NHL Free Agency 2012: Who Boston Might Be Signing

He's no Zach Parise, but Ray Whitney might be a sensible addition for the Bruins.


In the first installment of my two part series on free agency, I talked about the Bruins' cap situation and why they wouldn't be making any big ticket signings, and said that Tuukka Rask would sign for something on the order of 4 years and $18 million. Of course, Rask signed about 2 hours after my article went up for a surprisingly low 1 year and $3.5 million, which apparently shows that I'm a better agent than Bill Zito.

We can fairly say that the Bruins are going to be making their moves with an eye to that 2013 free agent class. With the only truly important members of the 2012 free agent class retained (Rask and Chris Kelly) locked up and $9.4 million to spend (assuming they dump Tim Thomas' contract), the Bruins can make some moves. Ideally, any deals will be of the short-term variety to keep space for the 2013 class, which now includes Rask.

Boston's #1 priority is, of course, to add a legit first line talent. That's probably not happening. However, they can add some talent to the third line, and they should have the opportunity to do so. If indeed Peter Chiarelli is focusing on short term deals, that readily suggests a few targets:

Ray Whitney - Whitney is, I expect, the number 1 target on the Bruins board. It's all dependent on whether he's willing to leave Phoenix, but the Bruins have been in on Whitney for a few years. He's 40, but he scored 77 points last year, so he definitely has some gas in the tank. I would think he's at the point of his career where he's happy playing for 1 year contracts every year. 1 year and $5 million should be enough to get it done. A third line with Kelly and Rich Peverley would not only have an incredible amount of versatility, but would probably be the most offensively productive third line in the league.

Ryan Smyth - At 36, he's a kid compared to Whitney. Smyth is a bit more defensively able than Whitney; his -5 on an Oiler team whose approach to defense was frequently, "ah, Devyn Dubnyk's fine back there" is pretty impressive. With 46 points in 82 games, he obviously doesn't have quite the offensive punch Whitney does, but on a third line, there's not a thing wrong with those numbers. And Smyth is another player the Bruins have been sniffing around on occasion. He's probably more interested in a 2 or 3 year deal, which isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but it's not as attractive as a one year rental.

P.A. Parenteau - Parenteau scored 67 points and was paid $1.25 million last year, making him perhaps the league's biggest bargain. He's the latest of late bloomers, having not become an NHL regular until age 27, but he's played extremely well for a woeful Islanders team (but I repeat myself). Parenteau's market value is a real mystery to me. On numbers alone, he should be near the top of the free agent class and command a significant long term deal, but I get the sense that's not going to happen. He's another guy the Bruins have been looking at over the last year or so, and so it wouldn't surprise me if he's a target.

Brian Rolston - Rolston's something of a fallback option. If no one else pans out, the Bruins could do worse than to bring him back for something like 1 year and $2 million. With 15 points in 21 games, Rolston's second go-round with the team could scarcely have gone better. He's familiar with the team, and would likely welcome a return.

Paul Gaustad - If the Bruins want to make the third line into more of a shutdown group, this longtime rival (and Milan Lucic punching bag) could be a target. He's a defensively oriented guy who kills penalties and wins faceoffs. Teaming Gaustad and Kelly on the same line would give opposing offenses fits. I'd move Kelly to the wing, given that Gaustad's better on draws, but that's a side issue.

Jaromir Jagr- This is a longshot, obviously, since there's nothing to tie Jagr to Boston, other than the fact that his NHL career is apparently tethered to the northeastern US. But Jagr can score (54 points last year and a 9.6 GVT), would surely play on a one year deal, and isn't likely to command much more than the $3.3 million he made last year. If he wants to get out of Philadelphia (and really, who wouldn't?), he'd be worth a phone call.

Olli Jokinen - Cue the GIFs! It's hard for me to imagine the Bruins seriously considering Olli, but they should. Yes, he's got a rep as a bit of a floater, and there's probably good reason why he's about to go to his 7th NHL team, and he doesn't always, shall we say, "give a damn" on defense. But Jokinen can fill up the net, and as I've said previously, he can help the Bruins' oft-beleaguered power play. If he can score 60 points in a third line role, I would like to think Claude Julien would look the other way as he whiffs on a defensive assignment or 20.

I really don't see the Bruins making a free agent addition on defense of note. I think the team is going to rely on Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug's ascendance, and improvement from Adam McQuaid, as opposed to importing some help. However, there are a couple names to keep an eye on:

Carlo Colaiacovo - Colaiacovo posted a 4.7 GVT last year, making him a a very good third pair, or an adequate second pair player. He made $2.125 million and might be due a slight raise from that. Even at $3 million, he's a good value.

Greg Zanon - I'm guessing Zanon is headed for an exit from Boston; it's surely unfair to indict Zanon for this, but it seemed like every time Washington scored during the Bruins' first round series, Zanon was on the ice. He brings nothing offensively, but he doesn't have to; Boston already has plenty of offensively skilled defensemen. Pairing the defensively-responsible Zanon with Hamilton might allow the uber-prospect some freedom to grow his puck-moving game. If Zanon is willing to accept a 6th/7th defenseman role, he could return.

The goaltending market features slim pickings: Martin Biron is trending toward replacement level, Antero Nittymaki is already there, and Dwayne Roloson is fine, but I wonder whether the massive fork sticking out of his back will hinder his lateral movement. Martin Brodeur is supposedly testing the market, but I'll believe that he's leaving New Jersey when I see it. And in any case, he's vastly overrated and not coming to Boston to be a backup anyway, so it's moot from my perspective. I'm not entirely confident the Bruins are going to enter the season with a Rask/Anton Khudobin tandem, however, so they might be looking at one of these free agents:

Scott Clemmensen - Clemmensen is a guy who more than deserves a starting job. He's been between a .912 and .917 save percentage for four straight years so it's not like he's a fluke, and he would be more than good enough to step up in the unlikely event that Rask doesn't come through. Clemmensen has been flying under the radar for a few years, and at 34, I doubt that's going to change, so something like 2 years and $3 million should be more than enough to lure him.

Dominik Hasek - I'll come clean: I stole this idea from Hockey Prospectus. That Hasek is a worthwhile consideration is a testament to how cruddy this free agent market is for netminders. Hasek is 47 years old and his glory days are more than a decade in the past, but Hasek played very well in the KHL in 2011. That's significant; we don't have perfect comps from the KHL, but we do know it's the second best hockey league on the planet, so a good performance there usually translates to at least being useful at the NHL level. Rumor has it that Hasek is interested in coming back to the NHL, and in a backup role of 20-25 games, he wouldn't have to worry about back to back games or injury issues. He'd almost certainly come cheap, and fits the "one year deal" mold perfectly.

All in all, I don't expect this free agency period to be a very active one, but the Bruins should have the freedom to pursue one or two of the guys on this list. I think it's likely they pursue Whitney or Parenteau, and that they keep an open mind to bringing back Rolston and Zanon. Everyone else is probably a long shot. In any case, the Bruins you'll see in 2012-13 are going to look a lot like the 2011-12 vintage. And that's not the worst thing in the world.

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