July 6, 2012

Remaining free agents the Bruins should consider

By Jesse Connolly

Everyone with half a brain knows the B’s never had a shot at landing a Zach Parise or Ryan Suter – or so we thought – this offseason, but even those “cheap veterans” we all figured they might make a pitch for have been flying off the shelves.

Ray Whitney, perennially pined for by Bruins’ fans, signed on with the Stars, as did Jaromir Jagr. Bryan Allen went to Anaheim. Steve Sullivan joined the Coyotes.

Over 125 free agents have agreed to deals since July 1. GM Peter Chiarelli has been responsible for two of them, re-signing center Chris Kelly and netminder Tuukka Rask.

So what’s left for the Bruins? Who might they reach out to in order to add a “third line” forward and depth defenseman?

Here are a few names to consider:

Benn Ferriero (winger)

UFA – San Jose Sharks

2011-12 cap hit: $605,000

Ferriero’s (Essex, Mass.) days with the Sharks are done, as the 25-year-old forward was not given a qualifying offer by GM Doug Wilson. A former star at Boston College, the Bay State native has been yo-yoing back and forth between the NHL and the Sharks’ AHL affiliate in Worcester for the past three seasons, never quite solidifying a spot with the big club.

At 5-foot-11, Ferriero doesn’t possess the size Chiarelli often covets, but he’s proven to be a solid scorer at the pro level. In his last 63 AHL games, he has 25 goals and 28 assists. In 92 NHL games, Ferriero has a line of 14-8-22. He scored seven times in 35 contests in 2011-12.

Andrew Brunette (winger)

UFA – Chicago Blackhawks

2011-12 cap hit: $2 million

A veteran of 1,110 NHL games, Brunette has spent the last 10 seasons in the Western Conference, including two successful stints with the Minnesota Wild. During that time, he’s topped the 20-goal mark on five occasions.

With his 39th birthday just around the corner (August), Brunette is certainly getting up there in age – not a good thing for a guy that’s kind of known for not being the swiftest skater -- and can’t be counted on for the offensive production he was once capable of (he scored just 12 goals this past season in Chicago). But he certainly fits the “Recchi” mold Chiarelli may be after and has a rock-solid postseason resume (35 points in 49 games).

Jason Arnott (center)

UFA – St. Louis Blues

2011-12 cap hit: $2.87 million

Arnott has thrived at each and every stop in his NHL career, from when he broke in with the Oilers, shined for the Devils, led the way for the Stars and captained the Predators. Most recently, the veteran of 1,244 NHL games was in St. Louis. He had a line of 17-17-34 for the Blues.

Arnott will turn 38 in October, but he likely still has some gas left in the tank. Despite being 6-foot-5, Arnott’s never been a hitting machine, but he could provide the B’s with a solid secondary-scoring presence and possibly help out on the power play (14 of his 34 points came on the man advantage).

Mike Mottau (defenseman)

UFA – Boston Bruins

2011-12 cap hit:  $800,000

Perhaps the best solution for a No. 6/7 defenseman might be right under Chiarelli’s nose. Mottau (Avon, Mass.) arrived on deadline day and was a steady presence on the blue line whenever called upon.

While not flashy offensively, the 34-year-old BC alum is an underrated passer and most importantly plays a safe, solid game that would make him a perfect fit for the role the B’s are looking to fill. Furthermore, the hometown factor should make Mottau more affordable than any of the alternatives.

Steve Eminger (defenseman)

UFA – New York Rangers

2011-12 cap hit: $800,000

If the Bruins are looking outside of the organization for a d-man that’s big on throwing hits and blocking shots, Eminger certainly belongs in the conversation. While he’s bounced around since departing a Capitals squad that was woeful during most of his tenure (2002-08), the 6-foot-1 rearguard has been solid over the last three years.

In 2009-10 he had 16 points, a plus-1 rating, 102 hits and 99 blocks for Anaheim in 63 games. During the last two seasons with the Rangers, he’s posted 11 points, a minus-5 rating, 206 hits and 156 blocked shots in 107 contests.

Also worthy of a mention:

Matt Gilroy (defenseman)

UFA – Ottawa Senators

2011-12 cap hit: $1 million

The former BU captain has 194 NHL games under his belt and was pretty darn good for a miserable Lightning team (17 points, plus-2 in 53 games) before Ottawa acquired him for their stretch run.

Peter Mueller (center)

UFA – Colorado Avalanche

2011-12 cap hit: $2 million

Mueller hit the ground running as a youngster in Phoenix and thrived upon arriving in Colorado, but the oft-injured forward has played in just 47 games in the last three seasons. The concussion concerns are obviously there, but if he could be had for the right price, it might be worth gambling on the 24-year-old forward.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.