As with defensemen, the Bruins don’t have enough cap space to re-sign their remaining free agents (Mark Stuart, Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille) and make a splash July 1 by signing a big-name unrestricted free agent.
So barring a major trade, Boston will be more likely in the market for a bottom-six winger.
There are two classes of bottom-six forwards. There are the guys who have accepted a role that involves more grit and hard work than skill. They usually kill penalties and can help out on draws and provide energy. Then there are the guys who were once multi-millionaires because of their skill and speed and over the years have lost their scoring touch a tad and might have to accept a lesser contract in order to keep their NHL careers going. Some have already transitioned into this stage of their careers.
The top guys in the first class to me are mostly centerman — John Madden, Dominic Moore and Rob Niedermayer. As far as wingers, Arron Asham and Richard Park are probably plum pick-ups. While the Bruins usually have no qualms about signing centers and filling them in on the wing if need-be, these veterans are probably still too rich for the Bruins’ blood within their current budget situation, and natural winger would probably best fit the team’s depth chart.
Guys that might more fit Boston’s plan would be former Bruins Glen Metropolit and Shean Donovan, and journeymen Jed Ortmeyer and Jon Sim. These guys will most likely be available on Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli’s “secondary market” — the players still waiting for a home after the chips fall with the high-end free agents. Re-signing Steve Begin could still be an option, as could a re-engagement with Miroslav Satan.
Satan falls into that second category, as a skill guy who’s getting up there in age and needs to keep his financial expectations relatively low. You can also count Pavel Demitra, Petr Sykora and Owen Nolan in this group. One of these guys might be worth taking a $1 million flyer on to see if they can provide some leadership and add punch to a second power play.
Then there are a few younger forwards that might have lower stocks this summer than they even had the last time they were available. Marek Svatos, Alex Tanguay, Raffi Torres are all 30 or younger and there’s no telling what type of deal they might get in a summer featuring their less-than-impressive recent resumes and a thin crop of skilled forwards on the market. Should one of these guys fall through the cracks, it wouldn’t be the worst thing for Boston to give that player a chance to resurrect his career on a one-year deal.
The bottom line is, the Bruins really have to make a trade — with Tim Thomas the prime candidate to go — in order to really guarantee a different look from last spring when they arrive in the fall. Of course, if they just return with what they’re currently carrying, they can still be a contender.