Ranking Bruins’ post-lockout free-agent deals: Grinders, college free agents + major whiffs (No. 44-22)

(Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Both the 2005 and 2006 seasons represented a changing of the tides for the Boston Bruins.

Over the span of those two years, Mike O’Connell, Jeff Gorton and Peter Chiarelli orchestrated a number of moves that uprooted the Original Six franchise — dealing away Joe Thornton, adding Zdeno Chara and investing in the future with youngsters like Patrice Bergeron. 

Given the amount of upheaval felt in those two years, we figured we'd take a long look at all the moves taken in the post-lockout era that have allowed Boston to keep a Cup-contending window open for over a decade now. 

First up, we’re going to rank all of the Bruins’ free-agent signings since the 2005-06 season — from megadeals that transformed the franchise to one-year contracts that rounded out Boston’s bench. 

In terms of parameters for which players did / did not make the cut:

  • The free agent needed to play at least 40 games with the Bruins, or at least 10 games for goalies. So, alas, guys like Brian Gionta and Simon Gagné aren’t under consideration. 
  • Players claimed directly off of waivers also don’t make the list — sorry, Landon Ferraro. 
  • Both NHL UFAs and college free agents are up for grabs in this ranking, while an RFA that needed to be traded to Boston before inking a deal, like Jimmy Hayes, isn’t eligible. 

Now that we got that out of the way, here’s Part I of our rankings — going from No. 42 to No. 22: 

42. Jeff Hoggan, Winger
Signed with Boston in July 2006 (terms not disclosed)
47 GP - 0 goals, 2 assists, 33 PIM - 7:05 ATOI

While Hoggan primarily spent a good portion of his two-year tenure with the Bruins down in Providence, he did manage to skate in 46 games with the big club during the 2006-07 season — adding some snarl to Boston’s bottom-six corps.

41. Bobby Allen, Defenseman
Signed 1-year contract on July 17, 2006
50 GP - 0 goals, 3 assists - 11:51 ATOI 

Originally drafted by the Bruins back in 1998, Allen — a Hingham native and BC alum — returned to his hometown club as a free agent ahead of the 2006-07 season. Allen’s physical play earned him a spot on the back end of Boston’s blue line, but injuries hampered him the following season — limiting him to just 19 games and eventually leading to his retirement.

40. Dan LaCouture, Winger
Signed with Providence Bruins during 2004-05 lockout
55 GP - 2 goals, 2 assists, 53 PIM - 6:15 ATOI 

LaCouture, a BU product who attended Natick High School, signed with Providence during the 2004-05 lockout before joining Boston the following season, where he was primarily utilized as an enforcer on Boston’s fourth line.

39. Joonas Kemppainen, Winger
Signed 1-year, $792,500 contract on May 21, 2015
44 GP - 2 goals, 3 assists - 12:32 ATOI

After nine seasons spent in the Finnish Liiga, Kemppainen tried to break into the NHL ranks by signing a one-year, two-way deal with Boston. Ultimately, he didn’t stick — serving as a depth option on Boston’s bottom-six before signing a deal with a KHL club in May 2016.

38. Jason York, Defenseman
Signed 1-year, $500,000 contract in 2006
49 GP - 1 goals, 7 assists - 13:01 ATOI 

While York had a productive NHL career that spanned five different teams, the blueliner was on his last legs by the time he signed a one-year deal with Boston. Following the 2004-05 lockout, York spent another season in Europe — eventually winning a Swiss League championship. Boston took a flier on him the following season, but the veteran was plagued throughout the year with knee issues. He retired at the conclusion of the 2006-07 campaign. 

37. Jeremy Reich, Winger
Signed with Boston on September 7, 2005 (terms not disclosed)
90 GP - 2 goals, 3 assists, 141 PIM - 8:15 ATOI 

Another fourth-line grinder who spent a good amount of time between Boston and Providence, Reich primarily served one purpose when out on the ice — leaving welts against the opposition. And that he did, with the hard-nosed winger racking up 141 penalty minutes over his two seasons up in the NHL with Boston.

36. Jonas Gustavsson, Goaltender
Signed 1-year, $700,000 contract on October 4, 2015
24 GP - 11-9-1, .908 save percentage, 2.72 GAA, 1 shutout

Invited to Boston’s training camp on a PTO ahead of the 2015-16 campaign, Gustavsson was eventually named as Tuukka Rask’s backup netminder for the year — inking a one-year deal just before regular-season play got underway. Ultimately, the Swede left a lot to be desired in what was a disappointing season for the B’s — posting just a .908 save percentage over 24 outings. 

35. Austin Czarnik, Forward
Signed 2-year, $1.635 million contract as college FA on April 1, 2015
59 GP - 5 goals, 12 assists - 12:40 ATOI 

Signed as an undrafted free agent after a strong collegiate career at Miami of Ohio, Czarnik primarily spent his Bruins career down in Providence, but proved he was capable of providing a spark in the bottom-six whenever he received the call up to Boston. Unable to earn regular minutes by the time he entered free agency, Czarnik signed a two-year, $2.5 million contract with the Flames back in July 2018.

34. Par Lindholm, Center
Signed 2-year, $1.7 million contract on July 1, 2019
40 GP - 3 goals, 3 assists - 11:15 ATOI

A depth piece for Boston so far in 2019-20, Lindholm has a chance to earn regular minutes the following year if the B’s move on from a few pending free agents. While he may not be flashy, Lindholm has actually been a plus-defensive contributor for Boston in his debut campaign. Even with unfavorable matchups as a fourth liner, Lindholm ranks first among B’s skaters (min. 300 minutes of 5v5 TOI) this year in goals against per 60 minutes at 0.64.

33. Matt Beleskey, Winger
Signed 5-year, $19 million contract on July 1, 2015
143 GP - 18 goals, 27 assists, 129 PIM - 14:29 ATOI

After scoring eight goals in 16 playoff games during the Ducks’ run to the Western Conference Finals in 2015, Beleskey cashed in on a long-term deal with Boston — with the Bruins looking for another bruising power forward to replace the then-traded Milan Lucic

While Beleskey was suitable, if not unspectacular, in his first season with Boston (15 goals, 37 points in 80 games), things bottomed out in a hurry — with the winger only recording eight points over 49 games the following year.

After failing to record a single point over 14 games in Boston during the 2017-18 season, Beleskey was relegated down to Providence, before eventually being shipped to the Rangers as part of the Rick Nash deal. 

Even if he was solid in his first campaign, Beleskey’s sharp decline — coupled with the money handed out from Boston back in 2015 — makes this a painful swing and a miss for the B’s.