Born in Duluth, Minn., nearly 20 years after Derek Sanderson suited up in the Black and Gold for the final time, new Bruins defenseman Derek Forbort, 29, told reporters Thursday that he was named after the flamboyant center who was a central character in the Big Bad Bruins legacy.
The legend of Turk never ends.
“He was my dad’s favorite player,” explained Forbort, chatting in a Zoom session with Boston media. “That was the first hockey card I had in my room, a Derek Sanderson card.”
Forbort noted that he “grew up hearing stories about Tommy Williams,” the speedy Duluth-born forward who made his NHL debut with the Bruins in the early 1960s.
Williams, a.k.a. “The Bomber,” played eight seasons for the Bruins and later for the WHA New England Whalers.
Forbort, who signed with the Bruins Wednesday as a free agent, a deal that will bring him $9 million over the next three seasons, said, “Williams was a Duluth guy, so I heard stories about him, and then my dad’s favorite player was Derek Sanderson, so … kind of funny how that worked out.”
Forbert’s father, Keith, was pals with Williams’s children.
“They were at the same rink growing up,” said Forbort, a veteran of more than 300 NHL games, having played for Los Angeles, Calgary and, most recently, Winnipeg. “He said Tommy would show up in a mink coat, and stuff like that.”
Reached by phone, the ever-cheery Sanderson, 75, was delighted to hear his name was still so fondly remembered, even by parents.
“Heck, were they even born when I was playing?!” he said.
Sanderson, thankful that recent back surgery has returned him to the golf course, eagerly listened to an update on the handful of transactions that added six players to the Bruins roster. He was not familiar with Forbort’s name, be it first or last, before the call.
“That’s great news,” said Sanderson, accustomed these many decades to hearing about parents naming their children after him. “Didn’t I tell you I like that kid?”
Forbort believes he still has Sanderson’s hockey card, but he has not met the Bruins great.
In a good place
Defenseman Mike Reilly extended his Boston tenure Wednesday with a three-year/$9 million deal, the longest and richest contract he has signed since turning pro out of the University of Minnesota in 2015.
A forward into his teenage years, the smooth-skating Reilly, 28, likely will line up at left defense as Brandon Carlo’s running mate, but could move down to a No. 3 pairing if, say, general manager Don Sweeney rearranges roster parts further (trade?) and adds a higher-profile D-man to pair to the left of franchise blue liner Charlie McAvoy.
“It was my intention the whole time to stay in Boston,” said Reilly, who came here at the April trade deadline and provided key support to the back end. “I always figured it was going to work out here, and two days ago, it came together pretty quick.”
Reilly might not have been brought back had Sweeney been successful with his bid to land veteran backliner Alec Martinez, who signed a three-year extension with Vegas for $15.75 million. According to a high-ranking team official in another NHL city, Martinez turned down a near-identical offer by the Bruins.
At this point, for Sweeney to bring in a higher-impact blue liner, he likely would have to make a trade, with left winger Jake DeBrusk his best bargaining chip. Sweeney on Wednesday added three forwards — Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, and Erik Haula — all of whom, like DeBrusk, are left shots.
Reilly liked the idea of being paired again with Carlo.
“I feel we’ve got pretty good chemistry, and that we’ve been playing together more than however many games it’s been,” he said. “And obviously we’ve got [Matt] Grzelcyk to move the puck very, very well, and McAvoy’s our big horse. Very exciting to be part of those pieces.”
Nosek, who came aboard for two years/$1.75 million cap hit, handled his Zoom session while holding a hand-held device and standing outside a grocery store in Pardubice, Czechia, hometown of goaltending great Dominik Hasek.
A left winger, Nosek originally was signed as a free agent by Detroit and got his big break when selected in the Vegas expansion draft in 2017. He was not grabbed by the Kraken in last week’s expansion draft, leaving him free to sign with any of the Original 32.
“When the expansion draft happened [four years ago], I was mostly an AHL player,” noted the 6-foot-2-inch, 205-pounder. “The last 10 days, I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous.
“The last four years, I signed one-year contracts, so I was happy to sign for these two years. But I was nervous. My family was nervous. We are back home in Czech Republic living the situation, pretty much.”
Nosek and fellow Czech David Krejci, the Bruins’ free agent center, played together in Pardubice during the most recent NHL lockout (2012-13).
Asked if he knows whether Krejci will re-sign with the Bruins, a smiling Nosek said, “I don’t know that answer. I wish!”
Positive about it
For Haula, 30, Boston will be his sixth NHL stop in nine seasons, the Finnish center/wing making his way here after a season in Nashville. Before testing the market, he had been in talks to stay with the Predators, with whom he posted 9-12—21 in 51 games during his one-year tour. “Boston was intriguing,” he said. “Always in the mix. A chance to win. Great culture. Great city. Great fans. So much positive in it, it was hard to overlook.”
The Bruins are still planning to open the doors to fans next week at Warrior Arena, where they’ll stage their development camp Monday through Friday. But it could change, with the ever-changing dynamic of the pandemic. If camp is open to the public, keep in mind that action typically begins early in the day (9-10 a.m.) and is usually wrapped by early afternoon … An official with another NHL club that was bidding on Foligno was disappointed to see the veteran forward opt for Boston, noting that his club “needed help on the third line.” The club, he noted, was not factoring on Foligno adding much in the way of offensive production.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.