When it came time for Milan Lucic to make a decision in NHL free agency, one destination stood above the rest. It was the Boston Bruins, where Lucic began his career in 2007-08 and enjoyed eight successful seasons, including a Stanley Cup title in 2010-11.
But the Bruins weren't the only team interested in signing Lucic as a free agent. A bunch of them had interest, actually, and he talked to one of them quite a bit before ultimately signing a one-year contract with the Bruins.
"There were that many (10-15 teams interested) like you said. Honestly, now that my cap hit is back down, I think that's why there was a lot of interest," Lucic told ex-NHL enforcer John Scott on the "Dropping the Gloves" podcast. "With the salary cap being what it is, and it not going up really at all, there was a lot of interest. One of the teams I talked to the most was a team you (John Scott) played for, the Chicago Blackhawks. I talked to them a lot.
"They were one of the first teams, if not the first team, to reach out. You've played there, you know it's a great city, an Original Six team. That's something that I kind of gravitated me toward going to a place like that, was getting a chance to play for an Original Six team again, knowing how much that means. That's why I had some lengthy conversations with Kyle (Davidson) and Luke Richardson. ... There was a lot of interest (from other teams). It was nice to go through that again. But I went with my heart and where it all started. I wanted to go back to being a Boston Bruin again.”
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Lucic is not a top-six forward anymore. He's not going to score 25-plus goals and feature prominently on the power play. But he's still an effective player in a bottom-six role, especially as an enforcer, a leader, and someone who brings Stanley Cup-winning experience to a locker room.
“A lot of the teams I talked to said they could still see the love for the game that I have,” Lucic said. "A lot of that was from my decision to go play in the (2023) World Championships (with Canada). A lot of them said they could see it in my face, in my eyes, how much fun I was having and smiling and all that stuff. They could see that there was still fire left in me, and that’s something they saw that sparked their interest in wanting me to be on their teams."
Lucic was arguably the most popular player on the team during his first eight seasons with the B's. Black No. 17 Lucic jerseys were all over TD Garden in that time period. We should see a similar scene at the Garden throughout the upcoming season when Lucic makes his grand return to Boston. To say he's really, really looking forward to Opening Night would be an understatement.
"It’s probably one of the games I’m looking forward to the most in my career," Lucic said. "It might hit me with a wave of emotion where I might even tear up, that’s how much I am looking forward to it."