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4 Free-Agent Options For Bruins To Get 'Heavier' At Right Wing

By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) -- The Boston Bruins want to get bigger and badder for the 2016-17 season. In a National Hockey League driven largely by speed and skill, Cam Neely and the Bruins front office still place a premium on power forwards, which remains a valuable commodity for Cup-hungry teams.

Neely and GM Don Sweeney clearly still believe the Bruins are a playoff-caliber team and simply need tweaking to the roster to get back there and contend. One of the ways Neely wants to improve the roster is to get "heavier" at the right wing position, as he said in his season-ending press conference. The team has sorely lacked a big, physical presence on the right side in recent years, especially among the top-six forwards. With the super-skilled but undersized David Pastrnak potentially filling out a line with David Krejci and Matt Beleskey, there will be a pressing need to add a big, bruising winger to group with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

There will be plenty of unrestricted free agents on the market at right wing, and several players who would fit the Bruins mold and fill their perceived needs. Some players, like Dale Weise of the Chicago Blackhawks or Mike Brown of the Montreal Canadiens, would certainly bring the physical edge the Bruins seek, but lack the talent to play any higher than the third or fourth line.

They could certainly use a player like those guys, but the following names are more high-profile players who would fit well but cost considerable cap space and require long-term commitments. However, if they really want to get "heavier" at right wing and sign established or fully-developed talent to do so, these are the players they should target.

David Backes, St. Louis Blues

David Backes - St Louis Blues v Dallas Stars - Game Two
David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues celebrate after Backes scored the game winning goal in overtime in Game Two of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

You could probably file this one under "Pipe Dreams," but Backes is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season and has plenty of experience at right wing. He would bring outstanding leadership to the Bruins locker room, in addition to being a prototypical big, tough Bruins forward.

Unfortunately, "Blues lifer" Backes doesn't seem ready to sign anywhere other than St. Louis, and being downgraded to an "assistant" captain might not appeal to him. However, if the Bruins want to make a major move and there's one free agent right wing they could stretch themselves to acquire, it would be Backes.

There's another Blues forward who would be a much easier and more likely signing for the Bruins...

Troy Brouwer, Blues

Troy Brouwer - Chicago Blackhawks v St. Louis Blues - Game Seven
Troy Brouwer of the St. Louis Blues celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game Seven of the Western Conference First Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/ Getty Images)

If the Bruins want to replace pending UFA Loui Eriksson with a bigger, more physical right wing, and at a similar (likely lower) price, Brouwer is the guy they should target in unrestricted free agency. His price is rising with his playoff performance, however - he scored the game-winning goal for the Blues to beat the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in Game 7 of their opening-round series - but he is motivated by winning rings and has a history of elevating his game in the postseason and crucial moments, an intangible quality that the Bruins sorely lacked at the end of the past two seasons.

The downside with Brouwer is his inconsistency; he is prone to extended stretches of time without scoring. But, as Bruins fans learned with the likes of Nathan Horton, consistent playoff excellence trumps regular season streakiness. And even when Brouwer isn't scoring, he can contribute in other ways, namely by playing solid defense and throwing his body around.

Kyle Okposo, New York Islanders

Kyle Okposo - New Jersey Devils v New York Islanders
Kyle Okposo of the New York Islanders scores a shootout goal against Keith Kinkaid of the New Jersey Devils. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Okposo is another player who has had bouts of streakiness over his career, but when he's on he's a dynamic scoring threat and can use his size & strength to his advantage when he has to. He's stepping up for the Islanders in their playoff run with 7 points in 9 games.

Despite Okposo potentially fitting the Bruins' style well, Boston may have to overpay for his services. The Minnesota native could be looking to sign with the Wild and is reportedly seeking a contract with an annual value in the range of $8 million.

Chris Stewart, Anaheim Ducks

Chris Stewart fights Torey Krug - Anaheim Ducks v Boston Bruins
Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins and Chris Stewart of the Anaheim Ducks fight during the first period at TD Garden on January 26, 2016. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Stewart is a curious case. After starting his career with 67 goals in his first 192 career games, he has scored just 70 in his past 327. Stewart's production has tailed off in recent years while playing for four teams since 2011, and he's also had trouble staying healthy. After getting hurt and failing to produce consistently yet again in Anaheim, Stewart's stock could be at its low point.

The winger would be something of a risky signing for wherever he ends up, but he plays the kind of hard, heavy game Neely is seeking on the right side and could deliver some value for the Bruins playing in a system that suits his skill set.

More Pipe Dreams

With the NHL expansion draft potentially yielding more trades than usual, you can dream up all kinds of scenarios for the Bruins to land the kind of right wing they're looking for. What do you think it would take to get Wayne Simmonds from Philadelphia, Bobby Ryan from Ottawa, or Brandon Saad from Columbus?

Matt Dolloff is a writer for His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at

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