Chris Wagner and John Moore officially lapsed into suspended career animation Sunday afternoon when both veterans cleared waivers
For the moment, with Saturday’s season opener on the immediate horizon, their combined cap hit of $4.05 million is off the books, and one or both could soon be assigned to AHL Providence.
But it was clear Sunday, in hearing coach Bruce Cassidy discuss the club’s options, there is no certain path for either when it comes to the question, “What’s next?”
“A few things go into it,” said Cassidy, noting that GM Don Sweeney must consider myriad factors, including roster spots, cap space, etc. “At this time of the year, a lot of players go on waivers. So if we see someone who could help our team, you have to have the space to put someone on there.”
If Sweeney has an eye out for a pickup, the priority would be a defenseman with a righthanded stick, a current missing link in the club’s supply chain. The fact that Connor Clifton is a righty stick played a factor in his earning consideration over Moore for work with the varsity.
If the Bruins can’t make a deal for either Wagner or Moore — which likely would require they retain a portion of their salary — then they either will be shipped to the WannaBs or remain in camp as practice extras.
If one or the other has a chance of returning, the odds are likely better for Moore, a lefty stick who has shown a level of competence in small glimpses playing on the right side. He played in only five games last year — “kind of a non-year for him,” Cassidy said — underwent significant hip surgery, and impressed enough during training camp the last two-plus weeks that he remains on management’s radar.
“He’s got good life, good legs,” Cassidy said. “We sort of have guys ahead of him, but Clifton would be the main competition.”
As for Wagner, Cassidy labeled him a “good soldier, effective penalty-killer, and physical.”
The issue became fit, specifically on Wagner’s fourth line, which Sunday had Karson Kuhlman riding in his right wing spot on a trio with left winger Trent Frederic and center Tomas Nosek.
Curtis Lazar, a solid fourth-liner, is out with an upper-body injury, his return being assessed on a week-to-week basis.
Management gave the nod to Kuhlman over Wagner because of his more abundant speed. Once Lazar is back, Kuhlman could be bumped. By sheer numbers, Wagner has a more difficult road to navigate back to Causeway than Moore.
“Both great Bruins, great guys, both well liked by their teammates,” opined Cassidy. “This decision is never fun. But there’s no finality to it…they could still find their way into the lineup. There’s a lot of different ways it could go between Monday and opening night on Saturday.”
Anton Blidh facing uncertain future
Agitating forward Anton Blidh remained in camp Sunday, but there currently doesn’t appear to be a spot for his lefty stick. Frederic is going to get the opening look as the No. 4 LW. In six pro seasons, Blidh has appeared in only 38 NHL games.
However, the Bruins appreciate his game enough to have guaranteed him a minimum payout this season even if he plays in the minors. If he could play the right side, he might get the call ahead of Kuhlman.
“That’s the tough part about Anton’s situation,” said Cassidy. “If it was the left side [opening] he is more that antagonistic guy, finish checks, get there … but we have Freddy there right now.”
The top three left wingers to start the season are Brad Marchand, Taylor Hall, and Jake DeBrusk.
“With Freddy, we’ve made the commitment to make him a better player,” said Cassidy, “and that he does his part…so that’s what Anton’s up against.”
Bruins host family barbecue
Following the 45-minute workout, the entire team headed to a local country club for an afternoon family barbecue that has been a training camp tradition … Due to a sports menu that included both a Patriots game in Houston and the Red Sox-Tampa Bay playoff matchup at Fenway, the entire media contingent at practice included a lone reporter from the Globe and Herald. “I get it,” said Cassidy , noting the light crowd at his daily news conference. “What are the Celtics doing today?” ... Asked who he’s picking in Monday’s Marathon, a diplomatic Cassidy said, “Going with the favorite” … Still no word on whether Jeremy Swayman or Linus Ullmark will get the Game 1 start in net. Cassidy said he will name his starter on Thursday or Friday. The likely bet is Swayman ... The Bruins will be off on Wednesday, which likely will be when team president Cam Neely and Sweeney hold their annual preseason news conference, possibly joined by Jeremy and Charlie Jacobs.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.