The Boston Bruins waived veteran winger and Walpole, MA native Chris Wagner and veteran defenseman John Moore on Saturday. If both players clear, the moves will create $1.85 million in salary-cap space for the Boston Bruins. Per our good friends at PuckPedia, the Bruins would have $3.8 million in cap space.
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Despite the fact that the Boston Bruins paraded Wagner around town as a guest host on NESN and an intern on 98.5 The Sports Hub over the summer, the writing seemed to be on the wall for Wagner to get waived and if cleared, assigned to the Providence Bruins in the AHL. In fact, one regular NHL pro scouting source for Boston Hockey Now had mentioned numerous times that the Bruins were putting feelers out for Wagner on the NHL trade market earlier in camp and then followed up on Friday speculating that the fourth line grinder would be waived.
Wagner didn’t exactly do anything to climb out of the doghouse of Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy in training camp. He had no points, three shots, six hits, and three blocked shots in three preseason games. This came after a 2021 season that saw him become a frequent healthy scratch and score just two goals and five points in 41 games. The 30-year-old forward is entering the second year of a three-year contract that carries a $1.35 million salary-cap hit.
Waiving Wagner leaves a three-player battle for the final spot on the fourth line before the season begins next Saturday but for now, with Curtis Lazar week-to-week, it will be down to Karson Kuhlman and Jack Studnicka. Studnicka has been not only the best player out of that trio in camp, but he’s also arguably been the Bruins’ best forward outside of the top line while filling in for Charlie Coyle on the second line between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith until Coyle returned to the lineup this past Wednesday in the final preseason game.
However, Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy has on more than one occasion in the past week indicated that despite a splendid camp for the rookie center, Coyle will retain that second-line center slot and Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek will be the bottom six centers.
“I liked his game. I liked his commitment to playing a 200-foot game and how he managed pucks,” the Bruins bench boss said last Wednesday. “He did not turn over pucks as he has in the past trying plays that…I hate to be disrespectful, but I’d call them junior [hockey] plays sometimes when they come up. They get away with it there, but they’re not going here because the guys are better defensively. So he’s sticking with a simpler approach to how he’s going to generate offense and he’ll end up making some high-end plays because he can. I think it’s worked out better for him. He hasn’t been chasing back the other way. I think his defending has been excellent in terms of what we’ve asked. He’s got to keep working on his strength at faceoffs, but we’ve got to take a look after the last [exhibition game].
Do we push somebody to the wing or not? That will be a conversation. We like how we are in the middle of the ice, but if our lineup looks better because we think [Studnicka] is ready then we’ll do it. But are we giving Charlie Coyle then what he deserves? He’s a proven NHL player. He has to play some games here. He’s going to play [against the Capitals in the final preseason game], but after that he’s going to have to play some games before we start moving the pieces around.”
As for Moore being waived, one could argue that came as a surprise despite the fact that the 30-year-old rearguard played in just five games last season before having season-ending hip surgery and was also a frequent healthy scratch when he was able to play. With the rash of injuries on the blue line that the Boston Bruins seemingly have dealt with the last three seasons, had appeared to secure his spot as the seventh defenseman. Moore had two assists, four hits, seven blocks, and got into a fight in three preseason games. On Friday, Cassidy actually credited Moore for always bringing a competitive spirit to practice every day.
“Johnny Moore always brings some juice to that, so it was good,” Cassidy said when discussing what was a very competitive practice and scrimmage on Friday.
Now Moore will either be bringing that competitiveness to another NHL team or to the Providence Bruins.