Going into this offseason we all knew that some changes needed to be made to the Boston Bruins‘ roster. The fireworks started early on draft night with trades shipping out Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, opening up cap space for some moves in free agency. The Bruins’ biggest additions so far include Matt Beleskey, arguably the most coveted winger in this year’s free agent class, as well as defenseman Matt Irwin and Jimmy Hayes.
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Beleskey is a 27-year-old left wing who plays with a physical edge to his game much like Lucic, although he doesn’t have the same offensive talent. He made his NHL debut in the 2008-09 season, but appeared in just two games for the Anaheim Ducks. The following year he upped that to 60, and in his first real season Beleskey scored 11 goals and added 7 assists for 18 points.
In the 2010-11 season Beleskey split time between the NHL and AHL, playing in 35 NHL games and scoring 10 points, while appearing in 27 AHL games and scoring 11 goals and 24 points. In the 2011-12 season Beleskey played in career high 70 games, but was only able to score 15 points while adding 72 penalty minutes.
In the 2012-13 lockout season Beleskey scored 13 points in 42 games, but did have 3 points in 7 playoff games. In the 2013-14 season Beleskey continued to improve offensively, scoring 24 points in 55 games and adding 4 points in 5 playoff games. That brings us to last year, by far Beleskey’s best season, in which he scored 22 goals and 32 points in 65 games and added 8 goals and 9 points in 16 playoff games. More importantly, it was also the first season his penalty minutes were less then his games played since the 2009-10 season, meaning he is playing a more disciplined game.
Beleskey might not have numbers that jump off the page at you, but he has continued to improve over the last few years. He’s looking to prove last season was not a one time thing and that he will earn every penny of his 5-year, $19 million deal.
The next addition, Jimmy Hayes, is a monster of a winger, at 6’6 221 pounds. He’s just 25 and hails from Dorchester, MA, making next season a homecoming for him. He was a star at Boston College, before being drafted 60th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2008. He was traded to Chicago, however, and made his NHL debut in a Blackhawks uniform.
In the 2011-12 season Hayes played in 31 NHL games and scored just 9 points, but he did have 23 points in 33 AHL appearances. The 2012-13 season was mostly spent in the AHL as Hayes continued to improve his game, scoring 25 goals and 45 points in 67 games.
In the 2013-14 season Hayes was traded from Chicago to the Florida Panthers and scored 18 points in 53 appearances for them. Last year Hayes had his best season to date, scoring 19 goals and 35 points in 72 games. Hayes signed a 3-year, $6.9 million contract, which is a great price for a player who will likely play on the second line. With much more talented line mates, Hayes should be looking at another career year.
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The final player the Bruins added, defenseman Matt Irwin, went undrafted but signed with the San Jose Sharks and debuted for their AHL team in the 2009-10 season. He played 72 AHL games the following year, scoring 10 goals and 31 points.
In his first full NHL season, 2013-14, Irwin scored 19 points in 62 games for the Sharks. Last year he recorded 19 points in just 53 games. The Bruins needed another defenseman heading into next year. Irwin might not have been the top man on the market, but his low price of $800,000 for one year makes this a great signing, especially when you consider his 29-30 point pace last year had he played a full 82-game season.
For all of the talk about the NHL game now favoring speed and skill, the Bruins instead opted to add big physical players who can check an opponent off the puck, go down and score a goal. While there is still room to improve, these three players are a great start to the Bruins’ offseason. Even if Boston is unable to make another significant addition, this team has a great shot at making some noise in the playoffs as the new “Big Bad Bruins.”