In this edition of Boston Bruins News & Rumors, Jake Virtanen is gaining interest from a number of NHL organizations, and one of them could be the B’s. Meanwhile, Zdeno Chara garnered plenty of speculation about a possible return when spotted walking around the Bruins practice facility on Tuesday. In other news, Jake DeBrusk explained earlier in the week why he chose to rescind his trade request. Last but not least, Brad Marchand told reporters he is hoping to return in late November from offseason hip surgery.
Bruins May Have Interest in Virtanen
Over the past week, there have been reports that a number of NHL teams have shown interest in signing Virtanen. The 26-year-old last appeared in the NHL during the 2020-21 season, but was placed on indefinite leave due to a sexual assault allegation, and was subsequently bought out over the summer. Since that time, he was given a not guilty verdict in court, and is hoping to find a home in 2022-23, perhaps with a team like the Bruins.
Prior to his legal matter, the Bruins had expressed interest in Virtanen, as noted by Jimmy Murphy of Boston Hockey Now. Whether they still hold that interest is unknown, but they very well could be one of the several teams who are rumored to be in on him.
While by no means a gamebreaker, Virtanen is a former sixth-overall pick who the Bruins may see as somewhat of a reclamation project. He also has plenty of snarl in his game, which would be a huge asset for Jim Montgomery’s team entering the 2022-23 season.
Chara Spotted Visiting Bruins Practice Facility
With training camps set to begin for teams in less than a week’s time, Chara still remains without a contract. The 45-year-old still appears to be weighing his options on returning for another season after spending the 2021-22 campaign with the New York Islanders.
With Patrice Bergeron re-signing and David Krejci returning from Europe, fans have discussed the possibility of Chara rejoining as well to bring the band back together. That speculation picked up in a big way on Tuesday, after Boston Globe reporter Matt Porter saw the 6-foot-9 defender at the Bruins’ practice facility.
It has since been confirmed that his visit was simply to see some old friends rather than perhaps working out a deal, though that doesn’t necessarily mean something can’t transpire in the near future. While no longer an elite defender, Chara can still play, proven by the fact that he averaged nearly 19 minutes per game in ice time in his age 44 season.
DeBrusk Explains Rescinded Trade Request
Early into the 2021-22 season, general manager Don Sweeney confirmed reports that DeBrusk had indeed requested a trade. The 25-year-old was said to be frustrated with his role on the team after two straight disappointing seasons.
There were also stories at the time that he and former head coach Bruce Cassidy weren’t seeing eye to eye. Though never confirmed, that really did seem to be the case when, just a month after Cassidy was fired, DeBrusk chose to rescind his trade request. Though silent on what went into that at the time, he explained his decision to reporters earlier this week.
“I think the biggest thing last year was the support I got from this room,” DeBrusk said. “I felt like it was obviously a lot of stuff coming my way for obvious reasons, and the guys in this room kept it tight and kept it as one. That’s something I’ve always loved about this team.
“I’ve always loved the boys and the city and everything else. This is what I’ve known, and this is what I’m comfortable with. It honestly wasn’t that hard of a decision to make. In saying that — and building off last season — it’s one of those things I talked about a little bit, and I was leaning that way, so yeah, that’s how it all happened.”
Near the trade deadline, it seemed DeBrusk was on his way out of Boston. However, his play picked up tremendously at that time, prompting Sweeney to instead work out a two-year, $8 million extension. At that time, the idea was that a trade would instead come in the summer, though that is no longer the case. Perhaps now that the entire fiasco is in the past, DeBrusk will be able to put it all together and play like the player he has shown at times he can be.
Marchand Set to Begin Skating
Approximately four months after undergoing surgery to repair both hips, Marchand is back to skating. The 34-year-old, who scored 32 goals and 80 points in 70 games last season, was originally slated for a return in December, but appears to be slightly ahead of schedule.
“First day. But it’s pretty much like learning how to skate again,” Marchand told reporters. “Very light for this next little while and then hopefully progress each week.
“I think it’s around there (November), the end of the month — the last few days of November is kind of the target date. It’s about six months, around there.”
With several key players expected to be out of the lineup for the beginning of the Bruins’ season, most notably Marchand and Charlie McAvoy, there are some who believe this team may struggle to get into the playoffs. That said, if Marchand is able to return by late November and instantly start making an impact, that may very well prove to be more than enough time to get this organization back into the postseason for what could very well be their final kick at the can with this core.
Looking Ahead for the Bruins
As training camp approaches, the biggest thing to keep an eye on are any potential professional tryout offers they may look to give a player or two. There had been speculation that they may look at a blueliner in that regard, which could include someone like Chara or perhaps Keith Yandle. Up front, it is possible that they look to do that with Virtanen given the interest they had for him a few short seasons ago.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.