Noel Acciari checks so many boxes for what the Bruins are looking for in an NHL hockey player.
He's tough, he's smart, he's unselfish and team-oriented and he's been a big game player throughout a solid hockey career.
It's not surprising that the Bruins and Acciari want to keep things going as he heads to unrestricted free agency on July 1 after playing the last three seasons for the Black and Gold as a hard-hitting fourth-line energy kind of player.
It's also not surprising that the Rhode Island-born Acciari loves being a Bruin and wants to stay in Boston for the foreseeable future.
"It was an unbelievable year. Stanley Cup Final and Game 7… you're there 60 minutes from winning a Stanley Cup. I love all of these guys. They are my family. I had a lot of fun with them this year. It's a bitter ending, but we had a great locker room and a great coaching staff," said Acciari. "I'd love to come back to Boston. I love all of these guys. I love everybody here. This is all I know.
"We'll see what happens going forward. You can't predict anything. Boston has it all. I'm a local guy. I'm not just saying it. I've lived it. This is a special, special place. I'm looking for this family [in my next contract]. I'll take my time and see how things go. But Boston has been my home for my entire life."
The 27-year-old is hitting free agency at the right time after playing a career-high 72 games, posting a career-high 14 points and averaging a career-high 12:59 of ice time as one of the key parts of a standout fourth line this season.
Acciari is coming off a two-year deal that paid him $725,000 in each of the last two seasons and is certainly looking at a raise to something in the neighborhood of $1.25-1.5 million per season based on his performance. It's certainly not going to break the bank for the Bruins for the 5-foot-10, 205-pounder to give him a raise, but anything edging closer to the $2 million mark is probably going to make him too expensive as strictly a fourth-line guy even if he's averaged eight goals and 12 points over the last two years.
Certainly the Bruins value his toughness after he played through a broken sternum in the playoffs after suffering the injury in the second round.
"We've had conversations with Noel and his representative just like we were with all of our guys. We'd like to see Noel come back. He'll have options, so that'll be up to Noel to see whether or not he feels that this is still the right fit for him," said Don Sweeney. "We value Noel as a player, for sure. He's kind of a bit of that fabric of that identity group in the bottom part of our lineup, and he's made himself into a real valuable NHL player, so he'll have options with either us or elsewhere. You're never going to question his courage, for sure. He puts it all on the line, as I said before, he plays with his nose over top of the puck and not everybody does that."
It seems that the Bruins are trying to take care of things with restricted free agents like Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo before moving on to guys like Acciari, but they may not have a choice if the former Providence Friars captain garners a lot of interest on July 1. One would expect Acciari to return to the Bruins with all things being equal, but nobody knows with the kind of funny money that can get thrown around by teams on the July 1 open of free agency.
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