Bruins trade addition opts for arbitration ahead of 2022-23 season
The Bruins’ most recent trade addition will begin his Boston career by talking money.
Forward Pavel Zacha was listed as one of 24 players to elect salary arbitration ahead of the 2022-23 season, as announced by the NHLPA. The Bruins acquired Zacha from the New Jersey Devils last Wednesday, in exchange for forward Erik Haula.
Zacha is a restricted free agent, so he was subject to a qualifying offer from the Bruins, which totaled $3 million. He instead turned that down and filed for arbitration, ostensibly because he and his agent believe he’s worth more than that number.
The two sides don’t have to go to arbitration yet. They can still reach an agreement before then. But if it does get to that point, they will turn to an independent arbiter, who will determine a dollar amount for a one-year deal for the player.
If the number determined is greater than $4,538,958, per league rules, the Bruins have the right to walk away from the deal, which would make Zacha an unrestricted free agent. But this is an exceedingly rare occurrence. The most likely result is the Bruins and Zacha agree on a number between $3M and $4.5M.
Zacha, 25, was originally the sixth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft (yes, that one). He has yet to quite live up to that stock, topping out at 36 points last season. But he did score 17 goals in just 50 games in a shortened 2020-21 season. His size (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) and shot are positive assets, and he also has experience on special teams.
In his last two seasons with the Devils, Zacha showed significant improvement at the faceoff dot, improving his potential as a full-time center. As a left-shot forward, Zacha will be more useful to the Bruins down the middle than on the wing, but could fill in on the left side while Brad Marchand misses extended time to start the 2022-23 season.
NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – JANUARY 28: Pavel Zacha #37 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Prudential Center on January 28, 2021 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
If Zacha can return to his 2021 scoring pace, which would be 28 goals and 58 points over 82 games, he would be worth more than $3 million. The Bruins have about $4.7 million in cap space, so they should easily fit his deal under the cap, whatever it is.
So, the likelihood is that he and the Bruins have mutual interest in coming to an amicable agreement.
Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. You can also email him at email@example.com.
Where some notable ex-Bruins landed in free agency
The start of 2022 NHL free agency was a truly wild one, as names flew off the shelves in the opening 12 hours.
In fact, it was a 12-hour frenzy that saw over $600 million in total contract value handed out.
But there was plenty of movement outside of Boston, and with more than a few links to the Bruins.
Curtis Lazar (Vancouver Canucks)
BOSTON, MA – APRIL 13: Curtis Lazar #20 of the Boston Bruins skates during the first period of a game against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on April 13, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
The big loss from the Bruins’ NHL roster in free agency came with fourth-line energy wing Curtis Lazar’s move to Vancouver on a three-year deal worth $3 million in total (a modest $1 million cap hit).
The Bruins and Lazar ended the year with a mutual interest in extending his time here, but the 27-year-old Lazar ultimately priced himself out of Boston’s comfort zone after a 2021-22 campaign that included career-highs in goals (eight), hits (186), and blocks (51) in 70 games played.
“We wish Curtis well,” Sweeney said. “He was a really great Bruin for us. Landed closer to home and it’s probably what was best for he and his family, and you know, Vancouver is lucky to have him.”
Lazar, who was acquired by the Bruins in the 2021 deal that also brought Taylor Hall to town from Buffalo, tallied 10 goals, 20 points, and 221 hits in 87 total games with the Bruins.
Josh Brown (Arizona Coyotes)
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 14: Josh Brown #44 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Ottawa Senators during the second period at TD Garden on April 14, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
A depth defenseman added to the mix at the 2022 trade deadline, the big-bodied Josh Brown signed a two-year, $2.55 million contract with the Coyotes shortly into the start of free agency.
Acquired (along with a seventh-round pick) in exchange for Zach Senyshyn and a fifth-round choice, Brown appeared in six games with the Bruins, with 12 hits, five blocks, and a plus-2 rating over that stretch. The Bruins had to turn to the 6-foot-5 Brown in Game 4 of their first-round series against the Hurricanes after an injury to Hampus Lindholm and COVID-positive case for Charlie McAvoy left the Bruins down two defenders.
Brown has recorded four goals and 17 points, and racked up 346 hits, 186 blocks, and 134 minutes in penalties in 171 NHL games between the Bruins, Panthers, and Senators.
BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 16: Cameron Hughes #53 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden on September 16, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
A deal that will have more impact on Providence than Boston, forward Cam Hughes left the Bruins for a two-year, two-way contract with the Seattle Kraken, and the deal will come with an NHL cap hit of $762, 500.
A sixth-round pick of the Bruins back in 2015, Hughes recorded an AHL-career high 14 goals and 45 points in 59 games for the P-Bruins last year, and departs the organization having scored 38 goals and 113 points in 194 game with Providence.
Hughes made two NHL appearances during his Bruins tenure.
Steven Fogarty (Minnesota Wild)
Jan 30, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger (29) stops a shot by Boston Bruins center Steven Fogarty (29) during the third period at the American Airlines Center. (Jerome Miron/USA TODAY Sports)
Another depth player departure from the organization, Steve Fogarty is leaving the Bruins organization after just one season for a two-year, two-way contract with the Minnesota Wild. And like Hughes in Seattle, Fogarty’s deal in Minnesota will come with a $762,500 cap hit at the NHL level.
In action for 62 game with Providence this past season, Fogarty tallied 12 goals and 42 points, and made two appearances for the Big B’s. The Pennsylvania-born forward, who was a third-round pick of the Rangers back in 2011, has totaled one goal and three points in 29 NHL games between New York, Buffalo, and Boston.
Jesper Frödén (Seattle Kraken)
Mar 1, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; Boston Bruins right wing Jesper Froden (38) controls the puck during the third period against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. (Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY Sports)
Swedish winger Jesper Frödén’s jump to North American ice did not come with as many NHL opportunities as he had hoped for after a strong 2020-21 campaign with Skelleftea AIK. Instead, the 5-foot-10 drew into action for just seven NHL contests, and recorded one goal over that limited sample.
So it’s off to Seattle on a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000.
Troy Grosenick (Philadelphia Flyers)
Sep 26, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Troy Grosenick (31) makes a save on Washington Capitals center Connor McMichael (24) in a shoot-out at Capital One Arena. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)
The third goaltender on the Black and Gold’s depth chart, Troy Grosenick shined in Providence with a 16-6-4 record with a .933 save percentage and 2.00 goals against average in 30 appearances in 2021-22.
But with the Swayman-Ullmark duo looking more than solidified for next season and beyond, Grosenick took his talents to Philadelphia on a one-year, one-way deal worth $750,000.
The Bruins, by the way, have already replaced Grosenick with the veteran Keith Kinkaid.
Anton Blidh (TBD)
Feb 12, 2022; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Matt Murray (30) makes a save in front of Boston Bruins left wing Anton Blidh (81) in the first period at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports)
One player still waiting to find his new home is Anton Blidh.
A disruptive, under-your-skin fourth line presence, Blidh set career-highs in goals (two), assists (seven), points (nine), hits (82), blocks (17), and games played (32) this past season. He was also quite open about his desire to play more when talking with reporters at the end of the season. Blidh even went as far to say that there were some days where he wished that he was in the minors, because at least then he’d be in the lineup on a regular basis.
That said, Blidh has made it clear that he wants to be in the NHL. It’s just a matter of where that next stop will be, as it’s unlikely to be in Boston after the B’s signing of ‘tweener’ left wing A.J. Greer to a one-way contract.
Ondrej Kase (Carolina Hurricanes)
May 4, 2022; Toronto, Ontario, CAN;Toronto Maple Leafs forward Ondrej Kase (25) looks for the puck against the Tampa Bay Lightning in game two of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. (John E. Sokolowski/USA TODAY Sports)
Boston’s decision to walk away from Ondrej Kase was Toronto’s gain in 2021-22, as the Czech winger put up 14 goals and 27 points in 50 games with the Maple Leafs. Kase still dealt with the injury issues that have plagued his career, but there’s no denying that it was a win for a Toronto squad that always needs affordable talent.
But for the second straight season, Kase saw himself entering the free agent market by way of a lack of a qualifying offer, as the Maple Leafs chose to follow the 2021 B’s lead and let Kase hit the open market.
This time around, it will be the Hurricanes who play the role of last year’s Leafs, as they have signed the 26-year-old winger to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million.
Kase, who was acquired from the Ducks in the David Backes dumping of 2020, made just nine regular-season appearances for the Bruins during his time with the franchise.
Noel Acciari (St. Louis Blues)
TAMPA, FLORIDA – MAY 26: Noel Acciari #55 of the Florida Panthers looks on during Game Six of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on May 26, 2021. (Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
As the old saying goes, “If you can’t successfully draw a penalty on one of the most obvious tripping calls in Stanley Cup history, join ’em.” At least that’s what ex-Bruins forward Noel Acciari is doing, anyway, as the Rhode Island has joined the St. Louis Blues on a one-year deal worth $1.25 million.
Limited by injuries this past season, Acciari totaled three goals and eight points in 20 games in what would be his final season with the Panthers. It was a downright wild Sunrise tenure for Acciari, really, as he scored 20 goals on an absurd 18.5 shooting percentage in his first year with Florida, but went on to score just seven times over his final 61 games with the club.
In St. Louis, Acciari will be reunited with former Bruins teammate Torey Krug.
Frank Vatrano (Anaheim Ducks)
May 30, 2022; Raleigh, North Carolina, USA; New York Rangers center Frank Vatrano (77) controls the puck past Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brady Skjei (76) during the second period. (James Guillory/USA TODAY Sports)
East Longmeadow, Mass. native Frank Vatrano turned a strong New York finish — Vatrano had eight goals and 13 points in 22 regular-season games before a 20-game postseason that included five goals and 13 points — into a three-year, $10.95 million ($3.65 million cap hit) deal with the Anaheim Ducks.
Believe it or not, it’s actually been over four years since the Bruins dumped Vatrano off on the Panthers in exchange for a third-round pick (later used to select Jakub Lauko). Since the trade, Vatrano has scored the 92nd-most goals in hockey, with 81 goal in 293 games between the Panthers and Rangers.
Danton Heinen (TBD)
Mar 23, 2022; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres goaltender Craig Anderson (41) watches as Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Danton Heinen (43) looks to make a pass during the first period at KeyBank Center. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)
In what was a bit of a surprising move in Pittsburgh, the Penguins chose not to extend a qualifying offer to winger Danton Heinen. This was after Heinen put up a career-best 18 goals (and remained an analytics darling in terms of his impact at both ends of the ice) while averaging just 12:43 per night. It was especially surprising as Heinen’s qualifying offer would have checked in at an extremely affordable $1.1 million.
And even as the dust settled on a day where millions were thrown around, Heinen is still looking for his next home. It was worth noting that Heinen did play under new B’s head coach Jim Montgomery at the University of Denver and that the Bruins could always use some more depth scoring, but the Bruins did not circle to Heinen’s camp on the opening day of free agency and do not expect to between now and the start of the season.
Heinen, who was drafted by the Bruins with the No. 116 overall pick in 2014, has totaled 62 goals and 154 points in 348 NHL games, making him the 21st-highest scoring skater from the 2014 draft class.
Ryan Donato (TBD)
Mar 19, 2022; Seattle, Washington, USA; Seattle Kraken forward Ryan Donato (9) is pictured before a game against the Detroit Red Wings at Climate Pledge Arena. (Stephen Brashear/USA TODAY Sports)
A career-high 16 goals wasn’t enough for the Kraken to extend a qualifying offer to then-restricted free agent Ryan Donato, throwing the Scituate, Mass. native onto the market as an unrestricted free agent.
It was a bit of a strange move for the Kraken, all things considered, but Seattle general manager Ron Francis admitted that they did that to avoid going to arbitration with Donato and his camp. That would (seemingly) indicate that a return to Kraken is very much still in play for Donato, but he’s free to sign with anybody.
Donato, who was sent to Minnesota in the 2019 trade that brought Charlie Coyle to Boston, has scored 51 goals and totaled 108 points in 254 games between the B’s, Wild, Sharks, and Kraken.