Editor's Note: The Bruins are facing a longer offseason than they had hoped after their title defense was ended early with a first-round loss to Washington. The extra time could come in handy though, as the Bruins have plenty of decisions to make this summer. At the top of that list is what they will do with the many pending free agents on their roster. Each day over the next two weeks, NESN.com Bruins beat writer Douglas Flynn will look at one of the club's veteran free agents.
Greg Zanon was acquired at the trade deadline to provide some depth to the Bruins blue line down the stretch. That proved invaluable with Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid each missing time with injuries after Zanon's arrival, with McQuaid sidelined for the entire opening-round playoff series against Washington with a concussion.
It was a solid, but not spectacular, two-month audition for Zanon, whose playing style would appear a perfect fit for Claude Julien's system. A full training camp could make him more effective going forward, but the numbers on defense make it far from certain that Zanon will get a chance for a longer stay in Boston.
2011-12 stats: 56 games, 3-5-8, plus-3, 18 PIMs (17 games, 1-1-2, plus-4, 4 PIMs with Bruins); playoffs – 7 games, 0-1-1, even, 0 PIMs
2011-12 cap hit: $1,933,333 according to CapGeek.com
2012-13 status: Unrestricted free agent
Season in review: Zanon isn't flashy, but he usually gets the job done. He won't pile up a lot of points, and that was certainly the case this past season, which he split between Minnesota and Boston. But Zanon is typically solid in his own zone and provides a physical presence on the blue line.
He piled up 136 blocked shots and 116 hits overall this past year, including 32 blocked shots and 39 hits in his 17 games with the Bruins. He averaged 17:47 in ice time overall on the season, but reached that amount just five times with Boston, then averaged only 13:43 in the playoffs. That was sixth among Boston's defensemen, behind even Joe Corvo, who did not play the final two games.
Zanon did struggle at times in the postseason, blocking just six shots in the seven games and committing some costly mistakes. Overall, though, he was a solid performer as a fifth or sixth defenseman and capable of moving up the depth chart when called upon.
Should Zanon be re-signed?: The Bruins have the bulk of their defense locked up with Zdeno Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, Ference and McQuaid all under contract, and top prospect Dougie Hamilton is likely to crack the lineup this year as well. While retaining Zanon would give the Bruins enviable depth, it may be a luxury they can't afford under the cap. They may be better off signing a cheaper veteran like Mike Mottau as a seventh defenseman or going with one of their youngsters like Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski or Andrew Bodnarchuk.
Will Zanon be re-signed?: Peter Chiarelli let Zanon get away once, as he was unable to sign the defenseman in Ottawa after he was drafted by the Senators in 2000. Zanon eventually signed with Nashville after four seasons at Nebraska-Omaha. Chiarelli may not want to repeat that scenario and Zanon would add some decent depth to the defense, but with the blue line already largely set and Hamilton potentially ready to make the leap to the NHL, there may not be room for Zanon, especially not at his expected cost at somewhere north of $2 million.
In Zanon's own words: "I think my style fits in well here, and through the two months here I was able to adapt pretty quickly and was able to play the way I wanted to play and be the player I wanted to be," Zanon said at the club's breakup day. "Now it's all up in the air. We'll have to wait to see what Peter [Chiarelli] says and start in talking with the agents and everything, but I'd love to be back here."
Photo via Flickr/cerebusfangirl