The last of the Bruins’ unrestricted free agents has finally hooked on somewhere else.
Tomas Nosek signed a one-year deal with the New Jersey Devils for $1 million on Wednesday. Though he had a very god season in his fourth line center role with the Bruins, Nosek was the only one of the five UFAs to take a pay cut.
Connor Clifton, signed by Buffalo, bumped his annual pay up from $1 million to $3.33 for three years; Garnet Hathaway went from a $1.5 million to a $2.35 million AAV for two years with Philadelphia; Tyler Bertuzzi bumped up from $4.75 million to $5.5 million on a one-year prove-it contract with Toronto; and Dmitry Orlov hit the short-term jackpot, signing with Carolina on a two-year deal worth a $7.75 AAV, up from the $5.1 annual payout on his last contract.
But Nosek appears to have been a victim of the stagnant salary cap. If anyone deserved a raise – and not a break-the-bank one, but an acknowledgment of a job well done – it would have been Nosek. Employed almost exclusively in a defensive role (12.6% offensive zone starts), the 30-year-old Nosek finished with a modest 7-11-18 total, but he had a 59.3% winning percentage in the faceoff circle and was a key player in the B’s NHL-best penalty kill (87.3% success rate).
While there was some engagement between the B’s and Nosek’s camp prior to July 1, Nosek was looking for his same salary or slight increase and the B’s were not going to go that far, so it was clear early on that there wasn’t going to be a match. Nosek had some teams offering close to what he wanted.
“But the market dipped after the first few days with all the cash committed and by that time the Bruins had spent their money,” wrote Nosek’s agent J.P. Barry in an email to the Herald.
Nosek is not only former Bruin who had to call an audible in this tight market. Bertuzzi hit July 1 expecting to sign a long-term deal but, with no contenders in position to make him that offer, he signed the Toronto offer in the hopes of cashing in when the market is expected to be more fluid next summer.
On July 1, the B’s signed center Morgan Geekie, who was surprisingly made a UFA on June 30 when Seattle elected not to tender him a qualifying offer, to a two-year deal worth $2 million per season and then added pivot Patrick Brown to a two-year deal worth $800,000. They added another versatile forward who could play center in Jesper Boqvist on a one-year deal for $775,000.
At the time of the signings, GM Don Sweeney suggested that the 24-year-old Geekie, who had 9-19-28 totals and was plus-14, could possibly play a more prominent role than he did in Seattle.
At this point, it’s still anyone’s guess just how many centermen the B’s will need. There has been no word yet on whether captain Patrice Bergeron will return for another season. The same goes for David Krejci, though it certainly seems even more unlikely that Krejci will be in attendance when training camp opens in September.
And there is yet more uncertainty with regard to the club’s payroll at this point, With approximately $5 million in cap space, depending on who the club might assign to Providence before the season, the B’s still have outstanding arbitration cases with goalie Jeremy Swayman and Trent Frederic, which could eat up most of that $5 million.
There’s also the question of whether the B’s dive back into the trade market between now and opening night. As of now, they have eight NHL defensemen on the roster. Perhaps Mason Lohrei could open up trade possibilities if he shows he’s NHL-ready in training camp.
Whatever the case, it still feels like we’ve a ways to go before we know exactly who the 2023-24 Bruins will be….
Lohrei and some other Bruin hopefuls will get their first crack to impress the B’s brass at the 2023 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo at the Harborcentefrom September 15-18. The B’s face Penguins’ prospects on Sept. 15 at 3:30 pm., Montreal on Sept. 16 at 3:30 pm and New Jersey on Sept. 18 at 10 am.