Boston Bruins Best And Worst Free Agent Signings

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The Boston Bruins are one of the most iconic franchises in hockey history. An original six franchise that has seen some of the most recognizable names sport the black and gold and represent the spoked B with pride. A lot of that was more manageable as we did not live in a salary cap era. Even though we do now live in a salary cap world, the team has managed to bring in talent to add to their core that consists of homegrown talent. The Boston Bruins have made numerous free agent signings.

The Best And Worst Signings By The Boston Bruins

As the cap era began, the Bruins were headed in a different direction. On November 30, 2005 the team would move on from star centre Joe Thornton. The Bruins had centre Patrice Bergeron emerging and a core of players they’ve drafted was climbing the ranks. There have been names that have made you jump for joy, and others that make you want to run to the General Managers’ front office and ask him a few questions. Let’s take a look at some of the best and the worst free agent signings that the Boston Bruins have made in the salary cap era.

NHL free agent frenzy

Best Signings: Zdeno Chara

There was no signing any greater than the Boston Bruins signing Zdeno Chara. Not only were the Bruins going to get a premiere defenseman, but they were also getting a player they could build the team around. Like all great Bruins teams of the past, it had a great defenseman. And Chara was it. Interim General Manager at the time Jeff Gorton signed the big blue liner to a contract in July 2006. He signed a five-year contract that was worth $37.5 million dollars and carried an AAV of $7.5 million. This was a sign of what was to come for the franchise.

Chara was coming off a solid season for the Ottawa Senators. He set career highs that year with 16 goals and 43 points in 71 games. Gorton went on to state, “He is a big reason why Ottawa allowed the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference last season and that is one area that we were committed to improving on our team”. The Bruins were getting a high calibre talent for a very long time.

The Impact

Chara was the greatest signing in franchise history. He was named captain and would serve as captain his entire tenure with the club. The Bruins began to build something special and in 14 seasons with the Bruins, they made the postseason 11 times. He would go on to captain the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup Victory in 39 years after they defeated the Vancouver Canucks. Chara would win the Norris Trophy as the league’s best defenceman in 2009.

While Chara had big expectations in Boston when he signed, it’s fair to say he surpassed those expectations. He has become a Bruins legend, and his signing altered the franchise. He was the catalyst that turned the Bruins into a perennial contender in the Eastern Conference for over a decade.

Honourable Mention: Marc Savard

In addition to signing Chara, the Bruins made another big splash move to improve the club. After a big year with the Atlanta Thrashers at the time, Savard bolted and was shipping up to Boston. He would end up signing a four-year contract that was worth $20 million dollars. Gorton had kind words to say about the addition, that turned out to be true going forward. “Marc is one of the top playmaking centers in the game today,” Gorton said. “He will fit in well with the skill players we have on our team and the direction in which we are headed.”

There is always something to be said for timing. While Savard lived up to his promise, the Bruins had several young players coming into their own at the same time. Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic were all establishing themselves as star players in the NHL. Bringing in Savard at that time was the perfect fit for these guys to lean on. Savard earned that payday. A talented center, Savard was one of the premier playmakers at the time. He was coming off a career year before signing that saw him score 28 goals, 69 assists, and 97 points.

The Impact

The team was undergoing a complete overhaul at the time. Along with Chara, this was the next best move to alter the club. Savard was indeed a great Bruin regardless of his injury history. During his time with the Bruins, Savard would go on to score 305 points in 304 games played. Savard ended up being the type of signing that all teams hope for when they make a splash in free agency. His first three seasons in Boston saw him finish with point totals of 96, 78, and 88.

Unfortunately, injuries ended his career early. His playing days would end after the 2010-11 season. But Savard was an important signing and one that changed the direction of the club going forward.

Worst Free Agent Signings: Matt Beleskey

Considered one of the best unrestricted free agents in the 2015 draft class, Matt Beleskey struck a nice payday with the Boston Bruins. He would sign a five-year deal that had an AAV of $3.8 million dollars per season. Beleskey was coming off a strong season with the Anaheim Ducks. He scored 22 goals, 10 assists, and 32 points in 65 games. His performance in the playoffs put him on the map with eight goals. Milan Lucic was traded to the Los Angeles Kings, and this move showed signs that the Bruins were continuing to contend.

Why It Was The Worst

First and foremost, the Bruins missed the playoffs in 2015 and missed again in 2016. That whole contention part never worked out after signing him. Beleskey also went on to have one good season in Boston. In 2015-16 he scored 37 points in 80 games and never came close ever again. He suffered an injury to his knee and never returned to form. The forward would go on to spend time with the Providence Bruins and would never regain that level of play they brought him in for. The biggest kicker, he was sent in a trade package along with Ryan Spooner, Ryan Lindgren, a 2018 first-round pick, and a 2019 seventh-round pick for Rick Nash. Ryan Lindgren is now a foundational piece for the New York Rangers and the Bruins got half a season of Nash and one good season for Beleskey.

Honourable Mention: David Backes

The 2016 free agent class saw some of the worst contracts handed out. Players were paid big contracts but were unable to live up to their salaries. The Boston Bruins are one of the teams that got burnt signing a big name in 2016.

Long-time St. Louis Blues captain David Backes landed on the open market. The Bruins signed him to a five-year contract that carried a $6 million dollar AAV. The issue was Backes was 32 at the time and had already started to decline. It was a deal that looked bad as soon as it was announced.

Why This Is Among The Worst

Backes leaving St. Louis was a big deal at the time. He was the face of the team. The hype surrounding his arrival in Boston was big. Things did not go as planned, unfortunately. For a guy making $6M per season, fans were expecting more. In his first season in Boston, Backes scored 17 goals, 21 assists, and 38 points in 74 games. Not bad numbers but not exactly the numbers you want from a $6 million dollar player.

Things only went downhill from there. He suffered injury after injury and even served a suspension. After his first season, he put up point totals of 33 points in 57 games and a brutal 20 points in 70 games. He would be on the move as he was sent packing to the Anaheim Ducks.

This is part of the danger when spending big money in free agency. Yes, Backes was a big name at the time, but his best days were clearly behind him. The Bruins gave him a big contract that, in reality, he could never live up to. Still, Backes completely fell off in Boston. In his four years in Boston, he scored 39 goals and 94 points in 214 games.

Conclusion

These were the best and worst Boston Bruins free agent signings. Made by two different general managers and resulted in different franchise directions. You really do win some and lose some when it comes to free agency. The Bruins in this case won big and lost big at the same time. And in regards to one particular player, the fans are forever grateful.