We know what you’re thinking reading this headline: “15 guys?” We’ll be honest, it’s a lot. But the Boston Bruins have some needs to fill when free agency opens, and while there are some obvious fits, there also are some not-so-obvious ones.
So, we thought it best to go a mile wide and an inch deep. Let’s make the cases (brief ones) for why the below collection of free agents could be fits for the Black and Gold. To be clear, this is not us saying the Bruins are rumored to pursue those guys, but rather it’s us just kicking around some ideas.
Off we go.
Brandon Saad, left winger — The Bruins were said to be interested in him at the 2020 trade deadline. He continues to score at a 20-plus-goals pace per season and still is only entering his age-29 season. With the Bruins re-signing Taylor Hall, he either would play on his off side or go to the third line. Ultimately, his cost might be too high for the role he would play with the Bruins.
Blake Coleman, left winger — This particular writer has been beating the “Bruins should go after Blake Coleman” drum for years. He still represents a fantastic fit and would be a solid addition to the third line, but after seeing what Barclay Goodrow got from the New York Rangers, Coleman might simply be too expensive.
Pius Suter, center — Frankly, we can’t believe the Blackhawks didn’t give him a qualifying offer. He had 14 goals and 13 assists in his first NHL season and is entering his age-25 campaign. There’s not a big enough sample size for him to get a huge deal, and he seems like he has the staying power to be a legitimate middle-six center for a while. He would be a great get for the Bruins.
Alex Goligoski, defenseman — He’ll be 36 when next season starts, but Goligoski has been a steady puck-mover for the life of his contract with the Coyotes. Not the most sound in his own end, but he can make plays at the offensive blue line and eat minutes.
Tomas Tatar, left winger — His injuries down the stretch last season might scare teams away, and Tatar’s offensive numbers did tick down last season, but he still has a beautiful shot and can make plays for his teammates. He might end up being a bargain and could be a fascinating fit with Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk.
Jani Hakanpaa, defenseman — A stay-at-home defenseman, he really broke out with the Anaheim Ducks/Carolina Hurricanes last season. He showed he could play in a top-pairing role with Anaheim, but that he really will thrive as a lower-pairing guy. Hakanpaa won’t break the bank, and he could be a Kevan Miller-type with more upside for Boston.
Tyler Bozak, center — He’s no longer a second-line-caliber center, but he would make sense if the Bruins think Charlie Coyle could handle the second unit (or if David Krejci returns and they’re comfortable bumping Coyle to the wing). Bozak wouldn’t be worth it unless on a short-term, lower-money deal, and we’re not confident that will happen.
Marcus Johansson, right winger — He worked in Boston once, why not give it another try? As Minnesota Wild youngsters broke out, Johansson struggled to make as much of an impact this past season. But he’s still capable of playing middle-six minutes, and as recently as 2019-20 showed that there’s still some life to his offensive game.
Danton Heinen, left winger — Get the band back together! The Bruins’ Heinen-Coyle-Johansson line was at times their best during the 2019 postseason. In all seriousness, though, a Heinen reunion would not be the worst thing. He wasn’t given a QO by the Ducks, which made him an unrestricted free agent. From an analytics standpoint, he’s still a valuable player and could provide some two-way play with system familiarity in Boston.
Brandon Montour, defenseman — He’s only 27, and could be a good fit on the third pairing. If the Bruins re-sign Mike Reilly, though, Montour seems like he might be redundant.
Michael Bunting, left winger — Right now, he’s a store brand Blake Coleman. Bunting could be a lot of fun for the Bruins in a bottom-six role, as he would arrive on a cheap deal and could play with a center that would bring more out of him offensively. Keep an eye out for Bunting.
Linus Ullmark, goalie — You could insert basically any veteran goalie here, but we like Ullmark because he played for the Sabres, which means he’s used to facing a firing squad. Considering the Bruins likely would roll with Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar to start next season, the spare guy should be an “in case of emergency” type. Ullmark makes the most sense.
Mattias Janmark, center — He is an absolute delight to watch. Janmark’s plenty physical but has the hands of a skill player. Regardless of Krejci’s status, Janmark would be a great fit in Boston and would be an instant fan favorite.
Jon Merrill, defenseman — If the Bruins just want size on the back end, Merrill would be a good fit. A stout defensive player, he doesn’t offer much in the attacking end, but that’s not what he would be out there for.
Derek Forbort, defenseman — People see a 6-foot-4, 216-pound Forbort and think he’s just a defensive defenseman. Not so. There’s actually a two-way element to his game, as he’s good for 12-15 assists or so in a season. And since he’s a left shot, Forbort checks a handful of boxes for the Bruins.