This is Part IV of our Free Agency Preview for your Boston Bruins. You can check out the first three parts by following the respective links: Part I, Part II, Part III.
We've already covered Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla, Boston's two most important free agent decisions to make this off-season. The other UFA's on the Bruins roster include trade deadline acquisitions Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter, and backup goalie Chad Johnson.
|Back in Boston? Will Andrej Meszaros return to the B's (via zimbio.com)|
Cutting right to the chase, it's a pretty safe bet that the trio of players mentioned will not be returning to the Black and Gold for the upcoming season. Looking at the different factors of the available cap space, need for the player, and a flat-out admission that the Bruins can do better, it looks like the rest of the UFA crop for the B's will be looking for a new home to play hockey come July 1.
Both Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter did little to impress in their short stint with the Bruins, with Potter being a non-factor on any level, playing a grand total of three, count 'em, three games for the B's after being signed off the scrap-heap from the Edmonton Oilers. Potter recorded no goals, no assists, recorded one singular shot on goal and skated to a minus-1 rating. The Bruins have 0 need for the 30-year-old NHL veteran going forward, as they won't tie up any sort of cap space to Potter's services that could be spent elsewhere. Instead, a defenseman from Providence, whether it be David Warsofsky or Zach Trotman, has a good chance to serve as the sixth D-man for the 2014-15 season.
Of course, there is still always the possibility that GM Peter Chiarelli will sign another a player along Potter's caliber to serve as an emergency backup with NHL experience in case the B's run into injury trouble again.
Meszaros played out the final year of his six-year, $24 million contract he signed back in 2008, in which he was payed $5.5 million in his split time with the Flyers and the Bruins. After starting out with some sort of relative promise as a member of the Black and Gold, Meszaros fell out of favor with coach Claude Julien as the Bruins battled the Montreal Canadiens in Round 2 of the playoffs that saw them bow out after a Game 7 loss on home ice.
Meszaros played in 14 regular-season games for Boston, recording two goals and three assists for a modest five points while skating to a plus-4 rating. The playoffs were a different story, where Meszaros saw action in only four games of the 12 played, split two games a piece between Round 1 and Round 2. After Matt Bartkowski got burned in Game 1 versus the Habs, Julien benched Bart in favor of Meszaros. Meszaros promptly played just as awful in Games 2 and 3, which saw him return to the 9th Floor in favor of Bartkowski.
With Dennis Seidenberg set to return better than ever from his knee surgery, the void left from his departure last season will be filled...by himself. In the same discussion, Adam McQuaid should be fully healthy and ready to go, meaning the two normal bodies in Boston's defensive core will most likely remove Meszaros from the picture.
Finally, we have backup goalie Chad Johnson. Johnson did everything a backup needs to do serving the role as the secondary netminder: play every now and then, potentially play on the second leg of a back-to-back and don't screw things up too much. After playing the majority of the 2012-13 season in the Phoenix Coyotes' farm system, Johnson signed a one-year, $600,000 contract last July 6. Johnson served as Tuukka Rasks' backup, starting 23 games and posting a 17-4-3 record with a .925 save percentage and a 2.10 GAA.
His play, highlighted by six wins in his first seven starts in the season, and again from January to March where he won 11 times in 12 games, with the only dropped point coming in an overtime loss in Buffalo in Boston's first game back from the Olympic break, undoubtedly one of their worst games of the season.
Yes, Johnson played very well for the Bruins this past season. He allowed Rask to get breathers at plenty of points throughout the season without becoming a liability in net to his team. Of the 23 games he started in, he allowed two or fewer goals in 14 of them.
But for however good Johnson may have played this past season, he owes a great deal of his statistics to one of the best defensive units in the NHL, and to a play style that caters to an increased emphasis on defensive-zone responsibility.
Niklas Svedberg should serve as the backup goalie heading into the new season. Svedberg is a restricted free agent, so the Bruins will have to work out a deal to keep the promising 24-year-old Swede in Boston, but doing so shouldn't be all that difficult.
In almost a complete reversal of the restricted free agent group (Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, Torey Krug) where all three players are expected back, the UFA group for the B's are not likely to return in any fashion to Boston.
Some of the more notable tweaks to the roster may not come in the form of the sixth and seventh defensemen, or as the backup goalie, but they are moves the Bruins will have to make to shore up the meat and potatoes part of the team. Good ol' meat and potatoes.