By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) – A team can never have too many centers.
That might not be an actual old adage in hockey. In fact, the adage probably goes something like you can never have too many defensemen. But when it comes to the current Bruins philosophy, the former slogan seems to apply.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney added to his collection of centers Tuesday, when he signed free agent Dominic Moore to a one-year contract worth $900,000.
Moore joins a depth chart that already included incumbents Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Ryan Spooner, free agent signings David Backes and Riley Nash and prospect Austin Czarnik. With a list of centers that long – not to mention the possibility that a prospect could make a case for a job at training camp – was signing Moore necessary?
Well by signing Moore, Sweeney addressed two needs he decided the Bruins still had up front despite their depth at the position. Moore, who won 55 percent of his faceoffs last season, is a left-handed shot. Only Spooner among those listed above shoots the same way. Moore is also a strong penalty killer, and considering the Bruins’ lack of talent on the back end, any help they can get from the forwards when a man down will be welcome. After all, a weaker defensive team will probably take more penalties. Between injuries and wear and tear, the Bruins are going to need all the capable bodies they can find to make sure they aren’t sunk by their special teams.
Three things came to mind when the Moore signing was announced. First, this signing might give you a better idea of Sweeney’s view of his prospects, and maybe even Spooner. While integrating David Pastrnak and Frank Vatrano into the top nine full-time for the first time, the Bruins might not be willing to have anything less than an experienced fourth line. So we could see Moore centering a line with Nash and Jimmy Hayes or Tyler Randell. This could also mean that even if the Bruins keep Spooner, he could be ticketed to playing wing.
Of course, if Spooner’s still a center, then the second thought is Backes might wind up playing wing (regardless of what CEO Charlie Jacobs said publicly earlier this week during a radio appearance). It makes sense that if you’re going to pay Backes like a top-six player, you might as well play him in the top six until the roster gets ironed out in trades and maneuvers. Moore continues to give Julien lineup flexibility, in addition to giving the Bruins another guiding voice in the dressing.
Third, Moore can also be an added insurance policy if Krejci’s recovery hits any snags. Krejci just started skating two weeks ago and he’s hardly exerting himself. There’s no telling when he’ll be up to full speed. Opening night might be a generous target date for Krejci. And that would be barring any setbacks. Not to mention it might take time after he starts playing to really hit his stride. He might need help from Backes or Moore taking draws or playing in crucial defensive situations.
Moore is a low-priced, low-risk signing. It seems like he still has enough left in the tank at 36 years old to contribute. If for some reason he doesn’t, the Bruins can send him to the minors or release him. If he’s capable, then Julien has more options for his lineup and Sweeney has more options for when he finally makes the franchise-altering trade everyone is waiting to see.
A giant stable of centers won’t make up for the lack of legitimate top-four defensemen. And the Bruins still don’t look more than a crumb better than they were last year. But there’s at least a chance the fourth line won’t be the disaster it was in 2015-16.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.