The Brett Ritchie era in Boston effectively is over, which means the Bruins have an open roster spot.
Boston on Wednesday put the forward on waivers for purpose of assignment to the AHL. He’ll either clear waivers by Thursday afternoon and go to Providence, or another team will pick him up.
Ritchie often was the last man in or out of the lineup, along with David Backes, with the duo typically vying for a spot on the third line right wing. Whether or not that’s the role Don Sweeney and Co. want to try to fill remains to be seen, but one thing seems pretty certain: An internal roster move will be made.
There are a few likely options.
One name to consider is Anton Blidh. The 2013 sixth-round pick has played in just 21 NHL games (19 of them came in the 2016-17 season), and really hasn’t done much to separate himself. He does play a heavy brand of hockey (ask Roman Josi) and put up decent offensive numbers in the NHL. While he probably isn’t at the top of the list, he might get a shot for logistical purposes.
Blidh currently is on injured reserve on the NHL roster because of shoulder surgery he underwent in September. Lately, he’s spent a little time in the AHL on a conditioning loan, but he would require waivers to go down to the minors full time since he never was sent down during training camp. It seems unlikely a team would try to claim a relatively unproven player who is coming off lengthy shoulder rehab. Still, if he’s going to be subjected to waivers anyway, one can’t help but wonder if the 24-year-old first will get a shot to prove he can contribute in Boston.
A name many are suggesting is Trent Frederic, which in theory is a nice idea, but has some critical flaws. The bulldozing center has shown some nice skill in the AHL while fighting often, and given the Bruins’ somewhat cavalier response to Tuukka Rask getting concussed by Emil Bemstrom, the idea of calling up Frederic certainly could be tantalizing. But Frederic has been a non-factor at the NHL level in his career, outside of pummeling Brandon Tanev. Never mind the fact that he’s a center and putting him into the lineup either would force him to the wing or disrupt Boston’s current situation up the middle, but calling up 21-year-old just to be a goon isn’t smart for anyone.
The Bruins would be well-advised to let him continue developing instead of rushing him up for the sole purpose of physicality. There’s enough growth left in his offensive game, so no need to make him an NHL player who only scraps.
Karson Kuhlman is another choice, and he seems like one of the most likely candidates. He provided a nice jolt of energy to the lineup whenever used last season, but didn’t really get anything going in eight NHL games this season before cracking his tibia. His familiarity with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk could be worth something, and head coach Bruce Cassidy always has lauded his nose for the puck. Though his experience in the top flight is limited, the Bruins know what they’re getting out of him for the most part, and with things being so tumultuous lately, that might be enticing.
Finally, there’s Zach Senyshyn. There was a reason a first-round pick was used on him, but he’s yet to get a good, long look in the NHL. Some of that is because he got injured during his stint with Boston earlier this season, but that injury came after he showed tremendous promise on the third line with Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork. For that reason alone, Senyshyn probably deserves another shot at the NHL level.
Of course, plenty of this also rides on how Bruce Cassidy likes Bjork as the second line right wing. There have been some good moments for him on Krejci’s right, but he’s left plenty to be desired at times. However, if the Bruins are content with having Bjork on the second line instead of third, having someone like Senyshyn or Kuhlman playing on the third unit in lieu of the top six becomes far more palatable.
The Bruins are fortunate in that they have Backes to be a stopgap in that third line right-wing role. But ideally, one has to think it would be preferable if one of the youngsters pan out.