BOSTON — As Bruins General Manger Don Sweeney approached free agency exactly one week ago, he said that he was looking for players who were, first and foremost, excited to be Boston Bruins.
Both players addressed the Boston media for the first time on Tuesday afternoon, and neither of them could emphasize enough how excited they are to be in Black and Gold in 2015-16.
“Boston is one of the best sports town in the world,” said Beleskey, a free agent who signed a three-year contract with the B’s on the opening day of the free agency period. “The way they play the game, their style of game, Original Six team… It’s been a very easy choice to come to Boston.”
For Hayes, becoming a Bruin is especially exciting, given that he grew up right down the street in Dorchester. He spent his childhood camped out in front of the TV watching the B’s; he spent his college years in Chestnut Hill, helping Boston College win a national title; and now, after beginning his professional career with Chicago and continuing it with Florida, he is finally coming home.
“This has been a dream come true for me, to come home to my hometown and my family,” Hayes said. “To have this opportunity to win another championship for this city is a dream come true.
“It’s been pretty crazy — just getting a lot of phone calls and texts, and a lot of congratulations, and it’s finally sinking in for me that I’m going to be wearing a Boston Bruins jersey every night.”
He wasn’t too worried about his own future in Black and Gold. Boston had acquired him at the trade deadline in March from Tampa Bay. The Bruins had seen potential in the 6th overall pick from 2010. He was a right-shot right winger with a shoot-first mentality, and a 6’2” 181-pound frame that he didn’t mind taking into the corners and going to battle. He knew his abilities, and they did too.
Still, it was reassuring for Connolly to know that he still fit into the team’s plans.
Sweeney announced on Monday that the team signed the restricted free agent to a one-year contract that will keep him a Bruin for the 2015-16 season. The deal is worth a cap hit of $1,025,000.
“You know, you don’t really know what the plan is, but I felt that I had always been in the plans this summer, and that I’m going to get a good opportunity,” Connolly said via phone from Toronto, where he trains in the offseason.
BostonBruins.com - “It’s a business.”
That’s a phrase heard heavily around the trade deadline, again in the offseason from the draft through free agency and training camp, and then into the start of the season.
Rosters need to be pieced together and chemistry needs to be formed. A team needs to take shape. Players will sign elsewhere. Teams will part ways with players. Trades will happen. It’s all a part of the team-building process.
On Wednesday night, following the opening of free agency, General Manager Don Sweeney and his staff continued their approach of creating a more aggressive, hard-working and accountable roster, by saying goodbye to players and welcoming others.
In doing so, the Bruins signed hard-nosed winger and unrestricted free agent Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal. They also acquired 6-foot-6 forward Jimmy Hayes from the Florida Panthers in exchange for Reilly Smith and Marc Savard. They wingers, both still young at 25 and 27 years old, combined for 41 goals last season in breakout years with the Ducks and Panthers, respectively.
BostonBruins.com — On Thursday afternoon, the Bruins bolstered their defensive depth by signing blueliner Chris Breen to a one-year, two-way contract with a cap hit of $600,000, General Manager Don Sweeney announced.
Bruins Executive Director of Player Personnel John Ferguson has been tracking Breen’s game for a long time — in fact, ever since Breen was skating with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL back in 2009.
Even back then, Ferguson could see something special in Breen, and he continues to see it to this day.
“He gives us some real strong organizational depth — size and strength on the blue line,” Ferguson said. “He’s a real character leader for that team down in Providence, and he’s a guy that can really give us depth and can come up and play games.”
BostonBruins.com — In mid-May, when Don Sweeney accepted the position of general manager of the Boston Bruins, he had an inkling that it wouldn’t be a smooth ride from the outset.
A few weeks in, or even a few months in, maybe — but not right at first.
“I told the guys when I got the job — I told every one of our scouts and every one of our people — I said, ‘Buckle up, because I think it’s going to be a bumpy ride to get going,’” Sweeney said during a conference call with reporters on Wednesday night. “I didn’t necessarily know how that would play out. I’m not claiming that I did, by any stretch of the imagination, but I sit here today and I’m excited about the course going forward.”
The course of the last week has been bumpy, to say the least. It has been tumultuous and trying, and often, the criticism has far outweighed the praise.
But as Sweeney wrapped up on Wednesday night — as he looked at a 2015-16 roster that featured the new additions of Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes — he was very much at peace with where his team stands.
Not that there was ever any doubt in his mind.
BostonBruins.com - Technically, Matt Beleskey could have signed anywhere.
As an unrestricted free agent and a commodity on the market, the 6'0'', 204-pound winger had an opportunity during the NHL’s interview period to visit cities and speak with teams about his future.
Beleskey was coming off a torrid 2015 postseason with the Anaheim that saw him net eight goals in 16 games, at one point scoring in five straight contests, as the Ducks took the Chicago Blackhawks to Game 7 of the Western Conference Final before being eliminated.
He preceded that with a 2014-15 season in which he doubled his output, scoring a career-high 22 goals and 32 points through 65 games.
The Bruins weren’t the only team who were targeting Beleskey’s services, but in the end, they were the only team handing out a new five-year contract to the 27-year-old through the 2019-20 season. It is worth an annual cap figure of $3,800,000.
“It was a very hectic day,” Beleskey said via phone on Wednesday night once the deal was finalized. “I couldn’t be happier where me and my family have landed in Boston. That’s been a team that we’ve always liked and we talked about leading up to this and it’s just amazing that it ends up that way.”
BostonBruins.com — Jimmy Hayes was by no means expecting to be traded on July 1.
But when Florida Panthers General Manager Dale Tallon called him on Wednesday to tell him he had been moved to Boston — to his hometown team — Hayes’ head started to spin a little bit.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Hayes said on Wednesday night, just a few hours after the trade came down. “I grew up a Boston Bruins fan, and having the chance to play for the Boston Bruins is a dream come true.
“It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s probably one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in a while.”
Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney was clear about one thing when he addressed the media via conference call on Wednesday night, after the acquisitions were finalized: He said that the Bruins entered free agency targeting players who fit the Bruins’ style of play, but also — and perhaps more importantly — players who are passionate about being a part of the Boston Bruins.
The 6'6", 221-pound Hayes, a native of Dorchester, Mass. and former Boston College Eagle, put up 19 goals and 16 assists for 35 points in 72 games for Florida in 2014-15.
General Manager Don Sweeney said on Tuesday during a conference call prior to free agency that he had discussed Savard with a lot of teams. Savard's contract carries about a $4 million annual cap hit through the 2016-17 season (base salary of $575,000).
BostonBruins.com - The NHL enters free agency on Wednesday, July 1 at noon ET and the Bruins are set to enter the next phase of their offseason.
After a busy draft weekend of trades, General Manager Don Sweeney joined media on the club’s annual conference call prior to the opening of free agency. He was well aware of those weighing in on the organization’s decision making.
“Well, ‘heat’ is the appropriate term, I would say,” Sweeney said on the call Tuesday morning. “I knew going in that the chair would be warm, accepted that challenge, and knew there would be some hard decisions to make.”
“We’ve been in cap purgatory for quite some time and wanted to extradite ourselves from that going forward to improve our club hopefully from this point forward and in the future.”
The GM spoke strongly about the Bruins not being in a “rebuild” mode, though.
“No, I don’t think it’s a rebuild. We didn’t strip this down,” said Sweeney. “We have a tremendous core group of guys that are going to obviously carry an even heavier load here in the short term while these other kids can come in and start to take footing.”
“I had just talked with [a] development coach there in Los Angeles, actually, earlier on in the day,” Miller told BostonBruins.com with a laugh. “He was just talking about the future, and then the [trade] call came in there at about 3 o’clock.
“I was pretty surprised.”
Surprised, yes — but excited, too.
“I was just hanging out at home during the draft,” he said. “I wasn’t paying too much attention to it because not much had gone on there yet on Friday, and then actually the person who drafted me [to L.A.] — Mike Futa — gave me a call and just kind of explained that the trade had happened, and that I was going to the Bruins.
“So it was a bit shocking, but obviously very exciting. I’m really excited about this opportunity.”
Miller comes to Boston as part of the package that also included a 2015 first-round draft pick and goaltender Martin Jones, who was flipped to San Jose on Tuesday in exchange for a 2016 first-round draft pick and prospect Sean Kuraly.