By Matt Kalman, CBS Boston
In addition to inducing a collective yawn from close and casual followers of the Bruins, the signings of defenseman Paul Postma and forward Kenny Agostino when free agency opened on Saturday had something else in common.
Both players are coming to Boston as unrestricted free agents with something to prove. Fortunately for the Bruins, with the way their roster is constructed right now, there will be plenty of position battles and many players looking to change their narrative come fall.
Postma set a career high with 65 games played but averaged just 10:51 of ice time for Winnipeg last season. Still he posted elite-level offensive numbers per 60 minutes and felt like he probably should’ve received more of a chance to play more with the Jets.
“I’ve been around the league long enough that I know how I can play. It’s just I wasn’t getting the opportunity, [I was] quite frustrated at times with ice time and minutes and all that stuff, just stuff that was out of my control,” Postma said.
Agostino has been in a similar position in a couple of stops in his NHL career since leaving Yale. He was the MVP of the AHL last season but only played seven games with St. Louis and was limited to a bottom-six role with some time on the Blues’ second power play. He’s looking forward to flaunting a more well-rounded game with the Bruins.
“I feel like my offensive abilities have always been a constant, since I’ve been a pro. I feel like, if anything, I’ve improved the rest of my game in the past two years,” he said. “That being said, I think my hockey sense and my hockey smarts is one of the best areas in my game, which allows me to play anywhere in the lineup, so I think you can put me in a top-six role or a third-line guy that can provide secondary scoring. I think I’m pretty versatile as a player right now.”
The Bruins need versatility and competition at all positions, and Postma and Agostino should provide that. In an ideal world, Rob O’Gara or someone similar grabs a job in the fall and Postma becomes expendable; or some combination of Matt Beleskey, Tim Schaller and a prospect or two keep Agostino from fulfilling his NHL dream. The key for the Bruins is they have options.
Similarly, the Bruins could probably use someone at the goaltender position to push backup Anton Khudobin and maybe even put a little heat on No. 1 Tuukka Rask. Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre have been slowing developing into threats and another veteran might be a wise signing by Sweeney. For now Sweeney’s plan is for Khudobin to play the way he did down the stretch last season and make life easier on Rask. But ideally, someone would be making life difficult for Rask by inspiring a little worry about his job — not to mention the Bruins are always one injury away from goaltending disaster with their current allotment of goalies. But there’s still time for Sweeney to add depth in that department.
When training camp opens in a little more than two months, Khudobin will be trying to prove he’s more the goaltender he was in April than the one he was earlier last season. Beleskey will be trying to prove injuries were what held him back last season. David Backes will be looking to improve on his inconsistent first season with Boston, Charlie McAvoy will be trying to prove his playoffs performance wasn’t a fluke and Brandon Carlo will have to prove he’s immune to the sophomore jinx. There are more players at crossroads than not.
It’s a little weird that a team that exceeded expectations and qualified for the playoffs after missing them for two straight seasons has so many players in need of a turnaround or heading into the new season with their job on the line. But that’s the type of discomfort Sweeney wants and the Bruins lacked during the seasons they failed to reach the postseason.
That’s a wise philosophy.