It took less than 15 minutes into the start of free agency for the Boston Bruins to make their first splash of free the day, and it was on the backend, with free agent defenseman Derek Forbort signed to a three-year, $9 million contract.
A left-shot defenseman linked to the Bruins leading up to the official opening of free agency, Forbort comes to Boston after a 2021 that saw him tally two goals and 12 points, along with a 20:44 nightly workload, in 56 appearances for the Winnipeg Jets.
Standing at 6-foot-4, Forbort is known primarily for his value in the shot-blocking department and 2021 was no exception, as he finished with 115 blocks, which was tops among the Jets and fifth among all NHLers, trailing only Alec Martinez (168), Adam Larsson (128), Connor Murphy (123), and Alexander Edler (118).
Forbort was also Winnipeg’s top penalty-killing option this past season, with a team-high 2:43 of shorthanded time on ice per game, and for a shorthanded unit that finished with the league’s 13th-best penalty-killing percentage (80.5 percent).
The 29-year-old was blessed with some good fortune during his shorthanded run this past season, too, as he was on the ice for just 5.57 goals against per 60 minutes of shorthanded time on ice and with the Jets’ on-ice save percentage with Forbort out there for a penalty kill clocking in at an excellent .897 save percentage. That goals against per 60 was the 14th-best figure among the 44 defensemen with at least 120 minutes of shorthanded time on ice this year, while the save percentage was the sixth-best, trailing only Erik Cernak, teammate Dylan DeMelo, Ryan Lindgren, Jeremy Lauzon, and Martinez.
Lauzon is certainly worth highlighting here, too, as the Bruins are essentially bringing Forbort in to replace what they lost with Lauzon’s move from the Bruins to the Kraken as the first pick in the franchise’s history.
And this one is about as close to a draw as possible.
Comparing the two by their all-strengths rates, Forbort tallied 0.62 points per 60 compared to Lauzon’s 0.63, and while Lauzon held an advantage in hits per 60 (7.66 to 4.13), Forbort held the edge in blocked shots per 60 (5.94 to 4.15). Even their deployment was somewhat similar, too with Forbort averaging 12.25 defensive zone starts per 60 compared to Lauzon’s 15.49, and with offensive-zone faceoff percentage of 40.67 percent compared to Lauzon’s 36.21 percent.
In essence, Forbort is absolutely walking through that door to be the Bruins’ new Lauzon.
The only difference is in the price, and it’s a noteworthy difference, as Forbort will cost the Bruins $3 million per year for the next three years whereas Lauzon was on the hook for one more year at a highly-affordable $850,000.
With Forbort in the fold, and with Mike Reilly signed to a matching deal last night, the left side of the Boston defense appears set, with Matt Grzelcyk, Reilly, Forbort, and Jakub Zboril and Johnny Moore rounding out the group. The club also has 2017 first-round Urho Vaakanainen as a potential threat to the depth options should he have a strong training camp effort.
Forbort’s signing also leaves the Bruins with $14 million in available cap space.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.