Bruins should think Pirri not Perry in search for UFA bargain wing

Matt Kalman
June 27, 2019 - 9:44 pm

Cam Neely knows what he wants from wings that play with center David Krejci.

Listen to your team news NOW.

“David likes to hang on to the puck and kind of slow the pace down a little bit, so it’s really finding a right guy, and David wants to distribute the puck. So you need to have someone that’s willing to shoot the puck,” the Bruins president said earlier this month. “And for some reason, nowadays, there’s more pass-first guys than there are shooters, which it’s hard for me to understand because I was a shooter. All of my assist were rebounds.”

And so the search for a top-six wing is on. Trade chips have been flying across the NHL this week since draft weekend and free agency begins July 1. Some see former 50-goal scorer Corey Perry as a fit. Those people would be off the mark.

Let’s just point out that right now in their current salary-cap situation the Bruins won’t be doing any business with outside unrestricted free agents that have any chance of making their NHL roster. They have 20 players signed and just a shade over $12 million in cap space remaining, according to CapFriendly.com.

Restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen will eat up a large chunk of that space once they're signed, leaving little room for UFAs Marcus Johansson or Noel Acciari to come back, especially if general manager Don Sweeney wants to leave a little in-season wiggle room. The Bruins can go 10 percent over the $81.5 million cap ceiling until opening night, but doing that would cost them lots of leverage in trade talks to get back into cap compliance.

If the Bruins don’t clear out some cap space, they’re going to still have to bring in some experienced competition for the kids that’ll be given every opportunity to win the top-six job (or a third-line job if Heinen can move up). Boston, though, will have to look for a bargain – either a reclamation project or a younger veteran looking to prove himself. The betting here is that that type of player might be available on a tryout once the dust settles on what could be an ugly UFA market with top-of-the-market guys getting megadeals and players in the lower tiers getting left out.

Hockey may not be in a situation as extreme as baseball, but teams are looking to play and pay their younger, cheaper players, especially in the smaller markets.

That leads us to the availability of the 34-year-old Perry, who was bought out by the Anaheim Ducks last week. Because of his knee injury that limited him to 31 games last season can be signed to a one-year contract heavy with performance bonuses.

Perry’s always been a character guy in the dressing room, but even if he bounces back from his injury, he’s slow. The last thing Krejci’s line, or Patrice Bergeron Brad Marchand line's needs is a slow right wing. Plus if he bounces back and makes all his bonuses, there goes your bargain.

Jake DeBrusk will need a new contract next summer. The Bruins will need a new No. 1A goaltender to go with Tuukka Rask. Every inch of cap space is important.

That leads me to a player that sounds like Perry but makes more sense for the Bruins: Brandon Pirri. Even if the left-shot won’t play his off side, the Bruins could make it work. And if you want a guy who’s willing to shoot, how do you like 82 shots in 31 NHL games last season with Vegas? The 28-year-old made just $650,000 last season and this might be his last chance to prove himself. Maybe he’d be willing to come to Boston for a shade more than $1 million on a one- or two-year deal.

Now Boston might not be the place to do this because if all things turn out equal, the Bruins are going to want to fill their lineup hole with a homegrown kid. And Pirri’s two-way game has been questioned (although you’d think then he could ride the Bergeron/Marchand train to glory).

But there’s no telling what the market for players of Pirri’s ilk is going to be once all the non-cap-strapped teams spend on July 1, and teams that are up against the cap ceiling still need to fill out their roster. If Pirri wants to stay in North America, he may have no choice but to take a chance he’ll be a 13th forward on a contender in a worst-case scenario. He once scored 22 goals in a NHL season. He’d be worth the bet if he was amenable.

Perry, on the other hand, is someone the Bruins shouldn’t even talk about unless they’re mispronouncing Pirri.

The Big Bad Blog is presented by: 

 Technology Decisions Aren't Black and White. Think Red. Click here for more.

Related: