By: Andrew Lindroth | Follow me on Twitter! @andrewlindrothh
Two days into free-agency and Boston Bruins General Manager, Don Sweeney, has been relatively quiet while other teams are making moves to clear cap space and adding crucial pieces to improve their team. So far, Sweeney has announced the re-signing of defenseman Kevan Miller, and the latest addition to the Bruins, forward Craig Smith.
The Bruins are continuing desperately to find their top-six winger to play alongside David Krejci and find a defensive replacement for Torey Krug. Rumors revolving around the Bruins have been abundant, and Sweeney understands the need to formulate a trade or sign additional talent from FA soon.
One forward that the Bruins should be keeping tabs on is Vladislav Namestnikov. They currently have $11M+ available in cap space after signing Smith, so they can certainly make something work, especially if they can make trades to clear cap space.
Update. Bruins sign Craig Smith to 3 year deal. Leaving about $11.7M in cap space for next season's roster. pic.twitter.com/dZYSh6le7u— $11.7M=BruinsCapspace (@bruinscapspace) October 10, 2020
The 6’0, 184-pound forward is a versatile forward that could bring a lot of skill to the Bruins and has the ability and experience to play in any situation or role. He plays a tremendous two-way game, has lots of speed, and does not shy away from physical play.
Namestnikov had an odd 2019-2020 season, not only with the unprecedented pandemic pausing the season but also because he spent most of the time moving to another team and city. The forward played for three teams; two games played with the New York Rangers, 54 games played with Ottawa senators, and nine games played with the Colorado Avalanche.
Once Namestnikov joined the Avalanche, he quickly fit in and put up six points during those nine games before the season came to a screeching halt. He finished the season with 17 goals and 31 points in 65 games. That is something not easy to handle. His ability and willingness to quickly adapt and adjust to situations like that exemplify maturity and responsibility as a player.
Namestnikov would be an excellent choice for the Bruins, especially as a responsible forward that not only can put up points but be relied on in his own zone as well. He finished the past two seasons with a minus (+/-) but is usually in the plus zone. After playing 425 NHL games so far, the forward has a combined +7 rating.
Along with having the ability to play in all 5-on-5 situations, the Bruins may utilize him on the power-play and penalty-kill unit. Usually, on the second power-play unit(s), Namestnikov put up just four power-play points this past season. But, he shined on the penalty-kill this season where he led the league with four short-handed goals and a total of six short-handed points. Utilizing him on the penalty-kill would be significant, especially after losing forward Joakim Nordstrom. With Smith only playing five minutes on the penalty-kill the past five seasons, the Bruins will need Namestnikovs’ services. In the past two seasons, he accumulated 109 blocked shots and 248 hits.
Namestnikov is a natural center, and the Bruins are currently stockpiled in that position, so he would have to be moved to the wing. He is also a left-handed shooter, which could be an issue now that the Bruins picked up Craig Smith (who will most likely play to Krejci or Coyles’ right-wing) because that will force an odd man out among the middle-six forwards on either the left or right-wing.
Another problem is that Namestnikov is not a significant point-producer, and his career-high (48 points) came from the 2017-2018 season. That was also the only season in his career in which he scored 20+ goals. While his offensive potential is apparent, the Bruins need significant help with secondary scoring immediately. It may take time for him to create chemistry with a specific line and become offensively consistent.
The biggest issue with signing Namestnikov is the amount of money he will likely command on his next deal. His last contract was a two-year deal worth $4M AAV, and I would not be surprised if the forward is looking for a pay raise. Although he is versatile and can play in all types of situations/roles, he will most likely be utilized as a middle-six forward, and $4M AAV is not in the Bruins budget for a player with that role.
If the Bruins could somehow convince Namestnikov to take a ‘prove yourself’ contract, short-term, and less than $4M AAV, then I think it would be worth the risk to sign him. Although he is not a significant point-producer, he plays a responsible two-way game and is at his best during even-strength situations. It’s always possible that he creates solid chemistry with one of the Bruins’ forward lines and contributes 50+ points in a season.
We’re only two days into free agency, and so far, Don Sweeney has only announced the signings of two players. It will be interesting to see what Sweeney has up his sleeve over the next few days.