Over two weeks have elapsed since the opening of NHL free agency, and most of the big names are off the board.
But some bargains might remain.
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. The goaltending market was as busy as we all suspected, while the top defensemen got the deals you’d expect.
Forwards, on the other hand? Woof.
The forward market has been stagnant, leaving guys taking either below market deals or remaining unsigned until they get a fair offer (see: Mike Hoffman).
The Boston Bruins, like many teams, are getting tighter up against the cap. They still have Jake DeBrusk to take care of, and the situation with Zdeno Chara still needs to be figured out. If the Bruins were to sign a real difference-maker from outside the organization, they all but certainly would need to move money out.
For that reason, the best course of action might be a trade. But if the Bruins don’t want to eliminate existing personnel, they potentially could go bargain shopping.
Here are some of the guys they might be able to sign.
Conor Sheary (LW, 28, 10-13-23 in 63 games last season between Sabres and Penguins)
The Bruins were rumored to be one of the teams interested in Sheary at the trade deadline before he was sent to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Winchester, Mass., native could be a depth winger that would fit in a third or fourth line role while providing scoring potential. Up until last year, Sheary had reached the 30-point mark in three straight campaigns, including a head-turning 23-30-53 season in 2016-17 with the Pens.
This past season was his worst since his rookie year, which is likely to drive his price down.
Anthony Duclair (LW, 25, 23-17-40 in 66 games last season with Senators)
Duclair has bounced around a lot in his career, so it’s hard to believe he’s only 25. He’s coming off one of his best ever seasons, but the fickle nature of this forward market means he potentially could be had for much cheaper than he deserves.
The gripe with Duclair long has been that he had a nice shot but couldn’t finish. He fixed that last season with the Ottawa Senators, proving that if a coach is willing to trust him and give him heavy minutes — something John Tortorella didn’t do in Duclair’s disastrous run with the Columbus Blue Jackets — he can be a productive top or middle six winger.
Of all the players available outside of Hoffman, Duclair might be the best fit for the Bruins.
Andreas Athanasiou (C/W, 26, 11-15-26 in 55 games last season between Red Wings and Oilers)
If you’re a regular reader of this website, you certainly must be tired of hearing about Athanasiou, someone we’ve been beating the drum for the Bruins to go after since, well, the trade deadline.
But for too long, the fit has made sense. He has such high offensive upside and is a speedy skater with sure hands. He’s been a complete defensive liability in his career, but maybe in the right situation (say, with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith?) he could become a tad more reliable in that end.
Jan Rutta (RD, 30, 1-6-7 in 33 games last season with Lightning)
There’s a good shot the Bruins will be scratching John Moore and Kevan Miller when the season begins, so adding veteran defensive depth isn’t exactly a necessity.
That said, Rutta represents one of the few available defensemen that the Bruins conceivably could shoehorn in under the cap while still being an upgrade — he could slot in on the third pairing over Miller, Moore or Connor Clifton.
Though he dealt with injuries last season, he still would provide the Bruins with even more size (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) — something they’ve made clear they’re eyeing. He’s not much of an offensive force, but he’s a sound defensive player that also is a confident puck-handler.