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On Monday, general manager Don Sweeney
and the Boston Bruins solidified their top nine with two re-signings, inking Brett Connolly
to a one-year contract and Panther-turned-Bruin Jimmy Hayes
to a three-year contract. The contract for Connolly comes with a $1.025 million cap-hit, while Hayes will be on the B’s book at $2.3 million through the 2017-18 season.
The early read on these contracts? Bargains for the Black and Gold, really. The biggest reason I say that is because the Bruins found a way to lock up both Connolly and Hayes, who will play on the right side of their top nine forward groupings this upcoming season, for a combined 3.325 million. That’s $100,000 less than they were paying Reilly Smith
to skate in one
of those spots and put up third-line production as a passenger on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
At the heart of it, getting legitimate value is the biggest step in getting back to what the Bruins want to be-- a team that can come at you with three lines capable of scoring in a variety of ways. The B’s had entirely too many bloated contracts when Sweeney first took over, and while some mistakes remain etched in the Boston braintrust when it comes to retaining ‘their guys’ (I’ll always think Adam McQuaid making $2.75 million for the next four years is too steep of a price in both money and term), these contracts are just another example of the upgrades that Sweeney has made to the B’s cap situation.
In Hayes, the Bruins are getting a guy whose production was close to that of Smith’s, and a player that scores his goals in the dirtier areas of the rink. He’ll drive hard to the net, he’ll use his 6-foot-6 frame in the corners of the rink. That’s something that Claude Julien
desperately wanted more of from his club last season, as he constantly noted the team’s unwillingness to get to those areas. Hayes, who scored 19 goals last season for Florida, including four on the power play, will go there.
“Where I am in terms of fitting in with this team, I’m a big guy,” the 25-year-old Hayes said. “I know the Bruins like to play the big, power-type style of game, so I’m going to have to continue to develop myself into that type of player and continue to use my size and scoring ability to my advantage.
“You can’t really teach size, so being big, I have to take advantage of being as big as I am, and I’ve got to use my reach and use my skill set as well as I can and continue to develop my skill around the net to score a lot of goals,” continued Hayes. “I don’t score many goals from outside; I score my goals in tight, so I’m going to have to continue to work on that with my game.”
With Connolly, the one-year deal screams of the Bruins just wanting to know what they truly have in the former No. 6 overall pick. He scored 12 goals in 50 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, but as injuries delayed his B’s debut, Connolly was only able to skate in five games for the B’s, recording two assists and peppering nine shots on goal without any tangible results to show for it. He has a wicked shot, and his ability to battle along the walls will bring positive results, but without a strong enough sample size for any one party to make a compelling case for a multi-year contract, this seems to make the most sense. If Connolly trends how the Bruins expect him to (they envision him as a guy that could
skate with David Krejci on their first line), that payday will obviously come. But like Ryan Spooner, who signed a two-year deal worth under $2 million a week ago, it’s on Connolly to show it.
And just where do these guys slot in to the 2015-16 roster? I have a feeling that it’ll be Connolly that gets the first crack on Krejci’s right side, while Hayes plays with Bergeron and Marchand. That would allow the Black and Gold to put the three-zone safety-net of Loui Eriksson with the speedy Spooner and David Pastrnak, and give them the confidence booster they need in the defensive zone. That would leave the Bruins with a fourth line competition between Chris Kelly, Zac Rinaldo, Max Talbot, Brian Ferlin, and maybe even Seth Griffith and Alexander Khokhlachev. There’s depth there.
These signings also leave the Bruins with $5 million plus and the club still in need of a top-four defenseman either via the free agency market or through a trade.
Ty Anderson has been covering the Boston Bruins for HockeyBuzz.com since 2010, is a member of the Pro Hockey Writers Association's Boston Chapter, and can be contacted on Twitter, or emailed at Ty.AndersonHB[at]gmail.com