Remember on draft night late last week how media members and fans alike were jumping off the sinking ship that the new regime set sail for us? Once Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton were both sent to the West Coast via trade, very few possessed high hopes for the potential catastrophic 2015-16 season that Boston Bruins management were setting us all up for.
On this day, most of us would like to owe B’s general manager Don Sweeney an apology. We all had to wait and see what was going to happen after accumulating a plethora of draft picks—another one for trading away goaltender Martin Jones to the San Jose Sharks—and the acquisition of Zac Rinaldo and Joonas Kemppainen. Hard-nosed, gritty players with some skill are great to possess.
The Bruins needed to do more. They needed to add big pieces to get back into the Stanley Cup conversation for next year.
Well, good things come to those who wait. “Dealing Donny” gave us some hope on the first day of free agency.
On Wednesday night, the Bruins announced that they signed top-six left winger Matt Beleskey. The deal is for five years, $19 million with the first two years including a no-movement clause. He played on the second line alongside Ryan Kesler of the Anaheim Ducks.
The 27-year-old veteran is coming off the best season of his career during which he set career highs in goals (22) and points (32) in 65 games for the Ducks. He also tallied nine points (eight goals, one assist) in 16 playoff games for Anaheim, a run that ended in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final. Beleskey would fit perfectly with David Krejci, who is arguably a more skilled player than Kesler. His totals in Boston could surpass his current career point highs.
Sweeney was not done there. Before that news broke, the team announced that they had made a trade. The Black and Gold sent Reilly Smith (as well as unloading the remaining salary of Marc Savard’s contract) to the Florida Panthers in exchange for Jimmy Hayes.
Smith, 24, joined the Bruins in July of 2013 as part of the return package for Tyler Seguin. He has played in all but one of the Bruins 164 games since then, scoring 33 goals and registering 58 assists over the two seasons. He signed a two-year contract extension with Boston in March, which pays him $6.85 million. After a steady drop off, his time to leave Boston was predictable. Good riddance.
As for Hayes, he is a local kid, playing three seasons for the Boston College Eagles. The 6-foot-6, 221-pound right winger averaged 14 goals per season over the past three years. However, he is a restricted free agent. The Bruins will still have to negotiate a new contract with Hayes. When all is set and done, he could easily slot in as high as the third line and be productive playing alongside Ryan Spooner…who signed a new two-year, $1.9 million deal of his own on the same day.
Within a span of a couple of hours, the Bruins were taken seriously as a threat in the Eastern Conference. This is a great start for Sweeney.
With that being said, his work is far from done.
The Bruins are still thin on the blue line. The team needs a legitimate top-paring defenseman and perhaps another depth defenseman as well. Dumping Savard’s contract to the Panthers, which came with a $4 million cap hit, can help Boston pull that off either through a trade or free agency. Sure, a backup goaltender should be considered, but it is not high on the list due to the depth at the position down in Providence. It looks like Jeremy Smith will be the “man behind the man” in Boston next year if that position remains unchanged and not addressed outside the organization.
Just one day into free agency and this is what Sweeney had up his sleeve? The eagerness bestowed upon the Boston faithful is extremely high, and awaiting his next move will be great.