup Champions. 

How do the Bruins compare to the Maple Leafs, Lightning?

The Bruins got the best of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the regular season and in the playoffs, and considering the Leafs rather underwhelming haul - although I can’t help but point out they simultaneously made the Panthers weaker - I have no doubt Boston at least one rung above one of their biggest rivals of all-time. While we can’t confirm anything until the 2024-25 season is in full swing, the Bruins did far more, at least on paper, to improve their team than the Leafs. 

As for the Lightning, they were good, but not great last season, and despite bringing in Jake Guentzel, you can argue they lost more than they gained. Sure, they still have a strong core group of players, and they’re still a top-four or, at worst, a top-five team in the Atlantic. But unless Guentzel proves to be quite the game-changer, which he’s not, the Bruins are still ahead of Tampa. 

I won’t get as bold as to say the Bruins are on par with the Panthers, with the Stanley Cup still visible in the rearview mirror and one day of a free agent frenzy. But they moved closer to Florida thanks to their two big moves. 

Yeah, the Bruins lost their fair share of players, too, but they at least adequately replaced Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen, while I wouldn’t necessarily call Matt Gryzelcyk, Pat Maroon, or Derek Forbort major losses. So, at worst, the Bruins are, after a busy day in free agency, the second-best team in the Atlantic in my eyes, with the possibility of surpassing Florida. 


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