By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
As the Boston Bruins’ chase for the 2020 Stanley Cup is over, the offseason is now in full force. Due to COVID-19 as we know, the NHL’s normal schedule of the offseason is different. As of now, the start of free agency is expected to be early October, a few days following the annual events of the NHL Entry Draft. Assuming that, the Bruins are running out of time to re-sign their expiring contracts before they enter the open market.
Earlier in the season, Boston extended forward Charlie Coyle and more recently, goaltenders Jaroslav Halak and Dan Vladar as well as forward Anders Bjork. Now, aside from RFAs and a few UFAs in the depth charts, the Bruins have defenceman UFA Torey Krug, defenceman RFA Matt Grzelcyk, forward RFA Jake DeBrusk, UFA defenceman Zdeno Chara, UFA defenceman Kevan Miller and UFA forward Joakim Nordstrom without a contract for the upcoming 2020-21 season – leaving GM Don Sweeney some big decisions.
Joakim Nordstrom joined the Boston Bruins on July 1st, 2018 on a two-year contract worth $1 million per season. The Bruins brought the Stockholm, Sweden native to the organization after losing forwards Riley Nash, Tim Schaller, and Austin Czarnik to free agency that same year. Forward Chris Wagner was also signed by the B’s at this time as well.
Prior to his arrival in Boston, Nordstorm played 282 regular-season games between the Chicago Blackhawks and Carolina Hurricanes. The Blackhawks drafted Nordstrom in the 3rd Round (90th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, but later moved him to the Hurricanes in 2015 along with Kris Versteeg and a 2017 3rd Round Pick for Dennis Robertson, Jake Massie, and a 2017 5th Round Pick.
In Carolina, the 6’1″ forward played 228 games, scoring 19 goals and 24 assists for 43 points, but parted from the franchise at the conclusion of the ’17/’18 campaign, leading to his contract signing with the Boston Bruins in the summer of 2018.
Since joining the Black and Gold, Joakim has scored a combined 11 goals and eight assists for 19 points in 118 regular-season games over the course of two seasons. In addition, Nordstrom has scored 3-7-10 totals in 46 postseason games with the Bruins including eight points in Boston’s Stanley Cup Finals run in the 2018-19 season. Beyond that, Nordstrom adds depth to Boston’s forward roster in more ways than the occasional goal or assist.
Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy had trust in Nordstrom on the defensive end of the ice as well, more so when the team was shorthanded. According to NHL.com, Nordstrom averaged just under two minutes of shorthanded time on ice per games played (1:58) and was responsible for being on the ice for 36.6% of Boston’s shorthanded time in 2019-20 – both of those statistics ranked him as the highest forward on the roster. Without a doubt, Nordstrom was a huge reason for the success of Boston’s penalty kill that ended up ranking third in the National Hockey League with an 84.3% success rate.
In the last few days, it seems more and more likely that Torey Krug will be moving on from the Bruins organization to start a new chapter in his NHL career with a different franchise. This will free up a significant amount of cap for the Bruins – well enough to extend the players listed above including Nordstrom. However, I believe the Bruins decide to let Nordstrom walk this free agency.
At 28-years-old, Nordstrom is an aging veteran that can be taking a roster spot from a young player that has been seeing time largely with the Providence Bruins down in the American Hockey League. Trent Frederic is a player, for example, that played 58 games for the P-Bruins in ’19/’20 and would be a preferred option in the bottom-six up in the big leagues.
It’s no secret at this point that the Boston Bruins are not getting any younger. With the forward core of Bergeron, Krejci, and Marchand in their 30s, the B’s need to start bringing in players like Frederic into the mix more consistently in order to keep the train rolling. In addition, Nordstrom’s strong performance as a member of the team likely only boosted his value to other teams – and could see a pay raise on his new deal.
If Boston’s management feels they cannot replace Nordstrom with players already in the system, they can also look to sign a potential role player in free agency – as they did with Joakim back in 2018. There is a plethora of bottom-six forwards set to expire in October, such as Flyers’ Tyler Pitlick, or Oilers’ Riley Sheahan who is coming off of similar contracts to that of Nordstrom.
There is also the slight possibility that General Manager Don Sweeney decides to finally pull the trigger on a long-awaited move for a solidified top-six winger to play alongside David Krejci due to the additional cap space freed up by Krug’s departure. In this scenario, I’d expect the Bruins to use organizational pieces on the fourth line instead of signing one in free agency to maximize the available cap space.
Overall, Joakim Nordstrom is a solid fourth-line forward for the Boston Bruins, but is he absolutely required to find success going forward? No. His role, while important, can be replaced in many different ways. I would be greatly surprised if he signs an extension with the Black and Gold.