It has been a busy few weeks for the Bruins, and with free agency officially having opened in the NHL this past Wednesday, the team made numerous moves to improve its roster going into the 2015-16 season and beyond.
Goalie Martin Jones (who Boston acquired from LA in the Milan Lucic deal) seemed like a shoe-in to be Tuukka Rask’s backup but he was subsequently flipped to San Jose for a first-round pick in 2016 and forward Sean Kuraly, who last season played in college for Miami of Ohio. The B’s also traded a third round pick in 2017 to Philadelphia for enforcer Zac Rinaldo. Left wing Matt Beleskey (who was one of the most coveted free agents on the market) was signed to a five-year deal worth $19 million. Boston traded winger Reilly Smith to Florida for Dorchester native Jimmy Hayes and they re-signed forward Ryan Spooner to a two-year deal and goaltender Jeremy Smith to a one-year, two-way contract. Finally, the B’s signed free agent defenseman Chris Breen who played with the Providence Bruins last season to a one-year, two-way contract.
With Beleskey and Hayes, the Bruins have made a conscious decision to get tougher around the net, something which they struggled with all of last season.
“They bring a hard-nosed, get-to-the net attitude,” said GM Don Sweeney about the newest B’s forwards. “I think we feel good where we are in the center ice position, to be able to distribute pucks and these guys are hopefully continuing to be on the rise. They both had breakout years and that’s hopefully just the beginning.”
At 27-years-old, Beleskey is coming off a career-high 22 goals last regular season (and eight in the playoffs) with Anaheim. He seems like a worthy replacement for Lucic on the first line, especially since he’s a left-hand shot and is physical like the now-former Bruin. The biggest issue with Beleskey has been staying healthy. He has played just one NHL season in which he played in over 70 games.
Beleskey still has plenty to prove but is excited to make a run at it in a true hockey market.
“Boston’s always been a team that I’ve watched,” he noted. “Obviouisly, the Big Bad Bruins has been something I’ve loved as a player and as a fan of the game. You know, guys like Cam Neely you watch as a kid, you look up to. An Original Six team with an amazing fan base.”
Hayes is 25 and he starred at BC, winning a National Championship at The Heights in 2010. He’s a native son - along with his younger brother Kevin who is a forward on the Rangers - so it has to be a thrill for him to return here as a professional. He scored a career-high 19 goals for the Panthers last season and at 6-foot-6, 221 pounds, he will be - by far - the biggest Bruins forward on a team that is mostly undersized on the front end.