By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Don Sweeney stayed true to his words from Friday and avoided getting into bidding wars for big-ticket items Saturday when NHL free agency started.
Instead he added depth with right-shot defenseman Paul Postma and left wing Kenny Agostino. Both were signed to one-year, one-way contracts (for $725,000 and $875,000, respectively).
It’s not that Sweeney didn’t try to land a bigger fish. But to hear him tell it, he didn’t get involved in any bidding wars that might have put a wrench in the works in the future, even if signing a particular player would’ve helped in the short term.
“We made offers to players that have signed elsewhere, again for different reasons,” Sweeney said. “It’s entirely up to the player themselves, whether the term wasn’t right, whether the dollars weren’t right or whether the location wasn’t right. There was nothing … off the top off of my head that would’ve scared us off of a particular player. We’ve got some long-term projections and some short-term ones that we’ve done a lot of work on.”
The Bruins might’ve lost out when Michael Del Zotto headed to Vancouver (two years, $3 million per) but they were wise to back off on Trevor Daley (Detroit, 3 years for $3.17 million per) and Dmitry Kulikov (Winnipeg, three years at $4.33 million per) in pursuit of a left-shot defenseman.
Postma can play both sides and had an impressive 14 points (one goal 13 assists) in 65 games last season (while averaging 11 minutes per game). As Garret Hohl explained in a piece for JetsNation:
Postma is an underrated and underappreciated defender.
Paul Postma dressed for about 700 minutes with the Jets, almost exclusively even strength. Despite ranking 181st in the NHL for defender ice time, Postma ranked 128th in terms of results, just seven ranks behind Tobias Enstrom. His value predominately comes from his offensive impact, although he does have some defensive value, although below league average.
Given a better defense partner, like Kevan Miller or Torey Krug, Postma could improve at both ends of the rink.
As far as Agostino, Sweeney is hoping that last season’s AHL MVP can provide competition for some of the prospects hoping to win jobs and the likes of Tim Schaller and Riley Nash in the top nine. Agostino could give the Bruins another option when injuries or in-game happenings require someone to move up the depth chart much like Schaller did all last season.
Postma and Agostino also give the Bruins more options for their second power-play unit, which was in flux much of last season. Both have extension man-advantage experience at least in the AHL.
Most important, Sweeney showed more than patience in free agency, he telegraphed his new philosophy about spending money, particularly when it comes to depth. Once upon a free agent season, the Bruins would’ve been lining up to add a defensive defenseman like Karl Alzner, who (not surprisingly with Claude Julien behind the bench) Montreal signed for $4.625 million for five seasons. The old Bruins way would’ve been up front trying to convince Scott Hartnell or Chris Thorburn to come to Boston, or would’ve traded for Alexei Emelin, asking them to be “big and bad.”
Instead Sweeney went for skill, versatility and guys who could actually provide competition for incumbent veterans and make life difficult on the rookies in training camp. Sweeney won’t be reacquiring that third-round pick he dealt away for Zac Rinaldo or get a discount on the $6 million over five years he poured into David Backes’ pockets, but it’s obvious the Bruins are ready to change with the way the game is changing.
Starting with the coaching switch to Bruce Cassidy the Bruins have become more progressive. There’s a little more rope for offensive players to make mistakes, which will benefit Postma, Agostino and prospects like Anders Bjork and Charlie McAvoy. The Bruins aren’t abandoning toughness but they’ll keep their raw grit to a minimum and instead look for some of their skilled players to also play with physicality.
There’s still time for Sweeney to improve the Bruins between now and training camp. Should the roster look as it does now when fall comes, they’ll be leaning on those prospects to make them better, which is less than ideal. But at least Sweeney hasn’t clogged up his depth chart for the present and the next several seasons by overpaying guys who are only getting big money because they made it to unrestricted free agency, and he seems done paying big bucks for Neanderthals who play a style of game from the past.
That shows patience by Sweeney, and progress for him and the organization.