While the Boston Bruins garnered some attention early on today with a long-term extension for defenseman Connor Clifton and the signings of young power forward Brett Ritchie and third-string goalie Maxime Lagace, the team was quietly working through a number of other deals that insiders failed to pick up on. The team has announced seven signings: extensions for Clifton and Ryan Fitzgerald, one-way contracts for Ritchie and Par Lindholm, two-way contracts for Lagace and Brendan Gaunce, and an AHL contract for defenseman Josiah Didier.
Outside of Clifton and Ritchie, the biggest news is the addition of Lindholm, who signed a two-year deal with an AAV of $850K. Although Lindholm, 27, just finished his first NHL season after a long career in Sweden, the Bruins got a good look at him as a member of the rival Toronto Maple Leafs. Lindholm recorded 12 points in 61 games for Toronto, but was held to just one point in four regular season games and two postseason games for the Winnipeg Jets following a late-season trade. However, defense is more Lindholm’s game anyway, as he proved to be a good physical presence and proved to be adept at blocking shots and creating turnovers. Lindholm is a good fourth-line depth option and penalty kill possibility for the Bruins, who lost Noel Acciari to the Florida Panthers, but replace much of the same ability at half the price.
Gaunce, 25, became a UFA after he was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Vancouver Canucks. A 2012 first-round pick, the Canucks expected more offense out of the forward, who instead recorded just 15 points in 117 NHL games through four seasons with the team. Last year, Gaunce played all but three games in the AHL. At his point, Gaunce is a player who uses his size and speed to play a physical, up-tempo style, but lacks the skill to play a scoring role in the NHL. At best, Gaunce will challenge Lindholm to be the next man up on the fourth line in Boston, and would be an affordable piece at $700K, but at worst he has a high floor of being a hard-working and experienced minor league presence that will make his Providence teammates better.
One such teammate is Fitzgerald, who returns to the team on a one-year, $700K deal, coming in below his qualifying offer. Fitzgerald has shown a well-rounded game and consistent production in two years with the Providence Bruins, as he did in four years at Boston College. The homegrown product comes from hockey bloodlines and plays a smart game. There’s still some question of whether the skill is enough to get to the NHL, though. Fitzgerald will still be searching for his Boston debut this coming season.
Another Providence addition is Didier, who strengthens a talented, but shallow AHL blue line for the Bruins. Didier is coming off a career-best offensive season for the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers, despite only being a part-time player for the Calder Cup champs. It’s unclear how much of a role he will play in Providence, but it’s a risk-free investment in a big, experienced defender by the Bruins.