The “Twittersphere” can sometimes be a dangerous platform. Despite its gradual growth into relevance, it has also become a platform of judgment.
The “Land of 140 Characters” is one of the stages that we as members of the media express our thoughts and opinions supported by facts to drive the point home. So far during this epic National Hockey League free agency period, we have heard it all. From the most obscure rumors to the breaking news of stunning contract offers, hockey fans have been blessed with an abundance of material to absorb this summer.
One of the most scathing criticisms that surfaced in regards to a specific player has been the negativity surrounding defenseman Kris Russell. The 29-year-old free agent played for both the Calgary Flames and the Dallas Stars during the 2015-16 season, notching four goals and 15 assists in 62 games.
His most valuable attributes are his abilities to pass out of the defensive zone and block shots; Russell has ranked near the top of the league in blocked shots for as long as he has been in the NHL. At the same time, he has been bashed to no end over the entire weekend throughout social media.
Now, let’s play devil’s advocate here. Sure, his possession metrics have always been poor. More often than not, he is forced to defend when he is on the ice as opposed to contributing offensively. That explains the low point totals. He does have a career minus-eight rating. Whichever team he signs with, Russell will likely be a bottom-pair blue liner in order to fit in with a particular club.
Arguably, the most polarizing fact about Russell is the money that he is commanding. He is looking to double his salary after making $2.35 million last year and this is not something that is typical of a second-wave free agent to do. The bottom line is that he wants a long-term deal. This situation is becoming eerily similar to the Cody Franson ordeal this time last year.
So, why make the case for Russell, specifically relating to the Boston Bruins? Well, they need another body.
The Bruins have been linked to Russell over the last couple of days as far as exploring a long-term deal with the defenseman. Not only is he the best available free agent defenseman left on the market, but he is a minute eater who will tremendously help even out the minutes among the blue liners currently signed by Boston. For Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller—both of whom have had a long standing history of injuries—that will be a relief.
Assuming that Miller will be slotted with Zdeno Chara and McQuaid with Torey Krug (both pairs saw plenty of ice time matched up together last year), Russell can pair with John-Michael Liles and fit well in the mix that Claude Julien will throw out there on a nightly basis. All six of those defensemen have unique qualities, but for a team that ranked in the middle of the pack in shots against and defensive stature last season, any improvement will be an upgrade.
Also, the Bruins have the room to offer a big contract to a player like Russell. As it stands now, the Bruins still need another blue liner to fill out the roster. Is he receiving all of this negative criticism because of the money he is commanding? Is he overrated? Can he improve? All of those rhetorical questions may be true, but for a player in his prime years entering free agency as one of the most elite shot blockers in the league, he is going to get overpaid. We just have to accept it.
Russell brings value, but a team overextending themselves against the cap to bring him in will be taking on a considerable risk.
If the Bruins are interested in kicking the tires and bringing this guy in, we should not be THAT upset about it. This team needs to make the playoffs this year and the signing of Russell could help with that cause.