The day began with a non-move, but ended with big dreams for the Bruins.
Trade target Oliver Ekman-Larsson remained in Arizona, neither Boston nor Vancouver clearing the financial bar that would lure Captain Coyote out of the desert.
By late Friday, the Bruins were still in the hunt for a few of the top free agents on the market, most notably Taylor Hall.
Hall, ex- of Arizona and the NHL Awards stage (2018 Hart Trophy winner), was considering Boston among numerous suitors. The Bruins were rumored to be in the market for Craig Smith, one of the better third-line wingers in the league and an automatic 20-goal man for Nashville.
They were also open to the idea of landing St. Louis captain Alex Pietrangelo, who was all but pushed out by the Blues' addition of Krug.
Friday was not a free agent frenzy. The market moved so slowly that St. Louis general manager Doug Armstrong referred to it as “constipated.”
In past offseasons, NHL rules permitted upcoming free agents to meet with suitors in the days before July 1. That rule’s elimination, plus the Zoom-and-phone world teams are living in, made it a slog. Hockey operations staffs were largely spread out at their homes across North America, in light of travel and health restrictions.
By 7 p.m., NHL teams had doled out 65 UFA contracts, with a total worth of $216.2 million. In the first 24 hours that last year’s UFA window was open, clubs gave double the number (125) and triple the worth (more than $700 million). The bulk of it came in the first few hours.
Boston would consider Hall worth the weight.
The left-shot winger, chosen first overall in 2011 (Tyler Seguin went second) and winner of the 2018 Hart Trophy (career high 39-54—93 with the Devils), had a resurgence after a trade to the Coyotes last December. He posted 10 goals and 27 points in 35 games, reaching the playoffs for the second time in his 10-year career (2-4—6 in nine games). Hall wants to win.
Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported 25 teams checked in on Hall, some only via his agent, Darren Ferris. Aside from Boston, other teams reportedly in the mix included Montreal, Columbus, Nashville, and Calgary.
“It might drag into the weekend if it doesn’t get decided tonight,” TSN’s Darren Dreger said.
Bruins GM Don Sweeney was set to address reporters at 1 p.m. Saturday, some 20 hours after originally scheduled.
While Pietrangelo would be a game-changing replacement for Krug, Hall would make the Bruins' top-six loaded. He also would be a top-flight distributor and shooter on the power play.
Hall, more playmaker than finisher, has a full array of attributes. He has elite speed and a rugged frame (6 feet, 1 inches and 208 pounds). Ferocious on the forecheck. A terror in transition. Dangerous on the cycle. Dogged in the corners. He plays the game at a red-line pace.
For now, the Krug-less Bruins can only dream.