The Boston Bruins have signed defender Jeremy Lauzon to a two-year contract extension worth $1.7 million. This deal carries an annual cap hit of $850,000 and will keep him with the team through the 2022-23 season.
For the Bruins, this deal makes a lot of sense.
On the surface, it makes sense to lock up a 22-year-old defender who was scheduled to be a restricted free agent in the offseason. It makes even more sense to do so when that 22-year-old has played as well as Lauzon has both at the AHL level with the Providence Bruins and at the NHL level with the big club in Boston.
In 45 games with Providence this season, Lauzon has score one goal and 13 points and has been every part the two-way defender the Bruins were hoping he could be when they took him 52nd overall out of Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL in 2015.
In 23 career NHL games – seven of which coming this season, Lauzon has scored two goals and averaged 15:12 of ice time. Those numbers may not jump off the page but the boxscore doesn’t always tell the full story.
Lauzon is Improving Every Single Game
Lauzon, who has looked immensely confident at the NHL level this season, is only getting better with every passing game. For the Bruins, this progress has shown enough to commit to the Val-d’Or, Quebec-native for at least another two seasons at what can only be described as a team-friendly deal.
This isn’t meant to suggest that Lauzon could have realistically commanded anything more than what he was paid as he is still mostly unproven and still considered a prospect in the team’s system.
Related: Bruins 2019-20 Prospect Pyramid
What it is suggesting, however, is that Lauzon could continue to make strides while playing on this deal in a way that helps the Bruins remain competitive without breaking the bank up-and-down their roster.
Lauzon’s Contract Could Have Long-Term Roster Implications
While it would be disingenuous to suggest that this deal also has any implications to the Bruins’ long-term plans with defenders Torey Krug or Matt Grzelcyk, it’s still related in a sense.
The Bruins have a pipeline full of left-shot defenders who are close-to if not already NHL-ready. With both Krug (a pending unrestricted free agent) and Grzelcyk (a pending restricted free agent) in search of new deals this offseason, the Bruins will need to ensure they have options on the left-side should anything go south in the offseason.
With Krug, there are fans in both camps in regards to his future.
On the one hand, it would make sense to pay one of the NHL’s premier offensive talents on defense for the long-term, especially given the fact that he’s suggested that he’s willing to take less to remain in a Bruins uniform for the long-haul.
On the other hand, general manager Don Sweeney is going to have to perform some salary cap-gymnastics to keep Krug under contract while also paying some of the Bruins other pending free-agents, most notably a backup goaltender, Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk.
Set to be 29 years old come July 1, it’s also hard to commit a long-term deal to a player that close to 30-years-old without considering how many good years are left and how soon the deal could start to look like a bad one.
Whichever camp fans may be in, everyone can agree that salary cap flexibility while maintaining a strong, deep roster is important.
With that in mind, getting players like Lauzon and ideally others like Anders Bjork under contract for team-friendly prove-it deals such as this one is essential to retaining the star players that command a bigger salary at this stage of their career.
Lauzon can serve as either a supplement to the Bruins blueline as far as salary is concerned or he can grow into a bigger role to help alleviate the absence of a player like Krug should the Bruins part ways with the veteran defender. Either way, the Bruins have options now that Lauzon is secured for two years.
Another factor to consider is that Lauzon’s play as of late could solidify the Bruins blue-line and may have been enough to let Sweeney and head coach Bruce Cassidy know that the team’s defense is as secure as it needs to be moving forward and that their attention should be elsewhere at the Trade Deadline. Especially considering they have the keys for another deep playoff run.
Expansion Draft Implications
Another thing to consider here as far as long-term implications go is the fact that the NHL Expansion Draft for the incoming Seattle franchise while cause a shakeup for every team in the NHL. The Bruins have a plethora of players who are worth selecting for this new franchise and more is almost less in this situation.
Having more players with legitimate claims for protection in the Expansion Draft obviously means the Bruins have more players they’d be disappointed to see go. At the same time, it also means they have a deep roster than can exceed despite a loss to a player not necessarily deemed a “core” player in the current makeup of the roster.
Having players like Lauzon under contract once again gives the Bruins an insurance plan of sorts as it’s clear that they feel he has what it takes to play in the NHL right now and has room to improve even more.
Sometimes, the unknown isn’t an improvement.
Again, suggesting Lauzon is going to influence the Bruins’ decision to re-sign Krug, make a trade at the deadline, making a certain decision at the Expansion draft or otherwise isn’t the point being made.
What is being said, however, is that having someone like Lauzon around on a deal like this with so many major decisions approaching is a positive factor that has to be considered.