Bruins’ Preseason Game 1: Defense

Jeremy Lauzon

(Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins took the ice against the reigning Stanley Cup champions at TD Garden on Sunday afternoon in a preseason matchup. While the majority of the Bruins’ NHL starters found themselves overseas for preseason competitions in China, the team in Boston was able to showcase a number of their up-and-coming prospects.

Zdeno Chara was Boston’s only NHL regular along the blue line which allowed the likes of Jeremy Lauzon, Connor Clifton, and Axel Andersson to get some time in the spotlight. The Bruins defensive core for their game against the Washington Capitals was effective despite their inexperience.

Axel Andersson

Boston’s 2018 second-round pick is well known for his speed and ability to produce points. Last season, as a member of Djurgardens IF J20 of the SuperElit league, Andersson registered six goals and 25 assists in 42 games. The Swede had plenty of promise and displayed that on Sunday.

6-foot-1 Andersson was paired up with 6-foot-9 Chara when the puck dropped to signify the beginning of the 2018-19 campaign. The Jarna native quickly showcased his confidence with the puck and was able to create a number of opportunities for Boston’s forwards. In fact, the inked the sole assist on Jakub Lauko’s first-period goal. He kept the puck in the offensive zone, side-stepped an oncoming Capitals forward, and got the puck to an open forward – what more can you ask?

I suppose you can ask for some solid play in his own zone, which Andersson accomplished. As the youngest Bruin on Sunday afternoon’s roster, I was impressed by the Swede’s ability to stay poised along the end wall and wrap the puck around to his defensive partner to spark a transition. During an oncoming rush, Andersson was able to stand his ground. On the occasions that he got beat by an opposing forward, he was quickly able to recover and keep his man from getting to the hash marks. Andersson gave the Bruins plenty of reason to hand him 21:26 in time on ice.

Jeremy Lauzon & Connor Clifton

Lauzon and Clifton found themselves together on the second defensive pair. It was a very versatile duo, each countering each other’s weaknesses. Clifton, who tallied a goal as a right winger in the Prospects Challenge in Buffalo earlier this month, was not afraid of skating the puck into the offensive zone. He also never seemed to shy away from physical play, dishing out one of the biggest hits in the game.

Clifton was also strong along the boards and was able to win a number of 50-50 pucks in Boston’s defensive zone. Like Andersson, if Clifton was beaten, he was able to get back into position to thwart a clean scoring chance.

Lauzon, on the other hand, played a more stay-at-home game. He was strong along the boards as well, but most notably stayed solid in front of his own goaltender when guarding the slot. He didn’t see the opportunity to skate the puck through the neutral zone all too often but did receive time on Boston’s power play.

The 21-year-old showed the poise of a power play quarterback when given the chance. He registered two shots on the man-advantage and another two at even strength. Lauzon displayed nice hands when moving the puck along the blue line sending it deep into the zone to a winger. This was an encouraging sight considering Lauzon registered just a goal and six assists in 52 games last season – his first with the Providence Bruins. Other than Chara, Clifton and Lauzon led Bruins defensemen in ice time with a tally of 22:35 and 22:22 respectively.

Emil Johansson

Bruins 2014 seventh-round pick, Emil Johansson, also got some time along Boston’s blue line. He was paired with Mark Fayne for the preseason bout with the Capitals.

Emil Johansson

Photo: Andreas Sandstršöm

The 6-foot, 189-pound defenseman played a similar game to Andersson in terms of his mobility and abilities with the puck on his stick. He soaked up 17:19 in ice time, with 2:59 of that coming on the penalty kill. While the majority of Johansson’s 22 shifts hovered around a length of 45 seconds, on six occasions, he was caught on the ice for over a minute and remained solid despite his energy draining.

The Swede was even given the responsibility of logging time during the 3-on-3 overtime which quickly turned into a 5-on-3 man advantage for the Capitals. It was here where Johansson really proved his worth of not only being able to carry the puck but also be able to help kill crucial and daunting penalties.

Steven Kampfer’s Road To Bruins’ Reunion

Kampfer 1

( Photo Credit: Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images )

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins have traded Adam McQuaid to the New York Rangers. In return, they have received Steven Kampfer, a fourth-round pick, and a conditional seventh-round pick — both of which are 2019 selections.

It has been five years since Kampfer last laced up his skates and took the ice in a Bruins uniform. After appearing in 48 games across two seasons in Boston, he was traded to the Minnesota Wild during the 2011-12 campaign for fellow blueliner Greg Zanon. It seems important to review the road the defenseman has taken back to his former team in order to evaluate just what he will be bringing to the Boston roster.

Kampfer Turnover

Kampfer has bounced around the hockey world throughout his NHL career. Following the move to Minnesota, the Michigan native played in 13 contests in a Wild jersey during the 2011-12 season. He proceeded to play in the AHL for the Houston Aeros and Iowa Wild, notching 47 points in 124 appearances. Kampfer then played with the then-Florida Panthers affiliate, the San Antonio Rampage, before moving back up to the NHL.

With the Panthers, Kampfer appeared in 128 contests across three seasons. The defenseman was then traded to the Rangers, packaged with a conditional seventh-round pick, in exchange for Dylan McIlrath. He was subsequently sent back down to the AHL to play with the Hartford Wolf Pack for 43 games before his return to the NHL to play just 10 games in New York during the 2016-17 season.

Kampfer 2

Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

This past season, Kampfer saw 22 games in Rangers uniform. During that span, he registered just two points, a total of 20 penalty minutes, and a plus-minus rating of minus-seven. He soaked up an average of 17:15 that year — only topped by the 2010-11 season (his first in Boston) in which he averaged 17:44 in 38 appearances.

Kampfer’s Role in Boston

Kampfer is unarguably a utility player. The likelihood of him seeing NHL ice during his second go-around with the Bruins is slim. Boston has seven NHL-ready defensemen in Zdeno Chara, Charlie McAvoy, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, Matt Grzelcyk and the recently-acquired John Moore. There will be one of those aforementioned players taking the role as a seventh defenseman if another blueliner isn’t shipped out, leaving Kampfer similar to a third-string quarterback. If you are a football fan, you know that a third-string player almost never sees the field.

In other words, it will take a significant number of injuries or a trade for Kampfer to journey from the rafters to the ice level. He could very well don a black and gold jersey — not in Boston but rather with the Providence Bruins of the AHL. There he could potentially thrive and give a few pointers to some of the organization’s developing defensemen.

This trade was not about acquiring Kampfer but instead of getting a stagnant cap hit off the roster. McQuaid soaked up $2.75 million in cap space while Kampfer only hits the salary cap for $650,000. Both are to become unrestricted free agents this summer. McQuaid would have likely slipped into free agency as a number of other Bruins — such as McAvoy — will take priority in the re-signing phase.

Kampfer is easily expendable as well and could see himself hitting the open market come 2019. However, that is assuming he doesn’t make a decent impact in the wake of an injury.

Three Boston Bruins Trade Assets

Anders Bjork

(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

In my last article for Black ‘N’ Gold, I discussed how it was wise of GM Don Sweeney to stay the course and not make any big moves. But, as we all know, transactions will occur at some point, whether that is before October, at the trade deadline, or perhaps not until next summer. Regardless, the Boston Bruins have a number of assets at their disposal if they find themselves needing an extra kick.

Let me clarify that it would be a difficult decision to trade any of these players, but if you want something good you have to give up something good. The Bruins have a surplus of young players, so parting with one or two of their youngsters in exchange for a valiant veteran or an impact player in their prime could be worth it for a Stanley Cup push.

Anders Bjork

Anders Bjork is one Bruin that Sweeney could part with at some point. Though he has only appeared in 30 games in a Boston sweater, Bjork has shown great potential for the years to come. It would be smart to see how No. 10 can do during the 2018-19 campaign, but if the Bruins find that they need to add a high-impact skater within the next 9 months, Bjork is an asset that could be sent packing.

The Wisconsin native registered four goals and eight assists last season while averaging 12:21 in ice time per game. Two of his 12 points came on the man-advantage. Meanwhile, he held his own on the back end and was credited with 16 takeaways and 11 giveaways throughout his 30-game 2017-18 campaign. Injuries ultimately caught up to Bjork, but there’s no doubt that he will enter the 2018-19 season with a chip on his shoulder as he competes for a starting role in September.

Torey Krug

There have been a lot of trade rumors surrounding Torey Krug this offseason. It seems to have split the fanbase into two parties — those who want to trade Krug and those who find him indispensable. The puck-moving defenseman is one of the best players carrying that trait in the NHL today. While play within his own zone is a sore spot for No. 47, his offensive capabilities are a great asset to Boston, and he cannot be easily replaced.

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(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

It is my thinking that trading Krug this season would be a mistake, but fielding offers isn’t exactly a bad thing. The Bruins could afford to move him next season once Charlie McAvoy has another year of improvement under his belt — and once Boston prospects such as Urho Vaakanainen flesh out.

The fact of the matter is, if the Bruins get rid of a great puck-moving defenseman like Krug, they will need to replace him with a puck-moving defenseman like Krug. With that said, it doesn’t make sense to move him until Boston finds a capable successor from within the system. This would allow the team to exchange Krug for either a forward or a defensive-focused defenseman instead of moving a puck-mover for a puck-mover.

Danton Heinen

I discussed the pros and cons of trading Heinen in one of my recent BNG articles. The 23-year-old put up 16 goals and 31 assists last season without consistent linemates as he bounced around the top nine for the majority of the 77 games in which he appeared. It was an impressive rookie campaign.

But this is exactly what makes Heinen a great trade asset. If the Bruins find him best suited for a third-line role among their plethora of young depth heading into the 2018-19 season, they could move the British Columbia native for a solid return as he could easily crack the top six on many NHL teams.

If Heinen finds himself locking down a top-six role in Boston this year, then Sweeney would have to second-guess moving the winger. The forward seems poised for a solid sophomore season, so moving him any time before the trade deadline would be a mistake as he will more than likely find himself in a battle for a top-six role.

Boston Bruins: Sweeney Staying The Course

Sweeney

Photo Credit: Angela Rowlings, Boston Herald

By: Drew Johnson   |    Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins created quite the buzz this offseason. It started with reports indicating that General Manager Don Sweeney was looking to make a big addition. The Bruins were in the running to sign both Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares. Even though they went down swinging, it indicated that Boston was willing to pull the trigger on a potential home run.

But missing out on the home runs didn’t discourage Sweeney. In fact, it allowed him to add a few minor pieces to the puzzle. In addition to re-signing restricted free agent (RFA) Sean Kuraly, the Bruins brought aboard Jaroslav Halak, Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, and John Moore. They weren’t exactly blockbuster deals, but is a blockbuster really what the Bruins need right now?

Bruins’ Road Ahead

Tavares and Kovalchuk are stellar players. So are the Buffalo Sabres’ newest addition, Jeff Skinner, and the consistent subject of trade rumors, Artemi Panarin. They would be great Bruins for sure, but there is a plan that Sweeney must see through.

It should not be forgotten that the Bruins have a healthy pool of prospects. It’s almost as if Boston has found the Fountain of Youth. With this in mind, adding a big, long-term player is not a necessity. These young skaters need time before we can pinpoint exactly where they will land within the roster in their respective primes.

Sweeneymeister

Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Adding a rental at some point may bode well, however. The Bruins, unfortunately, gave up a lot for Rick Nash who has turned out to be just that — a rental. If Boston finds they need to bulk up heading into the playoffs, then giving up one of their prospects (which at this point could be considered to be a surplus) and a mid-to-late-round pick may land a seasoned veteran with skill but also locker room presence. We’ve seen these types of deals across the league, often between a team in the running and a team looking to rebuild.

Outside of those circumstances, adding a big piece just doesn’t make much sense. Boston would likely have to give up quite a bit, and that is not something they need to do right now. They’ve successfully avoided a rebuild, and why risk that by trading a bunch of prospects and early picks in order to land a guy who they may not be able to afford to keep around? The Bruins must re-sign Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, and Danton Heinen next summer. It will be an expensive task, and handcuffing himself to a big contract isn’t something Sweeney ought to explore. It would force the Bruins to pursue bridge deals — short, mid-money deals that lead the way to larger contracts — with some of those RFAs mentioned above when they should free themselves up to give them long-term deals.

Boston has mastered the transition game — one that doesn’t take place on the ice but in the office. By the time the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask are ready to retire, Boston’s wealth of prospects will be reaching their primes. This will keep the Bruins competitive for the long haul, and a Stanley Cup feels almost imminent within the next few years. There is no need to abandon that road. So be patient, and wait for this plan to fully unfold.

Boston Bruins: No Easy Path To Playoffs

Brad Marchand

(Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins made a magical playoff push last season, netting them second place in the Eastern Conference. The team finished with a record of 50-19-12 dubbing them one of the best teams in the NHL during the 2017-18 season. This year, Boston’s path to Atlantic Division supremacy will be one of their toughest grinds yet.

Though young Bruins such as Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and Brandon Carlo will likely see improvement this year, it may not be enough to take down some of their most formidable opponents. These teams also feature rosters stacked with young players looking to make an even bigger impact during the 2018-19 campaign, making their path to the top of the Atlantic Division much more difficult.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning are undoubtedly one of the most feared teams in the Atlantic Division and the NHL as a whole. As a coach, when you see Tampa Bay on the schedule, you circle that date and make sure your starting goaltender is ready to go for that matchup.

The Lightning wrapped up the 2017-18 regular season with a record of 54-23-5 netting them 113 points and Atlantic Division champions. Come playoff time, they skated by the New Jersey Devils and the Bruins with just one loss in each series. They then took the eventual Stanley Cup champions in the Washington Capitals to seven games before trading their hockey bags for golf bags.

Bruins Lightning Handshake

(Photo Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Nikita Kucherov tallied 100 points last year, followed by Steven Stamkos with 86 points and 21-year-old Brayden Point with 66. In addition to Point, they have a young roster featuring names like Mikhail Sergachev and Andrei Vasilevskiy. In other words, Tampa’s strong showing last year is expected to give way to stronger performances for the foreseeable future.

Toronto Maple Leafs

The Toronto Maple Leafs are another top contender in the Atlantic Division. After adding John Tavares, the team seems poised to improve upon last year’s record of 49-26-7. The Leafs were led by a slew of youngsters last season by the names of  William Nylander (61 points), Mitch Marner (69 points), and Auston Matthews who put up 63 points in just 62 games. The latter two forwards seem excited that their team was able to reel in Tavares this summer:

Toronto was a tough customer in the first round of the playoffs for Boston and is expected to be throughout the 2018-19 campaign. In fact, the Leafs won the regular season series against the Bruins with a record of 3-1. Boston’s road against Toronto is only expected to get tougher, and the Leafs may find themselves ahead of the Bruins in the standings at this season’s end.

Florida Panthers

The Florida Panthers nearly squeaked into the playoffs last season but could very well snag more than a wild card spot this year. The Bruins went 1-3 against the Panthers during the 2017-18 season and could very well see the same fate once more. Young players like Henrik Borgstrom, Aaron Ekblad, Aleksander Barkov, Vincent Trochek, and Jonathan Huberdeau are expected to make considerable contributions to Florida’s cause.

The addition of Mike Hoffman this offseason was a solid acquisition despite his debacle with Erik Karlsson before leaving the Ottawa Senators. He threatens to push the team to new heights which doesn’t bode well for Boston. The Bruins and Panthers could very well find themselves battling each other for a playoff spot in the last few games of the season.

In the end, Boston’s playoff push will not come with guaranteed results. A handful of their division rivals only seem to be getting better heading into the 2018-19 season, creating quite the test for the Bruins this year.

Danton Heinen’s Future With The Bruins

danton-heinen

(Photo Credit: The Candian Press)

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

Danton Heinen’s rookie campaign was a strong one. Lacing up the skates 77 times during the regular season, the Boston Bruins racked up 16 goals and 31 assists. The 23-year-old can certainly be proud of his NHL debut.

Heinen’s impressive start could land him in a top-six role this season, especially if GM Don Sweeney isn’t able to reel in a second-line winger which seems less and less likely every day. The British Columbia native moved around quite a bit last season within Boston’s lineup, and it would be interesting to see what chemistry could brew with consistent linemates. But there is another option on the Heinen front.

Trading Danton Heinen

Heinen is a valuable young forward in the NHL which makes him a solid trade asset. Sweeney put his strong foot forward this offseason by making bids for John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk. The team’s willingness to improve heading into the 2018-19 season seems to be unfiltered.

The Bruins have a number of up-and-coming forwards seeking a drive down I-95 North from Providence to Boston. The barrier between the AHL and NHL has gone from thick to thin as these youngsters have continued to up their game in hopes of taking the next steps in their respective careers. While this bodes well for the Bruins, it may not work for Heinen. Sweeney could afford to part for the winger in the right circumstances.

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(Photo Credit: Matt Stone)

Fans and media alike have been calling for David Backes’ contract to be moved, but that will not be an easy trade to make. A one-for-one deal is definitely out of the question unless the Bruins are to take an equally devastating contract in return – defeating the purpose of trading him in the first place. Thus they would have to wrap up Backes in a gift bag full of bright tissue paper and a heartfelt card. Heinen could contribute to that flare.

It must also be considered that the Bruins are in a sticky situation in terms of the salary cap. Next summer, they will have to re-sign restricted free agents Ryan Donato, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and – you guessed it – Heinen. While Donato may be best suited for a bridge deal barring his performance during the 2018-19 campaign, the latter three will be looking to strike long-term deals. Knocking just one of those players off the potential payroll will cause less of a headache, especially considering the two defensemen on that list will be looking for hefty salaries.

Keeping Danton Heinen

Then there is the flip side. Heinen had a great rookie campaign and will be seeking to improve upon that. His performances during the postseason may have been underwhelming, but he is young and will likely capitalize upon his first glimpse of the NHL playoffs during his second go around.

The Bruins may be interested in winger such as Panarin, but a move like that may not be most wise. It seems as though the majority of top-six wingers remaining on the market would be a gamble and Heinen should only be traded for a sure thing – not a player who may underperform or fail to re-sign with Boston.

Panarin

(Photo Credit: Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Heinen’s potential is without question, and he could improve in a very valuable player among Boston’s top-six. At the age of 26, Panarin put up 82 points in 81 games. While Heinen’s numbers pale in comparison, there is no reason that the Bruin could manufacture a 70-point campaign if he is to play alongside some of Boston’s best forwards over the course of the next handful of seasons.

No. 43 is definitely a moveable asset, but it could be well worth it for the Bruins to hold on to him. If Sweeney was to give Heinen up, it better be in order to fill one of the team’s biggest needs heading into this season. Otherwise, it is simply not worth it.

Bruins Fans: The Sky Isn’t Falling

Bruins Banner

Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/AP

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins have made some minor free-agent acquisitions this July. General Manager Don Sweeney inked defenseman John Moore, goaltender Jaroslav Halak, and forwards Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner to deals, soaking up roughly $7.75 million in cap space.

After reports of the Bruins talking with some of the best unrestricted free agents available this summer, namely John Tavares and Ilya Kovalchuk, it is easy to understand the disappointment – the moves the team has made clearly pale in comparison to what could have been. Even having had a horse in the race is a good sign, however: the Bruins are clearly looking to make some big transactions. But often times the wisest moves are made late in the summer.

The Big Picture

While Boston barely contributed to the early-July fireworks, now is not the time to panic. With the signing of Moore, the Bruins now have a surplus of defensemen, meaning they could easily part with one to fill the hole on David Krejci’s right wing. Depending on the player shipped off, it may require draft picks and prospects to sweeten the deal, but it is certainly feasible.

David Krejci

Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Fans on social media seem to be calling for Sweeney’s head, however. In reality, the GM is likely doing the right thing in playing the waiting game. Rushing a deal early in the offseason often results in overpaying. It is a business, after all, and sometimes you need to wait out a trade partner in order to strike a better deal for your team. At times this tactic may result in a sought-for player finding another suitor, but the Bruins are not in a situation in which they should overextend themselves.

Boston’s hockey club is in the midst of a transition. They have successfully avoided a complete rebuild by netting prospects who are ready to break into the NHL before the team’s core is forced to hang up the skates. The foundation is certainly strong enough to bear the weight of sustained success as the team moves into a new era. It is surely important for Sweeney to better the Bruins this summer, but it is even more important to stay the course of a seamless transition.

Realistic Expectations

After a successful 2017-18 campaign which included a second-round playoff appearance – a drastic, and somewhat unexpected, improvement over the 2017 postseason’s early exit – Bruins fans are catching the Stanley Cup fever. However, it must be remembered that it is okay if this team doesn’t win a cup this season or even next season. The big picture is consistent victories moving forward, not necessarily right now. Boston is competing for the Cup which is a win in itself and this team is capable of claiming hockey’s greatest prize in the Bergeron Era –  even if that doesn’t occur within the next 365 days.

Riley Nash, Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen

Photo Credit: Matt Stone

That is not to say claiming the throne is out of the question this season, but realistic expectations entail a slightly lower feat: improving upon the 2017-18 campaign. The Bruins ought to find their way to the Eastern Conference Finals; taking the next step towards raising a banner to the rafters of TD Garden. The goal should certainly be crowning themselves as the NHL’s champions, but there is a major difference between goals and expectations.

Sweeney will undoubtedly improve Boston’s roster heading into the 2018-19 campaign. It’s also not the end of the world if the Bruins fail to claim the Stanley Cup this upcoming season – there is a bigger picture in mind, one that could very well result in multiple championships in the near future. In short, be patient, Boston. There is a long road ahead but success is likely at the end of it.

Bruins Should Avoid Making Waves In Free Agency

Don Sweeney

Credit: Chris Christo

By: Drew Johnson | Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins must re-sign Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, and Danton Heinen next summer. That is in addition to guys like Noel Acciari and Adam McQuaid if they earn an extension this season. Think about how much that may cost.

For this reason, and a many more, General Manager Don Sweeney ought not to make a big splash in free agency this offseason.

Who Will The Bruins Re-Sign?

The Bruins have a number of players they will be looking to re-sign this offseason. While they are looking to reel in Rick Nash for another year (or more), that could potentially be a mistake looking at the salary cap.

Sweeney has just shy of $9 million to work with, according to capfriendly.com. With that, Boston should most definitely be signing four players: Sean Kuraly, Tim Schaller, Anton Khudobin, and Matt Grzelcyk.

Kuraly and Schaller have proven to be solid bottom-six forwards. While it is arguable that space should be made for younger players, those younger players aren’t a shoe-in for success. Some of them, like Donato, may need another year or two to become dependable contributors to Boston’s success. For this reason, re-signing Kuraly in Schaller is an inexpensive investment well worth the safety net it resembles.

Sean Kuraly, Tim Schaller

Credit: Matt Stone

Grzelcyk is young and still improving. He has anchored the third defensive pairing in terms of moving the puck – something the Bruins have lacked in recent years. For these reasons, inking him to a contract renewal is a must.

Khudobin has proven to be a very solid backup for the Bruins. Many have argued that Zane McIntyre should be making the jump sooner rather than later, but for ensured success in the regular season, Khudobin is your man.

The debate over Riley Nash is one of pros and cons. On the pros side, you get a very capable bottom-six center. On the side of cons, he could be expensive given his play last season.

I would expect Riley to be looking for $2-3 million in annual salary – a price the Bruins may be unable to afford, especially next summer. For this reason, I think we see the center walk this offseason. Kuraly should get the chance to fill his skates and improve his defensive game.

Bruins Free Agency Options

It has been rumored that Ilya Kovalchuk may make his way to Boston this summer. On a one-year deal, this writer may not be opposed to such a move. However, the Bruins will not be able to take him on during the 2019-20 season, so a multi-year contract is simply not a good investment.

There are a number of UFA’s that may make their way to the open market this offseason, such as John Tavares, James Neal, and John Carlson. However, Sweeney should skip out on any of these free agency races. They will result in big bucks and long-term deals – something the Bruins can’t afford in the slightest.

Instead, the Bruins should look to sign some depth – if anyone at all. Bringing in a bottom pair defenseman to replace McQuaid, who has been unimpressive in recent seasons, may be a smart move. I see Boston trading McQuaid in the very near future – maybe even this summer. Moving the defenseman and signing another would not be a waste and would basically pay for itself if McQuaid’s $2.75 million cap hit is shipped off.

Sweeney could also look to bolster Boston’s bottom-six in case young Providence Bruins are unsuccessful in making the leap to the NHL. Any transactions such as these ought to be short-term deals.

In reality, I don’t see the Bruins signing any players on July 1st unless it is Kovalchuk. If they do bring any free agents aboard, look for it to be a depth player in late July.

Sweeney really does not have the cap space to take on any hefty contracts this summer. For that reason, don’t expect a huge splash to be made by Boston in free agency.

Will The Bruins Need A New Assistant Coach?

 

Joe Sacco

Joe Sacco (Credit: leagueittous.com)

By: Drew Johnson   |   Follow Me on Twitter @doobshmoob

The idea has been tossed out there, and it is starting to gain some traction.

After losing head coach David Quinn to the New York Rangers, Boston University is looking for a replacement to lead their reputable ice hockey program. It has been suggested that Boston Bruins assistant coaches, Jay Pandolfo and Joe Sacco, may be candidates.

There are arguments for and against for the two men behind Boston’s bench to consider the change.

Why The Speculation?

Pandolfo and Sacco both have reason to highly consider taking the job as the Terrier’s next head coach. Both know first-hand of BU’s reputation having played for the university in their collegiate hockey carriers.

Sacco’s play with the Terriers earned him a selection in the fourth round of the 1987 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins’ assistant coach scored 14 goals and 22 assists in his freshman year, improving to 28 goals and 24 assists by his junior year – his last with the university.

Sacco went on to appear in 738 NHL contests, tallying 94 goals and 119 assists before starting his coaching career. He landed his first NHL coaching job with the Colorado Avalanche, manning the reigns from 2009 to 2013. He then became the assistant coach of the Buffalo Sabres for a single season before joining the Bruins.

Joe Sacco - Avalanche

(Credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America)

Pandolfo totaled 79 goals and 124 assists during his playing carrier with BU across four seasons. He, like Sacco, went on to play in the NHL. Pandolfo spent the majority of his professional career with the New Jersey Devils before playing his last two seasons with the New York Islanders and the Bruins.

The Bruins’ assistant coach has been just that throughout his two-year coaching career. Pandolfo has no experience as a head coach which likely does not place him at the top of BU’s list of candidates, but it could be a reason for the alumn to chase the opportunity.

Sacco, on the other hand, does have experience as a bench boss, though he has no experience coaching a college team. His head coaching stint with the Avalanche was not exactly pretty – the experience resulted in a 130-134-30 record.

A speculated reason for Sacco and Pandolfo to consider the role with his old school is money, seeing as though BU would likely pay a higher salary than the Bruins would pay for an assistant coach.

The Will To Stay

While there are certainly positives to taking the open position, there a number of persuasive reasons to stay with Boston’s NHL team.

One indisputable fact is how bright the future is for the boys in black and gold heading into the 2018-19 season. Players like Jake DeBrusk, Charlie McAvoy, Danton Heinen, Ryan Donato, Anders Bjork, Brandon Carlo, and Matt Grzelcyk have many expecting the Bruins to be a cup-contending team for some time.

Pairing these youngsters with an already solid core, including Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Torey Krug, David Krejci, and David Pastrnak, the team sure seems stacked on paper. Certainly a squad capable of taking the Eastern Conference – a feat they nearly completed with an impressive second half of the 2017-18 campaign.

There is also a better opportunity for promotions as an assistant coach. There are certainly a number of NCAA head coaches that move on to become coaches in the NHL – heck, that’s the reason the Terriers are looking for one themselves. However, an assistant coach is a favorable candidate if they already have experience in the league.

One would think that becoming an NHL head coach is something Sacco is looking to become again, and something Pandolfo may eventually want to grow into. Either path may lead the two to such a destination, but why not stick with what’s working and what is winning right now?

If one is offered and decides to take the job at their old school, the Bruins will be looking for a replacement. However, one current member of the organization’s staff is ruled out of a promotion if that is the case:

Both Sacco and Pandolfo are certainly candidates for the open coaching position at BU, but the Bruins are a team on the up-and-up, and that success could persuade the two assistant coaches to stay.

Bruins Wisely Sign Connor Clifton to NHL Deal

 

(Photo by Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

By: Drew Johnson | Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins signed defenseman Connor Clifton to a two-year NHL deal. The former Quinnipiac Bobcat played for the Providence Bruins last season.

Clifton & the U.S. National Development Team

Clifton first played with the U.S. National Development Team during the 2011-12 season. In eight games he contributed with a goal and earned a plus-minus rating of minus-two.

That same season, Clifton played with the Jersey Hitmen of the EJHL. In 28 games he registered one goal and 11 assists, earning 46 penalty minutes.

Clifton rejoined the U.S. National Development Team during the 2012-13 season, appearing in 25 games. This time around, the defenseman potted three goals and six assists and maintained a plus-11 rating.

Clifton was drafted 133rd overall by the Phoenix Coyotes during the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. Eventually, however, the defenseman decided not to sign a contract with the Coyotes.

He then attended Quinnipiac University to play hockey for the Bobcats. Judging by his performance with the NCAA Division I team, it is no wonder Clifton had the confidence to test the waters of free agency.

Clifton at Quinnipiac

Having attended Quinnipiac University myself, I got the opportunity to watch Clifton in the latter two years of his collegiate career. The now 23-year-old captained the Bobcats during his senior year, a season in which he tallied seven goals and seven assists in 39 games.

The blueliner has the ability to pitch in offensively while simultaneously finding strength in his own zone. Clifton is also well known for his physical play, throwing hits whenever he is given the chance.

During his junior year, Clifton had his best season in terms of offensive stats, notching seven goals and 21 helpers in 43 games. The defenseman accumulated a plus-20 rating. Throughout Quinnipiac’s playoff run that season, Clifton had four multi-point games.

The most prevalent downside to Clifton’s game can be a lack of discipline. Consider this hit back in 2016:

However, Clifton seems as though he is getting this under control. In his freshman year, the defenseman accumulated 106 penalty minutes in 36 games. Comparatively, Clifton only gathered 35 penalty minutes in 54 games during his first season with Providence.

Throughout his career at Quinnipiac, Clifton put up 19 goals and 37 assists in four collegiate seasons.

Clifton & the Bruins

The New Jersey native has been a solid addition to the AHL Bruins. Clifton appeared in 54 games with Boston’s AHL affiliate during the 2017-18 campaign, pitching in offensively with four goals and nine assists. He also maintained a plus-minus rating of plus-11.

Clifton has what it takes to make to the NHL, whether that winds up being with the Bruins or another team. A Bruins comparable is Kevan Miller or Adam McQuaid due to his toughness and willingness to be a physical force. However, Clifton has more of an offensive upside.

The defenseman will have a shot at cracking an NHL team’s bottom pairing. Look for him to gather some attention at development camp this summer.

Will Clifton make it to Boston next season? Probably not – he still needs time to continue growing his game in Providence. But it is very likely that you will see him skate on NHL ice before he calls it quits.