By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The flurry of free-agent news that came cascading down upon us all via Twitter on Friday afternoon was as rousing an experience as one could hope for. Big names signed big deals, some surprising moves were made, and teams across the league positioned themselves for the upcoming NHL season to the best of their abilities.

But, oh, are we ever left to wonder about what could have been.

What could have been if Milan Lucic, the former beloved son of Boston, had chosen not to sign with the Edmonton Oilers and had instead chosen to sign with Les Habitants de Montréal.

And according to some reports, Lucic donning the bleu, blanc et rouge was very close to becoming a reality.

“For all those Boston Bruins fans on social media that are thanking Milan Lucic for turning down a deal with the Montreal Canadiens and signing with the Edmonton Oilers, a source close to the situation said it was a hard decision to turn down Montreal,” ESPN’s Joe McDonald reported.

Lucic himself expanded on the lure of playing for the Canadiens.

“I had spoken to Montreal quite a bit actually, and that was one of the places – once the trade was made for Shea Weber – getting a chance to play with some B.C. boys with him, Carey Price and Brendan Gallagher that’s some good western boys, that’s something that really sparked my interest after that trade happened,” Lucic told TSN.

Oh, dear Milan. Why? Why couldn’t you have gone to Montreal? Why?!

Well, OK, the seven-year, $42 million offer that old friend Peter Chiarelli was putting in front of you probably had a lot to do with it. And sure, Edmonton is a lot closer to your hometown of Vancouver than Montreal, and perhaps you grew accustomed to a West Coast way of life last year.

You did what’s best for you, Milan, as is your right. But what about us??

This plea is in jest, of course, but it does represent a building feeling of pain as we all are left to wonder, “What if?”

What if Milan Lucic had thrust himself back into the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry, one in which he used to play a central role.

What if he made the swap that so few Bruins fan favorites had made, trading the spoked B for the … for whatever it is you call that CH logo that they’ve got going on up there?

What if, instead of aggressively shaking hands with Dale Weise and Alexei Emelin and threatening to kill both men after calling them “chickens,” he was doing the same to Torey Krug and Patrice Bergeron?

What if, in a seven-game playoff series, Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand were going tit-for-tat, cup check-for-cup check, all series long, for two full weeks?

What if Lucic went Full Lucic on the Bruins, to the point where Michel Therrien was holding cackle-fests while Claude Julien was left to rip his former player in a press conference?

Oh man.

What could have been.

As it stands now, the Bruins-Canadiens rivalry may be nearing an all-time low. The two main targets of the other team’s fan base — Lucic and P.K. Subban — are no longer involved. Neither team made the playoffs last year. The Winter Classic was a dud. Zdeno Chara’s old. Max Pacioretty’s boring. Patrice Bergeron’s never done anything wrong in his life. Tomas Plekanec is still wearing turtlenecks.

The whole thing is a bit lacking in oomph, in pizzazz, in gusto, if you will.

It’s just missing some life.

Sure, Marchand and Brendan Gallagher are still kicking around and will probably do plenty to incite the other city’s fans from time to time. And the still-newish playoff format should ensure that these two teams should be meeting in the playoffs again sooner than later. And of course, a rivalry doesn’t survive for a century without the occasional dip in action.

But on this day, in July of 2016, it is fair to take a step back and lament what could have been had Milan Lucic chosen to go to Montreal. Perhaps for some fans, it would have been too much to bear. But there’s no denying the potential entertainment impact of the sweaters being swapped in this scenario.

Milan Lucic in Montreal. It could have been a beautiful thing.

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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