|07.01.16 at 5:47 pm ET|
In addition to the signings of David Backes, John-Michael Liles and Anton Khudobin, the Bruins announced Friday that they had agreed to contracts with forwards Riley Nash and Tim Schaller while also re-signing defenseman Tommy Cross and forward Tyler Randell.
Nash’s deal is a two-year pact worth $900,000 annually. Originally taken 21st overall by the Oilers, the now 27-year-old center has played all 242 games of his NHL career with the Hurricanes. Last season, he scored nine goals and added 13 assists for 22 points in 64 games.
Cross, Randell and Schaller all received one-year, two-way deals worth $600,000 at the NHL level. The 35th overall pick in the 2007 draft, Cross played the first three NHL games of his career last season and also captained the Providence Bruins.
As for Randell, the feisty winger enjoyed a hilariously strong and definitely unrepeatable 33.33 percent shooting percentage last season over his 27 games, as six of the 18 shots on goal with which he was credited went in the net. He figures to push for a job similar to the one he had last season as a fringe fourth-liner/extra forward on the NHL roster.
Schaller, 25, played 17 games for the Sabres last season, scoring one goal and adding two assists for three points. In 35 career NHL games, Schaller has two goals, three assists and five points.
|07.01.16 at 5:23 pm ET|
The best question on David Backes’ introductory conference call was asked by himself.
Or, at least, it was a question he recalled asking the Bruins as they went about trying to sign the former Blues captain.
“Through the process I was asking questions and didn’t want to pull myself out of being part of the Bruins, but I said, ‘You’ve got Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who are top-tier center-icemen and are both right-handed,’” Backes said. “’You’re going to bring me in as another right-handed center men. Your top three center men are all going to be right-handed. How’s that going to work?’”
The elephant in the room that follows Backes’ signing is that someone’s either got to go or be used differently. Ryan Spooner is the Bruins’ sole left-shot center, so could Krejci be traded? Could Backes be moved to wing? Backes said that his talks with the B’s prior to signing focused “mostly” on him playing center, but he allowed for the possibility of playing right wing, as he did during the postseason for the Blues.
“If a guy like Spooner can play the third-line center and I move up to the right side with [Brad] Marchand and Bergeron, that gives us a heavy, responsible line that can put a lot of pucks in the net,” Backes said.
“If you want to call me third-line, I completely respect that,” Backes said. “Those two other guys are awesome, but I’ve got to imagine that we’re going to share a lot of responsibility and not burden one guy with all the hard ice or the heavy lifting. When you have responsible guys that can share those roles, then we can all flourish on the other side of the ice and have tons of energy to go out for the ends of games to close it out or score a late big goal.”
The number of right-shot centers presents something of a redundancy. The length of his contract, however, is what is most worrisome. Backes has stayed healthy throughout his career, but one has to wonder who he will hold up in the final two years of his deal.
“I’m 32; I’m not 52,” Backes said. “I think there’s plenty of legs and plenty of physicality and energy left in me. The terms that I’ve come to, people may have questions, but for me, I expect to still be at the top of my game for the last year and still be a contributing member for the Boston Bruins.”
Added Backes: “I don’t think the game’s getting slower. It’s a fast game, but if you start to manage the puck in the right way, you can occupy the offensive zone and do a lot of the things that teams that are heavy and control the puck and occupy the zone do, it’s not a track meet up and down the ice. With Pittsburgh winning the Cup, a team that was kind of designed on that track meet, ‘let’s go, let’s see who can skate the fastest up the ice,’ there may be a trend or a tendency to try to start to build teams like that, but you’ve also seen teams in the LA Kings and the Boston Bruins win playing that heavy game and maybe not having the fastest team, but winning every battle that you get into, being able to control the puck once you get it.”
|07.01.16 at 5:11 pm ET|
As of Thursday, the Bruins seemed all but out of the running for Loui Eriksson, with their final offer not suiting what the 30-year-old wing was confident he would get on the open market.
As it turned out, Eriksson was right.
During negotiations, Eriksson’s camp made it clear that they felt worthy of a six-year, $36-million deal. According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the Bruins’ final offer to Eriksson was for five years with a cap hit in the low $5-million range. Eriksson ended up getting six and $6 million annually from the Canucks, with the Bruins finalizing a five-year deal with the same average annual value for 32-year-old David Backes shortly after. Eriksson got nearly $30 million of his deal in signing bonus money.
Eriksson’s deal with the Canucks carries a full no-move clause in its first two years, a full no-trade clause in the next two years and a limited no-trade in the final two years. Negotiations with the Bruins never reached the point of no-trade rights because of the gap in term and dollars.
|07.01.16 at 2:28 pm ET|
Loui Eriksson wasn’t the only veteran right wing the Bruins lost in free agency on Friday, as Lee Stempniak departed on a two-year deal from the Hurricanes that will pay him an average of $2.5 million annually. Brett Connolly, whom the B’s could have kept as a restricted free agent but declined to tender a qualifying offer, signed a one-year deal with the Capitals.
Stempniak, who skated with the Bruins in their informal practices prior to training camp but chose to take a professional tryout with the Devils, scored 16 goals in 63 games for New Jersey before he was dealt to Boston for second and fourth-round picks. The Hurricanes will be Stempniak’s 10th NHL team.
The Bruins had interest in bringing back Stempniak, but ultimately spent the early hours of free agency signing fellow deadline acquisition John-Michael Liles as well as David Backes and, reportedly, goaltender Anton Khudobin.
Connolly’s departure officially ends a very disappointing stint in Boston for the Lightning’s 2010 sixth overall pick. Boston traded two second-round picks for Connolly at the 2015 trade deadline, but a broken finger limited him to five games with Boston that season and he followed it with a nine-goal 2015-16 season.
Also leaving the Bruins in unrestricted free agency was Zach Trotman, who took a one-year deal with the Kings. Matt Irwin, who played two games for the B’s last season before being banished to Providence, signed a two-year deal with Nashville.
|07.01.16 at 1:24 pm ET|
The Bruins opted against signing a soon-to-be 31-year-old Loui Eriksson to the six-year, $36 million contract he got with Vancouver and instead gave the same average annual value to 32-year-old David Backes.
So essentially, the Bruins decided they would rather $6 million a year to Backes at age 37 than Eriksson at 37. At face value given their styles of play, Eriksson would seem the better bet to be more productive at that age, though the Bruins shouldn’t be besmirched for opting against Eriksson’s deal. With the caveat that they’re likely not done making moves, the initial reaction here is that, if anything, they perhaps shouldn’t have done either contract.
There is no question that Eriksson is a better possession player and more of a scorer than Backes, but the Bruins, to a fault, value grit. Here’s a comparison of Backes and Eriksson, per Own the Puck:
|07.01.16 at 1:10 pm ET|
Though other suitors made their pushes, Milan Lucic’s time as a free agent was predictably short-lived before he reunited with Peter Chiarelli in Edmonton. The former Bruins left winger, who turned 28 last month, received a seven-year, $42 million deal from the Oilers.
Lucic, who has had the likes of David Krejci and Anze Kopitar as his centers, will now play with generational talent Connor McDavid.
“It was him and Peter,” Lucic told WEEI.com after signing. “I wanted to be part of something special.”
The Oilers brought in Lucic for a free agent visit earlier this week, at which point it was reported that the sides had agreed in principle to a deal. Lucic denied that and continued to field offers from other teams before ultimately settling in Edmonton.
|07.01.16 at 12:19 pm ET|
The Bruins have signed former Blues center David Backes to a five-year deal carrying an average annual value of $6 million. News of the signing was first broken by the Boston Globe’s Fluto Shinzawa.
At 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, Backes has been a strong center throughout his career in St. Louis, but his age (32) and decline to this point makes a five-year deal at his price worrisome. It also raises the question of the Bruins’ intentions with Ryan Spooner, who served as the team’s third-line center last season. Should Backes be used as a center, it could make Spooner or David Krejci expendable.
While center was not a need for the Bruins, Backes’ signing still feels somewhat predictable. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney raised eyebrows early this offseason when he mentioned the possibility of exploring the center market, but the Bruins’ fascination with gritty players (and — are you noticing this? — Americans) seemed to paint Backes as their dream player. Backes was the first runner-up for the Selke Trophy when Patrice Bergeron won it in the 2011-12 season.
Last season, Backes scored 21 goals and added 24 assists for 45 points in 79 regular-season games for the Blues. He added seven goals and seven assists for 14 points in 20 postseason games. The Minnesota native captained the Blues for the last five seasons.
The team also reportedly re-upped defenseman John-Michael Liles on a one-year, $2 million deal. The team acquired Liles from the Hurricanes at the trade deadline last season. The 35-year-old skated in 17 games for Boston.