Boston Bruins, Don Sweeney Open Free Agency On High Note


Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney sparked widespread outrage ahead of last week’s NHL Draft, trading veteran winger Milan Lucic and the up-and-coming Dougie Hamilton, but things are looking up after a pair of noteworthy transactions on Wednesday.

Sweeney kicked off the opening day of NHL free agency on a high note as he began to reshape the look and feel of the Bruins, freeing up significant cap space in the process. And based on Sweeney’s moves, it appears as if he wants to craft a more physically intimidating team.

Sweeney added a pair of rugged, physical and offensively-minded forwards in Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes.

In a deal with the Florida Panthers, the Bruins acquired Hayes in an unbelievably favorable trade. Sweeney gave up Reilly Smith to get the 6-foot-6 Dorchester, Massachusetts, native. In doing so, the Bruins eliminated a softer player and gained a menacing net-front presence. The Panthers also agreed to take on Marc Savard‘s contract. His $4 million cap hit next season will help them reach the cap floor.

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Hayes scored 19 goals last season for the Panthers and added 16 assists. Hayes should fit in perfectly in Claude Julien‘s system as he’s tough along the walls and can hold his own down low, while possessing a two-way ability out on the wing. He is a restricted free agent, but the Bruins did free up about $7.5 million in moving on from Smith and Savard. Sweeney will easily be able to work out a deal and perhaps add in another piece with the gained financial flexibility.

Sweeney then went on to ink Beleskey, a former Anaheim Duck, to a five-year deal worth $19 million. The winger plays a similar style to what Lucic brought to the table. He can score, fight and hit. The move makes sense as the Bruins will be saving a chunk of change, considering Lucic was said to be seeking a new contract at roughly $6 million per year.

Beleskey scored 22 goals last season for the Ducks and tallied 10 assists. He’s played in numerous big games over the years and should gel nicely with the big, bad Bruins mentality that Sweeney seems to be trying to resurrect. He’s not a flashy player, but a worker and powerful guy who should thrive alongside David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron.

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Another move that’s been overlooked was the addition of Zac Rinaldo who Sweeney snagged in a trade with the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. The Bruins were hurting last season after their longtime enforcer, Shawn Thornton, walked in free agency. Rinaldo will skate hard, policing the ice and defending the youngsters who are set to take on expanded roles next season.

At the end of the day, the Bruins took significant steps towards shaping a hopeful identity similar to the successful squads of years past. Sweeney now has nearly $9 million in cap space to expand upon the framework in which he’s laid. The GM deserves a chance as it seems as if he’s on to something.