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Bruins Leave Some Boxes Unchecked Following NHL Free Agency

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AP Photo/Steven Senne

BRIGHTON– Standing behind the podium inside Warrior Ice Arena, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney appeared satisfied with the moves he made on Monday during the first day of NHL free agency.

Soon after the clock struck noon on the East Coast, the Bruins announced the signings of Elias Lindholm and Nikita Zadorov and more soon thereafter. In total, the Bruins added eight players, spending a combined total of more than $92 million–the most they’ve ever spent on the opening day of free agency since Sweeney assumed the head of the front office in 2015.

On a seven-year deal with an annual value of $7.75 million, Lindholm joins the Bruins on the largest contract in the Sweeney era. A crafty center whose two-hundred-foot game goes unnoticed at times will fill in as the number one center the Bruins have needed since Patrice Bergeron hung up the skates. Zadorov, who will make $5 million for each of the next five years, brings a familiar style of play to the Boston blue line with size, physicality, and toughness.

Following the signings of Lindholm, Zadorov and a number of other players for added depth, the Bruins are left with a projected $8.64 million in cap space, according to Puckpedia. And yet, some needs are still waiting to be addressed.

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“I think we’re trying to check off the box to be internally competitive,” said Sweeney. “If we have a gap there, we want to see somebody take advantage of it. We’ve got sort of an internal growth mode, but we checked off a lot of boxes with guys who we feel internally perceive that increase in our competition.” 

Unless Lindholm is capable of passing the puck to himself or Zadorov is willing to strap on the pads, the Bruins are without a scoring winger and have an occupancy in net.

Of course, the open spot in goal is reserved for restricted free agent Jeremy Swayman, as reaching an agreement with the goalie on a long-term extension remains a top priority for the Bruins.

“We’re going to continue to find a negotiated landing spot,” said Sweeney. “The timing is what it is. However long it takes, it’s not impacted by what we did today. We’re in a great spot to find the best-negotiated deal we can find for both sides.”

The signings the Bruins made may not have had an impact on their negotiations with Swayman, but perhaps those negotiations with Swayman had an impact of their own.

This year’s free agent class was littered with wingers who can put the puck in the back of the net. Jake Guentzel signed a massive contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Jonathan Marchessault and former Bruin Jake DeBrusk each inked seven-year deals with the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks, respectively.

With Swayman still unsigned, help on the wing was less of a priority for the Bruins compared to adding Lindholm and Zadorov.

“The depth of our defense is the strength of our hockey club, and I wanted to make sure we had those foundational pieces in place,” Sweeney said. “I think this group, as a whole, we can tease a little more offense out of it.”

Still, the signings the Bruins did make look to be helpful. Sweeney and the front office identified Lindholm and Zadorov as targets early on, and their signings alone are massive, both on the ice and on the books.

Otherwise, some boxes remain unchecked for the Bruins, who are leaving it up to those already in-house to fill them.

“I don’t think your team in July is ready-made,” said Sweeney. “If anybody feels that way, then they’ve checked every single box. But we’re not set in October. We’ll allow these guys to go through and push, and we’ll re-evaluate. If we have holes or gaps, we’ll try to address them.”

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