Bruins Re-Signing Studnicka Provides More Options in 2022-23

It has been about as quiet as it could possibly be for the Boston Bruins since the start of free agency on July 13. Other than the New York Islanders, the Black and Gold have been quiet on subtracting or adding pieces to their roster for the 2022-23 season. General manager (GM) Don Sweeney has made a few moves, with the biggest being trading Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils for forward Pavel Zacha, someone who has been on Sweeney’s radar at the last two trade deadlines.

Related: Boston Bruins Trade Haula to New Jersey Devils for Zacha

Zacha is a restricted free agent (RFA) and is going to Salary Arbitration on Aug. 11, unless he can come to an agreement on a new deal with the Bruins before his hearing. After five minor signings on July 13 that were not really much more than adding depth to the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL), Sweeney has re-signed two of his other RFAs. On July 19, the Bruins agreed to a one-year, $750,000 contract with defensemen Jack Ahcan, who given the Bruins’ current injury situation on defense with Matt Grzelcyk expected to miss the beginning of the upcoming season following surgery, the former St. Cloud State standout should get a shot in training camp to earn an opening night roster spot for new coach Jim Montgomery.

Saturday, the Bruins signed another RFA when they agreed to a two-year deal with Jack Studnicka that carries an average annual value (AAV) of $762,500. The deal is a two-year contract for the 2022-23 season, before it goes to a one-way contract in 2023-24. He will have to pass through waivers to get to Providence in 2022-23, however, getting Studnicka locked up for two more years is key for Sweeney. Still, given the current situation heading into the upcoming season, the Bruins can afford to be patient with him.

Bruins Have Options With Studnicka for 2022-23

While most teams are adding to the makeup of their roster, the Bruins are waiting for final decisions from Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. Sweeney would welcome both top-two centers back with open arms and he has hinted at that being a possibility on numerous occasions.

Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Bringing both players back would be a short-term, not a long-term fix up the middle for the Black and Gold. Both would supply experience for this season, but if one or neither do decide to come back, signing Studnicka gives Montgomery an option to plug into the middle. Currently, the Boston depth chart at center under contract is Charlie Coyle, and Tomas Nosek, with Trent Frederic being another option. Once he goes under a contract with the Bruins, Zacha will be another center option, but he also provides flexibility by being able to play on the wing as well.

That is not a lot of center depth under contract to get many Bruins fans excited. There is still time to add and subtract with the roster, but Studnicka offers a nice option for Montgomery.

Bruins Hoping Montgomery’s Success With Young Players Rubs off on Studnicka

Wherever Montgomery has coached, he has had a lot of success with younger players and their development under his watch. He won two USHL championships with the Dubuque Fighting Saints and an NCAA championship with the University of Denver. Last season as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues, Robert Thomas, and Jordan Kyrou each had breakout seasons under Montgomery, who was in charge of the Blues’ power play and the forwards on Craig Berube’s staff. Thomas finished five points behind leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko with 20 goals and 57 assists, while Kyrou racked up 27 goals and 48 assists. 

Studnicka was selected in the second round, 53rd overall, in the 2017 Entry Draft by the Bruins and has always been considered a center-in-waiting for when Bergeron and Krejci were gone. In each season in Providence, his development has come along, but his time in Boston has been frustrating for both the player and the team. Under former coach Bruce Cassidy, Studnicka found himself mostly at right wing and struggled. He was much better when he was at his natural position at center, but his path to the NHL the last couple of seasons was on the wing. Cassidy got frustrated with him at times and it showed signs of wearing on the young player who began to lack confidence.

Jack Studnicka Boston Bruins
Jack Studnicka, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Under Montgomery, the Bruins are hoping that changes. Can Montgomery get the best out of Studnicka? If history tells us anything, all you have to do is look back at the success of Thomas and Kyrou in St. Louis under the Bruins’ first-year coach with the big development and breakout seasons of the Blues’ two young stars.

No one is saying that Studnicka has the talent and will become Thomas or Kyrou in the NHL, but it can’t be any more frustrating than the last couple of seasons have been. Say what you want about Sweeney, but this deal with Studnicka is a very good deal. If Bergeron and Krejci return, then he probably gets another AHL season with spot time in Boston, but if neither veteran returns, then this is the moment that Studnicka has been waiting for under a new coach that has proven success with younger players.

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