Bruins Recent Track Record of July 1st Signings Is… Not Good

The Boston Bruins have tried many times to strike gold on the first day of NHL Free Agency.. And typically miss out, and overpay. I am happy these players got their big time pay. It’s great that they’re set for life (and their children are all set). I just wish it didn’t come at the expense of the Bruins cap space.

The three strongest examples of this, and I can feel Bruins Nation cringe when these players and their respective contracts are mentioned, are as followed:

Matt Beleskey

Boston Bruins' Matt Beleskey happy to return from foot injury

This contract didn’t seem to egregious when Matt Beleskey was signed to his 5 year, $19M contract back on July 1st, 2015. Beleskey was coming off of a 22 goal, 32 point season with the Anaheim Ducks. He plays a very physical brand of hockey that Boston fans always welcome. The first year of his new deal with the Bruins was great, as he put up a career high in points, with 37 in 80 games played.

After the 2015-16 season, it was all downhill. It wasn’t just downhill- it was a rocket ride to rock bottom. He went on to appear in 49 games in 2016-17, registering a measly 8 points.  The following 2017-18 season, he was a complete non factor. He was typically a healthy scratch, suiting up for only 14 games, and not recording a single point. 

His tough tenure in Boston came to an end on February 25, 2018 when he was dealt, along with center Ryan Spooner, prospect Ryan Lindgren, and a couple of draft picks, to the New York Rangers to get the prized player at the deadline- Rick Nash. The B’s had to retain 50% of the Matt Beleskey contract.

Before the 2019-20 NHL/AHL season was postponed due to COVID-19, Matt Beleskey was playing for the Rangers AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack.

David Backes

David Backes regrets never winning a Stanley Cup in St. Louis ...

Ahh.. yes, how could anyone forget this one, and the overall free agent class? July 1st, 2016, was the worst year for UFA contracts in NHL history, perhaps. David Backes inked a 5 year, $30M deal. That carries an AAV of $6M.

Backes was a Blues player for his entire NHL career, before the Blues let him go in the summer of 2016. They clearly saw his play declining, and didn’t want to commit big money for a long term to the player.

Don Sweeney, however, probably saw his veteran status, and his leadership as two innate qualities needed in the young Bruins locker room. Which I agree, he was great for that aspect. The 2016-17 Bruins don’t make the playoffs without his voice and presence in the locker room.

My gripe is, and always will be, how do you sign David Backes, to such a high AAV? The man was 33 years old. After playing a very hard 10 years in St Louis, his game, and health, we’re slowing down.

In his inital year with Boston, Backes performed fairly well for the player that he was. It wasn’t his fault he was making such big money. He put up 17 goals and 38 points his first season with Boston. I think that’s not bad, considering the stage of Backes’ career.

After his first year, much like Beleskey, his play dropped off, considerably. Injuries, no doubt, had helped his decline. From concussions, to diverticulitis, he never caught a break. The next 3 years of his Bruins career was all of the place. From the aforementioned injuries, healthy scratches, to playing 10 minutes a game, David was never able to get going.

After playing in just 16 games this past season, Backes, along with a 1st round pick and Axel Andersson, was in a trade to the Anaheim Ducks for forward Ondrej Kase. The Bruins retained 25% of Backes’ contract.

Backes played in 6 games for the ducks before the postponement, registering 3 assists.

John Moore

B's John Moore to see important minutes against Caps

John Moore was signed to a 5 year, $13.75M contract that carries an AAV of $2.75M on July 1st 2018. This isn’t a horrible contract, it’s simply not good. However, it also very well might be too early to judge this one. Why? Moore has 3 more years left on his contract.

Moore, specifically this past season with the bruins, was in and out of the lineup for both injuries/illnesses, as well as healthy scratches, playing in just 24 games. He was a fringe 3rd pairing guy, and with Matt Grzelcyk and Jeremy Lauzon emerging as players deserving of a spot in the lineup on a nightly basis, that left Moore, out of the lineup.

It’s a very hard pill to swallow to see the already close to the salary cap Bruins, have $2.75M up in the press box for reasons other than the player’s health. With 3 years left on his deal, he’ll have to earn his way back to being a regular fixture in the B’s lineup.

Time will only tell how this one ends up. With the logjam of players on the B’s back-end, specifically on the Left side, with young prospects as well, it’s tough to see a situation where he becomes a regular in the lineup again. The Torey Krug contract situation could create a hole for Moore to try and fill, if Krug ends up signing elsewhere.

-Bradley Whitesell (@Bradiey98)

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