By: Ryan Ellis | Follow Me On Twitter @_RyEllis_
At this point in the off-season, NHL fans can get a good look at their projected opening night rosters. The big free agents are off the board and will be reporting to their respective camps at some point in the next few weeks. The newest additions to the Boston Bruins have been critiqued and graded ad nauseam. Reporters, analysts, and fans alike have played musical chairs to fill the gaps left by the faithfully departed. Bruins fans especially appear to be split as to whether this Bruins’ team as constructed will be a force to be reckoned with or a team destined for an early playoff exit.
I believe the team we see on paper today is the team that will ultimately be lacing them up in the TD Garden on October 16th against the Dallas Stars. That doesn’t mean that Don Sweeney & Co. are resting on their laurels. There is still plenty of time to speculate potential trades and Professional Tryouts, often referred to as PTOs. PTO’s could un-tap the potential of a player who may have suffered a down year or two and is looking for a short-term and short money deal to reestablish their value.
To many, the free-agent signings made by the Bruins haven’t fully satiated the fan base. Bringing in a few veterans for PTO’s could be beneficial even if the players brought in don’t crack the roster. Those on the big club bubble or trying to win their bottom six positions could be motivated by the competition.
As it stands today, I have two players in mind that are still available and could be inclined to take a short-term deal, especially with a contending club like the Boston Bruins. Despite the Derek Forbort signing and the return of Mike Reilly, the left-side D is a concern for many fans. John Moore is reportedly healthy, but that’s not moving the needle for many. Sweeney brought in a slew of forwards in Nick Foligno, Eric Haula, and Tomas Nosek to address depth scoring, veteran presence, and a bit of toughness. That’s not to mean the expected bottom six and depth pieces couldn’t use a shot in the arm to prove their value. Let’s dive into the two players I’d like to see Sweeney kick the tires on if willing to sign on for a PTO.
Aggressive Left-Side D-Man: Erik Gustaffson
If you don’t know by now, you’ll soon find out I am a total sucker for puck-moving left-shot defensemen. Apparently, the Bruins are too. In a position that lacks depth, the top pieces in place being Matt Grzelcyk and Mike Reilly, who both share that skill set. Bringing in Gustaffson on a PTO could have those guys peering over their shoulders as the 29-year-old blue-liner is just a few seasons removed from a 60 point campaign with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2018-2019.
Gustaffson is known as an all-or-nothing type of player. The same decisions that can lead to celebration can also lead to disappointment. However, putting up those types of offensive numbers can help ease the pain caused by his inconsistencies. The Bruins coaching staff would need to get him to refrain from thinking ahead offensively while defending the rush for him to be worth keeping around.
His fearlessness in shot-blocking attempts coupled with his ability to push the puck up the ice could lead to some highlight-reel material with his breakout skills to talented rush wings like Brad Marchand or Taylor Hall. Pairing Gustafsson with a stronger defensive-minded D-man, such as Brandon Carlo, would help cover his inefficiencies.
If strategically utilized, a player with his skill sets could easily benefit a team with playoff hopes. With no deal in place and just a few weeks from camps opening, the veteran could most likely be signed in the neighborhood of $1MM or even the minimum if he impresses on a PTO. Wouldn’t that be more appealing than having oft-injured John Moore giving you significant minutes in the event of injury?
Scoring Depth with Power Play Potential: Alex Chiasson
I’m on the record as very happy with the off-season forward depth brought in by Sweeney. Is there always room for improvement? Of course, there is. The sizable gap left by David Krejci’s departure to the Mother Land will ultimately have Cassidy trying out several line combinations. Not just on even-strength but the powerplay as well.
Enter, Alex Chiasson. The 30-year-old right-wing is no stranger to PTO’s. In the last few seasons, he cracked the Washington Capitals and Edmonton Oilers rosters after a PTO. Chiasson adds a scoring touch and a powerplay depth option to the bottom six. His numbers give him a distinct offensive advantage over the other players vying for a 4th line role. His ability to slide into the PP or PK if needed is a commodity not to be overlooked.
Alex Chiasson’s skill set could land him a deal as Boston’s 13th or 14th forward if not a more consistent role if he shines or another player struggles. Physicality and the ability to score are some things the 4th line could certainly improve upon. That is the potential Chiasson could bring to the table.
There’s no telling yet whether or not the Bruins bring in anyone, let alone these two, on a PTO. There are young pieces that have bounced back in forth between Providence and Boston for several years and a few that are still looking for their opportunity. Bringing in any player on a PTO could both help and hurt that development. If the pros outweigh the cons, a contending team that many see as having a looming expiration date may opt for more veteran moves instead of letting the kids play.
If no moves are made before October 16th, I will not be yelling at clouds or bitching on Twitter. I like this team. I’m excited to see what a full, 82-game season with fans in the building will bring. That being said, I am all about getting the most out of the guys under contract. PTO’s with some veterans who have seen some success, albeit a few years removed from it, could light a fire under the asses of those who still need to earn their roster spot. Let me know @_RyEllis_ who you’d like to see the Bruins bring in for a PTO.