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  • Free agency takeaways: Bruins make splash with Lindholm and Zadorov.

    Tim Rosenthal July 1, 2024

    Unlike the last two free agency periods, the Boston Bruins entered the first day of free agency with salary cap flexibility to address their primary off-season needs.

    Don Sweeney addressed Boston’s center and defensive needs after adding Elias Lindholm (seven years with a $7.75 million cap hit) and Nikita Zadorov (six years at $5 million per) from Vancouver as their marquee signees.

    The Bruins added more short-term forward and defensive depth additions, including two-year deals for Max Jones, Jeffery Veil, Jordan Osterle and Billy Sweezey, and one-year contracts for Riley Tufte and Cole Koepke.

    Boston parted ways with a majority of its in-house unrestricted free agents. Jake DeBrusk’s departure to Vancouver (seven years, $5.5 million AAV) highlighted the list of now notable former B’s finding new homes.


    Danton Heinen (two years, $2.5 million) and Derek Forbort (one-year, $1.5 million) joined DeBrusk as new Canucks signees. A pair of one-year deals involving Matt Grzelcyk (Pittsburgh) and Pat Maroon (Chicago) capped off the remaining exits of Boston’s UFA class.

    The Bruins landed their center and defensive upgrades ahead of their 101st season. But did they do enough to improve their Stanley Cup chances following another disappointing playoff setback against the Florida Panthers? And where do things stand with the ongoing negotiations involving Jeremy Swayman?

    Let’s look at a few key takeaways from the first day of the NHL free agency period.

    Coming to Boston was an ‘easy decision’ for Lindholm and Zadorov.

    Over the last two years, the hockey rumor mill had linked Boston as a potential landing spot for Lindholm. Over time, they added Zadorov to the chatter of possible Bruins targets.

    During Monday’s press conference, Sweeney confirmed that interest spanned multiple years, specifically with Lindholm. The mutual interest between the oldest US NHL franchise and their camps made Lindholm and Zadorov at ease.


    “As soon as Boston came into the picture, it was an easy decision for me,” Lindholm said. “Joining this organization, Original Six, has so much history and so many good players on the team. Obviously, looking at their playoff series against Florida, they’re pretty much right there. So, it was exciting to join this organization.”


    “Pretty much it was a no-brainer for me when we found out the Bruins were interested in me to come and play for them, and it was mutual,” Zadorov said. “Boston was on top of the list my whole life. It’s an Original Six team, and I feel like the Bruins style… I always loved that.”

    Zadorov and Lindholm traveled similar paths to get to Boston. Both will arrive at their new homes on their third team over the past four seasons.

    The two newest Bruins admitted that they’ve tried to model their playing styles after a pair of legends — Lindholm after Patrice Bergeron and Zadorov after Zdeno Chara. They downplayed comparing their skill sets and traits to those of the future Hall of Famers during their introductory Zoom conferences.

    Lindholm’s defensive traits continue to stand out. But the 2021 Selke Award finalist saw his offensive numbers decline over the past two years after posting career highs in goals (42) goals, assists (40) and points (82) with Calgary in 2021-22. Amid a year of transition and further offensive struggles, the Swede rebounded with a productive postseason, tallying 10 points in 13 games to complete his brief tenure in Vancouver.

    Perhaps a top-line role next to David Pastrnak will allow Lindholm to refind his scoring touch. At the very least, they’ll have another reliable penalty killer and faceoff performer in their top six.

    In Zadorov, the Bruins added a physical specimen to the left side of their blue line to potentially pair with Charlie McAvoy for top line and shutdown minutes. Coming off three straight 20-plus point seasons, the 6-foot-5 blue-liner also provides a reliable hand in creating transition with crisp outlet passes and isn’t shy to play a supporting role in the attacking zone.

    DeBrusk and Heinen’s departures dent Boston’s depth at wing.

    Indeed, Sweeney checked off two of his top items on his off-season checklist, albeit at a combined $12.75 million. Conversely, the Bruins lost two versatile wingers after DeBrusk and Heinen signed their respective deals with the Canucks.

    Despite a rocky tenure full of trade chatter and a rift involving former coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins will miss DeBrusk’s speed, skillset and improved 200-foot presence, which he displayed during his seven seasons. In Heinen, Boston loses a valuable asset who can perform multiple roles throughout a lineup.

    Sweeney declined to address DeBrusk’s and Heinen’s departures with external help. Other potential replacements like Jonathan Drouin and Anthony Duclair signed with the Avalanche and Islanders, respectively.

    Barring any unforeseen development, the Bruins will look at filling DeBrusk’s and Heinen’s voids internally to start next season.

    Fabian Lysell and Georgii Merkulov, two of the top prospects in a relatively thin Boston pipeline, should receive multiple looks in the middle of the lineup throughout training camp. Charlie Coyle or Matthew Poitras could slide to wing if neither Lysell nor Merkulov impresses during the preseason. Perhaps Jones shines enough to warrant a second or third-line look before their season opener against the Cup champion Panthers on Oct. 8.

    If all else fails, the Bruins will explore wing help at next year’s trade deadline. Until then, they must address one more significant item before reporting to Brighton in the fall.

    Sweeney reiterates prioritizing a contract extension for Swayman.

    Ideally, the Bruins would’ve had their long-term outlook in net solidified heading into the first day of free agency. Instead, the waiting game continues with Swayman following his breakthrough postseason.

    According to Frank Servalli of Daily Faceoff, Swayman and the Bruins “aren’t close” to agreeing on a new long-term deal. Boston extended a qualifying offer to the RFA Swayman before Sunday’s deadline.

    Sweeney publicly expressed the Swayman contract extension as one of his top priority since his year-end press conference. The tenth-year Boston GM echoed that sentiment during his latest media availability at Warrior Ice Arena.

    “Sway is a big part of this whole dynamic of what we are trying to put together,” Sweeney said. “It’s a priority for us. We’re going to continue to negotiate a landing spot, and the timing is what it is, and however long that takes. It’s not impacted by what we did today. We’re in a great spot to find, as I said, the best-negotiated deal for both sides.”

    According to Bruins Cap Space, the Bruins’ projected cap room after Monday is slightly north of $10.2 million.

    With Jusse Saros’ recent extension as a potential comparable (eight years at $7.74 per year), the Bruins should have enough room to push the Swayman deal to the finish line. Boston’s front office may have another price in mind, given Swayman’s shorter framework — 132 career appearances over four seasons. Yet, even after last year’s arbitration hearing and the recent report from Servalli, the panic level over the Swayman negotiations remains tepid at best.  

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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