Return of Lucic Highlights Bruins Busy First Day of NHL Free Agency
BOSTON (AP) — Milan Lucic is back with the Boston Bruins, grinning ear to ear while wearing a hat of the team he won the Stanley Cup with more than a decade ago.
Lucic returned to the Bruins just after the opening of NHL free agency Saturday, one of several players signed to bargain contracts. The 2011 Cup champion got a $1 million deal with $500,000 more possible in performance-based incentives as part of an emotional rendezvous.
“It’s a place that’s close and dear to my heart,” said Lucic, now 35, who played his first eight NHL seasons with Boston. “It feels like I’m going home.”
Also signed to contracts next season were winger James van Riemsdyk ($1 million) and 2020 Cup-winning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk ($1.05 million). Former Seattle forward Morgan Geekie signed for $4 million over two years and Patrick Brown for $1.6 million over two years.
“We did a lot of the things that we set out to do in addressing the depth overall of our club,” general manager Don Sweeney said. “We have plenty of opportunity for younger kids to come in and take their place if they earn it, but we’ve also complemented the group with players we felt we needed to fill some holes.”
The salary cap-strapped Bruins lost defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Connor Clifton in free agency and essentially closed the door on bringing back key trade deadline pickup Tyler Bertuzzi. Boston earlier in the week traded Taylor Hall to Chicago to clear space.
That might ultimately go to captain Patrice Bergeron and fellow veteran center David Krejci, who have yet to decide if they’re coming back for another season.
“(Krejci has) been pretty consistent in saying that if he’s playing the NHL, he’s playing for Boston,” Sweeney said. “And Patrice has been very consistent saying he’s going to take all the time he needs to make the best decision for him and his family.”
The Bruins are coming off setting shootout-era league records for wins and points in a regular season and losing in the first round of the playoffs in seven games to eventual East champion Florida.
“The core guys here have taken to heart that they feel like we had a historic regular season, but we had a failure in the playoffs,” Sweeney said. “We have to learn and grow.”
The Bruins still also need to figure out a new contract for restricted free agent goaltender Jeremy Swayman, who split time last season with Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark.
“He’s been very consistent about where he wants to play hockey,” Sweeney said. “I don’t see why he wouldn’t be playing hockey here now and moving forward for a long time. This is a really good young goaltender. We are excited about having him and Linus.”