Two of the area’s preeminent professional hockey free agents have signed with their teams for next year.
Salem’s Will O’Neill signed a one-year two-way contract with the Winnipeg Jets yesterday, while Boxford native Chris Bourque will return to North America after signing with the New York Rangers.
O’Neill, 26, who led the American Hockey League playoffs in defenseman scoring this past spring, just completed his second professional season with the St. John’s Ice Caps. He’ll be trying to earn a spot with the Jets or will return to St. John’s after training camp.
Bourque, meanwhile, spent last year in the Russia’s KHL and in Switzerland after playing 18 games for Boston in the lockout shortened 2012-13 season. He inked a one year, two-year deal with the Rangers, and could play with his younger brother Ryan for New York’s AHL affiliate in Hartford.
Chris Bourque was on the AHL’s most accomplished scorers, piling up 60-plus points in three straight seasons while also getting call-ups from both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. After a stint overseas, he signed with the Bruins prior to the ‘12-13 season and had a goal and three assists in 18 contests.
Ryan was selected 80th overall in the 2009 NHL draft, the same year the Rangers chose Boxford’s Chris Kreider in the first round. He completed his third professional season this past winter and had career-best numbers across the board with 21 goals, 16 assists, 37 points and 74 games played.