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.
No one was happier at the trade deadline than Mike Mottau. Not only was he leaving a struggling Islanders team that was once again going to miss the playoffs to come to a contender, but the veteran defenseman was finally coming home.
The Avon, Mass., native and Boston College star couldn’t have asked for a better landing spot than getting a chance to wear the Spoked-B in front of family and friends. He played sparingly, but loved every minute he did get, saying after the season that he wouldn’t have traded the opportunity for anything.
“For me it was a great experience,” Mottau said. “It was a childhood dream fulfilled.”
2011-12 stats: 35 games, 0-2-2, minus-11, 15 PIMs (6 games, 0-0-0, minus-1, 0 PIMs with Bruins); playoffs — 2 games, 0-0-0, minus-1, 0 PIMs
2011-12 cap hit: $800,000 according to CapGeek.com
2012-13 status: Unrestricted free agent
Season in review: Mottau was a healthy scratch for 16 of the 22 games the Bruins played after arriving at the trade deadline. But he never complained about the lack of ice time, and quickly became a well-liked teammate and an important veteran presence in the Boston locker room.
When he did play, he was a solid and reliable defensive defenseman who had little trouble stepping into the lineup after long stretches without game action. His style meshed well with the Bruins’ system, and he proved a solid depth addition to the blue line.
In his 35 combined games with the Islanders and Bruins, Mottau dished out 38 hits and had 47 blocked shots. He was scratched for the first five games of the playoffs, but replaced Joe Corvo in Games 6 and 7 against the Capitals and didn’t look out of place.
Should Mottau be re-signed?: The Bruins could do a lot worse than Mottau when it comes to filling out their depth on the blue line. Their top six appears largely set with Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid all under contract and top prospect Dougie Hamilton expected to make a strong run at a spot with the big club.
The Bruins do have other options in the system, but bringing back Mottau as a seventh defenseman capable of filling in when needed could be a wise investment for relatively short money. He’s shown he won’t have a problem playing limited minutes and now has a working knowledge of the system, and it would be preferable to have a veteran in that role rather than one of the kids who could be better served playing regularly in Providence.
Will Mottau be re-signed?: Rounding out the club’s depth on defense won’t be atop Peter Chiarelli‘s to-do list, so Mottau may have to wait a bit if he wants to return. The Bruins could be comfortable going with the kids and looking to acquire veteran depth at the deadline as they have multiple times in recent years.
Mottau would also have to weigh his options if the Bruins are interested in retaining him. He loved playing in Boston, but he could get a better opportunity to play more elsewhere. He admitted after the season that such a scenario would present a difficult decision, but he wouldn’t rule out a return, even as a seventh defenseman.
“That’s a good question. As a player you always want to play, but at this point I know that I could be ready whenever called upon as well and play well,” Mottau said. “I would have to look at all the options, but playing for the Bruins in that capacity would definitely be a welcome option for me.”
In Mottau’s own words: “I would welcome it, especially after being able to get in the lineup and knowing that I could have success if I am in the lineup,” Mottau said of a chance to remain with the Bruins at the club’s breakup day. “It’s a good group of guys who work for one another. I know I could have success [in Boston] because the system plays to some of my strengths like hockey intellect and decision making. I just know I could be inserted and play and add value, so I would welcome it. I would enjoy that, but it’s really ultimately up to them to see where I would fit as part of the organization, so we’ll see.”
Photo via Flickr/cerebusfangirl