Is Alex Petrovic just the beginning of the Bruins’ contingency plan should restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo not be signed by training camp?
As reported here Sunday by Alex Thomas, the Boston Bruins have offered unrestricted free agent defenseman a professional tryout contract. This came just days after team President Cam Neely told Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston that the Bruins were ready to begin their contingency plan if the two future backbones of the Bruins defense aren’t in camp. However, even with Petrovic there – should he accept the offer – the team would still be rather thin on the right side of their defense.
Without McAvoy and Carlo, but with Petrovic on board, the Bruins would still have just him and only two healthy defensemen, Steven Kampfer and Connor Clifton, under contract and with NHL experience on the right side. Right-shooting veteran defenseman Kevan Miller is expected to miss at least the first month of the season as he recovers from knee surgery performed this past June. Based on recent conversations with amateur and pro scouts, prospect Axel Andersson would be the only right-side defenseman that would have a chance of making the NHL roster should the Bruins decide to fill out depth from within their system. The remaining three defensive prospects that would have a shot, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon that would have a chance at making the big club are all left shots.
“Without McAvoy and Carlo, and even with Petrovic, they’re still pretty thin on the right both in terms of skill and just bodies to fill roster spots,” a NHL pro scout told Boston Hockey Now Monday morning.
Andersson, who was drafted in the second round (57th overall) of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, has not even played a professional game in North America yet. He attended Bruins training camp last year but played the 2018-19 season over in Sweden for Södertälje SK. He had five assists in 41 games.
“Andersson is too raw to be depended on even as a seventh D guy,” the scout added.
So what else could be part of Neely’s and general manager Don Sweeney’s contingency plan? Well, if they are to dip into the UFA market again, whether, for a PTO or a signing, there are just five right-shooting defensemen left that played in the NHL last season.
Adam McQuaid – The longtime Bruin and stay-at-home defenseman split last season with the New York Rangers and Columbus Blue Jackets. As has been the case for the 32-year-old McQuaid throughout his career, he spent the majority of the season on injured reserve as he battled concussions again, along with other injuries. He finished the season with three goals and four assists in 50 games. A source close to McQuaid recently told Boston Hockey Now that the gritty blueliner is seriously considering retirement and that the Bruins could actually bring him back into the fold in a scouting or coaching capacity.
Ben Lovejoy – The 35-year-old Concord, MA native and former Dartmouth defenseman split the season between the Dallas Stars and the New Jersey Devils. Lovejoy had two goals and seven assists in 71 games. Lovejoy won a Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016.
Dan Girardi – Girardi, 35, spent the last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had four goals and 12 assists in 62 games with the Bolts last season.
Michael Stone – The 29-year-old rearguard was recently bought out by the Calgary Flames, played just 14 games during the 2018-19 season and had five assists.
Eric Gryba – Gryba, 31, spent most of the 2018-19 season with the Devils’ AHL affiliate in Binghamton. He had no points in ten NHL games with the Devils.
Of course, all of this will be moot if McAvoy and/or Carlo sign before camp but as the reality of that not happening becomes stronger, Bruins management is surely scouring the league for potential stop-gaps – via PTO’s, signings or trades – until the two young blueliners are signed, sealed and delivered for the upcoming season.