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Haggs: Boston Bruins Need To Make Bertuzzi A Priority



Boston Bruins

While it’s clear the Boston Bruins are going to have to be choosy about the players, they try to retain moving forward due to severe salary cap constraints, they also need to make every effort to retain difference-makers.

It’s why they will start paying David Pastrnak over $11 million per season starting next year and locked up top shelf defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Hampus Lindholm to long term deals as well for the big B’s picture. They had three new players enter into that big picture discussion at the NHL trade deadline when Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney traded for rental UFAs Dmitry Orlov, Garnet Hathaway and Tyler Bertuzzi.

Sweeney mentioned at Boston’s somber end-of-season press conference that the Bruins couldn’t currently retain any of those players in their current salary cap situation, but they hoped to keep at least one of the three rental players in Black and Gold if they could execute some cap-saving transactions around NHL free agency.

“I couldn’t just categorically sign those players today,” said Sweeney, when specifically asked about the three impending UFAs traded at the deadline. “You know, our cap situation, we leveraged a little bit. Everybody knows our overage at [$4.5 million]. So, we have some constraints, as do several other teams around the league. Our goal was to put the season on the absolute best roster we could put together and try and take a real legitimate run and we failed, no question.

“So we have to pay that forward a little bit. That might mean we’re instituting younger players, that might mean roster changes, which we would like to make. That might mean I might be able to sign, as you referenced, one of those three players or other unrestricted players. We have to address the two RFAs in [Trent] Frederic and [Jeremy] Swayman, which we will do. And roster changes are likely coming. You know, we’re not going to be the same team, but our mandate internally, collectively as a group, is we have a really strong core of guys that hopefully, as Jim [Montgomery] was talking about, will continue to grow, will take leadership responsibility moving forward regardless of whether or not Patrice [Bergeron] and David [Krejci] walk back through the door because they need to.”

While some might believe that Orlov would be the player that the Boston Bruins are hoping to retain after Boston Bruins fans began calling him Bobby Orr-lov for his offensive playmaking a goal-scoring outburst after his arrival from Washington, it actually makes more sense that Boston wants to hold onto winger Tyler Bertuzzi. The Bruins already have a glut of NHL defenseman with six currently signed to NHL contracts and big money earmarked for McAvoy and Lindholm. As a 32-year-old top-4 defenseman coming off a strong stint with the Boston Bruins, Orlov is going to make the biggest money of all three players should he hit free agency.

And there’s every possibility he is going to go back to the Washington Capitals home he made for his entire NHL career prior to being traded to Boston.

Hathaway was a perfect fit for the Bruins bottom-6 group of forwards as a physical, hard-hitting player, but they are not going to be able to afford a player like that for a fourth line role for next season and beyond. It’s too bad as the Maine native was a prototypical Boston Bruins player in so many ways, but the B’s aren’t in a position to spend on luxury items with just $6 million currently in salary cap space this offseason.

Bertuzzi, on the other hand, was a perfect fit for the Black and Gold after taking a couple of weeks to get assimilated in his new surroundings. The 28-year-old led the Bruins with five goals and 10 points in the seven game playoff series against the Florida Panthers and had earned enough trust with the Boston Bruins coaching staff that he was playing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand in Game 7.

Sure, Bertuzzi had some costly turnovers during the series, and he finished a minus-4 in the playoff series as he struggled, at times, to make an impact during 5-on-5 play.

Bertuzzi had seven giveaways in the seven-game series, but that was less than David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and a player in Brad Marchand that still has the sixth-most giveaways (13) amongst the NHL playoff field even then though he hasn’t played a game in almost two weeks.

But so did pretty much every other player on the Boston Bruins roster against a fast, aggressive Florida team that continuously forced them into bad decisions with the puck throughout the series.

The bottom line was that Bertuzzi was one of the most productive postseason players for the Boston Bruins in the series, proved to be a major net-front asset on the power play and showed the kind of playmaking chemistry with David Pastrnak that could only get better if they play together on a regular basis.

All of that should make Bertuzzi a priority for the Boston Bruins to sign, even if he’s going to get pretty decent free agent money based on a strong playoff performance after an injury-filled season where he posted eight goals and 30 points in 50 games for both the Red Wings and Bruins. Bertuzzi is, after all, one year removed from scoring 30 goals for the Red Wings and has been a hardnosed, productive NHL player throughout his career for some pretty poor Detroit hockey teams over the years.

The further good news is that Bertuzzi “loved” his time with the Boston Bruins, so there’s a mutual interest to keep the gritty, skilled winger in Black and Gold.

Beyond all of that, don’t forget that the Boston Bruins also invested a first-round pick in the Bertuzzi deal with Detroit after being unsure of the injury stats for both Nick Foligno and Taylor Hall late in the regular season. There is a need to salvage something from that NHL trade deadline even if they were very clearly “all in” before falling spectacularly short in the first round against the Florida Panthers.

There are many signs pointing to Bertuzzi potentially returning to the Boston Bruins if things can fall into place this offseason, but as with everything else it will all come down to what B’s management is able to do with their dire salary cap situation.

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