NHL Notebook: Ranking Bruins’ post-lockout free-agent deals (No. 10 – 1), new details emerge on Return To Play plan, CBA

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI 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 mega-deals 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. 

After going through Part 1 last Friday and Part II in our last notebook, here’s our look at the top 10 Bruins free-agent signings over the past 15 years: 

10 - Glen Metropolit, Center
Signed 1-year contract on October 3, 2007 (terms not disclosed)
82 GP - 11 goals, 22 assists, 36 PIM - 16:26 ATOI

Talk about a steal. 

Expectations weren’t exactly that high for Metropolit when he entered Bruins camp in 2007 — given his standing as a 33-year-old journeyman who had logged time with four different clubs over his previous two stints up in the NHL.

Despite serving as a camp invitee, Metropolit did enough to earn a one-year contract from the B’s for the 2007-08 season and immediately paid dividends — logging plenty of time on both the penalty kill and power play for a rebuilding B’s team.

Metropolit — who tied a career high in points scored with 33 over 82 games (good for fifth among B’s forwards that season) — did not last that long in Boston, with his strong debut campaign with the B’s setting the stage for him to ink a two-year deal with the Flyers on July 1, 2008.

Still, considering both his low price tag and his efforts to help push an underdog B’s team to seven games against first-place Montreal, Metropolit managed to accomplish quite a bit during his time here.

9 - Shawn Thornton, Winger
Signed 3-year, $1.55-million contract on July 1, 2007
480 GP - 34 goals, 42 assists, 748 PIM - 9:05 ATOI

Signed to a dirt-cheap deal that only counted $516,666 annually against the cap from 2007 to 2010, Thornton was brought in to help rewrite the culture of a rebuilding Bruins club on the rise.

The hard-nosed enforcer was not only expected to add some snarl to the B’s lineup, but also a championship pedigree — given that the winger hoisted the Stanley Cup with the Ducks the previous season.

While his offensive totals may not stand out over seven seasons in Boston, Thornton wasn’t brought in to provide such offensive pop (although he did tally a career-high 20 points during the 2010-11 season).

Still, given his bargain cost, Thornton proved to be invaluable in Boston’s bottom-six corps, serving as the B’s chief enforcer out on the ice — while helping Boston turn the tide in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final after sitting out the first two games of the series.

Bruins fans often have a soft spot for their long line of pugnacious enforcers, and Thornton stands as one of the best to don a black and gold sweater in some time.

8 - Michael Ryder, Winger
Signed 3-year, $12-million contract on July 1, 2008
235 GP - 63 goals, 64 assists - 14:54 ATOI

After pushing the Habs to seven games during the 2007-08 season, the Bruins focused their efforts the following summer on giving a promising roster a much-needed scoring punch.

Enter Michael Ryder, who received a three-year contract from Boston after lighting the lamp 30 times in two of his previous four seasons with the Canadiens. Ryder made good on the signing in his first season with the B’s — scoring 27 goals and ranking fourth on the club with 53 points on a Bruins club that surged to first place in the Eastern Conference. 

Ryder’s offensive production the following two seasons were a bit more understated (tallying 18 goals in each campaign), but the Newfoundland product was invaluable for the B’s during their run to a Stanley Cup title. 

Despite serving on the third line, Ryder was an offensive force during the 2011 postseason, tying Nathan Horton for fourth on the club in playoff scoring with 17 points over 25 games. 

Along with a pair of game-winning tallies against Montreal (Game 4 - overtime) and Tampa Bay (Game 2), Ryder made his mark down the other end of the ice — robbing Tomas Plekanec of a sure goal during the Montreal series by blocking the biscuit with his glove in the crease. 

He might not have been a steal when compared to some of the other bargain buys the Bruins secured over the last 15 years, but the money was well worth it for Ryder, given the end result.