3 Former Bruins Having Good Years, 3 Who Are Struggling

The Boston Bruins have never been afraid to make changes to the roster in their quest to win another Stanley Cup. Over the last few seasons, management has made many moves, trading players or watching them sign contracts elsewhere, and many former Bruins are currently sporting different jerseys. With the start of the new year, now is a good time to see how those former Bruins are doing during the 2021-22 campaign; some are thriving while others are struggling.

A Good Season: Ondrej Kase (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Ondrej Kase had a forgettable tenure with the Bruins. The 26-year-old winger dealt with serious injuries and only suited up for nine regular-season games over two seasons with the team – he had one assist. The Bruins, therefore, opted not to extend a $2.6 million qualifying offer to Kase over the summer. The Czech forward became a free agent and signed a one-year, $1.25 million contract with the Toronto Maple Leafs – officially ending his time in Boston.

Ondrej Kase Toronto Maple Leafs
Ondrej Kase, Toronto Maple Leafs (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Kase has completely rebounded in Toronto and has become the player the Bruins had hoped he would be for them. In 28 games, he has eight goals and 16 points, and four goals and six assists in his last nine contests. He’s also been very versatile for the Maple Leafs, bouncing around the lineup but remaining efficient. Unfortunately, he was recently sidelined after injuring himself during an off-ice workout.

Struggling: Nick Ritchie (Toronto Maple Leafs)

Nick Ritchie also signed with the Maple Leafs this summer. Like Kase, the Bruins decided not to extend the power forward his $2 million qualifying offer, which, at the time, was a questionable decision. The 26-year-old was coming off a career-high 15 goals and 11 assists in 56 games in 2020-21. He also threw 102 hits, providing the Bruins with scoring and grit.

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Yet, in hindsight, general manager Don Sweeney is likely content with this move so far. In 30 games with the Maple Leafs, Ritchie has one goal, eight assists, and a minus-5 rating. His struggles have made him a healthy scratch, so his $2.5 million cap hit through 2022-23 doesn’t look very good. He still has time to turn his season around, but it’s surprising that Kase has been the better player of the two this season.

A Good Season: Danton Heinen (Pittsburgh Penguins)

The Bruins traded Danton Heinen to the Anaheim Ducks to acquire Ritchie during the 2019-20 season. Sweeney arguably won that deal, as the 26-year-old winger had just 10 goals and eight assists in 52 games with the Ducks and they let him walk during the offseason. He then quietly signed a one-year, $1.1 million contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Danton Heinen Pittsburgh Penguins
Danton Heinen, Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Jeanine Leech/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

This move has worked out beautifully for the Penguins, as Heinen seems to have returned to form. In 32 games, he has nine goals and 16 points. He’s also averaging a point every two games, impressive for a bottom-six winger. He is tied for third on the team in goals with Brock McGinn. Few could have predicted his success before the season, and if he keeps this production up, he should land himself a nice raise in the offseason – whether it’s with Pittsburgh or elsewhere.

Struggling: Riley Nash (Tampa Bay Lightning)

After a 41-point season with the Bruins in 2017-18, Riley Nash signed a three-year, $8.25 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets that summer. Since then, he has never come close to that kind of production, and this season, the 32-year-old forward has been placed on waivers twice due to his struggles. A lot has changed since his days in Boston.

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In 25 games this season between the Winnipeg Jets and Tampa Bay Lightning, Nash has yet to record a point and has a minus-2 rating. He is known to be a defensive forward, but it’s rare to see a forward go so long without a point. It’s uncertain what’s next for the NHL veteran.

A Good Season: Torey Krug (St. Louis Blues)

The Bruins miss Torey Krug immensely. Their left-side defense hasn’t been the same since he signed with the St. Louis Blues during the 2020 offseason. The offensive defenseman isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, either, with five goals and 13 assists in 29 games. With that, he is still defensively sound, with a plus-11 rating.

Torey Krug St. Louis Blues
Torey Krug, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)

Although Boston could use Krug on their backend, the 30-year-old wanted his payday, and the organization decided not to match St. Louis’ offer. We’ll see how his $6.5 million cap hit will age over the next six seasons, but right now, the Blues should be happy to have him. Here’s hoping the Bruins can find a defenseman who can produce at that similar level in the near future.

Struggling: Anders Bjork (Buffalo Sabres)

When the Bruins traded Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres as a part of the Taylor Hall deal last season, it seemed to benefit the 25-year-old winger. In 15 games with the Sabres, Bjork scored three goals and three assists. They weren’t jaw-dropping totals, but his production increased, and Bjork received more playing time. He was inching closer to becoming a legitimate third-line forward, but now, his game has cooled off

In 29 games this season, Bjork has four goals and an assist. He’s been dropped to Buffalo’s fourth line and is not receiving the same chances he did last season. It’s concerning since the Sabres have traded away more forward talent since last season. Yet, the Wisconsin native hasn’t been able to take advantage of an increased opportunity. Even though Hall hasn’t been perfect this season, the Bruins would still make this trade every time. This move was a steal for Boston.

We’ll keep an eye on these players as the regular season continues. There’s a lot of time left in 2021-22, so the players who are struggling can turn things around, just as the three players having good starts might drop off a bit from here. We’ll have to wait and see what happens the rest of the way.

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