As there is with any team, there are changes to the makeup of a club from season to season. That was the case for the Boston Bruins entering the 2021-22 season as general manager Don Sweeney signed veteran free agents, while letting some of his own leave for other teams.
With over a month in the books on the new NHL season, let’s take a look at how some former Boston Bruins who left after last season’s second-round playoff elimination at the hands of the New York Islanders are fairing with their new team in 2021-22.
Mixed Results for Ritchie and Kase in Toronto
One of Sweeney’s offseason decisions was what to do with restricted free agents Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase. Neither player was given an offer from Boston, which meant that both players became unrestricted free agents when free agency began in July. Both players find themselves as teammates again, this time with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ritchie signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Maple Leafs after a year and a half in Boston. In the 56-game shortened 2020-21 season, Ritchie was a surprise after struggling when he was acquired from the Anaheim Ducks at the tree deadline in 2020. He had 15 goals and 11 assists, while playing in all 56 regular-season games. He mainly bounced back and forth between the bottom-six, but with David Pastrnak recovering from offseason surgery, he had five power play goals early in the season. The end of the season and the playoffs were a disappointment for Anaheim’s 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 Entry Draft. In 11 postseason games, he had a goal and three assists. In 18 games with Toronto this season he has two assists and plus/minus of minus-4.
Kase was never able to get comfortable in Boston following his trade from the Ducks in February of 2020. He was injured in the second game of the season against the New Jersey Devils last season and missed four months before returning against the New York Islanders right before the playoffs. His return lasted just two periods, before exiting with another injury and he never played another game for the Black and Gold again.
This season in 18 games for the Maple Leafs, he has been getting top-six shifts and minutes with four goals and two assists. He looks healthy and is averaging 13 minutes a game for Toronto, who is in the midst of a five-game winning streak. Kase is playing on a one-year, $1.25 million contract and as of now, the Maple Leafs are getting good value with the deal.
Lauzon Selected By Kraken
In what could be considered the biggest offseason loss to the roster, the Seattle Kraken selected young defenseman, Jeremy Lauzon, in their expansion draft in July. In his first full NHL season in 2020-21, the Bruins 52nd overall pick in the second round of the 2015 draft played in 41 games and was a big part of the penalty-killing unit, leading Boston in average in time-on-ice shorthanded at 3:05.
This season, in 16 games for the Kraken, he is averaging just under 17 minutes a night with his new team. With the Bruins defense struggling to begin the season, Lauzon would be a welcomed sight on the back end just for his physical play and penalty-killing ability. Boston has not yet been able to replace him.
Halak Struggling in Vancouver
After backing up Tuukka Rask for three seasons, Jaroslav Halak and the Bruins went their separate ways this offseason and the 36-year-old signed a one-year, $1.5 million contract with the Vancouver Canucks. In three games this season, the 16-year veteran is 0-3 with a 2.79 goals-against average (GAA) and a .903 save percentage (SV%).
In 90 games with Boston, Halak was 49-23-14 with a 2.40 GAA and a .918 SV%. It was evident that after Jeremy Swayman’s strong 2020-21 season, the Bruins and Halak were going to part ways, whether Rask returns or not. Sweeney signed Linus Ullmark in free agency to create a tandem with Swayman that has been good in the first 13 games of the season.
Kuraly Chipping in With Columbus
It’s no secret that Sean Kuraly struggled and struggled mightily for the Bruins last season as a bottom-six forward. His penalty-killing was a boost to the team, but his 5-on-5 play struggled with a career-low of minus-10. He also had a career-low four goals and nine points, but any production offensively from the 28-year-old was an added plus.
He signed a four-year, $10 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets this offseason. In 14 games for his new team this season, Kuraly has two goals and four points with a plus-3. Like in Boston, he has been a part of the Blue Jackets penalty-killing unit. Sweeney remade the Boston bottom-six this offseason with veterans Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek. All three of those players are considered an upgrade over Kuraly, who the Bruins acquired from the San Jose Sharks for goaltender Martin Jones in 2015.
Would the Bruins be better off bringing some of these players back? We will never know, but decisions were made by both the team and players to move on, except for Lauzon was selected by the Kraken. If there is one player that Sweeney would like to have a do-over it might be Kase. He was never healthy in Boston and maybe a healthy season with the Bruins, things might have turned out different.
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.