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It was not the fireworks that everyone wanted, but Don Sweeney was active during free agency. While it was not the flashiest toys in the bin, Sweeney rounded out the roster with veterans.
The deals are on the cheaper side of things. But the players brought in help fill specific roles to round out the roster. Unfortunately, Boston parted ways with key players. The core group is intact, and not all the signings were terrible. Here is how the new players will help impact the club.
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The Man With The Plan
Don Sweeney and the Boston Bruins gambled and put all their chips in the middle. While that was the right move, the results on the ice did not get the expected results. The real work is underway, and planning for the upcoming season.
With the limited salary cap at his disposal, Sweeney opted to do a different route. Shifting the course and having to plan accordingly was expected. The bonus overages carried over, and the wealth was not in full. Boston is where they are, but it is not the end of the world. Here are the players brought in, and now they can impact the lineup.
How The Players Will Impact
The ultimate fan favorite is returning home. After the rumors floated around about his potential return, Milan Lucic is indeed a Boston Bruin. What a way to kick off the 100th season of Boston Bruins hockey.
After trading away Nick Foligno to Chicago and seeing Garnet Hathaway sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, revamping the bottom of the lineup is in need. This is where Lucic comes in.
Lucic is nowhere near the same player he was in his first stint with Boston, but his intangibles are what is worth bringing in. Lucic still skates hard and forechecks harder. He is always willing to finish his checks and stick up for his teammates. His 168 hits ranked him fifth among all players on the Flames this season.
Not to mention, his leadership and veteran presence go a long way for this core group. However, do not expect an influx of production. He has scored no more than ten goals in the last five seasons. His 20-goal days may be behind him.
At best, Lucic is a cheaper version of Foligno and is a depth forward. Lucic slots in on the fourth line bringing a physical element to the lineup. The nostalgia factor is in full swing, and Boston fans and the organization get to rejoice that he has returned. Just thinking of Lucic and Trent Frederic causing chaos on Causeway is delightful.
It is tough to fault Shattenkirk for his ability defensively. Anaheim was one of the worst teams across the board. Defensively structured, they played poorly and averaged the most shots on goal against. Despite all those things, Shattenkirk held his own.
Shattenkirk has the tools to help generate offense. While he lacks the excellent finishing ability, he is a playmaker and pushes the play forward. In addition, Shattenkirk had the second most expected goals for (46.21) among all Anaheim defensemen. Not to mention he had the second-best Corsi For (44.05). Those numbers seem poor, but Anaheim was chasing the game more than controlling it. He will fill in for Connor Clifton, who signed a new deal with the Buffalo Sabres.
To have a veteran like Shattenkirk help anchor the third pair is enormous. Even though Anaheim was poor, his pairs did okay. He spent the most time alongside Benoit. Together they averaged 2.17 expected goals for and 3.03 against. His best pair was alongside Cam Fowler. Together they averaged 2.37 expected goals against and did a good job suppressing the opposition.
In addition, they maintained that expected rate throughout the season. Shattenkirk can thrive if paired with the right person. He and Benoit were not good offensively and, even worse, defensively. But with Fowler, the two took off offensively. Furthermore, Shattenkirk can be deployed on the power play if they need reinforcements.
Throughout his career, he has 199 points on the power play. In addition, he has hit the 40-point mark five times and 30 points twice in the last four seasons. Production from the back end at a cheap value is enormous for the Bruins. It is a low-risk, high-reward deal, and Shattenkirk will be in a better system than in Anaheim.
James Van Riemsdyk
This one was bizarre. James van Riemsdyk is a guy who has been known to crush the Bruins wherever he played. Now he gets to wear the black and gold with pride. Given the departure of Taylor Hall and Tyler Bertuzzi, depth on the wings is critical.
Van Riemsdyk is the perfect Bruin. He is a big-bodied power forward who is unafraid to go to the high-danger areas. Furthermore, he uses his big frame to park himself in front of the net. With him on the ice, attempts from the area were 178-136 and a goal differential of 18-11. This huge element worked wonders for Boston during the 2022-23 season. Furthermore, he has had a productive career. Just the last five seasons, he has displayed point totals of 48, 40, 43, 38, and 23. Whether he is playing alongside Charlie Coyle or Pavel Zacha, production should be high for him.
Despite the Flyers being a poor offensive team, good things happened when van Riemsdyk was on the ice. Philadelphia had above 50% for Corsi and Fenwick with him on the ice. At 5v5, expected goals were 33.96-29.72, meaning the game was tilted in the Flyers’ favor. Those are strong numbers for a team that was chasing the game constantly. Spending time alongside Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett, they were the club’s best line.
The trio scored 16 goals (most of any line combo), and that surpassed their 11.6 expected goals for. Safe to say van Riemsdyk was a good player on a poor team. With better players in Boston, he should deliver that same impact. Van Riemsdyk is good at both ends of the ice and plays a 200-foot game. He is climbing up there in age but still brings plenty to the table.
When it comes to the top of the lineup, the Boston Bruins are set. Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Charlie Coyle, and Jake DeBrusk spearhead the attack. However, the goal is to round out the lineup with impactful depth. This is where Morgan Geekie comes into the mix.
It appears the vision was to get bigger and tougher. Lucic, van Riemsdyk, and now Geekie all stand tall at 6’3 and weigh 200 pounds. The other thing in common is their ability to play a physical game. Geekie is another big body that forechecks hard. In addition, he finished with 53 hits on a physical Seattle Kraken club.
Geekie brings more than just his size and physicality. In his young career, he is coming off a career season. Geekie set a career-high in goals (9), assists (19), and points (28). In fact, Geekie scored right at his expected rate. He is a playmaking center, with 11 of his 19 assists being the primary ones. His Faceoff percentage was right in the middle (49.5% success rate). This is the perfect depth piece at a fair-valued contract. Boston has always managed to find players like this and have them contribute to the bottom of the lineup.
There will be young guys in Providence to challenge for the bottom of the lineup. However, Sweeney has ensured depth will be filled in this lineup. The biggest kicker is that it is impactful depth.
Staying The Course
This summer will not be the standard way of things. Unfortunately, this is just the situation the organization has found themselves in. It is fair to say that they are doing their best, given the circumstances.
The roster is filled with bargain contracts and veteran presences. Not to mention, Sweeney did lock up Jakub Lauko to a two-year contract. It helps complement a steady core that is in place. Furthermore, promising young talent is also rising and can make the roster.
Patience is a virtue. There will be light at the end of the tunnel. Next summer is the summer of a spending spree. Even though there are key decisions to make, they will be in good shape. This summer is not the summer of fun, but next summer is. Sweeney will have roughly $26 million in salary cap to work with. This year is not the norm for the future.