It seems that during almost every trade deadline or free agency period, the Boston Bruins have at least one under-the-radar target that nobody ever really mentions along the way.
Mike Reilly was that guy last season when the Bruins nabbed him from the Minnesota at the trade deadline, and trade deadline acquisition Marcus Johansson during the 2019 run to the Stanley Cup Final also definitely qualifies.
That under-the-radar option may have popped on the radar this week ahead of the July 28 open of NHL free agency with the Bruins linked to unrestricted free agent Winnipeg Jets defenseman Derek Forbort, per Elliotte Friedman.
Friedman made a number of interesting predictions for free agent destinations including Forbort to the Boston Bruins, Ryan Suter to the Dallas Stars and Alec Martinez re-signing with the Vegas Golden Knights:
Dougie Hamilton: New Jersey
David Savard: Montreal
Gabriel Landeskog: not hugely confident in this prediction, but he and Colorado find a way
Blake Coleman: the prediction is, he gets 6×5
Jaden Schwartz: Seattle, basically done during the Kraken’s exclusive window
Brandon Saad: St. Louis, Islanders, Pittsburgh or Los Angeles
Kyle Palmieri: haven’t heard a thing, which means the Islanders probably have him locked up
Phillip Danault: Los Angeles takes a surprise look
Alec Martinez: stays in Vegas
Alex Goligoski: Minnesota
Derek Forbort: Boston
Zach Hyman: Edmonton. Makes me feel I’m getting one right
Alexander Ovechkin: 3×10 to stay in Washington
Ryan Suter: Dallas
Florida: locks up Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Carter Verhaeghe.
The 29-year-old Forbort certainly fits the profile as a 6-foot-4, 219-pound defenseman that’s played 20 minutes per game pretty much through the entirety of his NHL career. The left-shot Forbort had two goals and 12 points along with a plus-1 rating in 56 games for the Jets this past season, and kicked in a goal while averaging 24:38 of ice time in eight playoff games for the Jets this past spring.
Forbort is coming off a one-year, $1 million contract with the Jets and has played 331 games with the Kings, Flames and Jets over the course of his six-year NHL career after being a Kings first round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. Clearly Forbort is an under-the-radar option because he’s not a big name like Ryan Suter or a top-of-the-market free agent like Alec Martinez, but he’ll also be a cheaper top-4 defenseman option for a Boston Bruins team that has other roster holes to fill this offseason.
All of these names are in the mix because the Boston Bruins know they need help on the back end, and need to be “aggressive” about it, after losing a couple of big, tough bodies this offseason.
“We have to identify that we have a couple of holes and gaps that we have to fill. Certainly, [we] addressed a long term future with Brandon [Carlo]. We’re happy to have him back in the fold as an important part as our defense is put together,” said Don Sweeney. “We have to address another need — if not one, if not two from a depth perspective — but also the handling of heavy minutes in all situations. We’re going to try to be aggressive on that front and see if we can address the need.
“Ideally, you’d want an all-situational minutes player. It certainly has been all of those pressure points and the penalty kill. Maybe they can handle the power play? [A player] not unlike Charlie McAvoy, who impacts the game in sixty minutes. The other guys — Grizzy [Matt Grzelcyk] obviously has done a lot of great things for us in puck moving and can complement on the power play as well. [Jakub] Zboril was moving pucks last year, ran into some injuries. But with the loss of Jeremy [Lauzon], there’s a penalty killing component there [that’s missing]. Johnny Moore helps, we’ll obviously address some of that from a depth perspective. But we have to go and add to our group, so we have to address that.”
While Forbort is a solid, no-frills top-4 option without a ton of offensive oomph and he does have couple NHL fights on his resume (including one bout against Pat Maroon), he’s also not the intimidating bruiser-type the Bruins are now missing with Kevan Miller in retirement.
He’s more likely a suitable replacement for Jeremy Lauzon after the young shutdown defenseman was lost to the Seattle Kraken in the NHL expansion draft last week.
So, one would suspect there’s another shoe to drop for the Black and Gold, for either a slick puck-mover or a legit tough guy, when it comes to stockpiling defensemen for next season.