By Carrie Salls | Follow Me on Twitter @nittgrl73
August is upon us. With only about a month remaining until the players and coaches begin returning to Boston and training camp gets underway for the 2019-2020 season, the Bruins still have not signed key restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo to new contracts. In fact, it doesn’t appear that team president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney have done much at all since making a few unrestricted free agent signings on July 1, at least nothing that has been reported.
The first mention from team management about the status of talks with Carlo and McAvoy was not a particularly promising one, as vice president Cam Neely seemed to indicate Thursday that there is a chance that one or both of the blue liners may not be with the team at the beginning of camp.
Potential bridge deals aside, it stands to reason that the Bruins do not currently have enough cap space available to sign both young defensemen. A few other teams have found buyers for players who, like Boston forward David Backes, have expensive contracts but whose contributions to their teams have diminished. However, it appears the window may be closing, if it hasn’t already, on finding a team willing to take some or all of Backes’ contract off the Bruins’ hands.
There are a few issues that likely make moving Backes challenging, to say the least. One is that he has a no movement clause, so the Bruins would either have to make a deal with a team to which Backes has previously agreed or ask him to waive the clause. Teams may also be asking for a high draft pick to accompany the aging winger. After losing a first-round draft pick in the Rick Nash trade, general manager Don Sweeney understandably seems to be reluctant to go that route again. Boston also is not in a position to swap one expensive contract for another, like the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames did in their recent Milan Lucic for James Neal trade.
If freeing up space from Backes’ contract is not an option, it makes sense that the team would turn to a trade to find the money to come to terms with both McAvoy and Carlo. Potential trade pieces could include Torey Krug or David Krejci, most notably. Back-up goaltender Jaroslav Halak could also provide some cap relief if dealt, albeit not as much as Krug or Krejci.
Certainly none of these options are ideal for the Bruins. That, coupled with the team’s decided defensive depth, may be why Neely seems somewhat resigned to the reality that Carlo and McAvoy could start the season as holdouts.
The team has the most leverage in negotiating with McAvoy, as other teams cannot “offer sheet” the 21-year-old first-pairing defenseman. However, if McAvoy is looking at the contracts signed this summer by other young defensemen and asking the Bruins for most or all of the available cap space, that leaves the door open for Carlo to sign a potential offer sheet from another team.
The summer has been slow league-wide, with several bigger-name restricted free agents still un-signed. Offer sheets have also been in very short supply. So, it may not be just the Bruins who are taking their time in shoring up their rosters for the upcoming season.
It may be safe to assume at this point that neither player is willing to accept a bridge deal, especially given the going rate for future stars like McAvoy and Carlo. The Bruins front office definitely finds itself in a difficult position. The coming weeks will tell if a solution can be found.