When general manager Don Sweeney had finished answering media questions after day one of free agency, one thing was abundantly clear. Sweeney expected, perhaps was even demanding, one thing from those players anticipated to don a Spoked-B jersey this season—excitement.
In his discussion of newly acquired players Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes, he mentioned how excited they both were to be Boston Bruins. This was certainly clear in Beleskey’s case, as his deal was reached. By 7:16pm (Eastern time) on July 1, Beleskey had already changed his Twitter avatar to the Spoked-B, thanked the Anaheim Ducks and their fans for his seven years there and told Boston publicly how happy he was to be “part of such an amazing organization and hockey town!!”
My Wife and I could not be Happier joining the @NHLBruins. We are thrilled to be part of such an amazing organization and hockey town!!
— Matt Beleskey (@Matt_Beleskey) July 1, 2015
A contract with Jimmy Hayes had yet to be ironed out when the media call took place, but it was announced on Monday, July 6, that Hayes had been signed to a three-year deal. Acquired from the Florida Panthers earlier on July 1 in a trade deal that saw Reilly Smith—who had signed a new two-year contract at the end of the 2014-15 season with the Bruins—and Marc Savard heading south.
In the case of Savard, it’s his contract that goes to Florida. Sadly, Savard hasn’t played a game in the NHL since he received his second concussion in less than twelve months on January 23, 2011, in a game against the Colorado Avalanche. To this day, Savard continues to suffer from symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. The movement of his contract helps the Panthers raise their salary cap (to stay above the cap floor) and freed up needed cap space for the Bruins to use during the off-season.
Sweeney was also asked about the acquisition of Zac Rinaldo—which was announced a week ago—in exchange for a third round pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft; a move that many fans were vocally against. Specifically, Sweeney was asked his thoughts on what Rinaldo brought to the team, especially with the acquisitions of Hayes, Beleskey and others.
“My conversation with Zac right away turned toward him expanding his role as a player, getting better. I told him we’d send him clips on the penalty kill and the way he skates,” Sweeney said. “Really, we love his energy. We love the fact that he’s going to go and track down pucks. He doesn’t always have to run someone through the end boards.”
Rinaldo has had his share of issues where the rules are concerned. In the last two seasons, he has been suspended twice: April 7, 2014 (4 games for an illegal check to the head of Chad Ruhwedel) and January 27, 2015 (8 games for a head shot to Kris Letang). This is an obvious concern in adding him to the Bruins roster. It is always possible that, like Brad Marchand has in the past, he will be called by a referee for a “reputation call.”
“I want him to understand where the line is and whether it’s Brad Marchand or other players in the National Hockey League that cross that line and they get back on it,” Sweeney said. “And we’re not going to stop preaching that to Zac. If he wants to continue to expand his game, and have an impact in all areas, and grow as a player, then he has to embrace that as well.”
One of the things that Sweeney did like in what he heard from Rinaldo was his attitude about being a Bruin.
“I loved his enthusiasm,” Sweeney told the media. “He was jumping through the phone to say how excited he was to be a Boston Bruin.”
Over the course of the conference call, the word excite or one of its variations was used 21 times.
“I’ve identified, our group has identified a player like Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes…,” Sweeney said. “The first conversations you have with those players is… obviously they’re excited and I think that’s infectious and …. We’ve got a lot of younger players that are gonna come through the door here for development camp. They’re going to be equally excited about their being drafted, identified, and development begins.”
“It’s a dream come true for me. I grew up a Boston Bruins fan, and having the chance to play for the Boston Bruins is a dream come true,” Hayes said at his acquisition. “It really hasn’t sunk in yet, but it’s probably one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in a while.”
What an amazing day!!! So excited to be a Boston Bruin for 3 years. Such an amazing city with amazing fans. #beantown
— Jimmy Hayes (@Jimmy10Hayes) July 6, 2015
In addition to letting it be known on Twitter, Beleskey went on to describe his thoughts on being signed by Boston—after having weathered his first free agency frenzy stress.
“Boston’s always been a team that I’ve watched. Obviously, the Big Bad Bruins has been something I’ve loved as a player and as a fan of the game. You know, guys like Cam Neely you watch as a kid, you look up to,” Beleskey explained. “An Original Six team with an amazing fan base. I actually got to play there for the first time in my career last year and it was just a great feeling playing in that building, and I’m extremely excited to wear the ‘B’ on my chest this season and for the next five years.”
Last season the buzzword among the Bruins seemed to be the word “trust.” This off-season, that has been replaced with the word excitement. Sweeney wants his players to feel that excitement so that they become motivated on the ice. And he could be right about it being infectious.
On Monday, July 6, the Bruins announced that in addition to the three-year deal for Hayes, they had come to a contract agreement with Brett Connolly—who was acquired at trade deadline last season from the Tampa Bay Lightning—for a one-year deal.
“Obviously it’s exciting. I’m very, very excited for this season,” Connolly said. “Obviously it’s a fresh start, so I’m looking forward to the opportunity and I should be in a pretty good situation here this year, so I’m excited to get going. I can’t wait to get down there.”
October is still quite some time away and it will be the culmination of the decisions taking place through trades, re-signings, free agency and development. Many believe that the Bruins will be in rebuild mode this season, but if Sweeney has his way, the excitement will take the skill he already has among his players and push it to the next level.
“To be honest with you, we want players that have the skill, that have the will, to go out and battle and win.” — Don Sweeney