The Bruins came far from making headline moves ahead of the 2018-19 season, as their biggest move was defenseman John Moore to a five-year deal worth $2.75 million annually. Moore, however, has not been the most impactful addition to this team.
Over the summer, Sweeney also signed Chris Wagner and Jaroslav Halak. Both of those moves were not met with much excitement. Through 61 games, however, they have been worth every dollar and surpassed expectations. Regardless of how this season ends, it appears Sweeney has found two impact pieces in this underrated pair.
In free agency, the Bruins and Wagner agreed to a two-year deal worth $1.25 million annually. The deal has been a bargain as Wagner has had a career. In sixty-five games the Walpole native has 11 goals and six assists. He has set new career highs in goals and points while being key to the Bruins bottom lines. The former fifth-round pick has not been afraid to drop the gloves and be an enforcer when needed. He has been a perfect replacement for Riley Nash who departed from the Bruins in free agency when he signed with Columbus.
Additionally, Jaroslav Halak has had a great first season in Boston. The Bruins signed Halak to backup Rask after Anton Khodobin left in free agency. The move was not meet with much excitement as Halak was coming off the worst year of his career. In 54 games with the Islanders, Halak had a save percentage of 9.08 with a goal against average of 3.19. In Boston, things have gone very differently.
In thirty-three games, this season Halak has been exceptional and at times Vezina worthy. His save percentage of .924 is tied for fourth-best in the league and his goals against average ranks fifth. When Rask struggled at the beginning of the year, Halak excelled until Rask found his game. The former Islanders play has kept Rask fresh as the Bruins have climbed in the standings. Halak’s play has also given the Bruins one of the best goalie tandems in the league.
Furthermore, Both these players have impacted the Bruins in different ways. As the Bruins offense has struggled, Wagner has made the Bruins fourth line a strength. Just like last season, they have produced more offensively than many expected. As the season has progressed, Wagner has only improved. Over the past two months, the Walpole native has six points including two game-tying goals. With Pastrnak injured Wagner like everyone else has raised his game.
Like Wagner, Halak has taken his game to a new level this season. He has pushed Rask to be at his best, unlike backups in years past. When Rask has struggled, Cassidy has not been afraid to give Halak more playing time. Halak has excelled giving this team the feeling that they can win regardless of who is in net.
In a season full of adversity these two have been pleasant surprises. They have been essential to the Bruins success in a season that has been magical of late. While not all of Sweeney’s free agent signings have worked out these two will go down as one of his best.