Bruins, Jacobs Announce Plan To Compensate TD Garden Employees During COVID-19 Pandemic

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Photo: (Jim Michaud / MediaNews Group / Boston Herald)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

On Saturday morning, the Boston Bruins and the Jacobs Family announced a plan to compensate part-time gameday TD Garden employees due to the NHL’s current hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan is based around a fund of $1.5 million, should the remaining six games on Boston’s schedule go unplayed.

The NHL announced 10 days ago on Thursday, March 12, that the 2019-20 season was  suspended until further notice to try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus), following the lead of the NBA. The suspension of the season left part-time arena employees, especially those who may depend on their hourly wages, in the dark.

Over the last week or so, the remaining 30 NHL franchises and other professional sports organizations announced plans to compensate employees who would be affected, or at least made statements regarding the situation, leaving the Bruins as the only organization to contribute their voice to the matter. The lack of action on the Jacobs’ part over the last 10 days led to backlash and pressure from Bruins fans and members of the media.

Jeremy Jacobs, 88, and his family, most notably his son Charlie, have owned the Bruins since purchasing the team for a mere $10 million (by today’s standards) in 1975. Since, under his control, the Bruins brought the Stanley Cup back to Boston in 2011, and made six other trips to the Stanley Cup Final (1977, 1978, 1988, 1990, 2013, and 2019). Jacobs, who is also the chairman of Delaware North, was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2017 under the builder category. In September, prior to Boston’s season, Jacobs announced his plans to confer ownership of the franchise to his children.

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Bruins G Prospect Jeremy Swayman Named Hockey East Player Of The Year

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Photo: University of Maine Athletics

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins goaltending prospect Jeremy Swayman was named Hockey East Player of the Year per a league announcement on Thursday morning. Swayman signed his entry-level contract with Boston on Tuesday, forgoing his senior year at the University of Maine.

The now former Black Bears standout posted one of the best seasons by any goaltender in college hockey, totaling 1,099 saves, the most of in Division I. Swayman’s 782 conference saves, the most by a Hockey East netminder since the 2010-11 season, and .932 conference save percentage led the league.

The Anchorage, AK, native’s .939 overall save percentage was good enough for second in the nation. The junior also carried an overall record of 18-11-5 (12-9-3 Hockey East), posting 25 games with at least 30 saves and five contests with at least 40 stops. With the strong campaign, Swayman is firmly in the conversation to receive the Mike Richter Award, given annually to the goaltender voted to be the most outstanding in Division I.

The Player of the Year honor comes as yet another distinction for Boston’s fourth round pick (111th-overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft as he was named a Hockey East First Team All-Star, and part of the All-USCHO Second Team. The 21-year-old was a also named the recipient of the Walter Brown Award as the top American-born college hockey player in New England, and as a top 10 finalist for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given annually to the nation’s top college hockey player.

Upon signing his pro deal earlier this week, Swayman joins a cast of goaltenders, including Dan Vladar and Kyle Keyser, vying to become the successor to Bruins netminders Tuukka Rask, 33, and Jaroslav Halak, 35.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 169 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.

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Breaking Down The Bruins’ 2020 Trade Deadline

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LEFT: Nick Ritchie (37) (Photo: Harry How / Getty Images North America)
RIGHT: Ondrej Kase (25) (Photo by Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Another trade deadline in the National Hockey League has come and gone. With it, we saw the most trades in the history of the deadline (32) and only the second time that 55 total players have been involved in deals.

Once again, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was active in the trade market, with rumors of Boston being in on Ondrej Kase, Joe Thornton, Kyle Palmieri, Chris Kreider, and more heading into the deadline. Like last year’s trade involving Charlie Coyle and Ryan Donato, Sweeney consummated a trade with a few days to spare before the main event on Monday, acquiring Kase from Anaheim on Friday before dealing for Nick Ritchie on Monday.

Here are the details of the deals that Boston made before the 3:00 pm deadline on Monday afternoon:

Friday Feb. 21, 2020

To Anaheim:

F David Backes (25% retained), D Axel Andersson, 2020 1st-Rounder

To Boston:

F Ondrej Kase

Personally, I really like this deal for the Bruins. Either way, Boston was going to have to give up a higher end draft pick at this year’s deadline, and this year’s first was going to be a late pick in all probability. As far as Axel Andersson, while I think he has NHL potential, I’m not sure that he would have been able to contribute to Boston anytime soon, especially considering how loaded the Bruins are in terms of defense prospects. Anaheim gets two good pieces for their rebuild in the first and Andersson.

As for Backes, it feels like a miracle that Sweeney was able to clear his contract off the books, considering he still has a year left. While it would have been nice to completely move it out, only retaining 25% ($1.5 million) is still a huge win for the Bruins moving forward into this coming offseason with pending unrestricted free agents like Torey Krug and Jaroslav Halak and restricted free agents like Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork. It was certainly disappointing how Backes’ time in Boston went, but the former Blues captain is a great guy, by all accounts, and will likely get a chance to play in Anaheim.

Although he’s suited up in just one game for the Bruins, the acquisition of Kase has the makings to be an incredible bargain bin deal. The numbers have not really popped off the page this season for the 24-year-old (7-16-23 in 49 games), but there’s reason to believe he will improve his output on a team like Boston, especially if he is playing on David Krejci’s wing.

First off, Kase is an analytics darling, and shoots the puck a ton, registering 135 shots on goal this season and averaging 2.76 shots per game. However, his shooting percentage sits at 5.2% – not great. In Anaheim, Kase bounced around the lineup and was asked to play different roles on each line, but with stability, and the type of talent that Boston can put on the ice each night, it is reasonable to expect the shooting percentage and results to improve – he certainly has the talent for it.

Whats more, the 2014 seventh rounder is under contract at just $2.8 million until the end of next season, and even then Kase will only be an RFA. Also, after scoring 20 goals in the 2017-18 season, (maybe) not coincidentally the last time the Ducks iced a playoff team, Kase has struggled with staying on the ice consistently. If he can stay healthy with the Bruins, and his offensive output improves, the Bruins will have made out like gangbusters.

Monday: Feb. 24, 2020

To Anaheim

F Danton Heinen

To Boston:

F Nick Ritchie

Of course, as I write this article, Ritchie follows a minus-two, zero-shot performance on Tuesday with a goal and an assist against the Stars on Thursday, but either way, I’m not sure how to wrap my head around this one. Sure, the writing was on the wall for Heinen’s time in Boston – his confidence was totally out the window, he was not doing enough offensively, and it felt like he was on the outside looking in – so I support getting him a fresh start. However, the return of Ritchie in a one-for-one swap is where things get a little puzzling.

Like Kase, the numbers have not been dazzling for Ritchie this year, although the advanced stats are solid. The 10th-overall pick in the 2014 draft, Ritchie now has 9-12-21 numbers through 43 games, on pace for about 13-17-30 totals. His career-high for goals (14) came in his first full NHL season in 2016-17, while his career-high in points (31) came last season, his third full season – the previous two seasons he tallied 28 then 27 points.

I will commend Sweeney for the foresight in terms of this coming off-season, like the Kase deal. Compared to Heinen ($2.8 million through next season), Ritchie ($1.49 million through next year) is under a friendlier contract, will be an RFA next summer, and addresses a need within the organization as he brings a bigger body, more physicality, and interior scoring, when he’s clicking.

 

Admittedly, I genuinely want Ritchie to succeed in Boston – I think he could easily become a fan favorite and could hit some of that untapped potential – but it feels like this move has extreme boom or bust potential. Ritchie looked great on Thursday after Tuesday’s not-so-great showing, but I think consistency is a valid concern, especially after the national reaction seemed to label Ritchie as a weighty underachiever with a tendency for the dumb penalty. For me, Ritchie feels a lot like Matt Beleskey in terms of being a big, left-shot wing with a heavy style of play and having a very low floor and a high ceiling, but again, I seriously want to see this move pan out for the Bruins.

––––––––

Overall, I think the Bruins made out fine at the deadline, and although I’m a bigger fan of the Kase deal, both trades have boom or bust potential. Sure, it was a little disappointing not to see Kreider or Palmieri end up in the Black and Gold, but we’ve seen bargain bin additions work out in spades for the Bruins in the past (see: Coyle, Marcus Johansson). Boston is certainly better than they were at this time last week, but its worth noting how the rest of the Eastern Conference contenders, like Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh, Washington, and even Carolina, loaded up.

So, did the Bruins do enough compared to the rest of the field? We’ll have to wait and see, but there’s no doubt that this team still has Stanley Cup potential. The stretch run and the playoffs should be electric. Buckle up.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 167 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.

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Bruins Sign D Jeremy Lauzon To Two-Year Extension

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(Photo: Brian Fluharty / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

On Friday afternoon, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced that the team has signed defenseman Jeremy Lauzon to a two-year contract extension an worth an average annual value of $850,000, beginning with the 2020-21 season. Lauzon’s current deal, his entry-level contract, expires this offseason.

In seven games with Boston this season, Lauzon has one goal on 10 shots to go along with a plus-two rating and 16 penalty minutes. The left-shot defender is coming off the heels of a two-game suspension for a hit to the head of Derek Stepan of the Arizona Coyotes.

Before making his season debut for the big club on Dec. 31, Lauzon posted one goal and 12 assists for 13 points in addition to a plus-22 rating in 45 games with the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL affiliate, this season.

In the previous two seasons with Providence, the 22-year-old posted 2-12-14 totals in 81 AHL contests. Last year, Lauzon made his NHL debut on Oct. 25, 2018, against the Philadelphia Flyers before scoring his first career goal against the Vegas Golden Knights on Nov. 11.

The Bruins selected the Val D’or, Quebec native with the 52nd-overall pick in the second round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. During his junior hockey career, Lauzon skated in 200 games over four seasons with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL, notching 35 goals and 95 assists 130 career points in addition to a plus-81 rating and 282 penalty minutes.

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Bruins Recall D Urho Vaakanainen, Place F Joakim Nordstrom on IR

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Photo: Winslow Townson / Associated Press

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

This morning, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced the team recalled defense prospect Urho Vaakanainen on an emergency basis from the Providence Bruins, the team’s American Hockey League affiliate. The move was first reported by Mark Divver, saying the move appeared in the AHL’s transaction log.

 

Sweeney also announced that forward Joakim Nordstrom has been placed on injured reserve. Nordstrom has 4-3-7 totals through 39 contests with Boston this season, including aa minus-seven rating. During his first season with the Bruins last year, the Swede had 7-5-12 numbers in 70 games before adding three goals and five assists in the playoffs.

This season Vaakanainen has four goals and eight assists for 12 points through 42 AHL contests to go along with a plus-14 rating and 16 penalty minutes. In 72 career AHL games, the Joensuu, Finland, native holds 8-18-26 totals in addition to a plus-16 rating.

Vaakanainen has appeared in five NHL games with Boston this season, registering two shots on goal and a plus-two rating. Last season , Vaakanainen appeared in two games with the Bruins last season before going down with a concussion, notching two shots and a rating of minus-one.

General manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins selected Vaakanainen with the 18th-overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NHL entry draft. Vaakanainen played three seasons in the Finnish Elite League from 2015 to 2018, skating in 109 total games and recording 7-16-23 numbers.

During the 2018-19 season, the 21-year-old served as an assistant captain on Team Finland during the World Junior Championships, helping the team to a gold medal with four assists in seven games. Vaakanainen’s father, Harri, coached Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask in Finland.

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Bruins Issue Statement On David Backes

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(Photo: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins forward David Backes will not play for the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL-affiliate, according to the team. Boston placed Backes on waivers for the purpose of assignment to Providence on Jan. 17. The 35-year-old went unclaimed and cleared waivers on Jan. 18.

This morning, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney issued the following statement on Backes’ future:

“After speaking with David, we have agreed that it is in the best interest of David and the Bruins for him not to play in Providence at this time. David is fit and able to play, but in order to preserve all potential options for both David and the Bruins moving forward, we have decided this is the best course of action.”

Backes skated in 16 games for the Bruins this season, notching a goal and an assist to go along with a minus-two rating and 16 penalty minutes. The former St. Louis Blues captain is currently in the second-to-last year of a six-year contract with a $6-million cap hit. In 944 career NHL contests, Backes has 245-309-554 totals, a plus-67 rating, and 1,138 penalty minutes.

Sweeney offered no comment in reference to Backes’ long-term future or the organization’s plans for the forward, which leaves plenty of room for speculation. In any case, it seems to me as a perfect storm of an unfortunate set of circumstances.

For starters, through no fault of his own, Backes is vastly overpaid for what he brings to the table, which is something we already know and has been hashed out at length for several seasons, so there really is no need to dive back into that conversation. Making matters worse, Backes’ concussion history and overall decline due to age has led to the game passing him by, in a sense.

In my opinion, Backes could be evaluating the next steps for himself and his family, whether that is retirement or returning to hockey down the road. For the Bruins, Sweeney and co. could be looking at all possible options, whether it’s a buyout this offseason, figuring out how to fit Backes and his contract into a trade, or simply giving Backes space and time to sort out his future. Again, all of this is pure speculation on my part.

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Bruins Recall Maxime Lagace On Emergency Basis, Assign Dan Vladar

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(Photo: Providence Bruins)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced on Friday that the team has assigned goaltender Dan Vladar to the Providence Bruins, and recalled goaltender Maxime Lagace on an emergency basis. Vladar was recalled earlier this week after goaltender Tuukka Rask went down with what head coach Bruce Cassidy labeled a concussion.

Vladar served as backup to Jaroslav Halak in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. The 22-year-old holds a 6-5-0 record with a 1.84 goals-against average, a .935 save percentage two shutouts in 12 AHL contests this season.

Lagace has been strong with the P-Bruins this season since signing a one-year, $700,000 contract over the offseason. Through 23 AHL appearances this season, the 27-year-old boasts a 14-6-2 record to go along with five shutouts, a 2.49 GAA and a .915 save percentage. This is the first time the club has recalled him this season.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pound netminder was with the Vegas Golden Knights organization over the course of the last two seasons, spending time with both the big club in Vegas and the team’s AHL-affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. In 17 career NHL appearances, Lagace holds a .868 save percentage and a 3.92 GAA. In 184 games in the AHL over his career, Lagace has a .904 save percentage and a 2.84 GAA.

The Bruins will return to action on Sunday as they will travel to Pittsburgh for a matinee rematch with the Penguins. Puck-drop is slated for 12:30 pm.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 162 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.

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Bruins’ Rask Suffers Concussion In Loss At Columbus

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(Photo: Jamie Sabeu / National Hockey League / Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Just 1:12 into the first period of Boston’s 3-0 loss at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask took a punch to the side of the head from Columbus forward Emil Bemstrom, who did not receive a penalty on the play. Rask had to leave the game and did not return; following the contest, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy announced that Rask sustained a concussion from the play.

Rask has a history of dealing with concussions and migraine issues. This instance comes almost a year (360 days, to be exact) after the 32-year-old suffered a concussion after taking the worst of a hard collision with New York Rangers forward Filip Chytil in a game at TD Garden last season.

This season, in 28 appearances, Rask has a 17-4-6 record to go along with a 2.27 goals-against average (fifth-best in the league) and a .925 save percentage (fifth-highest) en route to being selected to the Atlantic Division All-Star team. On Monday, the Finn announced that he would forgo All-Star Weekend in order to get some extra rest and time with his family.

While no announcement has been made as to who the Bruins might call up, Providence Bruins netminder Maxime Lagace, who has a record of 14-6-2, five shutouts, a 2.49 GAA, and .915 save percentage in the AHL this season, seems like the most likely option. Providence’s, Dan Vladar, who is 6-5-0 with two shutouts, a 1.94 GAA, and a .935 save percentage, is also an option. Goaltending prospect Kyle Keyser, who is with the Atlanta Gladiators Boston’s ECHL-affiliate, is out with a concussion.

The Bruins will return to action on Thursday, Jan. 16, as they will host the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden. Puck-drop is slated for 7:00 pm.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 162 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.

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Bruins’ Rask To Forgo 2020 NHL All-Star Weekend

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(Photo: Winslow Townson / AP Photo)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask will not participate in the 2020 NHL All-Star Game, as announced by NHL Public Relations. Tampa Bay Lightning netminder Andrei Vasilevsky will replace Rask at the festivities on All-Star Weekend.

Rask spoke to the media on Monday evening before Boston’s visit with the Philadelphia Flyers, saying it was a tough decision that he put a lot of thought into. While the goaltender noted that it was an honor to be selected to the Atlantic Division All-Star team, he emphasized that he made his decision in order to get extra rest and time with his family.

“I had to be kind of selfish, thinking how much hockey we played last year, the short summer, wanting to play into June again, and [All-Star Weekend] falling right in the middle of our bye week.” Rask said to the media. “It was a selfish decision to go spend time with my family and get the mind and body rejuvenated.”

As is the case with players who decide to forgo All-Star Weekend after being voted in, Rask will be mandated by the NHL to serve a one-game suspension in the Bruins’ last game before the break or the first game following the break. Rask acknowledged the suspension during his media availability, saying it will probably be after the break.

The 32-year-old Finn also said that the organization supported his decision. In 27 appearances this season, Rask holds a 17-4-6 record to go along with a 2.27 goals-against average (fifth-best in the league) and a .925 save percentage (fifth-highest).

The Bruins will take on the Flyers on the road on Monday night at 7:00 pm before visiting the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night. Jaroslav Halak will get the nod in goal on Monday, while Rask is expected to start in Tuesday’s contest, per head coach Bruce Cassidy.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 162 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.

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Bruins Place Torey Krug On IR, Recall Steven Kampfer

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(LEFT: Torey Krug. Photo: Matthew Stockman / Getty Images. RIGHT: Steven Kampfer. Photo: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced this morning that the team has placed defenseman Torey Krug on injured reserve and recalled d-man Steven Kampfer from the Providence Bruins, Boston’s AHL affiliate, on an emergency basis. Krug left the Bruins’ game against the Washington Capitals on Dec. 23 with an upper-body injury.

Krug’s injury is likely the result of a hit he took from Capitals forward Tom Wilson. Krug was stickhandling the puck before passing it off when he took a hard hit from Wilson that sent him crashing awkwardly into the boards. The blueliner was slow to get up and went down the tunnel to the Bruins’ dressing room following the hit.

Through 33 games this season, the 28-year-old leads all Bruins defenseman in scoring with five goals and 21 assists for 26 points. In 495 career NHL games, all with Boston, the 5-foot-9, 186-pound blueliner has recorded 63-251-314 numbers with 23 goals and 147 points coming on the power play.

Kampfer skated in four games with Boston, registering a plus-two rating and two penalty minutes, before clearing waivers and being sent down to Providence. In six games with the P-Bruins, the 5-foot-11, 198-pound defender has notched four assists.

Kampfer was supposed to serve a two-game suspension with Providence this weekend for interference. In 205 career NHL contests, the 31-year-old has 13-19-32 totals.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 159 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.

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