We have reached the point in the summer where the talk shifts from free agent signings and trades, to training camp invites. Almost every team uses the professional tryout tool, and the Boston Bruins have been no exception over the years. Remember, prior to the 2015-16 season, the B’s found backup goaltender Jonas Gustavsson via the PTO. You won’t find a player in the pile every year, heck you might not see an invite every year, but it’s a tool most teams use regularly.
In fact, the Bruins already have one tryout on the books for next month’s camp. Mark Divver of The Providence Journal had the report on Aug. 2 that the club will be bringing German forward Marcel Noebels to camp.
Could the Bruins pursue other options? If so, who are some candidates? Let’s take a look, shall we?
Forwards That Could Help the Bruins
LW Rick Nash: Let’s get this one out of the way first. If Nash truly wants to come back, he’s not going to have to settle for a PTO. That said, if Nash wants to test things out and see if he still wants to play, a PTO could be the perfect option for both player and team. Nash registered three goals and three assists for six points in 11 regular season games after coming over from the New York Rangers at the deadline.
He’s already proven that he fits in with Boston’s current group and fills the club’s need for a power forward in the top-six.
RW Troy Brouwer: The Bruins, and the fanbase, have a love affair with the big and tough player. It’s what made Milan Lucic, and many before him, a cult hero in this town. Remember the P.J. Stock “Fight Crew” t-shirt era?
Brouwer isn’t a heavyweight like that, but he is a veteran power forward who has shown some offensive pop over the years and is looking to rebuild his value after two tough seasons in Calgary. He fits the mold of the Bruins and fits what the club believes it is lacking. He’d fit in nicely with the club’s bottom-six forward group.
C Matt Stajan: The Bruins lost Riley Nash, and as I mentioned last week, will likely turn to their young players to fill that hole. The club might want some veteran insurance, however, and Stajan can provide that. He’s a proven defensive center that was 51.5% in the faceoff circle last year and can help on the PK. The offense isn’t eye-popping by any means, just 12 points in 68 games, but he’s responsible defensively and the Flames fared well in possession (51.6 CF%) when he was on the ice in 2017-18.
C Mark Letestu: Much like Stajan, Letestu would be a veteran cover on the fourth line just in case one of Boston’s younger players wasn’t ready to take the job. Letestu struggled in 2017-18, but he was terrific for Edmonton in 2016-17 and proved to be a Swiss army knife type of player. He helped at five-on-five, but also on the penalty kill and the power play. He’s also pretty solid in the shootout and could help the Bruins in a number of areas at very little cost.
Defenders That Could Help the Bruins
The Bruins likely don’t need another defender, but you can never have too many if we are being honest. The club has eight guys that can play at the NHL level, but a number of them have an injury history. It’s always possible that a team takes a look at a player for injury protection.
D Kevin Bieksa: Bieksa looked slow and worn down during his final stand with the Ducks, but the rugged defender is still well-respected around the NHL and could nicely fit the role of seventh or eighth defender on an NHL roster. He can still help on the penalty kill, and he’d become an instant favorite in Boston thanks to his style of play.
D Mark Fayne: The local product never got a fair shake after Peter Chiarelli and Todd McLellan took over in Edmonton. He was relegated to the AHL for the last two seasons, splitting time with Bakersfield and Florida’s affiliate in Springfield, right down the Mass Pike. Fayne doesn’t bring much offensive pop, but he’s a reliable depth defender that shoots right and doesn’t make many mistakes.
D Cody Franson: If the Bruins want a fourth defender for the powerplay, Franson wouldn’t be a bad buy as a specialist. His underlying stats are still strong, and the offensive instincts are still there. Speed has become an issue with him, but as a depth defender used mostly on the power play, he could provide some use to a team. Boston does have Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk taking power play time already, however.
Final Thoughts on Potential PTOs
If I’m general manager Don Sweeney, I’m probably putting in a call to the agents of Mark Letestu and Matt Stajan, seeing if I can get them to town in a few weeks to join the team for practice. The Bruins need center depth, and both of those players could give a boost to their bottom-six at next to no cost. It would be a worthwhile risk for the club, guarding against the possibility that some of the kids simply aren’t ready for primetime just yet.