Boston Bruins free agency flurry a good sign as offseason begins

Linus Ullmark #35 of the Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Linus Ullmark #35 of the Buffalo Sabres (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

After an exciting NHL draft last week, the free agency period officially opened up yesterday. One of the teams in prime position to take advantage of free agency was the Boston Bruins, and they were certainly busy for much of the day.

The Bruins had already gotten a head start in free agency when they re-signed both Brandon Carlo and Taylor Hall to relatively team friendly deals, helping them keep some cap space available heading into free agency. The flurry of moves they made yesterday afternoon overshadowed arguably their most important move of the day, which was re-signing Mike Reilly.

Reilly was brought over to Boston at the trade deadline this past season, and he formed a solid pairing with Carlo on the second line of defense. While a lot of the B’s free agents made it seem like they were looking to return, Reilly was more coy about the situation. But he signed a three year deal worth $9 million that ensured him and Carlo will be working together for the next few seasons.

With Hall and Carlo already back in the fold, Reilly was arguably Boston’s most important free agent available. Of course David Krejci‘s status is still uncertain, but it’s really a matter of whether he wants to play next season, not whether he wants to return to the Boston Bruins. With Reilly sticking around, Boston is set to keep most of they key pieces they had from last season.

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From there on, Boston worked on recruiting some new faces to town. While they made a flurry of smaller deals towards the end of the day to round out their depth, there were five big signings that were geared towards reinforcing their bottom lines on both offense and defense, which is just what the doctor ordered.

General Manager Don Sweeney and the front office really attacked the forward position, bringing in Tomas Nosek, Erik Haula, and Nick Foligno. All three guys seem likely to come in and help out on either the third or fourth line up top, which was a big need heading into the offseason.

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Of the three, Foligno was the big fish of the group. He’s a versatile forward who can play all three positions, and can also come in and play on both the power play and penalty kill. Foligno has turned into a more defensive minded forward down the backend of his career, but he should be able to come in and carve out a role on the third line next season.

Haula also may be able to come in and contribute on the third line as well. Similar to Foligno, he can play all three forward positions, and is excellent at winning faceoffs, which is something Boston lacked behind Patrice Bergeron last season. He has experience playing with Charlie Coyle during their time on the Minnesota Wild, so their familiarity may come in handy as the third line is revamped.

As of now, Nosek seems like a candidate to come in and replace Sean Kuraly, who just signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets yesterday. Nosek primarily plays as a center, and is viewed as more of a skill player than a grit player, which is something Boston was looking to add to their fourth line. The fourth line last season was able to hold their own, but struggled at creating chances. With Nosek in the fold, the hope is that won’t be an issue next season.

Defensively, the Boston Bruins revamped their third line after losing Kevan Miller to retirement by adding Derek Forbort. Once Carlo was forced out of the B’s second round series against the New York Islanders with an injury, their defense struggled mightily to recover, as they consistently allowed New York to score multiple goals a game. Bringing in Forbort to be the anchor of that third line is a huge win for Boston.

Forbort brings in an aura of toughness, as well as great penalty-killing. It felt like the Bruins were short on effective penalty killers defensively once Carlo was out, so adding a solid penalty killer to come in and help out additionally is a great move. Forbort is an imposing figure standing at 6’4, 219 pounds, and if he can anchor the third line for Boston, this will be well worth the $3 million per year they are paying him.

Boston’s biggest move of the day, however, came in between the posts, as they picked up Linus Ullmark to come in and help out the goalie position. Ullmark was pretty solid for an awful Buffalo Sabres team, and was in net for nine of Buffalo’s 15 wins last season.

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While much can be made about whether Ullmark’s signals the end of Tuukka Rask’s time in Boston, that’s a discussion for another time. Regardless, Ullmark is a solid young addition to Boston’s goalie room who can come in and hold down the fort until Jeremy Swayman is ready, or even take up a 1A-1B role similar to how Rask and Jaroslav Halak were used the past couple of a seasons.

All in all, this was a great start for the Bruins in free agency. Although they have some unfinished business, especially with Rask and Krejci, they did a great job at addressing their need of depth all over the ice. While you can’t win a Stanley Cup in a day, the Boston Bruins look to be a much better team on a paper than they did when their season ended.