WILMINGTON — For Adam McQuaid, there were no guarantees. He wanted to return to Boston, to the first place he signed a contract and where he began his career in the AHL and NHL. But as last season ended and his free agency dawned, it didn’t really look good for McQuaid and the Bruins.
It seemed unlikely that the Bruins would have enough money under the cap to sign McQuaid, and with Dougie Hamilton then in the fold, it didn’t seem like the team would have a roster spot, either. McQuaid knew both these things.
Then, the draft happened. Hamilton was traded. McQuaid was re-signed. Many questioned both actions by new general manager Don Sweeney.
“I didn’t foresee things happening the way they did,” said McQuaid. “But obviously I’m very excited to be back, and it’s an organization that has done a lot for me.
“I want to continue to win here and bring what I bring to the table and hopefully add a little bit more. And have some success.”
With the deal, for four years at a $2.75 million annual cap hit, McQuaid can settle in. But questions remain about his position on the team. He has not yet proven that he can perform at a second-pairing level, and is paid too much for a third-pairing defenseman.
He understands that the expectations have risen.
“They’re putting faith in me,” McQuaid said. “I want to reward that faith, again bring what I bring to the table, not worry too much about anything else.
“I’m still working on my game and trying to get better and hopefully bringing a little more leadership and continue to improve my game.”
The Bruins could use those improvements as they attempt to integrate inexperienced players such as Zach Trotman, Colin Miller, Joe Morrow, and the slightly more experienced Matt Irwin into a defense that has depth in terms of numbers but less in terms of high-end talent.
There are opportunities there — for the younger players and also for McQuaid. As he said, “If you’re playing well, you’re going to get the chance to do more. I’m going to hopefully compete and be able to get myself the best opportunity.”
The defenseman now qualifies as something of a veteran on a team that has shed a number of players in that category over the past couple of years. The soon-to-be 29-year-old enters his sixth full season with the Bruins, though many of those have been interrupted by injuries.
There, too, McQuaid sees opportunity.
“I am looking to take on a little bit more of a leadership role,” he said. “I’ve been here for a little while now, and I do want to take that next step. I want to try and bring more to the table, try and play a little bit more in a top-four role.
“But, really, at the end of the day, it’s all about what works within the team and the system, whatever brings success.
“Hopefully from an off-ice standpoint, I’m able to be a guy that guys can go to if they have questions or concerns or need to talk about hockey or anything else, that I can be one of those guys. That goes a long way too.”
Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.