What Remains In Bergeron’s Tank For The Bruins?

Boston Bruins v Detroit Red Wings(Photo Credit: Sam Minton)

By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

From the moment he stepped on the garden ice as an 18-year-old rookie, fans of the Bruins knew they were going to love their new young center, Patrice Bergeron. Scoring 39 points in 71 games during his rookie season, Bergeron proved that he knew how too play “Bruin’s Hockey.” The love the fans had for him continued to grow with every goal, every win, and every time he stepped onto the ice. The Stanley Cup victory in 2011 showed just how much love the city has for Bergeron and him for the city that took him in. It took until 2010 for the rest of the league to realize the special player that was in Boston, but since 2010 he has been nominated for the Selke Award eight straight seasons and has brought the hardware home in four of those.  

It is now up to Bruce Cassidy and Don Sweeney to step up and protect their top center from himself. He is now 33 years of age and still has 4 years remaining on his current contract -during which they are looking to remain in playoff contention probably each of those four seasons. After being on one of the leagues top scoring lines, it is hard to imagine pulling the reigns back on playing him so much. What makes it even tougher to cut a guy like Bergeron’s minutes is the fact that he has proved, like many others in the league, that he will do anything to step out on the ice for his city unless he is dead, dying, or in a coma. Many point to guys like Zdeno Chara and Jaromir Jagr as evidence that Bergeron still has a good 8-10 years left to his career and that resigning the forward is a huge part to this teams future. Unlike his current and former teammate, Bergeron has a long history with both injuries and concussions. 

Almost everyone is aware of the major concussion that Bergeron suffered early on in his career when he was just 22-years-old. Suffered at the hands of Randy Jones, and shown in the above video, first of Bergeron’s major concussions occurred on October 27th, 2007. This one hit put the rest of his career in jeopardy, and it almost never happened. If this was Bergeron’s only concussion, then slowing him down wouldn’t be as much of a priority and seasons beyond this contract wouldn’t be in question. However, Bergeron went on to suffer three more major concussions on December 20, 2008, May 6, 2011, and April 2nd, 2013. He also has a laundry list of other injuries that he has sustained over the course of his career as well. 

  • Broken Ribs
  • Separated Shoulder
  • Groin Surgery
  • Fractured Foot
  • Fractured Thumb
  • Broken Nose
  • Sports Hernia
  • Punctured Lung
  • Multiple Concussions

It seems that coming out of every season, number 37 is lined up for recovering from something serious. Now that he is 33-years-old, the question remains just how much more his body can take. With this team clearly prepared to be in playoff contention for the remainder of his current contract, Bergeron will play one of the most vital roles in this organizations success in the playoffs, and they need him to be healthy. It is clear that Sweeney and Cassidy will need to be the ones to keep Bergeron from overexposing himself and making his own body shut down. With the increase we are seeing in early retirement one has to also wonder if Bergeron will give any thought to hanging up his skates when his current contract runs out. If the Bruins are looking to retain him longer and want to have him healthy for a deep playoff run, they need to start monitoring his time on ice going into this season. 

Bruins Roster Analysis: Figuring Out The Forwards

 

Prov. Bruins - downtownprovidence.com(Photo credit: Downtown Providence)

Written By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me On Twitter: @cnosek6342

At this point, we have reviewed the starting lineup from the Bruins last game against Tampa Bay and the situation on defense. Now let’s take a deeper look at the others who helped this team on the offensive end during this past season. With a lot of young, talented players and some seasoned veterans lets see who else might have skated their last game in the coveted black and gold sweater.

Anders Bjork – LW

(Anders Bjork scores during the preseason game on September 25, 2017, while skating on the RW of Bergeron line)

Coming out of camp, Bjork had secured his spot on the left side of David Krejci on the second line. Although he put up only 12 points during his 30 games, he showed great chemistry with David Krejci and Ryan Spooner. After four shifts on the ice in a game against Anaheim, Bjork wouldn’t skate again during the 2017 season. This allowed for fellow rookie Jake Debrusk to de-thrown his fellow 21-year-old for the top six forward spot. So what does Sweeney do with Bjork now? With his contract going through the 2019-2020 season, Bjork will certainly have another opportunity next season to get his spot back on the second line, but with how well Debrusk played that might be a tough task.

During the preseason this past pre-season, he did spend some time on the right side of Patrice Bergeron (see video above) and it seemed to go well. I would see how he can adapt to playing on the right side once more and see if you can find some chemistry with him, Krejci, and Debrusk. Doing so will increase the competition for that spot which will help all the younger players with their development and you could see a better player slot into another line because of the competition. Right now, Bjork has proven he can be on this team and play well, therefore with the pending possible departures moving the 2014 draft pick isn’t the wisest of decisions at this time.

Austin Czarnik – C

(Austin Czarnik scores his first career NHL goal against Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers)

With only 10 games played this past season and a total of 59 in his NHL career, Austin Czarnik should not be with the Bruins for this upcoming season. The 25-year-old who was signed as an unrestricted free agent back in 2015 has had a number of opportunities to be able to break through at the NHL level and hasn’t quite done so. He has shown some upside, but right now there are other younger players who this team can continue to groom to take on more ice time. With guys like Ryan Donato, Jakob Forsbacca-Karlsson, Anders Bjork, and Jake Debrusk all about to be battling it out for starting positions, I wouldn’t expect Czarnik to beat any of those guys out for a starting role. With his contract coming to an end and unrestricted free agency on his horizon, Austin Czarnik will find himself wearing a different sweater than an 8-spoked letter for next season despite the promise he has shown during his brief ice time.

Ryan Donato – C

Ryan Donato, USA, NBC Sports

(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

Ryan Donato found himself having a whirlwind season that saw him going from college star to Olympic phenom, to NHL rookie in the span of just a couple of months. With all the different trade rumors flying around because of the draft, I have to say that I am very happy that Donato’s name hasn’t been mentioned, yet. Having posted 43 points in 29 games during his final season at Harvard, 6 points in 5 Olympic games, and 9 points in 12 NHL games, Ryan Donato should not be going anywhere. Clearly, he loves to shoot the puck, and he is very capable of putting it on goal in a place the goaltender can’t stop it. Unless an elite, franchise-altering talent is being discussed Ryan Donato’s name needs to stay away from any and ALL trade discussions. Honestly, even with some of the biggest names that have been mentioned on the trade market – Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban, or Oliver Ekman-Larsson – I’m not even sure that I would do a deal that needed to include the 22-year-old forward.

As a natural goal scorer, I would bring Donato into next season and give him every opportunity to win a spot playing on the right side of David Krejci. This is the position he was put in last season, so let’s see if he can win the job from some of the others in the system and keep it. I wouldn’t mind seeing him try to take over that third line center position, but I feel like his scoring touch can and will be more effective if paired with a centerman who can set him up for more goals.

Jakob Forsbacca-Karlsson – C

NHL 2017 - Sep 28 - BOS vs PHI - Center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (#23) of the Boston Bruins names spans the width of his jersey

(Photo Credit: Bob Fina)

Often discussed as the favorite to win the third line center role going into next season, Jakob Forsbacca-Karlsson is high on a lot of people’s lists simply because the organization burned a year of his ELC back in 2016-2017 late in the season. After all, why burn an entire year of a player’s ELC to get him in ONE game if he wasn’t ready or thought to be close to being NHL ready? Having lost the role to Riley Nash this past season, he should be given a chance to compete for it again, but he is really going to have to impress if he wants to continue to stick around.

His youth and potential make him a solid prospect to include in a deal if you are looking to shed some cap money with a higher paid veteran, however, I wouldn’t hurry to dish him off either. Having received comparisons to a young Patrice Bergeron, the 21-year-old didn’t crack into the lineup this past season. His one NHL game wasn’t a Seguin-esq breakout game, but he also didn’t make any costly mistakes either. Right now isn’t the time to give up on him. He should be brought into preseason next season and be made to compete for more NHL minutes with the other youngster on this roster.  

Brian Gionta – RW

The 39-year-old Gionta was brought in after his run in the Olympics because Sweeney wanted to add some veteran depth for what was poised to be a deep playoff run. Costing only $700,000 Giota only contributed 7 points while playing in only 20 games for Cassidy’s squad. He was quickly surpassed by the faster youngsters and saw himself off the game day roster too much. I wouldn’t be surprised if he decides in the offseason that this was his last go around, but whether he decides to retire or not he will not be back in Boston next season.

Tommy Wingels – C

Tommy Wingels, Adam Clanzman

(Photo Credit: Adam Glanzman)

Acquired from Chicago for a 5th-round draft pick, Wingels was brought in as an additional veteran, like Gionta, to provide depth that Cassidy could plug into the lineup and know what he would be would be getting. He too had a very minor cap hit of only $750,000, but the draft pick will be upgraded to a 4th-round selection because the Bruins made it to the second round of the playoffs. Playing in a total of 18 games for the Bruins, and averaging just under 12 minutes of ice time per game, Wingels will and should not be returning to Boston next season as a member of the Bruins. 

In Summary: 

The young players of Donato, Forsbacca-Karlsson, and Bjork all still have something to prove. They should all be brought back for the start of next season and all should be able to compete for the open spots in the starting lineup. Gionta and Wingels will be allowed to walk simply because they aren’t able to bring enough to the table. Czarnik will not be coming back either and between those three, Sweeney will be able to free up a total of $2.125 million of cap space. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but it could be the space they need to be able to get a solid backup goaltender, depending on the other moves they make – which I don’t think there will be too many.  

Bruins Defensive Roster Analysis- Remaining Defenders

 

Krug, Carlo, Marchand vs Devils, Steven Ryan:Getty Images

(Photo Credit: Steven Ryan)

Written By: Chris Nosek   |   Follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

Now that we have examined the players who were on the ice to finish the season let’s take a few minutes to review the other defenders who contributed during the season and a couple who are poised for significant contributions next season.

NHL: Boston Bruins at Buffalo Sabres

(Photo Credit: Kevin Hoffman)

Brandon Carlo

Over the past two seasons, Brandon Carlo has been one of the best defenders on this team. First, he was paired with Chara as a rookie and showed an ability to stabilize the blue line and shut down top lines. After ending the season as a plus player, he was next paired with the more offensive-minded Torey Krug. In the 76 games played in his sophomore season, Carlo still managed to be a plus player while continuing to shut down the opposition. With only 16 careers points, Carlo is clearly not an offensive powerhouse. He has, however, proven that he is capable of shutting down some of the leagues best players. At only 21-years-old, Carlo can still grow into an even better defender, and no I’m not worried about the fact that he has missed the playoffs for two seasons because of injuries. This team is going to need an elite shutdown defender who can log 20+ minutes on a nightly basis to take over when Chara retires any year now. Carlo has earned himself at least one more year to prove that he is that defender of the future and shouldn’t go ANYWHERE.

Torey Krug

Back in 2011, the one thing on most people’s trade deadline wish list was a “puck-moving defenseman.” This team has one now. Not only do they have a puck-moving defenseman, but he fits the team’s personality and came up through the system. Now at only 27-years-old Torey Krug has been thrown in more trade rumors and speculation than ever before. I get it; he’s one of the best pieces on this team to move because he has two years left on his contract, a cap hit of only $5.25 million, and is one of the few players on this team without a movement restriction in his contract.

Yes, dealing Krug would net you a very high return and would certainly bring in more than the two draft picks and Joe Colborne you gave up for Tomas Kaberle back in 2011. However, now isn’t the time to deal him off. Whether you believe McAvoy or Grzelcyk is good enough to replace Krug as your main puck mover on the back end, moving on from Krug right now is a mistake. If Krug stays healthy AND another defenseman makes him expendable, he would be one of the most coveted targets for other teams at the trade deadline. If Sweeney is looking to move him, the haul he would get at the trade deadline will be much higher than what he will get now. Continuing to wait on any deal involving Krug is clearly the right move.

Urho Vaakanainen, NBC Sports, Haggs

(Photo Credit: NBC Sports)

Urho Vaakanainen

Urho Vaakanainen is certainly a player who you must pause before just throwing his name out there in a trade conversation. Just one season removed from being drafted 18th overall, the 19-year-old may not have tallied much on the score sheet, but as a defender, he was impressive in his abilities to move the puck. Sweeney just inked him to his three-year Entry Level Contract, which leads me to believe that not only will they have a close eye on him during the upcoming development camps, but he will probably make his jump into Providence this season. As with almost all prospects, I don’t think he will be “NHL ready” without spending some time of his ELC in Providence.

In a “win now” world, many might be quick to throw him in a deal if it means dishing off a larger, less appealing contract to another team (ie; including him to seal a deal to move Krejci or Backes’ much larger contracts). This would be a mistake. Right now, he could be looking at taking over an NHL defensive spot in the next two to three seasons which would be perfect for this organization given when other defenders have their contracts running out. If you move on from him now, and some of the other young players in front of him now don’t pan out then you’ll be scrambling for a defenseman when you didn’t have to be. If he proves to be “NHL ready” now, then he makes older, veteran defenders move expendable…dare I say – Torey Krug. For now, sitting pat on Vaakanainen is the right move.

Jakub Zboril

Some people are starting to want to write Zboril off as a draft bust because he spent last season in Providence while others from the 2015 draft were thriving in the NHL. Having not moved him in a deal to jump back into the first round of the draft this past weekend, Sweeney showed that he hasn’t given up on the 21-year-old blueliner. My guess is that going into the 2018-2019 season, Zboril will be given every opportunity to take a roster spot from Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid. Although it would seem like they have an abundance of left-handed defensemen, I would still wait before deciding which one(s) to move. You’ve already been set back on your defense enough by the loss of Colin Miller in the expansion draft last season. Moving another potential big future piece too soon could come back to really haunt Sweeney during this rebuild cycle. I can understand how he didn’t pull the trigger on a deal that involved Zboril before or during the draft.

(Photo Credit:  NHL.com)

Jeremy Lauzon

Drafted back in 2015, in part of Boston’s three consecutive first-round picks, Lauzon is another 21-year-old defenseman with a left-handed shot and still a lot to prove. Unlike Vaakanainen and Zboril, he was unable to partake in development camp last season because of an injury. After putting up only 7 points while playing in 52 games last season for Providence, I am intrigued to see what he has to offer during the upcoming development camp. This camp could be the showing Sweeney needs to find out if Lauzon is worth moving on from with a long list of other left-shot defensemen on the roster.

Paul Postma

Brought in during the offseason last year, it was thought the 29-year old would be able to add some veteran depth to a blue line that had been decimated by injuries the previous season during the playoffs. After showing that moving Kevan Miller to his offside was a better move than having Postma in the lineup, he was sent to Providence after playing in only 14 games and registering 1 point. In the AHL, Postma was able to post 8 points in only 13 games. With his contract ending after this past season, I would not look for Postma to have a Black and Gold jersey again next season. There are too many other younger defenders who should be hungry for NHL playing time to consider giving Postma another shot next season.

In Summary:

As this roster is currently constituted, Carlo and Krug are the clear second defensive pairing for this team, and its unfortunate they both had injuries for the series against Tampa Bay because I feel that having the pair of them in the playoffs would have made all the difference in getting past the Lightning. With the addition of these two guys, this team could have gotten past both Tampa Bay AND Washington. Despite recent speculation, and fan conversations, in trading Carlo and Krug these two guys should remain on this roster to help solidify the top two pairings. With three young guys all hungry and ready to compete for NHL ice time, I think moving any of the defenders right now would be too soon and not provide for enough of a competitive environment going into the season. Sweeney has been right to hold onto these pieces thus far and showing patience has paid off for him in the past.

Boston Bruins Roster Analysis: Part 4

 

Chara:McAvoy - Getty ImagesPhoto Credit: Getty Images / Prime Time

By: Chris Nosek | Follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

Now that we have reviewed the situation for each of the starting forwards let’s make our way over to the blueliners. We all know last season they lost Colin Miller in the expansion draft and although he played very well in Vegas, for the Golden Knights, there is no guarantee that he would have played to the same level while fighting for a spot on the third pairing. Rather than focus on him, let’s look who actually played for Bruce Cassidy and the Bruins this season.

Zdeno Chara – Charlie McAvoy

Clearly the top defensive pairing on this team, both are already coming back for next season. McAvoy will be due for a massive pay raise at the end of this coming season, and lucky for Sweeney, a large amount of cap space will be freed up when Zdeno Chara comes off the books of the end of the season as well. I feel that $5 million for the 41-year-old defenseman is a bit much, but I think they will get their money’s worth – IF they are able to keep his minutes down like we have been talking about for the past 3 seasons. McAvoy has proven that he will be able to take over the leading defender role on this team after the upcoming departure of Big Z.

Kevan Miller vs FL Panthers, Joel Auerbach:Getty Images

Photo Credit: Joel Auerbach

Matt Grzelcyk – Kevan Miller

One year ago the debate began; Colin Miller or Kevan Miller – who should get protected from selection by the Vegas Golden Knights. Opting for experience and contract term, Kevan Miller was selected to stay in Boston after showing significant improvement to his game after Bruce Cassidy took over behind the bench. Demonstrating an ability to play both defensive sides, Kevan Miller has proved to be very valuable on the blue line. He is not a full-time second pairing defenseman, but should an injury occur he can be bumped from the 3rd pairing to help fill the empty spot. Miller has some trade value, and I would explore the option, but I would wait until the trade deadline starts to approach next season before pulling the trigger on a deal to dump his $2.5 million hit to the salary cap. His value should increase, and waiting will also give you the time to see what other youngsters like Zboril, Lauzon, and Vaakanainen are able to bring to the table.

One of the younger defensemen who stepped up this past season and certainly earned another shot to see what he can do was Matt Grzelcyk. Having just received a contract with a very reasonable cap hit of only $1.4 million, Grzelcyk will now have two more seasons to show if he can develop into a top 4 defenseman with an ability to move the puck. (Read more about Matt Grzelcyk’s new contract in Max Mainville’s article HERE and follow him on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj).

Nick Holden – Adam McQuaid

During the 2016-2017 playoffs, the newly appointed Cassidy had to work with Sweeney to dig deep into the organization and burn the first contracted seasons for both Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy. More injuries put them in a position calling up Rob O’Gara and to rely on Joe Marrow to play minutes in the playoffs. Surprisingly enough, this season it was Adam McQuaid who was relied upon to take those 3rd pairing minutes, and Nick Holden was brought in at the trade deadline to build the veteran depth on the blue line to keep from burning more seasons on young players’ contracts.

Holden only cost Sweeney a 3rd-round draft pick, and that isn’t a terrible price for a half season depth piece rental player. Although Holden gave it his best efforts, he is not going to fit in long-term on this team and will be finding another new home during the offseason. Adam McQuaid is a little bit different of a story because he still has another season on his contract. I wouldn’t be too upset if they were able to boost a return package by including Quaidder in a deal, and I would even go as far as shopping him with some retained salary. As helpful as having his money off the books would be, it is not worth giving away the 31-year old veteran. He does provide value as a 7th or even 8th defender and has a veteran, hard-hitting presence that the other defenders can feed off of when he is healthy enough to be on the ice.

In Summary:

McAvoy will have one more season to grow and develop as Chara’s partner, after which Chara will either be retiring or taking a severe pay cut to stick around on a second pairing. Grzelcyk has a chance to show if he has the potential to step up and be a top-four defenseman, possibly getting paired with McAvoy in a few years. Holden will not be returning as he was only ever intended to be a rental while Miller and McQuaid are pieces that should be shopped around and are 7th defenders who should be competing for a bottom pairing spot.

Boston Bruins Roster Breakdown: Part 3

heinan backes nashPhoto Credit:  Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

By: Chris Nosek | Follow Me On Twitter: @cnosek6342

Now that we have examined nine of the Bruins starting twelve forwards, it’s time to examine the line that experienced the most changes during this past season. Before we get into how the line was set up at the end of the season, we first need to look at the piece it lost during the season.

Ryan Spooner fell victim to the same circumstances that plagued both Alexander Khokhlachev and Tyler Seguin – too many centers. Now, I’m not going to rehash who won or lost the trade of sending Tyler Seguin to Dallas (if that’s what you want to read about then click HERE). The only reason I mention this trade is that it highlights what you can be forced into when you invest too much money in the wrong players to emphasize how important it is they don’t do it again this offseason.

The reason the Bruins had to even think about making the Seguin deal was that they had a top line centerman, who was about to start making over $6 million, and was playing out of position and not to his strengths. With two “elite” centermen already in the lineup, and Seguin’s abilities not aligning with that of the third or fourth line, it was better to deal away the money and player to see if they could recoup a more useful piece that would fit in better with the rest of the roster. They ended up losing Alexander Khokhlachev, who went to play in Russia, for nothing because he saw the logjam at the center position and didn’t want to fall a victim of a trade himself.

The Spooner/Nash deal made a lot of sense for both teams and the players involved, and overall I really like the deal. I do wish that Sweeney had kept the 2018 1st round draft pick, but I have a feeling that pick was why the Rangers were willing to take on Matt Beleskey and half of his ridiculous contract. Ultimately, I think getting rid of that contract helps them moving forward, and it could have cost them more to deal with later. I don’t think it will come back to haunt him too much since they have other players within the organization they can move and can afford to lose, for more draft picks.

Danton Heinen – Riley Nash – David Backes

David Backes is the most significant piece on this roster they could stand to lose and yet the most difficult one for them to get rid of. Even though his salary is only $3 million for next season, his cap hit of $6 million is detrimental. It also will last for the next 3 seasons! With a no-movement clause going into next season and the last two years of the contract having modified no-movement clauses, the Bruins are going to be stuck with Backes for the next three years, and now they have an additional concern about his latest concussion. There is no way that any other team will even consider dealing for him unless they are getting a blue-chip prospect with years remaining on their ELC along with him. For now, the Bruins need to focus on getting Backes healthy for next season and getting him to a point where he can battle with some of the young guys for a spot in the starting lineup.

Buying out Backes’ contract sounds like a viable option, but the thought of it is much more glamorous than the reality and the result of actually doing it. If bought out, Backes would remain on the Bruins books for six more seasons (instead of three) and for the first three of those he would be on the books for $3.77 million, $5.77 million, and $3.77 million. The last three would only be $777,778 which doesn’t sound too bad. By itself it wouldn’ be the end of the day – HOWEVER when you add to one more season of Jimmy Hayes at $866,667 and two more seasons of Dennis Seidenberg at $1.167 million that’s a total of almost $4 million in money being thrown away. Having dead money against your cap is never a good thing. As long as Backes is healthy enough to compete for a starting spot and has the right attitude, then it is more valuable to have him on the roster than his dead money hurting the roster. As long as he keeps a positive attitude, even if he sees the 9th floor at times, then he still has value – even Matt Beleskey took a designation to Providence with the utmost class.

Knowing that Backes is still going to be around, you need to keep inexpensive players who are hungry for a starting spot and will fight for every minute of playing time they can get. Danton Heinen has earned the right to stay in this LW role at least through the last season of his ELC. I would not be upset if they hung onto the 22-year-old forward, but I would certainly be looking to see what he can bring you on the trade market. Rumor has it that Sweeney could be looking to get back up into the 1st round of the draft after he sent what turned out to be the 26th overall pick to the Rangers in the deal acquiring Rick Nash. Adding a player like Heinen to a 2nd round pick Sweeney might just have enough to entice a team with multiple 1st-round picks to be open to dealing one them. Some teams may require an additional piece, but at least you’ll get them to the table starting with a young prospect who has one more year before qualifying for restricted free agency AND has shown that he can play a role in scoring goals.

Lastly, we come to “the other Nash.” Riley Nash saw the best statistical year of his career and did nothing but help himself earn a pretty significant pay bump. Nash isn’t a top line center, but he proved his versatility this season by taking over for Bergeron on multiple occasions. In total the team won 13 of the 20 games with Nash between Marchand and Pastrnak – a decent 65% of their games. This versatility will certainly result in him seeing a pay raise from the $900,000 he has been receiving from the Bruins for the past two seasons.

In summary: David Backes is their worst contract right now, and yet they need to find enough young guys who can fight their way into the starting lineup that Backes finds himself watching for the 8th floor. Dealing him away isn’t much of an option, so they have to find a way to manage the situation until his contract runs out. Sweeney should be looking to see what the trade value of Heinen is, but shouldn’t pull the trigger on moving him until next seasons deadline, unless he can help them get back into the first round of this seasons draft. Riley Nash will ultimately need to be replaced because the money another team will offer him is going to be more than Sweeney should commit because of other prospects in the organization.

Boston Bruins Roster Analysis: Part 2

61, Krug, March - Goal

Photo Credit:  Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

By: Chris Nosek | Follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

When constructing the roster for the 2018-2019 Boston Bruins, there many factors that Don Sweeney and his team will need to examine. We have already looked at the simplicity that is leaving alone the Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak line; so let’s continue to take a look at two more of the Bruins lines from this past season.

(For more information on the first scoring line click HERE to view part 1 of this series)

DeBrusk – Krejci – Nash (Rick)

Jake DeBruskPhoto credit:  Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com Staff Writer

The second line left wing was one of the biggest questions marks coming into this season. Early in the season, it was thought that Anders Bjork had won the job. It took a season-ending shoulder injury to pull Bjork from the lineup – we will have more on him in a later article – and open the door for 21-year old Jake Debrusk. It wasn’t long before he locked down that slot for himself. By posting 43 points in 70 games, and finishing with a +13 rating, DeBrusk showed great chemistry with Krejci – like we haven’t seen since Milan Lucic was in town. With his performance and goal celebrations of just pure joy, Debrusk has earned himself the LW spot on line number two for at least one more season. Dethroning Debrusk shouldn’t be out of possibility, he still needs to be pushed to perform. Cassidy needs to be open to letting someone steal that job from him in training camp and preseason, but it is going to take a LOT for that to happen.

It would greatly benefit Krejci for Cassidy to make it near impossible to for Debrusk to lose his spot because the Czech centerman has already had too much of turnstile on his right side, it’d be nice to see the left side remain steady again. Krejci has arguably the worst contract on the team with a cap hit of $7.25 million he generated a lot of fan buzz about dealing off the big contract. With only two years remaining on his contract it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to find a willing trade partner, however, I question which teams who on this short list would be ones that Krejci would waive his modified no-movement clause to go to.

Let’s say all of the above occurs, and you find the perfect trade partner, you would be selling Krejci at an all-time low as he just showed in 12 playoff games that he is still capable of being the point-per-game player who earned the $7.25 million contract. His performance also looked completely rejuvenated upon the arrival of Rick Nash. By putting up 10 points in those 12 playoff games, Krejci has shown the value of keeping him is greater than what you would receive in return for any deal you send him away in. It will be up to Cassidy and Sweeney to ensure that the best possible linemates are next to Krejci at all times.

Last but not least, Rick Nash. This line saw the addition of the second Nash at the trade deadline along with the subtraction of David Backes from this line – yes the team lost Spooner in the deal, but Backes was bumped to replace him on the third line. Nash proved to be a significant upgrade over Backes on the wing, and they didn’t give up too much to get him. In fact, even though I am a fan of Spooner’s, I like the deal overall – we can talk about that further at another time.

The point here is that this line was considerably better with Rick Nash over David Backes once the move was made and it showed that this team is capable of having two offensive powerhouse lines. We also learned that Krejci has only “lost a step” when he doesn’t have the right guys around him. So now for the big question – do the Bruins resign the 33-year-old winger?

The correct answer to this is no. Not because they can’t, but because they shouldn’t. Don’t give me that “for the right contract they can bring him back” crap. Any team would take any player “for the right contract.” The issue here is going to be that Nash will want more than the Bruins SHOULD be willing to commit to him. He is 33 years old and coming off of a 21 goal season that also saw 13 assists. He may be looking for his last long-term deal, and if he is, that isn’t something Sweeney should touch with a 30-foot pole. IF Sweeney can convince Nash to take a one year “prove it” type deal, then you may have something to talk to him about. Putting up only 34 points in 71 games played between the Rangers and Bruins, along with his -19 for the season, Sweeney MIGHT be able to convince him that hitting free agency again at 34 years old with a full season in Boston next to Krejci will help him get a better contract.  Anything longer than this type of one year deal would be one of the biggest mistakes of Sweeney’s time in Boston. If Nash were 10 – or even 5 – years younger, I would have no hesitation in bringing him back with more term, but right now this team has too many young talented players who will be owed significant pay raises in the next two seasons to sink that much into Nash. They also have more holes opening up that will need addressing, and he absolutely will be getting better offers from other teams looking for his services.

Schaller – Kuraly – Acciari

Kuraly, Schaller, and Acciari

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe

Back when the Bruins won the cup in 2011, they had a 4th line that brought everything you look for in your grinder guys. This year, these three guys showed the same abilities as a fourth line as the infamous merlot line. They were always at their teammates’ side and ready to drop the gloves when necessary. They brought physical play when it was needed, and although they were not what many would consider a “scoring threat,” the combination of these three guys accounted for 47 regular season points and 8 in the playoffs. So what do we do about this line going into next season?

The good news here is that Kuraly is a restricted free agent and can be resigned for qualifying offers under $1 million. This is a no-brainer decision to bring him back. This will allow you one more season to get a better feeling of his true ceiling as a player and have him for another playoff run. It is always important to have players who can find the back of the net in the playoffs – and Kuraly has proven with some big goals he can do just that.

Neither Acciari or Schaller should be overly expensive. If you can retain them for anything shy of $1.5 million for 2-3 years, then that is not only acceptable but is an opportunity that should be jumped on. Yes, this team got in a lot of cap trouble for a few years because Peter Chiarelli invested too much money for too many years in the 3rd and 4th line guys, so this may lead to some of you to wonder why this type of contract would be ok for Schaller and Acciari when it was too much for guys like Paille and Campbell. The difference here is that Schaller and Acciari have shown they COULD if needed play on a higher line in a game in an injury forced Cassidy’s hand. Now I wouldn’t overextend on them, and if another team is willing to give either one of them more than $1.5 million then, by all means, Sweeney should let them overpay. I don’t see anyone else overpaying either of these guys nor finding more value in bringing one of these guys in over someone already on their rosters. In their mid to late 20’s, Cassidy may be able to deal off the last big of their contracts for a team to negotiate with them before Free Agency, but I wouldn’t expect anything more than a late-round pick for either of them.

In summary: Krejci and Debrusk should see no change in their status at this time. Rick Nash should be allowed to walk in free agency. Kuraly should receive his qualifying offer and be brought back on short money to see if he is able to raise his ceiling next season and score a few more playoff goals for you. Acciari and Schaller should be brought back on short-term, low money deals that don’t exceed a combined $3 million. Although I don’t see either one signing more than a 2-3 year deal at that kind of money, it will be worth not having to worry about the fourth line opening up again for those next couple of seasons until you have other young players ready to step up into those minutes.

Boston Bruins’ Roster Analysis: Part 1

61, Krug, March - Goal

Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

By: Chris Nosek | Follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

We all know that this season did not end the way we know it could have, based on the performance we saw from this team during the regular season. Instead of focusing on the disappointing ending, let’s shift our focus to the fact that this team is in one of the best situations in the entire National Hockey League with so many options to continue the success of this franchise for many years to come.

Remember where we were at the beginning of this season and what the overall goals for the 2017-2018 season really were. Once you do this, you will realize that they far and away outperformed anything anyone was ever expecting. We were all hoping for a team that would play 60 minutes of solid hockey each night, and by seasons end would be competing for a playoff spot. We were hoping for some young players to step up, show growth and hint more to their true potential as NHL players. What we got was an incredible regular season run that put us in a firm playoff spot, leading to a 2nd round playoff exit against a team that many were favoring to be in the Cup final at the start of the season. We also saw a large group of young, talented players who will be able to do some damage to the league or can get moved to bring in a big piece for this franchise moving forward.

Don Sweeney and his team are in a great position when it comes to the options they have for this roster during this offseason. In order to get a true idea of what Sweeney has to decide, we first need to examine the situation for each player currently on the roster and in the organization. Once this is completed, we can then examine what players should be on the free agent target list. This will be the first in a multi-part series in which we will break down each player’s options and what they should expect for their next season. I will start with the first line and work down through the lineup through defenders and goaltenders, based on the starting lineup from Game 5 against Tampa Bay.

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

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(Photo Credit: bostonherald.com)

All three of these guys are in similar situations to each other and have the easiest decisions for next season. Plain and simple, this line was widely considered one of the top lines in the entire league this season. Under no circumstances should anything happen to this line. Just the thought of breaking them up is completely asinine. They are all signed for under $7 million through at least the 2022-2023 season. The Bruins should just let them keep playing together and setting the tone for the rest of the lineup.

We can all admit that it’s been a bit of a bumpy road with our little rat friend – Brad Marchand. I think I speak for all of us when I say, “dude, cut the crap and play your game.” Some are suggesting the Bruins cut bait with the left-winger simply because of his antics. Based on his comments after the season I think he has recognized just how much some of what he does could hurt the team in the future and just how much slack the team has given him because of the incredible numbers he has been putting up. Yes, the licking and other immature behavior needs to end, but if you remember the edge needed to play with in order to even make the team in his rookie season, then some of the antics become more understandable – not defendable.

No player in this organization needed to get under his opponents’ skin more than Marchand in order to make the roster in their rookie season and that is an edge he has kept to his game to this day. Since getting paired with one of the league’s top centers, his game has matured and developed much quicker and further than anyone could have expected and now it is time for Marchand the man to get to the maturity level of his talent. His goal scoring abilities spoke for themselves and based on his comments after the loss to Tampa Bay it would appear that he has realized just how far he has many buttons he has pushed. With the early round exit also being a gentle slap in the face, I think he has recognized that time has come and gone to make some changes and now it is up to us to give him the year he has earned to show us his newfound sense of maturity.

In summary: This line – one of the best in the ENTIRE league – is NOT to be touched in ANY way, shape, or form. I am not a fan of the “untouchable” tag. However, these three guys, with what they can do together, are as untouchable as you can get.

Old Trade Baffles Boston’s Fans, Team Has Moved On – So Should You

 

2010 NHL Draft - Round One

(Above photo credit: CBS Boston . com)

By: Chris Nosek              follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

On Monday, January 15th, our favorite boys in black and gold dropped their 5th game at home and only their 8th in extra time this season. This game had a former friend now foe, 25-year-old Tyler Seguin, at the other side of the faceoff dot.

At 2:59 in the extra action, the former Bruin netted the game-winner as David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner, and Matt Grzelcyk were tiring from a long 3-on-3 shift, and as you can see in the video, their fatigue was the Achilles heel.

Ever since this goal went in, I had seen the non-stop lamenting of Boston fans at the loss of Tyler Seguin in the infamous July 4th trade back in 2013.

To all of you whining about “which deal was worse” (Seguin, Thorton, Bourque, or add in your own selection) and “why can’t  we get players like that?” Just stop. Stop focusing on the past – I will remind you later of that past and you will see that although the Seguin trade set this team back, they are better off now for the long term than they would have been had they kept him.

Instead of looking back, I encourage you to look forward. Neeley turned the page when he let Don Sweeney and his crew take over for Peter Chiarelli in the front office. Allowing Sweeney to focus on his strength of drafting and developing, this team as more youthful talent and depth than it ever had while Tyler Seguin was in town.

Let’s start with the fact that David Pastrnak is filling in nicely for Seguin on that RW alongside Bergeron and Marchand. While showing an ability to play alongside both top centers, Pasta and Krejci still haven’t found the LW replacement from Krejci’s heyday with Milan Lucic.  Pasta is only 21 years old and he is a natural wing finding his game and working into a nice leadership role on this team at the perfect time.

Also turning heads, which is no surprise after his heroics in the playoffs last season, is 19-year old Charlie McAvoy. The 14th overall pick out of Boston University gave just a small preview of what his pairing with Zdeno Chara could bring to this team, and lets not even talk about the puck movement on the powerplay. Now the youngster is flirting with 25 minutes of ice time per night (sometimes closer to 30), he is showing his maturity and will become a leader on this team in no time. Sharing a line with one of the hardest working players in the league, the hard work that he see’s Zdeno Chara put in is definitely rubbing off on him.

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(Above photo credit: Boston Herald .com)

With McAvoy and Pastrnak getting the bulk of the attention, a guy like Danton Heinen has been flying under the radar for most of the season. The 22-year-old natural centerman is making his own case for a solid run at the Calder Trophy. With 10 goals and 21 assists, Heinen has 31 points in just 38 games this season. He is showing that he can come off the bench as needed and provide physicality while showing the skill that isn’t usually seen on the third line. By seasons end, he could see some action ahead of Jake DeBrusk and get some minutes with Pasta and Krejci.

This teams youthful depth goes so far that you can’t even go to Providence to see all the baby B’s who you should be excited about. Sure you will catch; Czarnik, Agostino, Forsbacka-Karlsson, Senyshyn, Cehlarik, Zboril, Bjork, Grzelcyk, Johansson, and Lauzon, but what about the guys getting big minutes overseas. Look for Ryan Donato, Joona Koppanen, Urho Vaakanainen, and Dan Vladar to log some minutes in Providence in 2018-2019 and keep this youthful movement coming up the Mass Pike.

For more details and breakdowns on each of these prospects, follow along with @BlackAndGold277 and his weekly prospect update.

Trade Deadline Approaching- Bruins Unmoveable Pieces

( Above Photo Credit:  NHL .com )

By: Chris Nosek                 Follow Me On Twitter @cnosek6342

This year the Bruins have shown great progress in adapting to Bruce Cassidy’s style of play along with strong chemistry between the veteran core and the new youngsters. So with the NHL trade deadline quickly approaching in February, let’s take a step back and examine the roster to see who could and should be mentioned during Sweeney’s calls with the other GMs around the league.

To properly dissect the roster, first we must establish where the team currently stands and the goal of what the team is working towards. I think we can all agree that the Patriots have set the bar for “long-term sustained success” in the Boston area and for its’ fans. With that thought in mind, it would also make sense that similar success would be the long-term goal for this organization as well – being in the playoffs year in and year out with deep runs towards winning more Stanley Cups.

To sustain this type of success, the roster needs to have a balance between youth and veterans; skill and physicality, and speed and grit. In building the roster, you have to identify the group of guys who stay and get long-term contracts and filling in the rest of the roster. So far Sweeney and his crew have done a great job, but there is still work to be done. Let’s take a look at what options Sweeney has going into this year’s upcoming trade deadline.

Identifying the core group of guys is one of the most crucial steps in this process; below is the current group that I have defined as the essential people in continuing the construction of the roster moving forward. Later we will examine the rest of the players; there are many players they should not move on from, and many prospects who they should not part with – we will examine those situations next time. Bruins core, most important guys who should not be moved under any circumstances are:

Patrice Bergeron

Many believe that Patrice Bergeron will be the next to dawn the captain’s C for the black and gold. Despite being 32 years of age, Bergeron is one of the best defensive centers in the game and with Marchand and Pastrnak as his line-mates, he is still averaging just shy of a point-per-game. Having him locked up for another four (4) years at only $6.875 million per season, Bergeron can be safe and secure in knowing that he won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Let’s not talk about the riots in the streets of Boston that would occur should Sweeney move the fan favorite.

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David Pastrnak

Going into his last contract negotiation, every fan of the black and gold was worried just what would happen with the budding superstar. With bad tastes in their mouths from Seguin and Hamilton, many were terrified they would lose the 21-year-old. After a tenuous process, Sweeney netted the winger to a team friendly 6-year contract for only $6.66 million. After getting through the hard part of the negotiations, Sweeney won’t move the youngster.

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Brad Marchand 

After breaking into the league as the little ball of hate, Marchand has shown his growth and maturity and has now become a prolific scorer. Lining him next to Bergeron and Pastrnak has proven to be a deadly combination and what seems like an unstoppable force. He now has himself an 8-year contract with a very team friendly $6.125 million with a no-movement clause. Moving Marchand would not only break up a top two-way line in the league but would be a huge mistake, and Sweeney knows this. Don’t look for 63 to be moved now or anytime soon.

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David Krejci 

Now at the age of 31 and with multiple stints out of the line up this season from being banged up, Krejci is teetering on this list. Still able to produce at a point per game rate, Krejci gives the Bruins one of the best two way 1-2 center combinations. Every time Krejci misses a game people start calling for him to be dealt more and more. With a team-high cap hit of $7.25 million (actual salary of $7.5 million), Krejci is the one who would make the most sense of this core group to start looking to move first. However, the time to look to move him just isn’t quite here yet. If Ryan Spooner had emerged more consistently as a possible replacement for Krejci, then it would make sense to see if 46 would waive his NMC, but at this point, it doesn’t even make sense to ask.

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David Backes

While it was quickly starting to look like Sweeney would regret this deal profoundly, Backes has finally returned to full health and has seemingly begun to turn a corner and show that he can still play as he did during his days in St. Louis. Backes is using his versatility to play both centers and along the right wing to show that he still has a lot to offer a team making a push for a cup. With his leadership capabilities that he brings to the table, it is not worth dealing him off just yet as this team looks like it will be back into serious cup contention during his tenure here and they have a lack at depth along the right side at this time. Given more time for some younger players to step it might be worth looking into moving him in 2019 when his NMC is downgraded to a modified NTC, and $6million on the books becomes more of an issue looking to resign some of the young guys already stepping up.

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Riley Nash

Probably the most shocking name on this list to most people, Nash has earned his way on this list over the past two (2) seasons. With his contract up at the end of this season, Nash is due for a significant raise going into the 2018-2019 season, and Sweeney would be smart to give him that increase. Nash has shown he can play up and down the lineup along the right side while still filling in as needed in the middle. His physicality sets him up to be the perfect 4th line center who can jump up the lineup as injuries dictate. Sweeney would be smart to lock him up using the same four years $12million contract that Peter Chiarelli signed Chris Kelly to back in 2012. Moving Nash at the deadline this year could net Boston a decent early round pick or prospect, but that wouldn’t help the team over the coming years as much as keeping the 28-year-old around.

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Charlie McAvoy

Should they call him up or should they leave him in Providence? That was the question surrounding Charlie McAvoy going into the 2016-2017 playoffs. This question got answered for them as injuries forced them to call upon their depth along the blue line. Calling upon the 19-year-old during the playoffs did burn off the first year or his rookie contract. However, it did solidify his place on this roster for this season and moving forward. McAvoy is the defensive building block for this team moving forward and over the next two (2) seasons, resigning him should be Sweeney’s top priority.

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Zdeno Chara

They made it. The Bruins finally got to the last year of Chara’s contract, and for the past couple of seasons, he was not playing to the full value of it. This season’s cap hit of $4 million instead of the previous $6 million. With a couple more young kids coming up on the blue line, resigning Chara to a one or two year contract to keep him with Carlo would help this team grow and create depth along the backend.

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Bruins GM Sweeney’s Patience Persists

( Above Photo Credit:  Sportsnet .ca )

By: Chis Nosek                             Follow Me On Twitter @cnosek6342 

Coming into this 2017-18 season, the Boston Bruins roster had a wide variety of questions and what fans thought were gaping holes. Some of the most significant issues included how GM Don Sweeney would fill the many gaps fans felt this team had left coming out of a disappointing 2016 campaign. Many fans were calling for Sweeney to trade the rights of restricted free agent, and mostly disappointing center, Ryan Spooner. Questions were being asked about starting goaltender Tuukka Rask, and many questions were being brought about the team’s depth at the wing positions.

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During the offseason, Sweeney showed patience and did not panic when looking to come to a deal with Spooner and his agent. He allowed the process to work and for the negotiations to go to arbitration. This brought Spooner and the Bruins to a very fair one-year contract for $2.825 million. This has proven to be the right move as Spooner has been filling in now on multiple occasions for a banged up David Krejci.

Sweeney’s patience in this instance would prove to prevail despite many fans questioning his ability to do the job. His patience would also prevail in filling the apparent open winger spots. With big names on the market at the time like; Patrick Marleau, Chris Kunitz, Thomas Vanek, and Justin Williams, it would’ve been very tempting to try to overspend and pair one or two of these guys with the likes of Krejci and Bergeron – especially knowing that Pastrnak and Marchand would be on the opposite wing.

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The unexpected play of the young guys like Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, and Danton Heinen have not been the only reason this Bruins team has shown significant improvement from the 2016 season. Sweeney and Bruce Cassidy had to show extreme patience with starting goaltender Tuukka Rask as he started this season 5-11 with his back up going 7-4 and earning four-straight victories against teams like the Los Angelos Kings, San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils, and Pittsburg Penguins with two of his losses coming while earning a point by forcing overtime.

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Aside from not being able to move Rask because of a No Trade Clause, Sweeney made the correct decision in holding onto the 30-year-old Finnish goaltender despite many cries to move on from his remaining four-years of an eight-year deal carrying a cap hit of $7 million.  He is now playing like he did during his Venza winning season and has the Bruins on a major hot streak that is currently at 10-0-1 over the past 11 games.

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Don Sweeney has shown less panic and more patience than anyone could have asked for and now he has the Bruins unexpectedly in a second place position of the Atlantic Division and 4th place in the Eastern Conference. More importantly, for this team, than their place in the standings is the way they are playing and chemistry the youngsters are creating with their mix of veterans. With nine players up for new contracts at seasons end, Sweeney should show patience as he looks to have a rebuild that will allow for long-term playoff contention instead of just a couple years of a flash in the pan.