Nick Goss

Why a Milan Lucic reunion makes a lot of sense for Bruins

The 2011 Stanley Cup champion reportedly is headed back to where his career began.

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Milan Lucic was a beloved player in Boston for many years and played a key role on the Bruins' Stanley Cup-winning team in 2011. Bruins fans were sad to see him go in 2015 when the veteran winger was traded to the Los Angeles Kings.

Lucic is approaching NHL free agency after a four-year run with the Calgary Flames.

Could a return to the Bruins be in the cards?

Vancouver radio host Rick Dhaliwal reported earlier this week that the Flames had given Lucic's agent permission to speak with teams ahead of Saturday afternoon's start to free agency. And then on Wednesday, Dhaliwal reported Lucic going back to the Bruins "will happen."

Longtime NHL insider Chris Johnston provided his own Lucic update Wednesday afternoon:

Lucic is still under contract with the Flames and cannot sign with a new team until free agency opens this weekend.

He talked to The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun earlier this month about a potential return to Boston.

"Obviously it’s a special place for me and it will always be a special place for me,” Lucic told LeBrun in a story published June 21. "But we’ve got what, 10, 11 days to see what happens (before July 1)? We’ll see what happens and then go from there."

Lucic isn't a top-six forward anymore. He hasn't been for some time. What he can be is a quality fourth-line forward, one who provides toughness, leadership, championship experience, etc. In other words, a very similar type of role that Nick Foligno filled for the Bruins last season before the veteran wing was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday. Lucic tallied 19 points (seven goals, 12 assists) in 77 games last season. He has scored in that 19-23 point range over the last five seasons.

The Bruins likely will inject more youth into their team next season compared to previous years. Part of that is the need to see how these prospects can perform at the NHL level, and another aspect is the salary cap. The Bruins are in a salary cap crunch, and if they can add a few talented young players on entry-level contracts to their roster for 2023-24, that would be a huge help. Having a respected veteran like Lucic around the young players would be ideal.

The Bruins also didn't give the Florida Panthers enough pushback during the first round of the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Lucic has never had an issue sending a message on the ice. He's still a heavyweight, just ask all the guys he fought last season.

There really isn't much downside to a Lucic reunion from the Bruins' perspective, assuming it's a cheap one-year contract. He's a solid fourth-left wing or extra forward. He'll play a specific role and help the team's young players transition to the NHL. He'll also provide protection on the ice and deal with any sort of shenanigans that arise.

And the fans will love it. The black No. 17 Lucic jerseys were a staple at TD Garden for many years. Can you imagine the ovation Lucic will receive when he's introduced on opening night in October?

The Bruins have several more roster weaknesses to address, especially up front. They still need another center -- especially if Patrice Bergeron and/or David Krejci retire -- and a scoring winger to replace Taylor Hall. But the addition of Lucic gives them solid depth at a good price. It's hard to find much wrong with that.

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