Before NHL free agency opened Friday, we listed defense, right wing and backup goalie as the Boston Bruins’ three greatest offseason needs.
With the initial free-agent flurry now behind us, here’s a look at how the B’s addressed those three areas:
The Bruins re-signed defenseman John-Michael Liles on Friday, one day after locking up Torey Krug to a four-year extension and buying out Dennis Seidenberg. Liles and Krug give the Bruins two skilled puck-movers in their D-corps, but they still have only one bona fide top-pairing defenseman: 39-year-old Zdeno Chara.
This year’s crop of free-agent blueliners is rather weak, though, and Boston’s best option for landing a proven top-four guy probably is via trade. And with the Bruins adding another center in David Backes (more on him in a second), David Krejci or Ryan Spooner could be used as trade bait.
The Bruins also have yet to re-sign restricted free-agent defensemen Colin Miller and Joe Morrow.
Backes said he and the team have discussed occasionally positioning him alongside top-liners Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, but he noted several times during his various post-signing interviews the allure of having a three-headed monster down the middle with him, Bergeron and Krejci centering Boston’s top three lines.
?If you want to call me third line, I completely respect that,? Backes said in a conference call with reporters. ?Those two other guys (Bergeron and Krejci) are awesome, but I?ve got to imagine that we?re going to share a lot of responsibility and not burden one guy with all the hard ice or the heavy lifting. When you have responsible guys that can share those roles, then we can all flourish on the other side of the ice and have tons of energy to go out for the ends of games to close it out or score a late big goal.?
So right wing remains a need for the B’s, especially with unrestricted free agents Lee Stempniak and Brett Connolly both signing elsewhere Friday.
The Bruins definitively filled this need, bringing back Anton Khudobin on a two-year, $2.4 million deal.
Khudobin was Tuukka Rask’s backup on the 2013 Bruins squad that lost in the Stanley Cup Final, and he performed well in that role. Chad Johnson did the same in 2013-14, but Niklas Svedberg and Jonas Gustavsson failed to get the job done the last two seasons, forcing Rask to carry an unnecessarily heavy workload.
Khudobin, who spent the bulk of last season with the Anaheim Ducks’ AHL affiliate, likely will compete with Malcolm Subban, Zane McIntyre and Daniel Vladar for the Bruins’ backup job in training camp, though one of those netminders very well could be dealt before then.
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