Entering the 2002-23 season, the Boston Bruins had some good contracts and some not-so-good contracts. Seventeen games into the season, the case could be made that every contract that the Bruins have on their books is a good one. However, after a deeper dive into the Black and Gold’s salary cap, there are some contracts that the Bruins are getting a lot of value with.
Some of the names that could be playing above their contract value are Linus Ullmark in the net, Charlie Coyle as the third-line center, and Nick Foligno. There are, however, four players that the Bruins are getting tremendous value from and are a part of the reason for Boston’s 15-2-0 start to the season.
In his second season in Boston, Derek Forbort, along with Hampus Lindholm, could be considered the MVP on defense in the absences of Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk at various points early in the season. Lindholm is playing like a 1A defenseman, but Forbort, before getting injured, was playing above his $3 million average annual value (AAV).
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In 10 games before he was injured against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Nov. 1 and has been out since being placed on Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) following surgery on the middle finger on his hand, Forbort was doing all the little things. He had one goal and three points, but more importantly, he was the top penalty-killing defenseman, he sacrifices his body with 18 blocked shots and plays a physical style with 27 hits.
Forbort and Connor Clifton formed one of the top better pairings for first-year coach Jim Montgomery and made it hard for him to break them up. Forbort is never going to be known for his offensive game, but on this Bruins team, he doesn’t need to worry about that. McAvoy, Lindholm, and others will cover that, but when Forbort returns, he needs to return to his form before his injury and if he does, that will solidify the blueline even more.
Speaking of Clifton, you could make the argument that aside from Lindholm, the new system has been a plus for him. He has been taking advantage of the freedom the defense has been given, pinching in the offensive zone, playing a physical style of hockey (he has 51 hits), and joining the offensive rush. He also has been another key part of the penalty kill, while averaging 21:16 of time on ice a night. His play has allowed him to be moved up and down the defensive pairings.
He does have two goals this season in 17 games and he has six assists, which is just two shy of his career-high of eight he had last season. He has 30 shots on the net, but overall, he has been playing with a ton of confidence in every aspect of his game. He is in the final year of a contract that carries a $1 million AAV and he is setting himself up for a nice payday next offseason if he continues on this path this season, it would be tough for the Bruins to let him walk.
Last season was a season to forget for Tomas Nosek. This season through the first 17 games, the Bruins are getting the best version of the bottom-six forward. One of three veteran forwards signed in the summer of 2021 with Erik Haula and Nick Foligno, Nosek is quietly having one of the better early seasons in the bottom six on his $1.75 million AAV.
In 2021-22, he had three goals and 17 points with a plus/minus of minus-9 in 75 games. This season and you could chalk it up to a new coach, he has thrived in his role on the fourth line and as one of the top penalty killers on the Bruins’ top-ranked penalty kill. He broke a 92-game scoreless streak when he scored an empty-net goal in a 5-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 13, but he is also doing a lot of the little things that don’t show up nightly on the scoresheet.
A breakdown of some of his numbers could surprise some people. He has won 58.0% of his faceoffs, 54.5% shorthanded, 55.3% when the game is tied and 51.6% when the game is close. His success at the faceoff dot has instilled some confidence in Montgomery to have Nosek out on the ice in late-game situations with Patrice Bergeron or Charlie Coyle. He is averaging a career-high 13:28 in time on ice early in the season, which can be contributed to his late-game situations.
You might be saying, A.J. Greer? Yes, that A.J.Greer as when he is in the lineup, he has provided a jolt of energy, toughness, and hard-grinding shifts in the bottom six. Signed over the summer for what was thought would be depth in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Providence Bruins, he earned himself a roster spot with one of the better training camps and preseason.
He carries a $762,500 AAV and in his sixth NHL season with his third team, he has three goals and three assists in 12 games. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and brings physicality to the lineup and that was evident against the Canucks. He delivered a clean open-ice hit on Vasily Podkolzin before the two dropped the gloves and fought. Right now when he is in the lineup, he is providing something that has been missing recently in the bottom six for the Black and Gold, a mixture of physicality and production. Not bad for a player that was seen as AHL depth prior to the season.
There are other options for Bruins’ that are playing above their contract value through the first 17 games of the season. Forbort’s success has been noticeable in just about every game he has played in, but Nosek and Greer sometimes get caught under the radar. This start to the season for Boston could not be possible without some players playing over the value of their current contracts.
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Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.