The Boston Bruins made a show of faith in a depth approach at the forward position when the team announced it had signed Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner to multi-year contract extensions that will keep a pair of local kids in black and gold for years to come.
Both players are relative newcomers to the Bruins organization, but they have quickly grown into fan favorites by effectively providing secondary scoring and high-quality puck possession behind the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. Now, the two players who would have been unrestricted free agents in 2020 are getting paid.
Coyle, 27, signed a six-year contract extension through the 2025-26 season with an annual NHL cap hit of $5.25 million — a $2.05 million pay increase that recognizes his quality play at center behind Bergeron and David Krejci along with his ability to move up and down the lineup with ease.
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A Weymouth, Mass., native (they call him ‘the Mayor of Weymouth’ in Boston), Coyle excelled playing for his childhood favorite Bruins after he was acquired from the Minnesota Wild. He scored 16 points in 24 games during last spring’s playoff run.
Wagner inked a three-year contract that keeps him in Boston through the 2022-23 season with an annual cap hit of $1.35 million — on par with what the team pays other bottom-six forwards like Sean Kuraly ($1.275 million cap hit) or Joakim Nordstrom ($1 million).
The 28-year-old grew up in Walpole, Mass., and goes way back with Coyle — the two even played together as high schoolers in a local junior league. ‘The Mayor of Walpole’ endeared himself to Bruins fans in 2018-19 when he produced a career-high 12 goals and 29 points and excelled on the team’s penalty kill.
Depth scoring has proven hard to come by for GM Don Sweeney and head coach Bruce Cassidy in recent seasons. With a nearly unstoppable first line, a second-round playoff exit came in 2017-18 when its stars found themselves suffocated by an all-around elite Tampa Bay Lightning team.
Enter Wagner and, later, Coyle last season; nine different Bruins scored double-digit point totals in the playoffs, with Coyle standing out whether he centered an effective third line or filling in at right wing in a pinch. This season, Coyle has picked up where he left off (14 points in 24 games) and Wagner remains on pace to match last year’s totals with five points in 23 games.
The Bruins appreciate the versatility Coyle brings to his game and will now retain an effective center through his prime while centers-of-the-future Jack Studnicka, Jakub Lauko and John Beecher continue to develop. Wagner, similarly, earned his new contract with career-high scoring totals and physical play (his 247 hits in 2018-19 ranked 11th among all NHL players).
These two new contracts do not absolutely guarantee Boston’s continued success entering a new decade; Sweeney still has tough decisions ahead (and even less money to play with now) as UFA-to-be Torey Krug and team captain Zdeno Chara remain unsigned beyond this season. According to CapFriendly, the Bruins have $16.289 million in cap space for the 2020-21.
While some uncertainty on the blue line remains, Coyle and Wagner’s extensions are a pledge to stick with what’s working at forward.