By: Mark Allred | Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277
Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and staff certainly have their hand full this offseason with locking down restricted free agents highlighted by names such as Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, and Danton Heinen. Also, on offseason agenda is to negotiate with unrestricted free agents before the July 1st NHL Free Agent Frenzy deadline. Forward’s Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari are currently per B’s GM Sweeney in discussions for a return which might seem unlikely with the salary cap sitting at $12 million per CapFriendly.com.
“We’ve been in the interview period, so we’ve had a lot of discussions and some planning.”
Regardless if players are coming and going after Monday’s free agent deadline, one thing that intrigued me was what Sweeney said in his post 2019 Bruins Development Camp press conference. Sweeney mentioned that the club will, in fact, be actively shopping the free agent market for another goaltender. With NHL netminders Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask under contract and seemingly not going anywhere for another year, this potential free agent signing is pointing towards the developmental depths of the organization with a crease addition in the AHL with the Providence Bruins.
It seems like the end of the road for AHL goaltender Zane McIntyre a player who’s been the property of the organization since 2010 when the B’s selected him in the sixth round from the USHL’s Fargo Force and later attended the University of North Dakota for three seasons. Assuming McIntyre does depart, many would think prospect goaltender Dan Vladar and Kyle Keyser who signed as a free agent back in October of 2017 would be fine manning the crease but with this recent news, it looks like the organization could be shifting players around for the upcoming season.
The Bruins are going to hit the goaltending market of NHL free agency on July 1, but it’s not for the reasons that you think https://t.co/YGRiKUNvE8
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) June 29, 2019
Now I know many minor-pro teams have had the three-headed monster in goal in the past, but in my opinion, it’s not a very good idea. Playing time is so important to developing netminders, and in a league that predominantly operates on a Friday to Sunday weekly game schedule, one goaltender may take a step back in his pro progression due to lack of playing time. Another scenario that many may be sour about and get away from the potential three-ringed circus in Providence is to place one netminder in the ECHL whenever a Premier “AA” Bruins affiliate is mentioned. At the close of the 2018-19 campaign, the B’s do not have an ECHL club to work with as a feeder league to the higher AHL.
When the Bruins were affiliated with the Atlanta Gladiators, prospect goaltender Vladar spent a full season in the “Coast” and even though his numbers weren’t great on a struggling Atlanta franchise, he was there to get increased playing time and a whole lot of shots. Vladar’s experience in the ECHL was a positive one and could be the route this B’s organization takes again from another player that’s eligible to join the minor-pro ranks such as Kyle Keyser. After a career year in 2018-19, posting a record of 38-8-0, a goals-against-average of 2.75 and .915 save percentage, Kyle is more than ready to make the jump regardless of what pro level he ends up in.
It’s hard to say what avenue the Bruins take in signing another goaltender. Sweeney didn’t exactly give any indication if the franchise is going to look for experience or youth in the addition so I did some searching to see who would be a good fit with our developing netminders at the AHL level from both sides of the coin. Below is an idea in opinion form of course on who I would go after if the choice was mine.
Going With Experience?
Yes, the hambugler will be looking for work next summer, and I believe he’d be a fantastic fit for the goaltending depth for the Bruins. In 56 NHL games, the British Columbia Canada native has a record of 27-15-6 with a 2.31 GAA and .923 Save%. Hammond played last season with the AHL’s Iowa Wild and had a record of 19-14-0. Might be a sneaky move to get a player like Hammond under the umbrella of the B’s organization with a one-year two-way cap friendly deal. The 31-year-old netminder made $300K in the Minnesota Wild’s system.
Old friend Chad will also look to continue his career, and if he doesn’t field any NHL offers after July 1st, the Bruins could certainly come calling for the 33-year-old’s services. After already playing in Boston, this would be a solid veteran addition from a player that seen it all from so many different angles. Sadly, after Johnson posted his best year in the NHL when he backstopped the B’s to a 17-4-0 record, he really didn’t do much better with any of the several organizations he’s been with the last several years. He did have a 22 win season with the Buffalo Sabres, but he also had 16 losses that year. In 192 career NHL games, Johnson has an 80-72-15 record with a 2.73 GAA and .907 Save%. Johnson’s salary was $1.75 million so if he’s still available depending on how long the B’s want to wait he’d be a decent low-risk insurance policy and mentor to a goaltender like Vladar.
Pickard has not had any luck securing a job in the last few seasons being waived and claimed by several teams looking to make space or add to the respected team’s depth, but I believe he still has something to give. In 104 career NHL games, he has a record of 32-50-9 spending time with Colorado, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Arizona. The 27-year-old Moncton, New Brunswick native, might be a solid addition to the goaltending depth and a player that can start the year in Providence and be ready at a moments notice if Halak or Rask get injured. A one-year, two-way contract wouldn’t break the bank to have that security blanket, in my opinion.
Going With Youth?
Fucale was a highly touted goaltending prospect that slowly slipped down the depth chart of the Montreal Canadiens who drafted him in the second round back in 2013. The 24-year-old has bounced up and down the minor league ranks having yet to see anytime in the show. They say goaltenders take longer to develop, so why not take a chance on Zachary and see what he can do with the tutelage of Bruins goaltending coaches Bob Essensa and assistant Mike Dunham. Last season with the ECHL Fort Wayne Komets, Fucale had a 20-9-3 record and although its a gamble his cap number wouldn’t be terrible if they wanted to take a risk.
Halverson is another goaltender that’s been through the rigors of the AHL and ECHL all with the New York Rangers. The 23-year-old Michigan native posted an 8-11-0 record with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack and first-year ECHL affiliation the Maine Mariners where he had a 15-13-1 record. This might not be the greatest idea, but he is young and could serve a valuable service with Providence on a one-year roll of the dice. A $600K two-way contract is not out of the realm to add depth in the crease. With only one NHL game under his belt, this is obviously not the ideal scenario in case something happens with the Boston goaltending in the NHL.
McDonald is a good sized netminder that hasn’t seem to have caught on to full-time professional expectations that the Calgary Flames expected of him when they selected him in the second round in 2014. I feel that he’s another player that could use a change of scenery and guidance to be a solid pro either at the AHL level or the NHL if needed. With no previous NHL games on his resume, I believe the drive is still there for Mason, and if I was the Bruins GM and adding depth, it’s not a bad low-risk thought. He’s another suggestion that the training staff and goaltending coaches could mold into something but who knows. McDonald played in 36 games last season with the ECHL Kansas City Mavericks and had a record of 23-10-3.
Exploring the European free agent market is another avenue the Bruins and scouting staff might consider. I know the ending was a train wreck but finding a goaltender like Niklas Svedberg’s who had two great seasons for Providence posting a record of 65-24-6 in 97 career games for the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL Bruins. Again, who knows what’s going to happen with the Bruins and their search for another depth goaltender, but it should be interesting to see who in fact they do sign and what shifting will be done in the minor ranks to facilitate the addition.