The Bruins really made their trade for Taylor Hall count.
In addition to the affordable price that saw the Bruins part with a second-round pick and not a first like many did throughout the weekend and into Monday’s deadline, the Bruins made sure to get an affordable fourth-line replacement for Anders Bjork in the process with the inclusion of fourth-line forward Curtis Lazar in the return from the Sabres.
And to Lazar, the move to Boston comes with one hell of a fit, all things considered.
“I always loved playing Boston just because it’s going to be high paced [and] it’s going to be gritty,” Lazar admitted. “They have that swag and that physicality, [and something] that I really pride myself in is taking the body and setting the tone that way and I kind of see myself as a perfect fit [for the Bruins] just in that regard.”
Drafted by the Senators with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, it’s been a career of role adjustments for Lazar between Ottawa, Calgary and then Buffalo. But his move to Buffalo in 2019 seemed to come with a definite fit, as Lazar recorded 10 points in 35 appearances with the Sabres last season, along with a career-best 51.2 percent mark at the dot.
That success in a bottom-six role kept on rolling in 2021, too, with five goals and nine points in 33 games before a lower-body injured took him out of action for his final six games with the Sabres before Sunday’s trade to Boston.
“It’s an honest game,” Lazar said of his style. “It’s 200 feet. I pride myself in keeping the puck out of our net, probably more so than putting it in there [at the other end]. But that doesn’t I’m any slouch at the offensive side either. I pride myself in that energy, gauging the momentum throughout the game here and there, love to kill penalties and just kind of help where needed. So I’m excited to get the mix here, identify my role, and embrace it.”
There’s an awful lot packed into Lazar’s game, too.
Among the 19 Buffalo skaters with at least 300 five-on-five minutes to their name this season, Lazar ranked first in goals (0.83) and points (1.5) per 60 minutes, and was second in hits per 60 minutes (10.16). Expand that outside of Buffalo, and Lazar’s 10.16 hits per 60 minutes of five-on-five actually rank as the 44th-most out of a group of 533 skaters.
A right-shot, Lazar also comes to Boston with the ability to play both center and the wing.
That alone is a huge difference compared to Bjork and his left shot (and the limitations that came with the Bruins’ obvious desire to keep him at left wing), and could be of huge value to the Bruins down the stretch. While things have gotten better in recent weeks, the struggles of Boston’s fourth line have seen the B’s tinker with the idea of moving center Sean Kuraly (the team’s only consistent lefty center option, though Trent Frederic has started to take more reps at the dot) to the wing more than ever before. Lazar is a more experienced, NHL-ready and natural option for such maneuvering.
Lazar also gives the Bruins another option on the right side of their fourth line, which has been a bit of a revolving door with Chris Wagner looking to get his game back up to where it was during his first two seasons with the B’s.
“I’m excited to see what their vision is for me and where I can help out,” Lazar, who is signed through next year at $800,000, admitted. “I’m at my best when I understand what’s expected of me and I can go out there and do my job. But I’m versatile. I could play center. I can play wing, up and down the lineup. That’s kind of what I do and what I bring.”
And no matter the role, Lazar’s approach will remain the same, and sounds like a welcomed one.
“You play the right way, you let the puck do the work, and you don’t back down from anyone,” said Lazar.