(Photo Credit: Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis

The dust has finally settled on the first day of the Free Agency for the NHL, and the Boston Bruins made their mark in a major way. Don Sweeney and Co. were able to reel in two of the biggest names on the market while also losing several longstanding players to the open market. Here’s what went down:


Elias Lindholm

Contract: 7 years, 7.75 million

The Boston Bruins finally have a bonafide top-six center. 29-year-old Elias Lindholm will most likely slide in between David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha on the team’s first line. Lindholm will immediately upgrade a Bruins powerplay that took a step back last season, become the team’s go-to faceoff man in both the offensive and defensive zones, and give Jim Montgomery a high-end defensive center he can use to neutralize opposing offenses.

Don Sweeney got the best center on the market for under $8 million per year and has now positioned his team to have a supremely improved top-six over last season. If Lindholm can find chemistry with Pastrnak (and how difficult that will be), this will be a great signing.

Nikita Zadorov

Contract: 6 years, $5 million

Boston will have a new Big Z in town, and although he may not be as tall as Zdeno Chara, he is just as imposing. Zadorov stands at 6’5″, 220 lbs, and loves to play the body. He has eight straight seasons of 150+ blocked hits and has 60+ blocked shots in seven of the last eight seasons. Add to that his propensity for nastiness and desire to play with an edge, and what you get is a perfect fit for Boston.

The Bruins have long talked about being a more ‘playoff-caliber’ team, and you accomplish that when you sign guys like Zadorov. He has the mean streak of an enforcer but is also an effective defender in his own zone. He has three straight seasons of 20 or more points, and although offense isn’t his calling card, he registered 4-4-8 in 13 games in these playoffs. We’ll see how he ages, but this should be a great addition for the here and now.

Max Jones

Contract: 2 years, $2 million

The Bruins inked the 26-year-old Jones to a deal midway through the day Monday following the big splashes of Lindholm and Zadorov. Jones is a former first-round pick (24th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft) that continues a trend for Boston’s front office: big, physical bottom-six forwards. Jones is 6’3″, 216 lbs, and threw over 100 hits in his last two seasons with the Anaheim Ducks. He put up respectable numbers for a fourth-liner (5-10-15 in 52 games) and gives the Bruins depth at the bottom of their lineup.

Riley Tufte

Contract: One year, $775,000

In an interesting twist of fate, Riley Tufte is also a 26-year-old former first-round pick, selected 25th overall, one spot after Max Jones. Tufte played 67 games for the AHL-affiliate Colorado Eagles last season, notching 23 goals, 22 assists, and 45 points. He’s also a mountain of a man, standing at 6’6″, 230lbs. The mission was obvious this offseason: get bigger and get stronger. It remains to be seen whether or not Tufte has a shot to make the roster, but he’s another valuable depth piece for a team needing grit and snarl.

Billy Sweezey

Contract: Two years, $775,000

Sweezey is a 28-year-old right-shot defenseman who played 57 games for the Cleveland Monsters (AHL) last season, posting the following numbers: 1-3-4. At 6′, 206 lbs, Sweezey will help provide some depth and experience on the Providence Bruins’ blueline.

Cole Koepke

Contract: One year, $775,000

The 6’1″, 203-pound Koepke spent most of the 2023-24 season in the AHL skating for the Syracuse Crunch. In 53 games for the Crunch, he posted 20-19-39, good enough for second on the team in points. In his press conference, Don Sweeney made it clear that Koepke will have plenty of opportunity to make Boston’s roster in training camp and will be a solid piece to drive ‘internal competition.’

Jordan Oesterle

Contract: Two years, $1.5 million

Oesterle is a 32-year-old journeyman defenseman who has spent parts of the last eight seasons playing bottom-pairing minutes for Edmonton, Chicago, Detroit, Arizona, and, most recently, Calgary. He spent 30 games in the AHL last season, so at this point in his career, Oesterle could be a valued veteran to mentor and support the youth on Providence’s backend.

Jeffrey Viel

Contract: Two years, $1.5 million

Jeffrey Viel is a 27-year-old left wing who posted 17-23-40 in 69 games with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose last season. Before his first season with Manitoba, Viel spent five years on the West Coast, splitting time between the San Jose Sharks and their AHL affiliate. With some significant losses to Providence’s veteran group, Viel will be an instant upgrade to their forward group and help mentor Boston’s developing forwards. Don Sweeney didn’t rule out a potential run at a roster spot for Viel either, saying he had as good an opportunity as anybody in camp.


Jake DeBrusk

New Team: Vancouver Canucks

Contract: 7 years, $5.5 million

When the season ended, things didn’t seem promising between the Bruins and Jake DeBrusk, and when push came to shove, there just wasn’t enough room for him under Boston’s new cap constraints. DeBrusk finishes his Bruins career with 138 goals, 128 assists, and 266 points across 465 regular-season games. His playoff numbers for Boston looked like this: 27-20-47 in 86 games.

Considering how valuable he is to the team, it would’ve been nice to see DeBrusk stay in Boston. He can play any spot in the top nine, plays both his strong and weak-side wing positions, and consistently puts up 20 goals. DeBrusk could be in for a point increase as he may be stapled next to one of JT Miller or Elias Pettersson. Either way, he’ll be difficult for the Bruins to replace.

Danton Heinen

New Team: Vancouver Canucks

Contract: 2 years, $2.3 million

Heinen had somewhat of a career resurgence during his second stint with the Bruins, finishing with 17-19-36 in 74 games. Heinen famously joined the team on a PTO in training camp and had to wait almost ten games before being able to sign with the team officially. The Bruins will lose a valuable penalty killer and swiss-army-knife who filled many holes up and down the lineup.

Heinen was the one free-agent forward I expected the Bruins to attempt to retain. The money wasn’t outrageous, and based on the many roles he could play, I thought the team might have placed a higher value on him. But it looks like the team is prioritizing its need for size and scoring over the kind of defensive versatility Heinen brought.

Matt Grzelcyk

New Team: Pittsburgh Penguins

Contract: 1year, $2.8 million

Last year went about as poorly as it possibly could have for Matt Grzelcyk. He tore his oblique early in the season and could never regain his footing on Boston’s backend. Couple his underwhelming performance with the ascension of Mason Lohrei and Parker Wotherspoon, and you get a devastating recipe for an aging defenseman.

Grzelcyk hopes to improve his abysmal offensive numbers from last season (2-9-11 in 63 games) by joining a top-heavy Pittsburgh Penguins team with plenty of high-level talent. He finished his Bruins career playing seven full seasons with the team, scoring 25 goals, 110 assists, and 135 points over 445 games.

Derek Forbort

New Team: Vancouver Canucks

Contract: 1 year, $1.5 million

Derek Forbort spent much of last season on the injured list, battling a lingering groin issue that bothered him over the course of several seasons. At his best, Forbort has a chance-suppressing, puck-eating defenseman who dominates the penalty kill and thrives in his own zone. You have to wonder how many games he played injured and how that affected his performance on the ice.

The good news for Forbort is he’ll get an opportunity to join a promising, young Vancouver Canucks team that has Stanley Cup aspirations following their loss to Edmonton in the Western Conference Semifinals. Hopefully, Forbort can regain his form and stay healthy enough to make an impact out West.

Pat Maroon

New Team: Chicago Blackhawks

Contract: 1 year, $1.3 million

The shortest-tenured Bruin will take his talents to Chicago and join a roster full of former Bruins surrounding star prospect Connor Bedard. Maroon was lauded by his teammates for his presence in the locker room and his leadership, and Don Sweeney expressed some interest in re-signing him this offseason. It looks like Boston has opted to go the younger and more athletic route instead.