The Boston Bruins found themselves in the thick of a bidding war for veteran Nick Foligno. And according to The Athletic’s Michael Russo, that bidding war came down to the Bruins, the Colorado Avalanche, and the Minnesota Wild.
The Bruins’ competition in this triple threat match for one of the game’s most respected leaders should have been enough to make them considerable underdogs, honestly. In Colorado, you had the league’s reigning Presidents’ Trophy winners, and with Gabriel Landeskog re-signed, they are and were undoubtedly locked-and-loaded for another run. And in Minnesota, Foligno had the chance to play his brother, Marcus, who plays a pivotal role for the upstart Wild.
In Boston, you had an aging-but-accomplished core with second-round exits in three of the last four years, and playing in the toughest division in hockey. But it was the captain of that core, Patrice Bergeron, who may have made the difference with a phone call to Foligno that successfully pitched the 33-year-old on his fit with the Bruins.
“[It] was really cool just being able to speak to Patrice and kind of pick his brain a little bit before [and hear] how excited they would be to have me join. That excites you as a player,” Foligno said. “I think it’s one thing to hear it from a GM or a coach, but when you can get a teammate lobbying to try and get you on their team, especially somebody with his respect in the league and the way he plays, it meant a lot to me and carried a lot of weight. It’s a team that I’m really excited to be joining right now.”
For Foligno, who projects as a much-needed bottom-six leadership presence with the Bruins on this two-year, $7.6 million deal, there’s something about the Black and Gold’s style that resonated with the 957-game veteran. And a lingering memory from his six-game head-to-head in the second round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs that makes him view Boston as a fit for his game.
“Playing against [the Bruins] all these years, they’re a team that I’ve admired from afar,” Foligno, who is more than familiar with the Bruins thanks to a career split between Ottawa and Columbus before a quick stop in Toronto this past spring, noted. “Their culture, their structure. They’re always in the thick of it. They’re always a team that seems to have a chance to win on any given night and also in the postseason.
“I remember playing them [in the 2019 playoffs] and we had our best team that we had assembled in Columbus in a long time, and we had some injuries and guys that went down and they did as well. It just seemed like the next man up, the depth that they had, the understanding of how they had to play, showed me the commitment that they had. And the understanding as a team of what it took to win.
“I think that’s what draws me to the team. It’s what I remember about them. It just felt like they just came in waves. We kind of got out to an early lead in the series and they just kept coming. They didn’t stop. They were confident in who they are. They know that they have the skill and the will to work and win. That’s what kind of draws me to them. I feel like that’s the brand of hockey that I play and I’m looking forward to complementing that with this group that already has such a great culture in there.”
With Nick Ritchie out of the picture, it feels fair to assume that Foligno will be asked to play his usual net-front presence role, where he generated over 40 percent of his 81 shots (and over 70 percent of his goals) in 2020. But with three-position versatility to his name, Foligno knows that everything is on the table under Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“I think I’ve heard everything but goalie,” Foligno joked about his role with the Bruins. “It’s going to be a work in progress, which I’m very comfortable with. I feel like I’ve worked hard at being a versatile player and it’s something that I think complements a team. Especially when you’re going late into a season or a postseason and can play up and down a lineup.
“I’m so comfortable wherever. That’s something I’ve worked hard at. Been asked to do that a lot in Columbus with just some of the changes that we’ve had go on. Unexpectedly sometimes with our team. I was always eager to help wherever needed. It just helped me round out my game and I’m looking forward to doing that in Boston if needed. Sometimes it’s nice to have that role or that position. But I’m so comfortable moving around, that I’ll play wherever is needed.”
The ex-Jackets captain is also interested in learning the differences that come with playing for Cassidy after spending years under John Tortorella (Foligno was quick to note that that wasn’t a bad thing), and while his presence as a former Clancy and Messier winner could make him a David Backes-like leadership voice in the room, Foligno isn’t going force himself into being something that he’s not.
“I think my play will do the talking for me,” said Foligno. “But I’m just here to help. I’m here to help this group. They want to win. They know how to win. And I want to be a part of something like that. So, I’m really looking forward to it.”
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.