For many hockey fans, the day NHL free agency starts is a day for new beginnings, a chance to make amends for previous year’s failures with signings that will alter the direction of their favorite franchise, leading them to future success.
For many Bruins fans, those same hopes and dreams were front and center on October 9 at 12:00 PM...and then free agency actually started.
The first day
We all sat and watched as numerous free agents quickly signed across the league, with some going where we expected them to go and others heading to bitter division rivals.
Still, hope abounded as many of the league’s biggest FA’s remained unsigned. Plus, there were all those “insiders” claiming the Bruins were in on many of the top names available.
Initial doubts began creeping in, however, when we learned that Oliver Ekman-Larsson, who was either going to end up in Boston or Vancouver, ended up going nowhere, because the price wasn’t right for either suitor.
Whether you liked this potential acquisition or not, it would have undoubtedly been the huge move from Sweeney and Co. that many fans were seeking.
And then Torey Krug signed with the St. Louis Blues. We all knew Krug would be heading out of Boston, but no one assumed he’d go there, to THOSE guys.
For the fans, this one really hurt...but there were still guys out there that could fill his shoes or contribute in other ways Krug could not.
In the aftermath of this departure and just as fans were starting to really freak out, the Bruins finally made a move...resigning veteran Kevan Miller, a guy who hadn’t played the previous season.
While the fact that he’s healthy enough to sign a one-year extension is great news for Miller, it was hardly the signing Bruins fans were looking for.
On to Day 2...
Despite the inaction on Day 1, there was still a sense of optimism because the Bruins were on the short list to get Taylor Hall, perhaps the most coveted free agent available.
And while fans were waiting to this deal to materialize, Sweeney made his second signing, bringing in Craig Smith from Nashville for 3 years. While most fans and pundits would agree this was a decent deal for Boston, we all hoped it was only the beginning to big things to come...
...and then things went further south when Taylor Hall, for some inexplicable reason, signed with the Buffalo Sabres (are you kidding me???).
Hall stated before free agency began that he wanted to go to a Cup contender, and then he chose to sign with a team that hasn’t won a playoff series in a decade. It was supposed to be either the Bruins or Predators who signed him...what the ‘Hall’ happened?
Alright, let’s just make it to the beginning of the next week...
It didn’t get much better
To compound the anger of the Hall signing, Monday began a trend of guys who could really help the Bruins signing reasonable deals to play elsewhere.
Tyler Toffoli went to Montreal for $4.25 million, Erik Gustafsson signed with Philadelphia for $3 million, Tyson Barrie signed with Edmonton for $3.75 million, Vladimir Namestnikov signed with the Detroit Red Wings for $2 million.
To say Bruins fans have been displeased with Don Sweeney through nearly a week of free agency would be a massive understatement.
While there is no official comment from Twitter, rumor has it that Bruins fans complaints were so great that the platform almost broke. Shocking stuff.
But here’s the good news...
If you comb through the all-time NHL records, you’ll notice the shocking statistic that no team has ever won the Stanley Cup during the off-season.
All jokes aside, there are plenty of reasons why Bruins’ fans shouldn’t give up on the 2020-2021 season quite yet.
There are still plenty of impact players available
Players like Mike Hoffman, Evgenii Dadonov, Mikael Granlund, Anthony Duclair, Sami Vatanen, Alex Killorn, and Andreas Athanasiou could all make a positive impact for the B’s next season, and all are still available.
While many names have moved, it’s not like the shelves are completely bare.
Not all acquisitions need to be made in the off-season
While missing out on some key free agents hurts right now, there will certainly be some big names circulating in trade talks this season, including the aforementioned Taylor Hall.
The Bruins also have to sort our their injury and salary cap issues this off-season and early into next season, so playing the waiting game isn’t the worst idea right now for Don Sweeney.
Let’s say the Bruins go out fill all the current holes in their line-up with free agents. Where, then, does Jack Studnicka play next year? Or how about Urho Vaakanainen, Trent Frederic or even Jakub Zboril, who took positive steps toward becoming an NHL defenseman last season in the AHL?
It’s possible that Don Sweeney and the coaching staff of this team may want to see where these players are in their development and what they can contribute next season before making a significant moves that would subsequently limit their opportunities.
Let’s also not forget the great season Studnicka had last season in Providence. The 21 year old had an excellent rookie season, with 49 points in 60 games, including 7 shorthanded goals.
He didn’t look too out of place when given the chance to play these last playoffs either. Perhaps instead of looking externally for help, the Bruins will look internally first.
No one was more critical of Kase’s play this past season and playoffs than yours truly, but to completely write-off the 24-year-old Czech winger this early would be foolish.
When healthy, Kase has shown the skill and potential to be a bonafide top-6 winger in this league. There’s still hope that when given the chance to build chemistry with fellow Czech David Krejci, Kase could score 20+ in a Bruins uniform next season.
Missing out of some of the big names during free agent season is never fun, especially when a team like the Bruins are seeing the window close on their Stanley Cup aspirations.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that bringing in the top names available doesn’t always translate to winning. Every off-season and every trade deadline, there are moves made that are supposed to make teams instant favorites but ultimately do not pan out in the end.
The season is a long way from starting, and even after it begins, there is plenty of time to address your team’s needs and to make moves to improve your chances of winning.
In the meantime, perhaps a little patience is what Bruins fans need to acquire most this off-season, and give Don Sweeney and his staff more than a week to do their jobs.