Who Could The Bruins Receive For Jake DeBrusk?

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Due to COVID-19, the NHL has neither increased nor decreased the salary cap, making it a flat cap. The stagnant cap number puts even more pressure on general managers to make necessary moves for future years.

The Bruins are entering the 2020 off-season with $15M in cap space. Their priority list is large needing to sign unrestricted free agents Joakim Nordstrom, Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller, and Torey Krug and restricted free agents Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzylcek, Zach Senyshyn, and Karson Kuhlman.

The Black N Gold crew have written numerous articles on the Bruins’ future signings. Jake DeBrusk’s future with the Bruins relies on Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara because of the limited cap space. If Krug decides to sign elsewhere, the Bruins find themselves with more money to spend, but a sudden need to replace scoring on the blue line. If Krug decides to stay, the Bruins’ cap space is significantly smaller, making DeBrusk likely sign a bridge deal. However, if DeBrusk is unwilling to sign a bridge deal, a trade could be in his future.

If Krug were to receive a better offer elsehwhere, the Bruins’ left-handed blue line depth would deplete. The Bruins rostered left-handed defensemen include John Moore, Chara, and Grzelcyk, which will not cut it. The Bruins, however, will have at least $7M to spend on a new face.

The impending free agent defensemen class is plentiful, but not with a seamless Krug replacement. Alex Pietrangelo, Tyson Barrie, and Justin Schultz round out the top three D-men on the board, but they’re all right-handed shots. T.J. Brodie and Dimitri Kulikov are available left-handed defensemen, but neither come close to matching Krug’s offensive numbers.

The limited free agent pool likely turns Don Sweeney to the trade market. A near-perfect replacement for Krug is Shea Theodore (as mentioned in a recent article). The Vegas Golden Knights’ defenseman recently signed a 7-year, $36.4M contract, which carries a $5.4M cap hit. The Bruins would pay Theodore $200K more than Krug’s current deal for the next four years. Theodore ended the year with 46 points in 71 games and would fill Krug’s shoes nicely with his offensive prowess and great vision.

Acquiring Theodore sounds like a long shot after he just re-signed to a long-term contract. However, the Knights were just bounced from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in five games after failing to score consistently and could look to the trade market for scoring.

The Bruins would send DeBrusk’s rights to Vegas, which enables the Knights to re-sign the left-wing before free agency. The trade could be a one-for-one, though it’s more likely the teams would throw in draft picks, having the Bruins tossing in a mid-round selection.

Another great Krug replacement is Oscar Klefbom out of Edmonton. Klefbom is a former first-round pick who’s had an up and down career with the Oilers. The 27-year old left-handed defenseman has two years remaining on his 7-year, $29M contract that carries a $4.167M cap hit. He ended the year with 34 points, which is four points shy of his career-high. Unfortunately, he has been plagued by a few injures the past three years, but a change of scenery could help the young blueliner reshape his game.

The Oilers badly need a dynamic winger for their superstar Connor McDavid. McDavid would welcome DeBrusk with open arms if the Bruins were to strike a deal. The Oilers have $10.5M in cap space and can certainty afford DeBrusk’s next contract. Again, draft picks would be part of the agreement and maybe even AHL prospects.

Now let’s switch gears and assume Torey Krug and the Bruins agree on a contract that leaves the Bruins with $8M cap space, and DeBrusk is not willing to sign a bridge deal. The remaining money split between Zdeno Chara and Grzelcyk leaves the Bruins with approximately $4M in cap space. The Bruins need for a left-handed defenseman is no longer as imperative, and Sweeney could set his sights on another need: consistent wing scoring.

There have been some discussions that the Winnipeg Jets are willing to trade Patrick Laine. He was the second overall draft choice in 2016 and had a cap hit of $6.75M. He is a restricted free agent, and has been in his coach’s doghouse too often this past season.

There’s a presumption the Jets are listening to offers, and the Bruins should most certainly inquire. However, the Jets will expect AT LEAST a first-round draft selection (which the Bruins don’t have until 2021), a top prospect (John Beecher, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen), and a top-nine forward (Jake DeBrusk, Ondrej Kase).

The Bruins may be able to sell the Jets on David Krejci for Laine, along with other assets, of course. The former 70-point right-winger would undoubtedly make the Bruins a tough team to beat and alleviate the top line’s pressure to create all the scoring opportunities. It’s a mystery whether Sweeney would even entertain the the steep price tag to pry Laine from Winnipeg.

The other side of the coin is Patrick’s contract. Laine will want a contract north of his previous 2-year, $13.5M deal. The Bruins can afford that if they trade out players who own more massive cap hits, like David Krejci. They could undoubtedly trade John Moore and try to scrape away at the cap ceiling, but it’s more likely they’ll have to rid themselves of a larger contract to squeeze under the cap.

The Bruins could also walk away from signing Krug and make the deal for Laine, but that leaves a giant hole on the blue-line. Keeping Krug almost definitively puts them out of the running for a player of Laine’s caliber. Sweeney needs the future cap space, mainly if the salary cap stays flat in the coming years.

One trade target the Bruins have a reasoanle shot at acquiring for DeBrusk is Anthony Mantha. The Detroit Red Wings had the worst record in the NHL last season and robbed of the first overall pick. They have $34M in cap space and can certainly afford whatever number DeBrusk has in mind. Mantha is also a restricted free agent and a former first-round draft choice. He is a behemoth left-wing at 6’5, 234 pounds, and has breakaway speed. He ended last season on the Wings first line but would almost certainly play on the Bruins second or third line.

Mantha is coming off of his rookie deal of 3-years, $2.77M. DeBrusk and Mantha have had comparable point totals in the past three seasons: DeBrusk netting 120 points in 203 games and Mantha with 134 in 190 games. Mantha has more points in fewer games, making him an enticing option.

The Wings require a profound identity change and a fresh start. They’ve fallen to the bottom of the standings dramatically and could use a jump start from a new face, who learned from some of the game’s best leaders, and who’s performed deep into the playoffs. The Bruins could send DeBrusk and a mid-round draft choice or prospect in exchange for Mantha and a low-round draft choice.

Another potential trade target for Jake DeBrusk is Minnesota’s, Kevin Fiala. Fiala was also a former first-round draft selection in 2014 by the Nashville Predators. Fiala had a tough time finding his game in Nashville, only playing 204 games and scoring 97 points. The Swiss forward was traded to Minnesota for Mikael Granlund last season. Fiala has one year left on his 2-year, $6M contract and will still be a restricted free agent.

The change of scenery benefited the 24-year old. Fiala potted 67 points in 83 career games with the Wild. He scored 23 goals last season and has participated on the Wild’s first power-play unit.

So why would the Wild give up a player they just acquired? The Minnesota Wild hired Paul Fenton (former Predator Assistant GM) in 2018, which was viewed as a great hire around the NHL. Fenton acquired Fiala after overseeing his development in Nashville. A surprise move a year later, the Wild fired Fenton after finishing fifth in the wild card standings.
The Wild hired former Dallas Stars great, Bill Guerin, within a month of firing Fenton. Wild’s ownership created an environment where mediocrity is not going to cut it, putting even more pressure on Geurin.

The Wild snuck into the Return to Play pool only to be eliminated by the Vancouver Canucks in the first round. Guerin needs to show his ownership he has a plan to further this team’s future, and making a trade for a player like DeBrusk would benefit both parties. The Wild could make DeBrusk their number one left-wing and sign him for the next five to six years and genuinely integrate himself as a mainstay.

Thankfully for the Bruins, Fiala’s cap hit is significantly lower than what DeBrusk has asked for, and the Bruins can afford him, barring a salary dump of John Moore. They’ve also had a great trade rapport with the Wild when they acquired Charlie Coyle two seasons ago. Fiala would make for a great second-line winger and a power-play beneficiary.

The Bruins would ask for a bit more in return than Fiala’s return, such as a mid-round draft choice or prospect. The move delays the contract conversation one more year, but it would allow the Bruins a bit more flexibility without shelling out two large contracts this off-season.

It’s no surprise that Sweeney has his work cut out for him each year because that is what it takes to avoid a mid-league finish in the standings. There may be one or two moves Sweeney makes that will shock the NHL, and it’s necessary. The Tampa Bay Lightning outmatched the Bruins in a 4-1 series victory, and their size and inconsistent scoring played a significant role. If the Bruins want to keep up with the Tampa Bay Lightning for years to come, the time to make the moves is now.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 194 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

The Future of Boston’s Left-Handed Defensemen

Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The Tampa Bay Lightning sent the Boston Bruins home early, leaving all of us wondering what the future will hold. After each team’s playoff exit, conferences are held to detail each player’s injuries and each player’s future. Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara are unrestricted free agents and could find themselves in different jerseys come next season.

Torey Krug has stated the type of deal he is seeking but is open to a hometown discount. Chara is 43 years old and has recently announced he wants to play another year and prefers it to be in Boston.

Naturally, Bruins’s twitter exploded with scenarios and everyone’s thoughts on Boston’s two players’ futures. I created a twitter poll for Bruins fans to give their take on what they want next season.

The first selection of keeping both defensemen seemed to be the prevailing choice, but Krug’s price tag scares Bruins fans. We will dive into each scenario and explain the repercussions that they would have on the team.

Keeping both Chara and Krug would require both players to sacrifice the money they’d make on the open market. Torey Krug reportedly is seeking $8M per-year over a 6-7-year timeframe. The Bruins have $15M in cap space after re-signing Anders Bjork to an extension last month. The Bruins need the remaining cap space to sign restricted free-agents, Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk, and unrestricted free agent Joakim Nordstrom.

If the Bruins want a chance to sign most of these players, The Bruins cannot afford Krug’s $8M per year salary. His last deal was worth $5.25M per year, which means he will take no less than $6M per year in his next contract.

Bruins management, mainly General Manager Don Sweeney, has created an environment where his star players make below fair market value because they have bought into a certain mentality. David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Berergon have a combined average annual value (“AAV”) of $19.7M, resulting in impeccable signings.

These deals have given Bruins fans skewed visions into players’ values because there is a sense that incoming and roster players shouldn’t make more than their beloved players. Unfortunately, that is not the case for some players, especially given their recent contracts.

Krug will receive at least $7M on the open market, which would put him as the highest salaried defenseman, and tied for second-highest salary on the team, only behind David Krejci. Krug has stated he is open to a hometown discount but doesn’t want to cut himself too short, which is exceptionally reasonable. If the Bruins and Krug can agree on $6.75M over the next five years, both sides would benefit. Krug would increase his AAV by $1.5M, and the Bruins still have enough salary cap to fit in their remaining players.

If the Bruins sign Krug to this deal, they would have $8.25M remaining to re-sign their 14-year captain to another team-friendly deal. Chara has made close to $100M in his 23-year career and is coming off a 1-year, $3.75M deal, with a cap hit of $2M. The rest of the money’s embedded in player bonuses.

The Bruins could re-sign Chara for another 1-year, $1.5M-$2M deal, which would be immense for both sides. The Bruins would be retaining the Hall of Fame defenseman for another year to mentor young defensemen vying for a spot and play on the third pairing and penalty kill situations.

Chara has had an incredibly fruitful career, especially in a Bruins uniform. He is a one-time Stanley Cup champion and former Norris Trophy winner. He will undoubtedly be an NHL Hall of Famer and likely have his number retired with the Bruins.

Big Z is getting older and can still be an incredible force on the ice, especially if he plays 18-19 minutes per game. It is time to pass the defensive torch to Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, but that doesn’t mean Chara should retire. He still adds tremendous value to the organization and can always be a factor game in and game out.

If the Bruins offer Chara this contract and Krug’s discounted deal, they would have approximately $6.5M remaining to re-sign Grzelcyk, Nordstrom, and DeBrusk. $6.5M would be tight to re-sign these players, mostly since DeBrusk’s agent has gone on record saying his client wants $6M per year. The Bruins could offer DeBrusk a bridge deal and Grzelcyk around $2M per year, leaving a little over $1M for Nordstrom. Even this scenario makes their cap situation tight, meaning Sweeney may have to make a few difficult decisions if he wants to retain Krug and Chara.

The second option in the poll has the Bruins retaining just the captain, which received 39% of the votes, making it the most popular selection. Fans who want to keep just Chara are more than likely unwilling to pay Krug the money he seeks. The $7M plus price tag would alleviate Don Sweeney’s hand in making difficult decisions. Black N Gold writer, Andrew Lindroth, recently posted an article about the potential replacements for Krug.

A few names Andrew did not mention that the Bruins could target in free agency are Travis Hamonic, T.J. Brodie (both from Calgary), and Tyson Barrie (Toronto Maple Leafs). The latter two have similar cap hits to Krug’s expiring one, while Hamonic would be significantly cheaper.

Krug’s departure would allow the Bruins to develop their young defenseman. Charlie McAvoy and Grzelcyk could round out the top pairing, Carlo and a prospect for the second line, and Chara and Connor Clifton as the third pairing. The Bruins power-play would look a little different next year but wouldn’t suffer much.

Charlie McAvoy is the Bruins number one defenseman for years to come, and he has shown he’s capable of handling power-play one duty. Matt Grzelcyk could take over power-play two responsibilities and is a similar player to Krug. He is not as offensively gifted but makes up for it in other areas.

Krug’s departure would net Don Sweeney, one of the largest cap situations, without signing roster mainstays. It would be too enticing to see what Sweeney would do with the money.

The third selection in the poll, which keeps just Krug, received 14% of the votes, making it the least popular option. In this scenario, the Bruins would be walking away from greatness to develop young defensemen. Chara has stated he wants to retire as a Bruin, and the move would only save about $2M on the books.

The Bruins defensive pairings would be significantly smaller in size. The Tampa Bay Lightning’s defense created havoc for the Bruins because of their size and strength. The Bruins need both attributes if they want to compete in their division, and the answer is not in John Moore, who could attain a roster spot if Chara walks.

The final selection received 19% of the votes and would result in both defensemen walking. If both Krug and Chara were to play on different teams next year, the Bruins would have a ton of money to use. However, their left-handed defensemen’s depth would suffer, and the Bruins would need to make quick bids to impending free agents.

The free-agent pool has very few left-handed shot defensemen. T.J. Brodie is the only left-handed shot defenseman of the group above. Joel Edmundson of the Carolina Hurricanes is also available, but given the capital, the Hurricanes spent on him, it’s unlikely he leaves Carolina.

The Bruins could also look to the trade market to replace one, if not both. A near-perfect replacement for Krug would be Shea Theodore of the Vegas Golden Knights. The 25-year old is a left-handed defenseman with a cap hit of $5.2M for the next five years. He’s increased his point total every year since he began in 2015. The Bruins would need to concoct a sweet deal for the Knights to agree by including Jake DeBrusk’s rights and a mid-round draft selection.

Another potential trade target is Edmonton’s Oscar Klefbom, who is a former first-round selection. He has a $4.167M cap hit for the next three years and has had an up-and-down career with the Oilers. Granted, the Oilers have had inconsistent years, but Klefbom could benefit from a change in scenery. His career-high point total is 38, and he has power-play experience. The Oilers could ask for DeBrusk’s rights or a sign-and-trade with Krug. Connor McDavid would be quite pleased with either.

If the Bruins can’t strike a deal or sign a free agent, the Bruins would only have John Moore and Matt Grzelcyk as their NHL-ready left-handed shot defensemen. John Moore was scratched most of the playoffs and only played in 24 games this past season. The Bruins have left-handed defensemen in their system, but only one is NHL-ready.

Jakub Zboril is likely heading overseas next season with the AHL’s season in question. Nick Wolff and Jack Ahcan have yet to play in the AHL, which making them unlikely candidates for the NHL roster. Urho Vaakanainen is the final left-handed shot defensemen in the system. The 21-year old Finn was drafted 18th overall in 2017. He’s played seven games in two years for the Bruins, spending most of his time in Providence. Black N Gold’s writer, Tim Richardson, detailed Urho’s past season in the AHL. Tim regards Urho as “an elite stay-at-home defenseman” who should have a spot on the Bruins roster quite soon.

Don Sweeney has addressed the Krug situation but is unwilling to comment on the details.

It’s normal business practice to hold off on contract negotiations until the season is over. Though, it’s a bit concerning because Sweeney isn’t speaking like a man who is confident the player will stay. It’s possible the Bruins and Krug can strike a deal soon, but Krug would almost certainly be playing elsewhere next season if he tests free agency. Bruins management may have told Krug he can see his worth and come back to them to see for the Bruins to potentially match an offer.

Allowing the two defensemen to leave is the worst choice in the poll. The Bruins don’t seem to have a plausible plan in place for the two key departures, and it opens the doors to a “wait and see” approach. There would be too many items in play with this choice, and there’s not enough time given the prolonged playoffs.

Before the poll, the most logical choice was keeping Chara and Krug. The Bruins could have another go with the aging core. Now that the survey has ended, it seems each day the Bruins are heading towards keeping just Chara. Sweeney has acknowledged the Bruins lacked five v five scoring against Tampa Bay, which isn’t all on the defensemen. The forwards are just as much to blame, but Sweeney could use the cap space with Krug’s departure to acquire a goal-scorer. NHL teams are allowed to make trades with one another if they’re not currently in the playoffs, and the free agency period is a month away. It seems Sweeney is willing to make a deal even if it changes the makeup of the team.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 193 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

What Happened To The Bruins In Toronto?

(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Last night was a heart-breaking loss on many different levels, and a result Bruins fans did not expect during the season. The Bruins were steamrolling its competition in the regular season, cruising to the top of the league’s standings. The President Trophy winners were the favorite to win the Stanley Cup, even after the NHL’s Return to Play announcement. Unfortunately, the Bruins never consistently showed the same regular-season tenacity and are heading home way too early.

Many fans will bash the NHL for its Return to Play schedule, where the Bruins had to play three more games to warrant the top seed in the East. Let’s be clear; unfortunately, the Bruins’ regular season point total did not result in the East’s top seed. However, the Bruins did not come close to showing the NHL that it deserved the number one seed in the Return to Play. Each team had the same starting position, and the Bruins controlled their own destiny. They did not play up to caliber for a number one seed.

The Bruins came out flat against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the exhibition. The team allowed two goals in 18 seconds and scored their lone goal in the second period. Bruins nation chalked it up as a slow start due to the pandemic and insisted the team would be fine during the round-robin. However, the Bruins never led in any of their round-robin games and only scored four combined goals. For reference, the Bruins scored 227 goals in the regular-season, which equates to 3.24 goals per game and ranked 9th in the entire league. At the end of the playoffs, the Bruins goals-per-game fell to 2.23.

The Bruins’ first playoff match-up was against a team they had playoff experience against in the Carolina Hurricanes. The Bruins swept the Hurricanes in last year’s playoffs, and nearly did this year. Tuukka Rask announced his departure after two games against the Hurricanes and the organization turned to Jaroslav Halak to lead the charge.

The Bruins beat Carolina in five games, but still didn’t look their full selves. There were plenty of flashes, and they strung together some great games, but they never put forth a complete 60-minute domination. The Tampa Bay Lightning awaited after beating the Blue Jackets in five games as well.

The Bruins won game one and took a 1-0 series lead on Tampa. The Bruins scored one goal each period, while Tampa made a late push, but it was too little too late for the Lightning. The Bruins looked a tad lost in game two and allowed Tampa’s offensive weapons to get behind their defense, leading to an overtime loss. Things went from bad to worse in game three and never turned around.

Game three was one of the worst showings the Bruins had in a playoff series in nearly 30 years. The Bruins allowed the Lightning to score seven goals to their one. The Bruin skaters left their goalies out to dry in this game and could not overcome adversity.

Each of the three pictures above shows how poorly the Bruins played in the most crucial moments. Tampa had at least one step ahead of the closest Bruin, and the Bruins allowed Tampa’s lethal weapons to have prime real estate in from their goal. This game (and the series) was not lost because Rask left the bubble. Tuukka may have given the team a better chance to win, but Halak and Vladar were placed in incredibly difficult positions and were left out to dry. The Bruins did not put forth a full 60-minute effort consistently and outright quit at times. They looked lost and overpowered against Tampa and could not overcome adversity, which is ironic because Tampa had the same issue last year against the Blue Jackets.

Bruins media and its organization have touted how closely matched these two teams are, but frankly, this series showed those claims are myths. Tampa Bay was by far the better, faster, and stronger team this series. Tampa’s large defensive players took every opportunity to shoot the puck at the point into a wave of blue and black and gold jerseys. Tampa Bay scored the majority of their goals either off of odd-man rushes or deflections. Jon Cooper and his team had a perfect game-plan to park big bodies out front of the Bruin goalies, like Pat Maroon, to set up screens and tip shots that come towards the net.

The Bruins were also undisciplined and gave Tampa countless opportunities to score on the power-play. The Lightning were 0 for 16, heading into game three of the series on the power-play. The Bruins decided to test that record, and the Lightning netted three power-play goals in game three. The Bruins ranked third in the regular-season on the penalty kill, killing 84.3% of their penalties. By the end of this playoffs, their percentage declined to 82.9%. The 1.4% change may not seem like a lot, but in-game power-play goals can change momentum instantly.

In the elimination game, the Bruins looked like their old selves; unfortunately, it was too little too late. Jaroslav Halak played unbelievably and gave his team a chance to win.

Tampa scored the series-ending goal in double overtime, sending the Bruins home. Zdeno Chara may have played his final game as a Bruins, and David Krejci explained what every Bruin fan has been fearing.

This Bruins team may have a different makeup next year. Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, and a few more require contracts, and the Bruins have $15M in cap space. General Manager, Don Sweeney, has a long list of to-do items in the shortened off-season. Many difficult yet necessary decisions will be made. The “core” that Krejci mentions genuinely does have one to three years left. Thankfully, a few bright spots in this year’s playoff could be shaping the new core.

Head Coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a few lineup changes that did not pay dividends like inserting John Moore and playing 11 forwards. However, the changes that did work included Anders Bjork and Jack Studnicka, who both played alongside Charlie Coyle in game five.

Bjork and Studnicka looked like they belonged and took advantage of their opportunities. They looked comfortable with the speed and physicality of the game. Bjork landed four shots on goal and played 18:30 minutes, while Studnicka surpassed 17 minutes and one shot on goal. Coyle landed ten shots on goal and looked to be comfortable with his line-mates.

Patrice Bergeron doesn’t look like he’s slowing down at all and has continued to dominate the opposition. He will continue to center the first line come next season.

The “what if” questions will linger over these playoffs. What if the Bruins’ regular-season point total had landed them the top seed? What if the season had played through without the pandemic? Unfortunately, we have an answer to what occurred, and the Bruins did not play up to their potential. It was a disappointing showing from a team who showed they belonged in the Stanley Cup. Bruins fans will have to wait another year and hopefully one with the original core for another run.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 192 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Way Too Early Prediction For Boston’s Goaltending Situation

(Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Tuukka Rask decided to leave the Boston Bruins and the NHL bubble to take care of a family emergency. The Bruins Twitter folks heavily scrutinized him, but family always comes first, and this is no different.

More recently, Tuukka has gone on record with Boston sports radio station, WEEI, about what happened and how it led to his decision. Anyone who’s wanted Rask gone from the Bruins won’t accept any answer he gives to justify his departure, but frankly, he shouldn’t have to explain. Tuukka flew home, and the Bruins turned to their backup goaltender, Jaroslav Halak, to lead them through the remaining games.

Tuukka Rask has one year left on his 8-year, $56M deal he signed in 2013. The 33-year old is in contention this year for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the best goaltender each year, and was .02 points shy of tying his career-high save percentage of .931. Tuukka was one of the key reasons the Bruins were able to compete in game 7 of the Stanley Cup final last year. He’s been to the Cup final three times, twice as a starter, and has a Stanley Cup ring thanks to his predecessor, Tim Thomas.

Rask’s absence from the team isn’t his first, unfortunately. In November 2018, Rask took a leave of absence to attend to family priorities. There was speculation all over Boston’s airwaves, but the fan base never found out what happened and might never. The history of his absence could suggest Rask walks away from the game following these playoffs, and before his contract ends.

There have been plenty of NHL players who retire unexpectedly, and the NHL has rectified the terms of those contracts. Though the more likely scenario is he plays in the final year of his deal and then calls it quits.

The Bruins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes in five games, with Halak at the helm for three of these wins. Halak will be heavily relied on throughout the playoffs, especially now they’re facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. With their $7M per year goaltender at home and Halak leading the charge, what does this all mean for Boston’s goaltending moving forward?

The most likely scenario Bruins fans can expect to see is Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak tend the Bruins net together one last time next year. Halak also has one more year on his 2-year, $5.5M deal, meaning the Bruins could have a brand new face in goal come the 2021 season. Halak is re-branding himself after an impressive 35-save performance against the Lightning last night. If he leads the Bruins past the Lightning, he may be playing in more games next season.

If both Halak and Rask are deemed goalies 1A and 1B next season, it wouldn’t be the the first time a team has two starting-caliber goaltenders. The Pittsburgh Penguins won the 2015-2016 Stanley Cup after riding their number one goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury, to 35 wins during the regular season. Unfortunately, Fleury suffered a concussion on March 31 and didn’t make his playoff debut until game 6 of the second round. While he was recovering, rookie goaltender, Matt Murray, guarded the twine. The rookie only played in 13 games during the regular season and led his franchise to another Stanley Cup.

The following year, Matt Murray appeared in 49 games, while Fleury played in 38. Fleury was making $5.75M a year and played the “back-up role” to Murray. The Penguins decided it was better to have two starting goalies and not to trade Fleury after the previous playoff run.

The Bruins should follow the same methodology next season, especially if Halak continues to play superbly throughout the playoffs. If so, they’ll be keeping the best goalie tandem in the league (William Jennings winners this past season), and they’d almost certainly back atop the standings next season.

One scenario that cannot happen until the following season, but has occurred in the past, involves the league’s newest franchise. Before the 2017-2018 season kicked off, the Penguins made a decision that everyone saw coming. The Vegas Golden Knights became the league’s 31st NHL franchise and were allowed to draft players from the other 30 teams that were not protected. The Penguins made Fleury available, and he became the Knights’ first goaltender. Fleury led the team to the Stanley Cup finals, only to lose to Washington in five games.

The Seattle Kraken just announced its inaugural season begins in 2021-2022. The Kraken will undergo the same process the Knights did, and existing teams will have to submit their protected players, allowing Seattle to pluck any other player not protected. Rask’s contract ends after next season and the NHL has seen teams, sign-and-trade players, to Vegas in the past. If Rask decides not to walk away from the game and the Bruins want to move on, he may become Seattle’s first goaltender. This could happen even if the Bruins don’t sign-and-trade, and signed from free agency.

The Bruins are planning their future in goal as we speak. Last night during game 1 of the second round, the Bruins announced another in-house signing.

Daniel Vladar is Halak’s back-up during Return to Play. The first two years of the deal is a two-way contract (meaning his salary will depend on the league he’s in), while the third year is a one-way contract. The first two years suggest Vladar will likely split his time in the NHL and AHL. The third-year though, suggests he will have a spot on the Bruins roster if his progression goes according to plan.

This signing in no way suggests that Rask’s time is over next season, but it does hint that the Bruins are looking to the future for their goaltending situation. As mentioned before, Halak has another year on his deal, and the Bruins have a few more promising prospects in their pipeline, who will be vying for the starting position in a few short years.

One improbable scenario, but it could be fascinating, would be if the Bruins traded Rask in the upcoming offseason to clear $7M off the books. The Bruins would rid themselves of Rask’s contract, which is glaring right now, given his absence. This move would allow two scenarios.

The first scenario is Halak becomes the franchise’s next starting goaltender, and the Bruins rely on their system to back him up. History suggests this is unlikely given their past experiments: Hannu Toivonen, Niklas Svedberg, Zane McIntyre. That’s not to say the Vladar, Kyle Keyser, or Jeremy Swayman are anything like the previous three, but the Bruins will not award their players a spot until they’re absolutely ready.

The second, which again is more fantasy than anything, is making a free agent signing in Braden Holtby. Holtby’s time in Washington is over and has awarded him a Stanley Cup, and regarded as one of the best in the game. He had an unsuccessful run in Washington this year, and their goaltending pipeline suggests he will be looking for a new home next season.

Holtby won the Vezina in 2015-16 and is three years younger than Rask. He is coming off a 5-year, $30M deal with Washington, which has his cap hit lower than Rask’s current $7M. Holtby would seek a higher deal than the one he’s currently in, and it’d be surprising if Bruins fans wouldn’t pay him Rask’s contract. General Manager, Don Sweeney, will not sign a 30-year old goalie to a 7-year deal, but something in the range of 5-years, $35M may be in their wheelhouse.

The scenario mentioned above is far-fetched and may not be even a thought that Don Sweeney has entertained, but the Bruins would have the goalie who stonewalled them for years in its jersey, and he’s a proven winner.

Fantasy aside, the Bruins knew the day they’d have to decide on their goaltending would come. Bruins fans, and possibly its management, may have thought this day wouldn’t be until 2021, but it seems like that day may be approaching fast. Sweeney has shocked the NHL in the past with his decisions, and this scenario may not be any different.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 191 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!!

Why The Bruins Landed The Fourth Seed

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Steve Babineau/Getty Images

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Well, Bruins fans, that is not the round-robin we all expected.  To be fair, most of the NHL did not expect the fourth-ranked Philadelphia Flyers to sweep the competition either.  But the Bruins disappointed its fans in a big way.  The Bruins were the top-ranked team in the entire NHL when the league suspended its season.  They were a lock to be the number one seed in the East and were feared by most.  Unfortunately, looks were deceiving, and they underperformed in every game, beginning with their exhibition with Columbus.  So why did the Bruins end up with the fourth-seed?

For starters, the Bruins did not once lead in any of their round-robin games.  In their first game against Philadelphia, Rask did not participate due to his “cough.”

Jaroslav Halak didn’t play tremendously in his absence, but neither did the Bruins.  The Flyer’s goalie, Carter Hart, stole the show by stopping 34 out of 35 shots.  Philadelphia scored three goals in the second period, two of which came before the Bruins’ first. Boston’s Chris Wagner scored after Philly’s second goal and seemed to alleviate some of the pressure felt by the players.  However, a mere eight seconds later, Philly potted their third goal, and the Bruins dropped to 0-1.

Three nights later, Tampa Bay scored the first two goals of the game, and once again, Boston had to play catch-up. Boston’s Torey Krug tried to rally the troops by dropping the gloves, which created some nastiness throughout the game, but it was not enough, and another loss ensued.

Finally, Boston outshot Washington 16-2 in the first period, but it was Washington who capitalized and ended the first up 1-0.  Boston never regained the lead and watched Washington end the round-robin with the third seed.

The common theme between all three nights was slow starts. It’s quite difficult to win one game, let alone three, down to teams with pedigrees that the Lightning, Capitals, and Flyers have.  The Bruins were the most feared team in the NHL because they had just been to game 7 of the Stanley Cup and were not suffering from a playoff hangover.

They essentially cruised to the President’s Trophy, best regular-season record, and their players were receiving accolades.  David Pastrnak won the Art Ross trophy with Alexander Ovechkin, most points in the NHL, Tuukka Rask is a finalist for the best goaltender award (Vezina), and Bergeron for the best defensive forward (Selke).  Their play in the round-robin was unexpected, to say the least.

The Bruins’ slow starts in all three games can be partially contributed to the roster’s age and the speed to get their legs under them.  James Mirtle of The Athletic wrote an article back in October analyzing the NHL team’s averages.  James referenced and compared teams’ average heights, weights, age, draft position, etc.  Interestingly enough, most of the organizations whose rosters came in older than the league average did not perform up to standards in the NHL’s Return to Play.

The Bruins’ average age when the season began was 28.5, while the league’s average was 27.3.  It is no secret the Bruins core is getting older.  To be frank, that’s all a Bruins fan hears any time they tune into sports talk radio.  Zdeno Chara has one to two years left, Bergeron and Krejci are not 26 anymore, and even Tuukka Rask has reached his 33rd birthday.  Their Stanley Cup-winning core is through their prime.

Bruins management has worked on acquiring and drafting younger players to support their core, but they lack the necessary experience.  Older teams usually need more than a three-game warmup to get back on track.  The Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals came in above the league’s average age, as well, and also suffered from a slow start.  The Philadelphia Flyers had an average age of 26.5, and they swept the top three Eastern Conference teams with ease.

Scientifically speaking, younger players have a quicker bounce back and recovery time than older players.  Zdeno Chara switched his diet entirely to plant-based foods a couple years back to keep up with the younger generation.  But it’s nearly impossible to restart his body in such a short period and get back to peak season performance.

The two and a half week training camp was designed to allow players to get back into game shape; however, nothing can genuinely get a player ready for the playoffs other than actual playoff gameplay.  The Bruins had three games to get their playoff legs under them, and if those games are any indication of their outlook, the Bruins are heading back to Boston early.

The other piece of the Bruins poor performance puzzle relates to their attitudes, or at least a few players.  Tuukka Rask has always had a very relaxed approach in post-game interviews, but his recent description of the round-robin has some fans ruffled.

It was understood that the top four teams were mostly playing round-robin games to stall while the other 12 teams compete for playoff spots.  But to give the allusion that these games “didn’t matter” is a bit concerning. It’s hard to believe players can have that mentality for games that don’t matter, and all of a sudden, switch it off for games that do.

Players also never want to take their opponents for granted.  Regardless of the three games not mattering, teams need to show up and keep a level mindset against powerhouses like Tampa and Washington.  The Bruins could very well see these opponents in the next round, and it would have been a smaller mental hurdle if the Bruins hadn’t coughed away their round-robin gameplay.

Seeding has never been as crucial in the NHL than other sports.  The Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley cup in 2012, holding the eighth seed in the playoffs.  The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with the third overall seed.

The Bruins fourth seed may not matter, but they’re clashing with a red-hot Carolina hurricane squad who swept the New York Rangers from playoff contention.  The Bruins know what the Canes are capable of because they defeated the Canes on their way to the Stanley Cup last season.  The Bruins and Canes begin their series at 11am today, and Bruins fans hope the round-robin performance has been put to rest.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 189 that we recorded below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

User 568316199 · 189: The Bruins Winless In The Round-Robin Games And Get Set To Play Carolina In Round One

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Boston’s Newest Winger’s Future

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(Photo: Maddie Meyer, Getty Images)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The Boston Bruins’ phones are generally ringing off the hook at each trade deadline.  This year, they made two moves, with the same team, in two separate trades.  The Bruins acquired Anaheim Ducks’ Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase for David Backes, Axel Andersson, a 2020 first-round pick, and Danton Heinen.  General Manager, Don Sweeney, received tons of praise for these separate deals because it relieved some cap stresses and brought NHL-ready talent to a team that is in a “win-now” mode.

Ondrej Kase is a 24-year old right-winger who hasn’t tapped his full potential.  His last meaningful game with the Bruins was on March 10, and he’s been a ghost since the NHL announced its Return To Play plan.  The NHL’s Return To Play plan consists of four phases, with the second phase being one of the more important ones. Step 2 of Return To Play allowed players to practice in small-group sessions, without contact.  NHL clubs were not permitted to require players to practice, making them voluntary.  In the world of COVID, Kase opted not to skate.

The NHL’s training camp, beginning on July 10, was its third phase of the plan.  These camps were to be held in the club’s respective cities and last about two and a half weeks.  The Bruins had a near-perfect attendance during training camp.  David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase were the regular absentees.

The Bruins went about their regular business during these two and a half weeks and did not give the media any info to work off of related to the two absentees.  Recently, however, news broke as to why both players were held out.  Kase and Pastrnak attended a practice unrelated to the NHL’s Return To Play plan a few days before Phase 3, which required them to quarantine for 14 days.  Pastrnak joined the team on the charter to Toronto; however, Kase did not.  He had to fly coach, which means he needs to quarantine for an additional four days before rejoining the Bruins.

The problem here is, he is new to the Bruins.  Pastrnak has been with the Bruins for five years now and can integrate with his linemates with ease.  Kase has played a whopping six games with the club and was coming off of a concussion that he suffered earlier this year.  The Phase 2 training camp was the best thing that could have happened to Kase to allow time to get his skating legs back and chemistry flowing with his new teammates.  The unregulated practice was harmless, but it costs him time with his team and, now, potentially his spot on the second line.

Jack Studnicka is a promising young right-winger, who was drafted 53rd overall in the 2017 NHL draft.  The pick was acquired from Edmonton in return for Peter Chiarelli, their former General Manager. Studnicka played two games with the Bruins this year, tallying an assist against Montreal on November 26, 2019.

He has a nose for the net, averaging 1.4 points per game in the Ontario Hockey League in the 2018-19 season.  Jack has been hyped as maybe the best prospect the Bruins have in the system, and he’s showing Head Coach, Bruce Cassidy, he can earn a spot in the starting lineup in Thursday’s exhibition game vs. Columbus.

One scenario that would be quite troubling for Kase is if Studnicka is given the right-wing spot for the beginning of the playoffs and plays well enough to stay in the lineup.  Would Bruins fans be okay with spending a first-round draft selection on a player who watches the more playoffs than not from the ninth floor?

The above scenario would be a tough pill to swallow for Sweeney, but it’s unlikely it to happen.  Kase will likely play the majority of the playoffs, but his current absence is troubling.  His playoff performance could determine his future with the Bruins.  If Kase plays from the beginning and plays stellar, he’ll probably be on the second line come next season.  But if he doesn’t play well or at all, Sweeney could move him in the upcoming off-season.

The Bruins announced a contract extension for one impending restricted free agents last night.

The NHL announced next season will feature a flat salary cap, meaning the cap will neither increase nor decrease.  The Bruins currently have $18M in cap space after the Bjork extension.  They still need to sign Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Zdeno Chara, and Matt Grzelcyk.  There are some murmurs DeBrusk’s agent pegs him at $6M per year, and Krug has stated he is looking for a 6-year, $49M deal this off-season.  If both players receive what they’re asking, the Bruins will have $4M left in cap space.  Don Sweeney has not given a current Bruin their first figure at the negotiating table, and he’ll continue that trend.  But what if Kase doesn’t have a fruitful playoff and the DeBrusk does?

The Bruins could be staring down another cap clearing trade this off-season.  If the Bruins decide to trade Kase and his $2.6M cap hit, they would increase their current cap space number to $20.6M.  Trading Kase wouldn’t mean that he is damaged goods, it’s just the timing of everything.  He hasn’t practiced with the team, he hasn’t played a meaningful game in 4 months, and he had been coming off an injury in March.  Some players need ample opportunity to get up to speed, especially on a new team.  The playoffs are not the time to get back up to speed, hence why the NHL allowed a two and a half week training camp.

The Bruins would have to look for a trade partner who is in need of a top-nine forward.  They could package Kase and another draft selection or higher-end prospect to get back into this year’s first-round.  The Bruins have been stockpiling their prospect pool for a few years under Sweeney, and it would be challenging to watch newly-acquired Kase and another prospect leave for a draft selection we already possessed.  But, the Bruins face more significant issues with their impending free agents that they’ll have to address, and freeing up cap space is the number one priority.

Another scenario is Kase plays unbelievable and DeBrusk is unwilling to sign a bridge deal that would pay him significantly less than his $6M per year ask.  Maybe the Bruins look to trade DeBrusk’s rights to a team.  This would allow the Bruins to get compensated for their player, sign Krug and Grzelcyk, and the receiving team would be able to sign DeBrusk before July 1.

Trading Kase seems to only happen if he doesn’t participate in the playoffs or play up to his potential.  It would be more beneficial to the Bruins and management if their newly-acquired right-winger can step into a top-six role and have an immediate impact.  Most Bruins fans want the latter scenario and hope both Kase and Studnicka can take a leap forward this playoff and beyond.  But, if Kase is unable to keep pace, there could be some new unforeseen changes on the Bruins horizon.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 187 that we recorded below on 7-26-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

 

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Where Does Bruins Forward, Jake DeBrusk, Fit In The Bruins Future Plans?

Rasmus Ristolainen, Jake DeBrusk

(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer, AP)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Since the NHL released its Return to Play schedule, the NHL community has been buzzing with news and rumors.  The latest news comes from NBC Boston Sportswriter, Joe Haggerty.

On NBC Sports Boston Zoom Call, Bob Stauffer announced his thoughts on Jake DeBrusk’s worth in the upcoming contract negotiations.  Bob Stauffer is an Edmonton Oilers radio analyst who has spent over 10 years calling hockey games in Alberta, so he knows his hockey.  Stauffer thinks Debrusk is “a $6 million a year player,” which, if that’s true, the Bruins have an extremely tough roster and cap decision to make.

DeBrusk’s contract ends at the same time as Torey Krug’s deal, which is this coming off-season.  We wrote about Krug’s next probable contract, which is the area of $7-8M per year.  It had been reported back in March that Krug was seeking a 6-year, $49M contract, which is $8.2M per year.  To Bruins fans liking, Krug did mention he was open to a hometown discount, which could benefit the Bruins cap situation immensely.

DeBrusk’s agent, however, did not seem to be on the same page as Torey.  Bob Stauffer and Jake DeBrusk’s agent, Rick Valette, spoke on Stauffer’s radio show on Monday.  Stauffer mentioned the Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak deals with Valette to get the agent to convey his Jake’s willingness to take a hometown discount.  Valette wouldn’t bite on the hometown discount comment and understandably so.  Valette needs to have his clients’ best interests in mind and cannot be coming to the negotiating table showing his hand that they’ll take a hometown discount.  There’s a difference between being open to one and openly expressing taking one.

Rick Valette didn’t shut the door on it but definitely didn’t hint towards one.  He explains DeBrusk’s accomplishments through his “big-game playoff performances” and “being a top-six forward almost from the moment he stepped in the National Hockey League.”

DeBrusk was one of the three 2015 first-round draft picks when Don Sweeney made two swift trades leading up to the draft.  DeBrusk was selected with the Bruins’ own draft pick at 14th overall out of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in Canada.  He potted 185 points in 205 games in the WHL and stepped into Providence for another exciting year.  He scored 49 points with the Providence Bruins, showing Bruins management he was ready for the NHL spotlight.

DeBrusk had a fruitful rookie season, scoring 16 goals and adding 27 assists.  He followed up his rookie regular-season with 6 goals and 2 assists in the ensuing playoffs.  Bruins fans salivated at his tenacity, willingness to battle in the corners, and his clutch goals.


DeBrusk entered last season with that same drive, scoring a career-high 27 goals.  Any NHL forward who scores 30 goals is widely celebrated, and DeBrusk was three away from that feat.  He ended the year with 42 points, looking to continue his fiery playoff game-play.  However, DeBrusk was close to a no-show in the 2018-19 playoffs.  He scored four goals and seven assists in 24 playoff games.  He only surpassed his previous playoff total by two points but played in 12 more games.

DeBrusk has definitely scored timely and much-needed goals in the playoffs, making his “big-game playoff performance” claim fine.  But what about the other games?  DeBrusk ended the shortened season with 35 points, which he was on pace to net 44 points in all 82 games.  44 points would become his career-high, but scoring 27 goals the year before, Bruins fans thought Jake would smash his career total and easily eclipse 50 points.

He has spent most of his career with David Krejci, who has been longing for a left-winger who isn’t afraid to grind in the corners.  Before the season ended, DeBrusk was spending some of his ice time with Charlie Coyle on the third line.  Coyle seemed to give DeBrusk the spark we all know he has, and it’s likely Head Coach, Bruce Cassidy, places DeBrusk on Coyle’s left to begin the playoffs.

Debrusk is playing the last of his 3-year, $4.05M deal and will become a restricted free agent.  He is not eligible to enter the open market and is not arbitration-eligible, leaving him entirely under the Bruins control, to an extent.  Restricted free-agents are still under their teams’ command and can only be plucked by another team through an offer sheet.  General Managers have strayed from offer sheets because they’re afraid another team will steal one of their players in the same process.

Debrusk also doesn’t have arbitration rights, which is a contract negotiation that uses a third party arbitrator to determine a fair contract term and length for a restricted free-agent.  Jake’s options to negotiate are limited, hence his agent’s demeanor leading up to the off-season.  He can holdout for a better deal, which is the route William Nylander took in 2019.  However, if DeBrusk holds out into the next calendar year, he is ineligible to play in the current season.

His presence will be missed if he chooses the holdout route, so let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.  If DeBrusk comes to the negotiating table with a 6-year, $42M offer, either Krug or DeBrusk will likely be wearing a new jersey next season.  The Bruins are in an excellent position to give DeBrusk a bridge deal, which is a “show your worth” type of agreement that Torey Krug took back in 2015.  Krug signed for a 1-year, $3.4M deal, which clearly has worked out well for him.

Debrusk’s bridge deal would be in the neighborhood of 2-years, $8M, which would pay him $4M a year.  It is certainly is a much lower price point than his agent is touting him to be, but it could help both sides at the end of the day.  The Bruins have $19.6M in cap space next off-season and still need to sign Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Anders Bjork, and Matt Grzelcyk.

The $4M per year deal is by no means a low ball offer either.  DeBrusk has plenty of comparables to reference for that contract offer.

DeBrusk’s point per game is certainly on the high-end of the comparables, and a few players have been in the league longer than DeBrusk, so he carries a higher weighted average.  He’s also been compared to Travis Konecny in Philadelphia.  Konecny signed a 6-year, $33M deal immediately following his rookie contract.  At the time of the signing, Konecny had scored 24 goals in two consecutive years and followed it up with 61 points in 66 games in the shortened season.  The Flyers skipped the bridge deal and went full throttle, risking what Konecny’s ceiling was.  Thankfully for the Flyers, he has rewarded them.

If you were to ask the Bruins what they’d ideally like to do, they would probably choose to take the Konecny route with DeBrusk.  However, their cap situation does not allow that.  If the Bruins signed Krug and DeBrusk to their reported offers, the Bruins would be left with $5.6M to sign Grzelcyk, Chara, and Bjork. This would be nearly impossible, and someone wouldn’t be wearing the spoked-B next season.

Now, if the Bruins can negotiate successfully and sign both Debrusk and Krug at $4M and $7M, respectively, they’ll have $8.6M leftover.  Sweeney has shown his ability to make a roster complete with limited funds.  Last season, he had Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo without deals and $7.3M leftover in space.

DeBrusk taking a bridge deal, would help both him and the Bruins in the long-run.  DeBrusk would be setting himself up for an even bigger pay-day once the bridge deal is over if he performs well enough.  Additionally, Bruins will (hopefully) have more cap space in two years to fund DeBrusk’s ceiling.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Torey Krug’s Bruin Future Based On Current Cap Projections

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(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara / USA Today Sports)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The NHL is starting up its normal operations as we get closer to a renewed playoff start.  The NHL held their draft lottery this past week, which of course, had some fireworks, and it also announced the potential cap situation for the upcoming year.

A “flat salary cap” means the cap in which teams must keep their total salaried players under will not change year over year.  This creates a lot of headaches for organizations because historically, the cap tends to increase year over year.  General managers will forecast the players they can keep or let go based on the future cap numbers.  It is a “hard” cap, which means teams cannot exceed the amount and pay a luxury tax like Major League Baseball.

The salary cap is calculated based on a percentage of the league’s revenue from the previous season.  As the NHL’s revenue increases year over year, the salary cap will usually follow suit.  This suspended season has essentially been deemed incomplete; therefore, the NHL has decided to keep the salary cap a flat number year over year.

Boston Bruins General Manager, Don Sweeney, cannot be thrilled by the news considering he has a few key cogs who are playing in their final contract years.  The following NHL roster players require a new contract this offseason: Torey Krug (UFA), Kevin Miller (UFA), Zdeno Chara (UFA), Joakim Nordstrom (UFA), Anders Bjork (RFA), Jake DeBrusk (RFA), Karson Kuhlman (RFA), and Matt Grzelcyk (RFA).

Unrestricted free agents are allowed to meet and sign with any team in the NHL of their choosing, meaning there is a real risk they could be wearing a different uniform next season.  The Bruins will likely let Nordstrom and Miller walk in the offseason, ending their times as Boston Bruins.

Nordstrom has been a helpful piece of the Bruins’ fourth-line and penalty kill, however, the Bruins have more than enough players to fill his void.  Kevan Miller has unfortunately been plagued by the injury bug and has been on the Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) since November 2019.  Retirement is a real possibility for Miller, and the Bruins probably will not offer him a new deal if he decides to keep playing.

Zdeno Chara is a 43-year old defenseman in a league that has become faster as the years’ progress.  He re-signed for another year in March 2019 for a $2M cap hit.  Depending on how the playoffs go this year, Chara could call it quits.  Though, it is also possible that he continues to defy the odds and play into his 44th year.  If he wants to extend his career, the Bruins would need to make some more hard decisions.

As it stands today, the Bruins have $19.5M in cap space with a flat cap of $81.5M, as seen above.  Torey Krug has reached the 50-point plateau since 2016 and is one point shy in this shortened season.  He has been the Bruins’ best first powerplay unit quarterback with his creative passing and incredible vision.  He can open up space, even with his 5’9 frame, and creates any type of scoring opportunity.

He anchors the second-line defense pairing with Brandon Carlo.  The two defensemen complement each other’s strengths quite well.  Carlo is an underrated defenseman who typically shuts down the opposition’s best and gives Krug the space to use his quick speed and vision.  Last year in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, Krug and Carlo (with the help of their offensive line) shut down the Canes’ best player in Sebastian Aho.

This next stat may surprise hockey fans: Torey Krug ranks sixth among NHL defenseman in points in the last five seasons.  He’s amassed 256 points in five seasons, sitting only 28 total points behind Nashville’s Roman Josi.  Some wouldn’t classify Krug has elite company and therefore wouldn’t predict he’ll command top dollar.  His statistics and gameplay would say otherwise.  If Sweeney were to allow Krug to seek other teams’ offers, he would command north of $7.5M per year.

Back in March, another Black N Gold Hockey writer gave his take on a Krug report that Krug is seeking about $8M per year.  This price point for Krug is about the general consensus starting point amongst NHL execs and players throughout the league.  Roman Josi, the player who sits above Krug in points over the past five years, signed an 8-year, $72.4M deal, which equates to a $9M per year cap hit.  Josi plays a much different game than Krug.  Josi has anchored the Predators’ top defensive pairing for the past five years and has averaged 25 minutes since his rookie year in 2011.  He currently leads his entire team in points with 65.  John Carlson (Washington Capitals defenseman) sits fourth in points in the last five years and carries an $8M cap hit per year.  Carlson currently has 75 points and is the front-runner for the Norris Trophy.

If the Bruins were to sign Krug to a fair market value deal, Krug would likely play for the Bruins for the next six to seven years for $8M per year.  Don Sweeney has been scarred signing players for longer than six years, and $8M might be too costly for Sweeney, given his other free agents.

If the Bruins adhere to his fair market value, the $8M per year cap hit will give the Bruins only $11.4M next year to sign the plethora of players whose contracts are ending.  Sweeney would once again have to work his magic and play with the roster to free up more cap space.  John Moore is the most likely starting point.  He has a $2.75M cap hit through the 2022-2023 season.  The Bruins would seek a mid-round draft choice for Moore to increase their cap space total to $14.2M.

Most fans in any sport hope their beloved hometown heroes take “team-friendly” deals.  This means the player will sign for less than what they’d command on the open market.  Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak all took team-friendly deals when their respective contracts were signed.  The three forwards are on the Bruins books for a combined $19.6M, which is basically the Bruins’ cap space next year.  Krug is on record saying he would be open to a team-friendly deal.

A team-friendly deal for the Bruins would be somewhere in the ballpark of 6 years and $7M per year.  Anything lower would be a bit disrespectful considering Krug already carries a $5.25M cap hit.  Trading Moore is still on the table and a likely scenario, regardless of the deal Krug signs.  With the emergence of Jeremy Lauzon and a few of their recent prospect signings, the Bruins could find a different home for restricted free agent, Matt Grzelcyk.

Restricted free agents are still under their teams’ control, but can be offer-sheeted elsewhere.  An offer sheet is a contract that a new team can offer a restricted free agent. If an offer sheet is signed by the player, the originating team has the option of matching that offer or receiving compensation from the team in the form of draft picks.  However, NHL executives have been reluctant to offer sheet other teams’ prospects in fear theirs will be targeted.  The Bruins could be open to finding a trade partner for Grzelcyk and allow another team first dibs at signing the RFA.  The move would enable Sweeney to turn his attention to fewer RFA’s and still keeping the roster competitive.

Don Sweeney has been awarded General Manager of the Year in the past for his incredible perseverance in leading the Bruins to consecutive successful years.  Sweeney will undoubtedly need to continue that work ethic and cap management to sign Krug and the rest of his impending free agents and keep the roster looking similar.  The Bruins do not need a massive shakeup in roster makeup; however, they can’t allow certain players to wear another team’s jersey.  Krug is the number one priority this offseason, and Bruins fans hope he’ll be a Bruin for life.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

Where Does Victor Berglund Fit In The Bruins System?

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(Source: Adam Goransson/Freelance Photographers)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

While we await the NHL’s decision to bring its players back, some Bruins-related news broke two nights ago on Twitter.

Don Sweeney has not let up on the gas pedal when it comes to signing and developing his system during the pandemic, and this signing is no different.  Victor Berglund is not a name Bruins fans would know unless they’ve purposefully sought him out or attended rookie and development camps.

Victor is a 20-year old Swedish defenseman who the Bruins drafted in the 7th round in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.  Historically, seventh-round draft picks have shown they’re more than just a flier for teams.  The former Red Wing captain and Stanley Cup winner, Henrik Zetterberg, was drafted 210th overall, as well as Joe Pavelski, Patric Hornqvist, and Henrik Lundqvist.  The Bruins hope that the same draft will be a crucial cog of their future after selecting Urho Vaakanainen, Jeremy Swayman, and Jack Studnicka all in 2017.  Can Victor elevate that same draft class, and will we see him in the spoked-B any time soon?

The right-shot defenseman stands at 6’0, 180 pounds, and is set to turn 21 in August.  The Bruins drafted Victor out of the SWE-1 League, which is Sweden’s second-tier hockey league.  He has played on the same team in the SWE-1 league since 2016-17 through the pandemic suspended season.  Each year, he has improved and surpassed his previous years’ stats.

Including this year before the pandemic, Victor had played a career total of 151 games, while tallying 43 points.  The 43-point total is low, but he’s a defenseman who is still figuring out his game.  Almost half of his points have come this year while sporting a plus-18 rating, and he sits third in the SWE-1 league among defenseman in goals.  Victor played in four games for the Providence Bruins last year, where he scored his first AHL goal and assist.

There has always been an old saying around the league, “teams do not know what they have in a young defenseman until he plays at least 250 games.”  The Bruins know this saying well, as they finally understand what they have in their young blue-liner, Brandon Carlo.  Brandon showed flashes of what he can be and what he had to work on as he worked towards the 250-game plateau, and Victor is no different.

Berglund has been deemed a true offensive-defenseman with an impressive shot and awareness (as seen above in his first AHL goal).  He has the Hockey IQ it takes to be an NHL defenseman, coupled with his skating ability.  A defenseman’s duty isn’t necessarily to score, even if they’re deemed offensive-minded.  Even during Erik Karlsson’s first Norris Trophy season, he clocked 59 assists and 19 goals.

Victor can follow suit and succeed by breaking the puck out of the defensive zone effectively and create plays for his teammates.  Even if Berglund isn’t listed on the score sheet as the primary or secondary assists, its the ability to create plays and keep the flow for his teammates to score.  Vision is a crucial component of a defenseman’s game, and Victor is already equipped with great awareness.

When Berglund was drafted in 2017, the Bruins scouts touted Berglund for his quick and powerful acceleration and strong stride.  He projects to be a third-pairing defenseman on the Bruins roster, which is just as important as the first-pairing.

The two defensemen Victor looks up to are two of the league’s top defensemen.  Both are considered one of the best offensive-minded players and have the hardware to back it up.  Erik Karlsson has won the Norris Trophy (Best Defensemen) twice.  Karlsson has 603 points in 736 career games, while John Klingberg has 291 points in 425 games.  Victor has chosen two incredibly talented players to mirror, and it could help him improve his game immensely.  He may not come close to the careers these players have achieved, but he can learn a lot from these well-respected blue-liners.

The Bruins are currently going through a transitional period with their defensive core.  Before injuries, Kevan Miller and John Moore were the Bruins fifth and sixth defensemen.  Miller, unfortunately, may have played his last game as a Bruin and possibly as an NHL player.  There have been rumblings the Bruins are looking for a trade partner for John Moore.  Moore could even be available for the next expansion draft.

If history repeats itself, Berglund could find himself fighting for an open roster spot when he’s deemed NHL-ready.  This may take a few years, and the Bruins have shown they’re willing to give their players a shot to show his worth.  He has a list of items to work on in the meantime, one of which is his size.  In the real world, 6 feet is an above-average height for a male.  In the hockey world, 6 feet is a shade under the NHL average of 6’1.  His 180-pound frame is also quite small.  To put it into comparison, Charlie McAvoy is 6’0, 208 pounds, which is 28 pounds heavier the Victor.  It’s likely that the Bruins have given Victor a specific workout regimen to add size, which he will need to continue to do over the next few years.

For the upcoming 2020-21 season, Victor will be playing in Sweden’s top hockey league, Lulea, which is known as the second or third best hockey league in the world.  He will face stiff competition and will need to add size to his game.  His season in Lulea could be a make or break development year to show the Bruins if he is ready for the next step in his professional career.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 183 that we recorded below on 6-14-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!

The Bruin Who Needs To Have A Stellar Playoff Performance

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(Photo Credit: Michael Dwyer/AP)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

Last week, the NHL announced its Return to Play action.  The plan allows teams to return to NHL activity based on individual states’ reopening laws and a proposal to begin the NHL playoffs in July.  The Bruins finished the year with the highest point total in the NHL, which awards them the President’s Trophy.  They have also secured a place in the top-4 seed round-robin playoff to determine the seed they’ll occupy for the upcoming playoff.  They can place no lower than fourth and will have a bye for the preliminary round.

Full disclosure, it is quite unfortunate they have to play in a round-robin to determine seed when they finished the year as the best regular-season squad.  Alas, the Bruins, and every other team will play by the rules, and we’ll hopefully see the Bruins occupy the top seed.

The year they won in 2011, the Bruins were the 3rd seed in the Eastern Conference.  During that year, every player on the team had a significant moment and played their best hockey.  The top two lines will always be relied on and are obvious choices to bring their A-game every night.  We’ve seen teams’ third-lines become even more impactful throughout the years and are heavily relied on.  Charlie Coyle has filled that void nicely since his trade from Minnesota.  There are a few other players who need to be an X-factor to bring the Bruins their seventh Stanley Cup.  Enter: Sean Kuraly.

Sean Kuraly is in the midst of his fourth professional hockey career.  He has always dawned the black and gold, even though he was not initially drafted by the Bruins.  Kuraly was part of the Martin Jones deal with San Jose.  The Bruins originally received Martin Jones from the Los Angeles Kings, along with Colin Miller and a 2015 first-round draft selection (Jakub Zboril) for Milan Lucic.  Tuukka Rask was still at the helm when the Bruins acquired Jones, so they flipped Jones to the Sharks for a 2016 first-round pick (Trent Frederic) and Sean Kuraly.

Since then, Kuraly has always called Boston home.  He was drafted 133rd overall in the 2011 NHL draft.  He played all four years at Miami University (Ohio), where he amassed 93 points in 154 games.  In his final year at Miami, Kuraly added another accolade to his resume that fits the Bruin mold.

He played three quarters’ of a year with the Providence Bruins in 2016, where he scored 26 points in 54 games and a plus 10 rating.  He joined the Bruins for eight games when the Providence Bruins’ playoffs ended, and never looked back.  He notched his first NHL career assist in and his first NHL career playoff goal in the subsequent playoffs.  Along with his first NHL career goal, he also completed his first multi-goal game.

Kuraly has played almost every position the Bruins have needed him.  He is their Swiss Army knife and has been extremely flexible and adaptable.  Recently, he’s spent most of his time between the third and fourth lines.  The Bruins have been trying out many of their draft prospects throughout the past couple years, and Kuraly has been a byproduct of that.  He’s been able to move throughout the lineup as the Bruins give players like Anders Bjork and Karson Kuhlman opportunities.  Kuraly has spent most of his 2019-2020 5v5 time with Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom, which means he’s been used primarily on the fourth line.  

Before the season’s suspension in March, Kuraly had been playing alongside Charlie Coyle and Jake DeBrusk on the Bruins’ third-line.  The move seemed to help Kuraly immensely because he scored his fourth goal of the year on the first night he was united with Coyle and DeBrusk in Tampa.  Kuraly’s game caught Head Coach Bruce Cassidy’s eye because in the final game before the suspension, Kuraly logged 17:47 minutes on ice.

His four goals in 69 games are something he will undoubtedly have to fix come playoff time.  Thankfully, if history repeats itself, Kuraly has been known to show up on the NHL’s biggest stage, regardless of his season’s contribution.  He scored 10 points in 20 playoff games last year.  One of his most memorable playoff goals came in another game seven with the Toronto Maple Leafs leaving Bruins fans with even more examples as to why Kuraly is a vital playoff player.

Fourth-line players generally tend to hover around 10-12 minutes on ice per game.  Kuraly should play at least 12 minutes a game during the playoffs, regardless of his line placement.  He is not featured on either powerplay (unless there’s an injury), but he is featured on the penalty kill.  His 112 minutes of penalty kill time this year leads the Bruins’ forward group, according to Natural Stat Trick, making him a crucial piece of their special teams.  The Bruins rank third in the league in penalty kill percentage at 84.3.  The San Jose Sharks hold the top spot at 85.7%.

Kuraly’s adaptability gives him a unique edge on most players.  He can play with any Bruins forward on any given night, and he has.  Kuraly is a left-shot center, which is his natural position.  However, when he played on Coyle’s line, he was placed at left-wing.  He has the incredible ability to play his game and his style on any side of the lineup.  This gives Cassidy the flexibility to plug-and-play Kuraly depending on the lineup he wants to use on any given night.  If Kuraly can replicate or even improve on his 2019 playoffs, the Bruins may end up on the right side of a game seven Cup final.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 181 that we recorded below on 5-31-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE for exciting Black N’ Gold online content!