Three Free Agents The Boston Bruins Must Re-Sign

The Boston Bruins have a tough row to hoe with regards to free agency.

The club has 16 players signed for next season with a total cap hit of over $64 million. If current cap projections hold true to form, Boston will have just $7.5 million to improve their squad.

Barring a trade, the salary cap projection is not good news for the Bruins or their fans.

New general manager Don Sweeney has 19 free agents of his own that are all seeking new contracts. There are only a select few that Boston’s new boss should be determined to keep around for various reasons.

Dougie Hamilton

The biggest fish in their pond is restricted free agent Dougie Hamilton. The 21-year-old defenseman is ready to cash in after finishing out the last year of his entry-level contract. His contract year was one to remember as Hamilton posted career-highs in goals (10), assists (32) and points (42) from the blue line. The number 27 is regarded by many as the heir to the defensive throne now held by Zdeno Chara.

Hamilton’s offensive numbers will continue to improve over time, but his defense remains a question mark. The six-foot-five blueliner is a big body yet has not mastered the art of using it to his advantage in the defensive end. He will have to learn how to be more aggressive and stout in his own zone to be an elite, two-way defenseman in his prime.

Appearing on TSN 1050 in Toronto Thursday night, NHL insider Darren Dreger offered some insight into a dollar amount for Hamilton’s next deal.

“When you’re looking at Dougie Hamilton, his agents – CAA Sports – are looking at something that’s probably going to mirror Pietrangelo or Doughty. So upwards of $6-6.5-7 million per year.”

Yikes. That is a huge commitment to make in a player’s second contract, especially with Boston’s cap situation.

Regardless, Sweeney and the Bruins will make every attempt to make sure their franchise defenseman stays put for a long, long time. If Hamilton leaves, it will be a massive blow to their future on the back end.

Ryan Spooner

Where would the Bruins have been without the contributions of Ryan Spooner down the stretch?

The 23-year-old center was called up when David Krejci went down with an injury in late February. He made the most of his opportunity scoring eight points in his first eight games, including his first career NHL goal in overtime to beat the New Jersey Devils.

Spooner teamed up alongside rookie right winger David Pastrnak to create a dynamic duo of speed and skill that give Boston hope for an attack-minded club next season. The number 51 ended up with eight goals in 18 points in 29 games this year while stating a strong claim to centering the Bruins third line come October.

According to War-On-Ice, his 2.52 points/60 minutes played were second on the team in all situations behind Pastrnak’s 2.56.

Spooner will need to work on winning more of his faceoffs but is the early favorite to start next season on the third line, taking the place of impending free agent Carl Soderberg. Boston’s second-round pick in 2010 is a restricted free agent and should stay around.

After all, his speed and offensive instincts will be utilized in a more aggressive, attacking, and exciting style of Bruins hockey.

Brett Connolly

Connolly played just five games with the Bruins after being acquired from Tampa Bay. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Connolly played just five games with the Bruins after being acquired from Tampa Bay. (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Life on Causeway Street got off to a rough start for Brett Connolly. Boston’s trade deadline day acquisition suffered a broken finger in his second practice with the Black and Gold on March 5, missing a month of action.

The sixth overall pick in 2010 recorded two assists in his five games after recovering from the injury. It has been a tough go for Connolly since being drafted by the Lightning.

As Pierre McGuire said when he was selected:

“This one is either a home run – actually this one’s either a grand slam or a ground out.”

Rick Nash was a player that TSN deemed comparable to Connolly. It looks like a strike out at the moment.

So why keep him around? Five games are not a big enough sample for anyone to gauge how well he fits in this system. In addition, he is only 23-years-old and still has time to turn it around.

Peter Chiarelli paid a steep price for Connolly. The Bruins will not ditch two second-rounders for a player they have no intent on re-signing. Look for Sweeney to offer Connolly a one or two-year deal to give him ample time to prove his worth in Boston.