Armed with a new four-year contract and with six NHL seasons now on his resume, Boston Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid said his sights are set on taking on more of a leadership role.
"I've been here for a little while now, and I do want to take that next step," McQuaid told the Bruins website Friday after a captains' practice at Ristuccia Arena. "I want to try and bring more to the table, hopefully play a little bit more in a top-four role, but at the end of the day, it's all about what works within the team and the system, and whatever brings success."
McQuaid, 28, lost much of his 2013-14 season to injuries but rebounded to play in 63 games last season and had one goal and six assists.
He was set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and initially wasn't sure the Bruins would bring him back. But not long after trading defenseman Dougie Hamilton to the Calgary Flames at the 2015 NHL Draft, the Bruins signed McQuaid to a long-term contract with an average annual value of $2.75 million.
"They're putting faith in me, and I want to reward that faith," he said. "… I didn't foresee things happening the way they did, but obviously, I'm very excited to be back. It's an organization that has done a lot for me, and I want to continue to win here."
Hamilton wasn't the only key component not to return after the Bruins missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in eight seasons; forward Milan Lucic was traded to the Los Angeles Kings and forward Reilly Smith to the Florida Panthers.
Forward Jimmy Hayes came over to the Bruins in the Smith trade and forward Matt Beleskey was signed as a free agent after scoring a career-high 22 goals with the Anaheim Ducks. Their additions figure to help the Boston offense, which ranked in the lower third of the League last season at 2.55 goals per game.
"I can remember pretty well playing against Jimmy in Florida," McQuaid said. "He's one guy who stood out; there's not too many forwards I play against that are taller than me [Hayes stands 6-foot-6 while McQuaid is 6-5], and I was battling with him in front of the net and can recall remembering how big he was, and his size, and the difficulty of moving him from the front of the net. Obviously, [he is] a guy who can shoot the puck.
"I was really impressed with Matt Beleskey; you don't get to see him quite as much being in the West, but today I thought he skated well and he's finding the back of the net every time he's out there. He's also a guy that can play a physical game."
Although the Bruins parted with a dynamic player in Hamilton, the defense still boasts captain Zdeno Chara, veteran Dennis Seidenberg and young gun Torey Krug. They signed Matt Irwin, formerly of the San Jose Sharks, for depth. McQuaid also looks at young talent on the way like Zach Trotman and believes the group will be fine.
"I think we're really deep on the blue line," McQuaid said. "We have a lot of guys that can come in and play, and we're really fortunate that way, so I think it's an opportunity for a lot of guys. I think it's something where if you're playing well, you’re going to get the chance to do more. So I'm going to hopefully compete and be able to give myself the best opportunity."