CORAL SPRINGS — Things did not end well when it came to the Boston Bruins and defenseman Mike Reilly.
The Florida Panthers hope to be the beneficiary.
Reilly, 30, ended up being bought out of the final year of a three-year deal with the Bruins after spending most of last season playing in the AHL as a salary cap casualty by a Boston team up against the ceiling.
The Bruins ended up placing Reilly on waivers twice last season — once right before the season and then again in November.
When he was initially waived at the end of camp along with Nick Foligno, Reilly ended up staying after not being claimed and played in 10 games for the Bruins.
When he was waived the second time to make way for Charlie McAvoy, he would be staying.
The Bruins informed Reilly that he would be sent to Providence and he ended up playing out the season for the Baby B’s.
It was the first time Reilly spent significant time in the AHL since 2017.
“I was really shocked,” Reilly said of being sent to the minors. “Maybe some things were uncontrollable a little bit and they relayed that to me at times, but I was definitely disappointed in how it all went down. I have moved on. I had some great times there, met some great people. I got to play with some high-end leaders and some Hall of Famers. But I am turning that page and now I’m here.”
Reilly was not happy about the demotion then and it does not seem like time has healed those wounds.
A few days after Boston cleared up some cap space by buying out his final $3 million, Reilly signed a one-year deal worth $1 million with the Panthers.
Landing with the team which unceremoniously ended Boston’s season in the first round of the playoffs was probably not a coincidence.
While being sent to the minors seemed to catch Reilly off guard, the buyout did not.
“I am really motivated,” Reilly said following his second day of training camp on Friday afternoon. “It was just a really weird situation with some money issues and some cap stuff. Throughout that, I never lost belief in myself in what I could do. Things were trending up before that happened. It was just a mindset of trying to be the best pro you could be and not lose belief in yourself.
“I definitely feel rejuvenated after that, have a chip on my shoulder after what went down there. I am happy to be down here with these guys.”
Reilly, a Chicago native who played three seasons at the University of Minnesota, knew Florida GM Bill Zito from their time together with the Columbus organization although he never did play for the Blue Jackets.
After growing up in Minnesota, Reilly did not sign with Columbus and instead signed as a free agent with the Wild where he played parts of three seasons after leaving the Gophers.
Reilly then played for Montreal and Ottawa before being acquired by the Bruins at the 2021 trade deadline.
An ankle injury slowed him in the 2021 playoffs but Boston ended up signing him to a three-year deal worth $9 million following that season.
He ended up playing two of those three seasons with the Bruins. Reilly was rumored to be on the trade block but, instead, was bought out just before free agency began.
“We were kind of hoping that would be the case — and that’s both sides,” Reilly said. “I haven’t talked much about it, but I think it was best for both sides.’’
Reilly comes to the Panthers known for his puck-moving abilities and Zito has said he thinks Reilly will fit in nicely with Florida’s aggressive play from the backend.
He thinks so as well.
With Aaron Ekblad and Brandon Montour out for the start of the season, Florida is going to be in flux a little defensively and a veteran player such as Reilly should have a real nice chance to shine.
He is counting on it.
“I had a decent idea Florida would be in there,” Reilly said of his short free agency stint. “As soon as I heard they were interested, it was kind of a no-brainer. … As soon as Florida called, I was very excited for the opportunity.
“The style they play is fast, up-and-down, in-your-face and the D are active. You could tell just watching them in the playoffs that they were on top of pucks, on top of guys and it showed. … I have to come in and prove myself. I think I have been pretty close to establishing myself throughout my career. I know I am not being given anything.”
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
- Today, Sunday: Training Camp, Coral Springs IceDen
- Monday: Preseason Doubleheader v. Nashville @ Sunrise; 2 and 6 p.m.
- Oct. 7: Preseason ends; v. Tampa Bay Lightning @ Sunrise
- Oct. 12: Start of 2023-24 Regular Season at Minnesota Wild (Bally Sports Florida)
- Oct. 19: 2023-24 Home Opener vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (BSF)