Potential Unrestricted Free Agents Worth A Look For Bruins

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues

(Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Check me out on Twitter @nittgrl73

It’s certainly no secret that the Boston Bruins’ biggest hole to fill this offseason is second-line right wing. In fact, team president Cam Neely addressed that very issue himself recently.

Whether the right fit will come from a trade, free agency or a player already in the Bruins system remains to be seen. However, faced with difficult decisions regarding the future of free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Marcus Johansson, and Danton Heinen, a solution may not be as readily available as management and fans would like.

In addition, questions still remained heading into the National Hockey League draft regarding the exact amount of cap space available to each team. Coupled with the fact that very lucrative contracts have already having been awarded to players like Kevin Hayes and an oft-injured Erik Karlsson, overspending looks to be a quickly developing trend.

As a result, it may behoove the Bruins to take a look at some potential unrestricted free agents that can boost the team’s forward depth without breaking the bank. While it would be great to see the front office figure out a way to keep key pieces such as McAvoy and Carlo and still sign a “bigger-name” forward to play alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, there are a handful of players set to become free agents that could be diamonds in the rough.

Alex Chiasson

Chiasson played the 2018-2019 season with the Edmonton Oilers, a team that’s personal issues have been well-documented throughout a season during which former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was fired from that same role in Edmonton. Chiasson, who will turn 29 on Oct. 1, put up 22 goals and 16 assists for the Oilers this season, possibly providing the shoot-first mentality that Neely said he’d like to see more of on Krejci’s wing. Chiasson is coming off a $650,000 2018-2019 contract.

Brett Connolly

OK, hear me out, Bruins fans. Yes, Connolly already played a somewhat average 25-point year for the Bruins during the 2015-2016 season, in addition to two assists in five games the season before, but a case can definitely be made for a second look at the 27-year-old forward. He is coming off a career year with the Washington Capitals, potting 22 goals and 24 assists with an impressive plus-13 rating.  Connolly’s most recent contract with the Caps featured a relatively low $1.5 million cap hit. Granted, with teams seemingly willing to pay bigger bucks for players of Connolly’s caliber and given the fact that he had a stellar year and won a Stanley Cup in 2018, it’s likely Connolly could be too expensive for the Bs. If not, he’s an intriguing option.

Wayne Simmonds

Simmonds’ name came up often as a potential fit for the Bruins before the 2019 trade deadline in February. Although Simmonds was instead dealt by the Philadelphia Flyers to the Nashville Predators, he still remains a possible candidate to fill a second-line right wing spot in Boston. Simmonds is a bit older than the other possible signings listed here, he’ll be 31 in August, and his cap hit last season was higher than the others at $3.975 million. Still, Simmonds is almost certainly not going to be a Predator when October rolls around. Talk of late has the Pittsburgh Penguins extremely interested in Simmonds. If he is still available on July 1, he could be a good short-term investment for Boston in an attempt to make another run at the Cup while the Bruins’ veteran core is still intact.

Riley Barber

Although admittedly a dark-horse contender, Barber has spent the past four seasons in the Washington Capitals organization, primarily with the team’s Hershey Bears American Hockey League affiliate. After scoring 30 goals and amassing a total of 60 points for Hershey in 2018-2019, the 25-year-old Barber made it known at the end of the season that he did not plan to re-sign with the Capitals after being called up for only two brief stints in the NHL in his professional career and only seeing playing time in one of those call-ups. Barber may be taking the lead of former Miami University teammate Austin Czarnik, who chose to sign with the Calgary Flames following the 2017-2018 season after seeing only sporadic playing time with the Bruins.

If NHL General Manager of the Year Don Sweeney follows the usual Bruins storyline of looking for solid value rather than overspending on a superstar, he could well have a few decent under-the-radar options when free agency rolls around.

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 132 below!

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