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2022 Player Ratings: Was it Chris Wagner’s Bruins curtain call?

It took a 82 games, but Chris Wagner made it back to the NHL.

Carolina Hurricanes v Boston Bruins - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Chris Wagner in 2022

Key stats: 1 GP, 0PTS, 11 hits

Additional stats: 3 playoff GP

Reader rating: 4.2

Writer rating: 4.7

There isn’t much to write about Chris Wagner’s 2021-2022 season. There are precisely four games – one regular season matchup and three playoff games – by which to judge Wagner’s season.

The local boy from Walpole became a fan favorite after his career-best 19-point season and his contributions to the Boston Bruins’ run to the 2019 Stanley Cup final. The least we can do is acknowledge he was here in 2021-22.

Going into his age 30 season, Wagner’s position on the Bruins roster became tenuous after his offensive production declined sharply for three straight seasons.

With the addition of Curtis Lazar, who joined the Bruins alongside Taylor Hall at the 2021 trade deadline, and the signings of Tomas Nosek and Nick Foligno, the battle for consistent fourth-line minutes became a tight one.

With the added presence of young players like Anton Blidh, Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Jack Studnicka, and Oskar Steen, among others, it already looked like the competition would be a heated one.

The final blow to Wagner’s status as a full-time NHLer came with his contract. With a $1.35 million cap hit, he was, along with John Moore, a better option to go on waivers and save on cap space compared to the other options.

It was still somewhat of a shock when the Bruins placed Wagner on waivers a week before the season began because Lazar started the season on injured reserve.

Unfortunately for Wagner, he’d have to wait until the final game of the regular season versus the Toronto Maple Leafs to make it back to the NHL.

In the meantime, he spent his time with the Providence Bruins productively, amassing 27 points in 62 games while being the consummate pro and accepting his assignment in the minors.

Wagner made an impact when he returned to the NHL in a game where many of the Bruins’ stars had the night off. Literally, he made many impacts on Leafs players. He registered 11 hits in that game, six more than Blidh and Josh Brown, to lead the team.

This was the Bruins’ final game of the season, and Wagner knew he had to demonstrate his value to make the playoff roster.

Instead of sending him back to the minors with the other four players that the Bruins demoted after the game, Wagner made the Bruins’ playoff roster.

Bruce Cassidy inserted Wagner into the lineup in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal against the Carolina Hurricanes, with the team down two games to none.

The team would earn its first win with Wagner on the ice. Though he didn’t find the scoresheet, he did have an effective game, managing more shot attempts than his line surrendered.

His second game of the playoffs, Game 4 versus the Hurricanes, was the opposite. The Bruins relied on a spectacular performance from their best players to cover the uneven play from their third and fourth lines.

Though Wagner performed better in Game 5 and registered four hits, the Bruins would lose, and Wagner sat the final two games of the series.

As often happens in the NHL’s salary cap era, Wagner’s 2021-22 season fell victim to his previous success and the compensation that came along with it. As he crept toward 30 years old and his production declined, even as a bottom-six forward, it became more valuable to the Bruins to have cheaper players on the ice in his place.

However, in the few instances he was in the NHL lineup, he did make some difference.

Wagner is still under contract for the Bruins, although their salary cap situation is worse than last season, so 2021-22 may have been our last opportunity to see Chris Wagner play for his hometown team.