- Bruins depth defender Derek Forbort will be scratched against the Kraken tonight after missing a team meeting this morning, head coach Jim Montgomery said (video link). It’s the second time such a disciplinary scratch has happened this season, the first instance being for winger Jake DeBrusk being held out of an October game against the Kings. Forbort has struggled with injuries this year but has been in the lineup for 10 straight games, his second-longest stretch of the season. He has just four assists in 34 games while logging 17:44 per game, however, and his possession numbers and reputation as a solid penalty killer have both dipped. He’ll be a UFA this summer upon completing his three-year, $9MM deal.
- A day after recalling defenseman Ian Mitchell and assigning Justin Brazeau to the minors, the Bruins reversed those moves, per the AHL’s transactions log. Brazeau scored in his NHL debut back on Monday after his AHL deal was converted to a two-year NHL pact. Mitchell, meanwhile, has been shuffled back and forth several times this season. He has two assists in 13 NHL games so far while adding 14 points in 22 games with Providence.
Joe Pohoryles of The Hockey News is reporting that the Boston Bruins have recalled defenseman Ian Mitchell from their AHL affiliate in Providence. Mitchell hasn’t dressed for an NHL game since December 23rd after making the team out of training camp as the seventh defenseman. He started the season with two assists in 13 NHL games and was then assigned to Providence and has posted three goals and 11 assists in 22 AHL games. Mitchell has played in 95 NHL games over four seasons and has four career NHL goals and 14 assists.
Mitchell’s recall could signal that fellow defenseman Matt Grzelcyk will miss some time. Grzelcyk was injured in Boston’s 6-5 overtime win last night against the Edmonton Oilers and the Bruins are calling his status day-to-day. Boston is already without their top left-shot defenseman Hampus Lindholm, and Grzelcyk’s injury leaves them down another defenseman.
Grzelcyk isn’t having one of his better offensive seasons as he has just two goals and five assists in 43 games. However, this is largely due to his role changing a bit this year as he has seen far less power play time and far more time killing penalties. The 30-year-old has spent more time on the penalty kill this season than the last three seasons combined and has just over five minutes on the power play this year. Special teams aside, Grzelcyk’s play at even strength hasn’t been as strong this year, and it will be something he’ll likely be looking to work on when he is healthy and in the lineup again.
Bruins defenseman Hampus Lindholm is out on a week-to-week basis after sustaining an undisclosed injury on Monday against the Stars, Fluto Shinzawa of The Athletic reports. The 30-year-old will not require surgery, but he will miss a significant chunk of Boston’s 26 remaining games.
Now in the second season of an eight-year, $52MM extension, Lindholm’s offensive production has taken a step back after a 53-point, +49 season landed him fourth in Norris Trophy voting last year. While he’s posted just a goal and 18 assists in 56 games in 2023-24, he’s still logging nearly 24 minutes per game and has continued to post high-end possession metrics with a 51.6 CF% at even strength, 5.1% higher than the Bruins’ overall CF% without him on the ice, and an expected +6.3 rating.
Lindholm has played nearly 550 minutes this season alongside Brandon Carlo, but that pairing will be broken up for the next few weeks. 23-year-old rookie Mason Lohrei will get an extended look in the top four in Lindholm’s absence and is expected to factor in alongside Carlo when the Bruins visit Edmonton tonight.
If the Bruins expect him to miss at least 10 games and 24 days, they can place him on LTIR to open up some cap space ahead of the March 8 trade deadline. It would only open up short-term flexibility, though; Boston must remain cap-compliant through the end of the regular season and would need space to activate Lindholm later into March or April. It does not appear that Lindholm will miss the rest of the regular season.
Lindholm has 11 goals, 66 assists and 77 points in 146 games since coming over from the Ducks at the 2022 trade deadline. The 2012 sixth-overall pick ranks fifth in games played among his draft class with 728, and his career +152 rating is the highest among his peers.
The Boston Bruins have moved rookie forward Matthew Poitras to long-term injured reserve and recalled rookie defenseman Mason Lohrei from the AHL, per team reporter Joe Haggerty. Poitras has been declared as out for the season after undergoing surgery on his shoulder. He was 33 games into his NHL career, scoring five goals and 15 points, after surprising fans by making the roster out of training camp. Lohrei also had a strong training camp, leading many to believe he’d join Poitras in making the NHL roster. That didn’t come to fruition, with Lohrei starting the season in the AHL, but he quickly earned a call-up and NHL debut. He’s since played in 27 NHL games, scoring six points, split evenly, while also scoring 13 points in 17 AHL games.
Lohrei has emerged as a top prospect in Boston’s system this year – his first full professional season. The 23-year-old defenseman made his pro debut last year, following the end of The Ohio State University’s season, playing in eight AHL games between the regular season and playoffs and recording one assist. He’s since only added one more AHL goal to his resume, though he has managed three NHL goals already, speaking to where he might fit better. Lohrei has always been a productive defender, scoring 61 points in 71 games over the course of two seasons at Ohio State. The Bruins drafted Lohrei 58th overall in the 2020 NHL Draft. He’s since become one of 15 players from that round to make their NHL Debut, including rookie standout Brock Faber and sophomore scorer John-Jason Peterka.
Poitras was also a second-round selection, joining the Bruins in the 2022 NHL Draft. He’s played in the most NHL games of any player not taken in the Top 10 of that draft, and scored more than all but three players. His success speaks to Boston’s ability to find difference makers throughout the draft, a trait that’s kept them on top of the league for so long. While season-ending surgery is the worst news you can hear in a rookie season, the Bruins have certainly seen enough from Poitras to be eager for his return to the NHL lineup.
It has been a successful season in the minors for winger Justin Brazeau and he has been rewarded for his efforts. BNG Productions’ Mark Allred was first to report (Twitter link) that the Bruins have converted his AHL contract to an NHL one; CapFriendly adds (Twitter link) that it’s a two-year deal which breaks down as follows:
2023-24: $775K NHL salary, $135K AHL salary
2024-25: $775K NHL salary, $165K AHL salary, $190K guaranteed salary
The 26-year-old finished up his major junior career with a bang, scoring 61 goals in 68 games with North Bay. That helped him earn a two-year AHL deal with Toronto at the time but he played in only 22 games for the Marlies over that stretch. He then signed a minor league deal with Boston in 2021 and his fortunes have certainly changed since then.
Brazeau scored 15 goals in his first season with Providence and followed that up with 16 tallies last season in 67 games. This season, the 6’5 winger has already surpassed that mark, notching 18 goals along with 19 helpers in 48 appearances, good for fourth on the team in scoring. It appears that will be enough to get him his first NHL opportunity which could come as soon as Monday against Dallas as it appears he’ll take the place of Oskar Steen on the roster who was waived earlier today.
Brazeau is not subject to any entry-level rules and thus will only be waiver-exempt for the remainder of this season. Starting in 2024-25, he’ll have to clear waivers if Boston wants to return him to Providence. The Bruins now have 48 contracts on the books out of the maximum of 50.
2/19: Chris Johnston of TSN reports that Steen has successfully cleared waivers and is now able to safely report to AHL Providence.
2/18: Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the Boston Bruins have placed forward Oskar Steen on waivers for the purpose of reassignment to their AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins. In the move, the Bruins will be able to parse their roster down to 22 players, one shy of the 23-man limit.
Unless claimed by another organization over the next 24 hours, Steen is likely headed for Providence, allowing the Bruins to call up a younger player such as John Beecher or Mason Lohrei to round out their roster. Recently overtaken by the Florida Panthers as the top team in the Eastern Conference, Boston may feel injecting youth into the lineup could give the team a boost over the home stretch.
For Steen in particular, it will be hard for him to find many positives coming out of this season for the Bruins. In 34 games played, Steen has averaged 9:04 a night, managing only one goal over the year. He has been physical and largely sound defensively, but he certainly was not earning a roster spot over a younger option.
It will not be the first time Steen has been sent down this year, as he was regularly shuffled in October and November. With his last call-up coming on November 17th, his passage through waivers became a requirement to get him back to Providence.
Because of his taxiing earlier in the season, Steen has only totaled five games for Providence, scoring two goals and five points overall. Thankfully, he will once again be finding himself in a playoff race in the AHL, as Providence holds a 29-15-3-2 record, good for second place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
While domestic violence charges were dropped against Bruins winger Milan Lucic earlier today, don’t expect to see him back in a Boston uniform in 2023-24. Following the news of the charges being dropped, the team released a statement to reporters including Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald that the veteran won’t return this season:
Milan Lucic will remain on indefinite leave from the organization for the remainder of the 2023-24 season. The Boston Bruins organization supports Milan and his family as he continues his personal rehabilitation.
Lucic signed a one-year contract with Boston back in July, a deal which carried a $1MM cap hit and salary plus another $500K in undisclosed performance bonuses. He will once again be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
At the time of his arrest back in November, Lucic was on LTIR and he entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program soon after. Accordingly, the Bruins will be allowed to keep him on LTIR and exceed the salary cap by up to $1MM for the remainder of the season.
- Bruins defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk was absent from Monday’s practice due to illness, Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald reports. Shattenkirk, 35, has slipped down the Bruins’ depth chart lately, serving as a healthy scratch in four out of their last seven games in favor of 26-year-old farmhand Parker Wotherspoon. The 2007 first-round pick signed a one-year, $1.05MM deal to join Boston in free agency, and he’s provided some solid two-way play in bottom-pairing minutes with 13 points and a 1.1% relative Corsi share at even strength in 42 games.
- The Bruins also summoned winger Anthony Richard from AHL Providence after sending him down early Monday morning, per the NHL’s media site. The 27-year-old skated on the third line in this morning’s practice and could play his second straight game when the Bruins host the Lightning on Tuesday. The 27-year-old is second on Providence in scoring with 19 goals and 19 assists for 38 points in 41 games.
Both players are again top-six fixtures for Seattle, who have yo-yoed their way in and out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference all season long. They’re pending UFAs with hefty cap hits of $5.5MM and $4.5MM, respectively, but the Kraken have all three salary retention spots open and could keep money on the books for the rest of the season to facilitate a deal if they do intend on selling at the deadline.
The Oilers have already been linked to Eberle in their pursuit of a complementary top-six winger, with Pagnotta reporting another one of his former teams, the Islanders, as well as the Maple Leafs, have demonstrated interest. The Bruins and Avalanche have called about Wennberg, who’s one of the few quality centers remaining on the deadline rental market.
Whether the Kraken will decide to sell off assets at the deadline is an entirely different question. A recent 3-6-1 stretch now has them six points out of playoff position, but there’s still a shot for Seattle to squeak in for their second consecutive playoff appearance. With a quickly aging group still comprised primarily of expansion draft selections, however, they’d likely do well to recoup value for some veterans and retool around Vince Dunn, Matthew Beniers, and Jared McCann.
Eberle would presumably fetch more value than Wennberg, and rightfully so. He’s having a down season in the goals department – just nine in 49 games, but his 28 points are fifth on the team, and he leads all Kraken players in even-strength Corsi share. He’s been their best two-way skater this season – not just forward – and with eight 20-goal seasons under his belt, he carries immense breakout potential if paired with the skill level of a contending team’s top six.
Thus, a reunion with Edmonton makes the most sense out of the three teams listed. There’s no better breakout potential for Eberle at right wing than alongside Leon Draisaitl on the Oilers’ second unit, and he could do wonders for Draisaitl-anchored lines that have struggled defensively without Connor McDavid.
Wennberg is more of a depth add than an impact pickup for a contender – he’s likely not suited for anything above a third-line role on a team with contending aspirations. He has leveraged major minutes since joining Seattle, logging 18:23 per game over the last three seasons.
Like Eberle, he’s struggled on the scoresheet with eight goals and 21 points in 51 games. Unlike Eberle, he’s shooting above his career average and has some of the worst possession metrics on the Kraken – only Brandon Tanev has a worse Corsi share at even strength among full-time members. His expected -3.6 rating is the worst on the team, and he’s won less than 50% of his faceoffs for the 10th time in 10 NHL seasons. As such, he’s likely a complement to the Bruins’ and Avs’ cast of middle-six centers that lack punch, not a significant upgrade. Even at a half-retained $2.25MM cap hit, his disappointing season might be too much to swallow and a third team may need to retain another 50% of his salary to facilitate a trade.