Mainville: Ideal Bruins Lineup On Opening Night: Version One

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PHOTO CREDITS: (The Canadian Press)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

Before I dive into this piece, I would like to credit fellow Black N’ Gold writers Mike Cratty (@Mike_Cratty on Twitter) for the idea and would also like to further you to take a look at both Mike’s and Garrett’s (@thesportsguy97 on Twitter) article on the same idea. Keep a lookout on the website for more opening-day article lineup ideas.

Click HERE for Mike’s article.

Click HERE for Garrett’s article.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Pastrnak

Throughout the Bruins fan universe, the issues in the top-six typically fall on the right side. The duos of Marchand-Bergeron and DeBrusk-Krejci are near locks for opening night but the answers on the remaining pieces need to be found. Even though he showed struggles in the postseason at times, Head Coach Bruce Cassidy continued to slot David Pastrnak on the right side of the first line.

Without a doubt in anyone’s mind, Pastrnak will soon become the star of the Bruins’ offense for possibly the next decade and the more time he can play with Marchand and especially Bergeron, the more his value to the team and organization can skyrocket. That line, when hot, is one of the best lines in the entire National Hockey League and the thought of having that consistently is intriguing.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Kuhlman

During the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, the Boston Bruins relied heavily on their depth scoring, goaltending, and defense to help them last to the final Game Seven. Boston’s top six forwards failed to score points on a night-to-night basis and the lack of scoring in the elimination game was the reason for the loss on home ice.

Down 3-2 in the series, Cassidy threw a curveball at the St. Louis Blues in Game Six by placing speedy forward Karson Kuhlman on the second line and he played great. Kuhlman scored the third goal of the game with a blistering wrist shot past Jordan Binnington that gave Boston a 3-0 lead in the game.

Kuhlman’s 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame finally brought some speed and finesse to a line that was lacking those attributes when David Backes was alongside DeBrusk and Krejci. Similar to Pastrnak, time with a veteran like Krejci mixed in with the big-time experience that he already has under his belt, Kuhlman can be a good player on that line.

Third Line: Heinen – Coyle – Ritchie

This line is such a massive question mark on the right side yet again. At this stage, I put free-agent signing Brett Ritchie on this line for one reason – size. The 26-year-old Ritchie stands at six-foot-four and weighs 220 pounds. Throughout the different lineup predictions on the internet, Ritchie is commonly considered to be a depth forward and while that remains a possibility, I believe he has a better shot at making the lineup over some of the younger wingers in the system.

Alongside Ritchie, Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle had found some chemistry since Coyle’s entrance into the Boston Bruins roster around the trade deadline and that should continue. Heinen has proven to be a defensively responsible forward and with a consistent center that can play deep in the zone, it may only help the young forward more in the short and long run.

Fourth Line: Nordstrom – Kuraly – Wagner

If there was a line that was etched in stone – it’s this one. The fourth line of the Boston Bruins has been crucial for the better part of the last decade and in each of their Cup Finals appearances in 2011, 2013, and 2019, the Bruins have had a strong line that rounds out the forward core.

With Noel Acciari departing Logan International in Boston to Florida during the Free Agency Frenzy, it will be without a doubt that these three players will man the pivotal bottom line for a good portion of the 2019-2020 season.

Extra Forwards: Lindholm

Another one of the Bruins’ depth signings on July 1st, former Toronto Maple Leaf and Winnipeg Jet, Par Lindholm signed a two-year contract for $850,000 per season with Boston as a depth player. The Swedish forward adds versatile play with a penalty-killing ability that has value when injuries come along.

First Pairing: Chara – McAvoy

Franchise defenceman with future franchise defenceman. Zdeno Chara might be 42 years of age but his game does not represent that number. While he does often get caught frozen in time by the faster forwards in the league, he brings a presence that strikes fear into players even today. Chara will continue to mentor McAvoy this season as it could very well be the last season where that is an option.

Second Pairing: Krug – Carlo

The second pairing of Krug and Carlo is the type of combination teams dream of on their blueline. Torey Krug is one of the best offensive defensemen in the NHL today, especially on the power-play. That said, Krug has had issues on the defensive side of the ice and even though he has improved recently, he is not fantastic in that role. Brandon Carlo, however, secures that pairing. Carlo was arguably the best d-man wearing the Spoked-B in the 2019 Playoffs and he is only 22 years old.

Third Pairing: Grzelcyk – Clifton

Matt Grzelcyk scored the only goal in the Game Seven loss to the St. Louis Blues, but he brought more than just that lone tally in the postseason. Grzelcyk is a solid defenceman in almost all facets and Clifton has matched that as well. Both young blueliners have come out of seemingly nowhere over the course of the past few seasons – earning them a roster spot for the start of the ’19/’20 campaign.

Extra Defensemen: Kampfer – Miller – Moore

Steven Kampfer recently extended his contract with the Bruins and rightly so – he adds good depth for when the inevitable injuries strike again, something every team requires to be successful. With no clear timeline on John Moore (shoulder surgery) and Kevan Miller (knee), we must assume that they are not ready for the opening night on October 3rd.

Goaltenders: Rask – Halak

Tuukka Rask carried Boston to the Stanley Cup Finals for much of the playoff run and that success could be attributed to the regular season play of backup goalie Jaroslav Halak. With the two netminders nearly splitting the 82-game season in half, Rask was able to get needed rest and not overwork himself like he has when the team does not have an adequate backup behind him. If the two can avoid the haunted injury bug, I’d expect another stellar season from the two goaltenders.

As the offseason continues to progress with more and more news as well as the upcoming NHL Training Camp, these lines could very well take a turn before puck drop against the Dallas Stars.

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Bruins Re-Sign Forward Danton Heinen

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(Photo: Steve Babineau / NHL via Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney announced overnight that the team has agreed to terms on a two-year deal with restricted free agent Danton Heinen. Heinen’s deal will carry an average annual value of $2.8 million.

The Langley, British Columbia native has been a mainstay in Boston’s top-nine forward group over the last two seasons, after spending time with Providence of the AHL and the University of Denver. Last season, Heinen skated in 77 games, totaling 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points to go along with a plus-13 rating.

During his rookie season two years ago, his first full year in the NHL, Heinen finished ninth in rookie scoring, registering 16-31-47 totals in 77 games played in addition to a plus-10 rating. With Boston, Heinen has 3-6-9 numbers over 33 career playoff games played.

In 70 career AHL games played, the 24-year-old notched 15-39-54 numbers on top of a plus-seven rating; the winger also tallied 18 points (nine goals and nine assists) in 19 total Calder Cup playoff games. During his time at Denver, Heinen was a point-per-game player in each of his two seasons, totaling 16-29-45 in 40 games as a freshman and 20-28-48 in 41 games as a sophomore.

The 6-foot-1, 188-pound skater was selected by the Bruins with the 116th overall selection in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Heinen joins Peter Cehlarik and Ryan Fitzgerald as RFA’s the Bruins have re-signed, leaving Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as the only two left (Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson will be playing in Sweden next season). With the Heinen signing, the Bruins are now left with a little over $7.3 million in cap space to ink McAvoy and Carlo, barring a trade of some sort arises.

Big Questions Remain On Defense For Bruins

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(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Find me on Twitter @nittgrl73

For all the talk of how the Boston Bruins are going to find the elusive second-line right wing and third-line center to shore up the front 12 going into the 2019-2020 season, the fact is that many more questions remain about just who will be defending the blue line when the season begins on Oct. 3 in Dallas.

Let’s start with what we know. Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton and Steven Kampfer are the members of the defensive corps that saw regular playing time for the Bruins last season who are currently under contract and presumably healthy coming into camp in September. They are healthy, that is, if Chara and Grzelcyk have fully recovered from injuries and concussion symptoms, respectively, that forced them to miss some games in the final round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

To arrive at this point, the Bruins re-signed free agent Kampfer and awarded Clifton’s play with a three-year contract extension. The Bruins’ front office likely considers Clifton to be a key piece of the team’s future on defense, so he was locked up while so many other pieces of the puzzle were still jumbled. For his part, Kampfer proved himself to be a valuable asset to the team last year, playing the difficult-to-find role of the veteran presence who was willing to sit out for long periods with no complaints and play a reliable, solid game when called upon.

That brings us to the unknowns. The two biggest questions, of course, are the statuses of restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. The Bruins made qualifying offers to both of these players, and general manager Don Sweeney said he has been in talks with both young stars’ camps. However, despite rumblings that Carlo may be close to coming to terms with the team, no official word has come from the team as to how close the Bruins are to making a deal with either of these young defensemen.

The main roadblock the Bruins face in re-signing McAvoy and Carlo is the team’s extremely limited salary-cap picture. It looks like the possibility of Sweeney being able to dump some or all of David Backes’ $6 million salary is essentially non-existent. The fact that restricted free agent forward Danton Heinen has elected salary arbitration, with an answer on how much his contract will cost the Bruins not coming for at least a couple of weeks, complicates the matter even further.

Sweeney said that he feels the team is likely finished signing unrestricted free agents after he added several depth pieces in early July. As a result, the focus turns to potential trade scenarios that may help the team clear up some additional cap space. However, the defensive outlook is further clouded by the fact that potential trade pieces could include Krug, whose point production and power play prowess make him a valuable target, as well as two Bruins D-men who have yet to be mentioned, Kevan Miller and John Moore.

Moore was signed to a five-year deal by the Bruins in the summer of 2018. He saw occasional runs of decent playing time throughout the 2018-2019 season but was often the odd man out when the full complement of defensemen was healthy. The problem is, Moore, soldiered through much of the playoffs with an upper-arm injury that required surgery when the season ended. As a result, he may not be healthy enough to return to game action until January, all but eliminating him as a trade candidate.

While Miller may be well ahead of Moore in rehabilitating a broken kneecap, nearly the entire 2018-2019 season was lost with one injury after another costing Miller significant playing time. Given his history of injuries, the trade market may not be all that deep for the gritty veteran.

Given all of the uncertainty brought on by injuries and contract issues, two prospects, in particular, could be called upon to provide defensive depth in the upcoming season: Jeremy Lauzon and Urho Vaakaneinen. Lauzon spent some time filling in for an injury-depleted defensive squad last season, appearing in 16 games, and played well. Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Vaakaneinen played just two games for the big club but appeared to have the potential to fight for a spot on the NHL team. Whether these two top defensive prospects will get more playing time in Boston or perhaps be traded to clear cap space remains to be seen.

With Chara, who will turn 43 this coming season, signing just a one-year extension in March and Grzelcyk and Krug facing free agency next summer, Bruins management will likely have tough decisions to make on the defensive front for the foreseeable future.

What Should The Bruins Do About Torey Krug?

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( Photo Courtesy of Patrick Smith / Getty Imagines )

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Coming into this off-season, the Boston Bruins had a few questions that needed answering when it comes to the roster. One of the main questions is, what do the Bruins do about Torey Krug? The former Michigan State University defenseman is 28 years old and heading into the final year of a four-year 21 million dollar deal. He’s also coming off a fantastic season. In 64 games this year Krug netted six goals while dishing out 47 assists for 53 total points and on top of that in 24 playoff games he netted two goals while dishing out 16 assists for 18 total points. Krug firmly established himself as one of the Bruins top players while also reminding us that he’s not afraid to throw his body around.

The other major thing that Krug brings to the table is that he runs the first power-play unit. The Bruins have not been able to find another player that can run the power play like the former Michigan State Spartan does, though not for lack of trying. Given all of the information that I just provided, it would seem like this is a no-brainer for Don Sweeney, you re-sign Torey Krug. However, it’s not so simple. Krug will be 29 at the beginning of next off-season. He will also likely command a six or seven-year deal worth over seven million dollars a year. That’s a lot of money to commit to a player for any team, but especially one who has as many restricted free agents in the next two seasons, most of whom you’d like to keep.

This season, Boston has around 13 million dollars in salary cap space. They also have three major RFAs to sign Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen. After next season the Bruins have 34 million dollars to spend and one nine roster spots committed not including Carlo, McAvoy, and Heinen. On top of that, Jake DeBrusk, Karson Kuhlman, Matt Grzelcyk, and Connor Clifton are also RFAs. That’s seven players that you likely want to keep. The Boston Bruins may not have the luxury of re-signing Torey Krug unless he does take another team friendly deal. This means that Boston has a big decision to make. What do they do assuming they cannot re-sign Krug?

They have a few options. First, they could try and move Krug for a top-six forward. This is something that has been speculated by analysts and fans alike. While this is definitely a viable option, you would have to make sure that you had a defenseman ready to take Krug’s spot on the power-play. At this point in time, I do not believe trading him for a top-six forward is the best option. The player that you get in return probably will not have as big of an impact on the game as Krug does, and you are likely better off filling that second-line right wing position with an internal option rather than giving up Krug.

That leads us to our next option, you keep Torey Krug the entire season and then hope for the best in free agency. This is basically buying into yourself and believing that the team you have constructed can make another deep run into the playoffs. Then at the end of the season, you hope for the best, and maybe Krug surprises you signing a team friendly deal. To me, this is the best option. Torey Krug has proven his worth tenfold over the past few seasons both offensively and defensively. His ability on the power-play is one that cannot be duplicated right now, and this gives you a full season to finally groom his replacement. Plus, the fact of the matter is that you are a better hockey team Torey Krug on it.

With the salary cap situations and RFAs, the Boston Bruins will have some big questions to answer sooner rather than later. For the Torey Krug situation, I believe keeping him is the best option. Yes, you run the risk of losing him in free agency for nothing, but having him on the team gives you the best chance to win next season. Ultimately we have an interesting free agency period and season on the horizon, and I cannot wait to see what happens next. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. I hope everyone is enjoying the summer. As always, GO, Bs, GO!

Report: Bruins Re-Sign D Steven Kampfer To A Two-Year Deal

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

According to Frank Seravalli of TSN and other reports, the Boston Bruins have signed defenceman Steven Kampfer to a two-year contract extension worth an average of $800,000 per season ($1.6 million total).

The 30-year-old, Ann Arbor, Michigan native has had a solid history with the Boston Bruins over his seven-year NHL career. Kampfer began his tenure in Boston back in the 2010-11 season, playing 38 games after joining the club in March of 2010 in a trade with the Anaheim Ducks. Kampfer recorded 5-5-10 totals in that time with Boston.

After ten games played in the 2011-12 season, Kampfer was traded to the Minnesota Wild and would not find himself in Boston until September 11, 2018, when he and two draft picks were sent to Boston in exchange for D Adam McQuaid. Within the 2018-19 campaign, Steven Kampfer played in another 35 games for the Bruins, recording three goals and three assists for six points, averaging 14:38 of time on ice.

The depth blueliner also found himself playing in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs – playing one game in three of the four series. Kampfer skated for 11:06 in Game Three against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Round One and played 14:56 in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Carolina Hurricanes, scoring the first goal of the hockey game.

Kampfer played a key role throughout the season for the Bruins, bringing some experience to the depth blueline players, especially when injuries or suspensions prevented the top players on Boston’s backend from playing. Even though the plus/minus statistic is typically looked down upon, Kampfer was never once a minus player in the postseason, further confirming that he can be trusted on in those important games.

For the Bruins, this contract ensures that they have the depth on defence that they need quite a lot. It has already been announced that defensemen John Moore and Kevan Miller will be out of the lineup for some time to begin the 2019-2020 regular season, meaning Boston will have to fall back on guys like Kampfer to get those early-season victories.

Boston and the rest of the National Hockey League are only one week away from the free agency frenzy on July 1st meaning those key players that need contracts are going to need to sign with their current teams fast. Boston now has just over $13 million in remaining cap space with players such as RFA defenceman Charlie McAvoy, RFA defenceman Brandon Carlo, RFA forward Danton Heinen, UFA forward Noel Acciari and UFA forward Marcus Johansson, among others, expiring very soon.

This signing is a solid move for General Manager Don Sweeney as he locks up a reliable depth defenceman for under $1 million annually on a low-term deal. Heading into the next stages of the NHL offseason, the news and stories will be piling up and everyone here at Black N’ Gold Hockey will make sure that you get all of the latest information.

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast Episode 132 below!!

Less Is More For The Bruins In Free Agency

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Photo Courtesy of Bob DeChiara – USA TODAY Sports

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

Many Bruins fans, as soon as the final horn sounded ending the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Final and the Boston Bruins and fans alike watched the St. Louis Blues celebrate on TD Garden ice turned to free agency to see how this team could be improved. There are many talented players hitting the market this year, and the Bruins have around 14 million dollars in cap space. Now, I know a lot of you are thinking that with that kind of money our favorite team in black and gold could get an elite player or two and this team who was one game away from being Stanley Cup Champions, would be in a great position to get back there. Now, I don’t mean to burst your bubble but the Bs should not, and probably will not be very active in free agency.

The first reaction some of you may have had seeing that news may be a bit on the reactionary side, but I’ll explain why you should temper free agent expectations. The major reason is the amount of restricted free agents the Bruins have both this year and next year that they will likely keep. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen are all restricted free agents this offseason and all three need to be re-signed. Brandon Carlo had an excellent season and played in his first playoffs ever despite this being his third year in Boston. The young defenseman played extremely well during the run to the Stanley Cup Final. A longterm four or five-year deal will probably be reached, and it’ll likely be for over four million dollars a year.

Danton Heinen is a player who some fans have soured on a bit because his offensive numbers were down from last season. While this may be a cause for concern, something that some people fail to realize is Heinen is one of the Bruins best defensive and possession forwards, which is hard to see on a scoresheet. At any rate, the down offensive season may actually end up working in the Bruins favor because in contract negotiations he probably will not be able to command as much money as he would have. I definitely see the Bruins and Heinen working out a four-year deal worth anywhere from two to three million dollars a year.

That leaves our final restricted free agent Charlie McAvoy. This one is a little bit trickier because McAvoy definitely deserves a big payday, and the Bruins want him to be a cornerstone of the team and defense for many years to come. However, giving him that huge contract he deserves may not be in the best interest for the Bruins right away. Next season, the Bruins have Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, and Karson Kuhlman who are also RFAs. All four of those players are ones you’d probably like to keep. On top of that, Torey Krug is going to be a UFA, and that is someone the Bruins may also try to keep. They need as much cap space as possible.

What the Bruins will probably try and do is sign McAvoy to a smaller “bridge” contract with the promise of a big payday after that. A major reason why this would work out in the B’s favor is after the 2020-2021 season the Bruins have David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and David Backes all coming off the books. That will give the Bruins a little more than 20 million dollars to spend. If you give McAvoy a two-year “bridge” contract, you could line up his payday perfectly with that money coming off the books. The young Bruins defenseman seems to like Boston and wants to stay long term so I can see a “bridge” deal being agreed upon and then the big payday coming in a couple of years.

Ultimately, these are my thoughts as to why we shouldn’t expect the Boston Bruins to be too active in free agency. I think they have internal options to fill needs at the second-line right wing and I’d like them to keep their own guys. Despite losing in game seven of the Stanley Cup Final, the future is bright for the boys in black and gold. I think if they stay the course, and keep their own guys, the team will be in great shape going into next season. My biggest advice to Don Sweeney is no reactionary moves to the Stanley Cup Final loss. Feel free to send me any comments or questions on Twitter. I hope everyone has a fantastic offseason and enjoys the draft. As always GO, Bs, GO!

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 132 below!!

Potential Unrestricted Free Agents Worth A Look For Bruins

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Boston Bruins at St. Louis Blues

(Photo Credit: Billy Hurst-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Check me out on Twitter @nittgrl73

It’s certainly no secret that the Boston Bruins’ biggest hole to fill this offseason is second-line right wing. In fact, team president Cam Neely addressed that very issue himself recently.

Whether the right fit will come from a trade, free agency or a player already in the Bruins system remains to be seen. However, faced with difficult decisions regarding the future of free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Marcus Johansson, and Danton Heinen, a solution may not be as readily available as management and fans would like.

In addition, questions still remained heading into the National Hockey League draft regarding the exact amount of cap space available to each team. Coupled with the fact that very lucrative contracts have already having been awarded to players like Kevin Hayes and an oft-injured Erik Karlsson, overspending looks to be a quickly developing trend.

As a result, it may behoove the Bruins to take a look at some potential unrestricted free agents that can boost the team’s forward depth without breaking the bank. While it would be great to see the front office figure out a way to keep key pieces such as McAvoy and Carlo and still sign a “bigger-name” forward to play alongside Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, there are a handful of players set to become free agents that could be diamonds in the rough.

Alex Chiasson

Chiasson played the 2018-2019 season with the Edmonton Oilers, a team that’s personal issues have been well-documented throughout a season during which former Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was fired from that same role in Edmonton. Chiasson, who will turn 29 on Oct. 1, put up 22 goals and 16 assists for the Oilers this season, possibly providing the shoot-first mentality that Neely said he’d like to see more of on Krejci’s wing. Chiasson is coming off a $650,000 2018-2019 contract.

Brett Connolly

OK, hear me out, Bruins fans. Yes, Connolly already played a somewhat average 25-point year for the Bruins during the 2015-2016 season, in addition to two assists in five games the season before, but a case can definitely be made for a second look at the 27-year-old forward. He is coming off a career year with the Washington Capitals, potting 22 goals and 24 assists with an impressive plus-13 rating.  Connolly’s most recent contract with the Caps featured a relatively low $1.5 million cap hit. Granted, with teams seemingly willing to pay bigger bucks for players of Connolly’s caliber and given the fact that he had a stellar year and won a Stanley Cup in 2018, it’s likely Connolly could be too expensive for the Bs. If not, he’s an intriguing option.

Wayne Simmonds

Simmonds’ name came up often as a potential fit for the Bruins before the 2019 trade deadline in February. Although Simmonds was instead dealt by the Philadelphia Flyers to the Nashville Predators, he still remains a possible candidate to fill a second-line right wing spot in Boston. Simmonds is a bit older than the other possible signings listed here, he’ll be 31 in August, and his cap hit last season was higher than the others at $3.975 million. Still, Simmonds is almost certainly not going to be a Predator when October rolls around. Talk of late has the Pittsburgh Penguins extremely interested in Simmonds. If he is still available on July 1, he could be a good short-term investment for Boston in an attempt to make another run at the Cup while the Bruins’ veteran core is still intact.

Riley Barber

Although admittedly a dark-horse contender, Barber has spent the past four seasons in the Washington Capitals organization, primarily with the team’s Hershey Bears American Hockey League affiliate. After scoring 30 goals and amassing a total of 60 points for Hershey in 2018-2019, the 25-year-old Barber made it known at the end of the season that he did not plan to re-sign with the Capitals after being called up for only two brief stints in the NHL in his professional career and only seeing playing time in one of those call-ups. Barber may be taking the lead of former Miami University teammate Austin Czarnik, who chose to sign with the Calgary Flames following the 2017-2018 season after seeing only sporadic playing time with the Bruins.

If NHL General Manager of the Year Don Sweeney follows the usual Bruins storyline of looking for solid value rather than overspending on a superstar, he could well have a few decent under-the-radar options when free agency rolls around.

Check out this week’s Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 132 below!

Backes’ Time in Boston About So Much More Than Points

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(Photo Credit: Getty Images/Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photo)

By Carrie Salls | Follow me on Twitter @nittgrl73

It may be fitting that the image of David Backes that many Bruins fans have emblazoned on their memories was actually a highlight in another player’s young career. That moment came on April 21, 2017, when veteran leader Backes gave Sean Kuraly a “noogie” on the Bruins bench in celebration of one of the rookie forward’s two goals that helped keep the team’s playoff hopes alive in an elimination game against the Ottawa Senators.

The former captain of the St. Louis Blues, Backes’ future with the Bruins seemed as of Friday’s breakup day to be very much in question. However, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said in a Monday morning press conference that there may well be a role for Backes on the team for the 2019-2020 season.

After putting up just 20 points in 70 games in the 2018-2019 season, a drop from a 33-point performance in just 57 games in a 2017-2018 season that saw the veteran forward miss time as a result of needing surgery to remove part of his intestines, suffering a laceration from a skate to the back of the leg and concussion issues, Backes himself said Friday that he knows his future is “in-flux.”

The end of the 35-year-old alternate captain’s 2019 Stanley Cup campaign was a difficult one. Backes sat watching from the press box as a healthy scratch for the final games of the series. Coach Bruce Cassidy opted to take Backes out of game five of the Stanley Cup Finals to allow an 11-forward, seven-defenseman lineup to boost a banged-up defensive corps. The final two games of the series, Backes sat in favor of the speedier Karson Kuhlman. As a result, Backes was forced to sit and watch the Bruins lose in game seven to his former team, the St. Louis Blues.

With Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson all becoming free agents and a potential Torey Krug contract extension looming, the Bruins front office is faced this summer with the difficult task of trying to find a way to hold onto as many of those key young contributors as possible. Given his declining production and advancing age, it would make sense for the Bruins to try to rid themselves of some or all of Backes’ remaining contract. However, those same factors make it difficult to move him.

Backes signed a five-year contract with the Bruins as an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2016. He has two years left and a $6 million per-year cap hit left on that deal. Talk of possible buyouts and trades has been swirling all year, but it remains to be seen what Bruins general manager Don Sweeney could do in regards to Backes to free up some space.

Although his future is in limbo, there is no question that Backes is a team leader who is respected and admired by his teammates. He has also proved to be a valuable mentor to the team’s future stars. Backes has assumed a leadership role from the day he arrived in Boston.

Even with myriad health and injury issues and a drop in playing time, Backes embraced every role he was asked to play in the team’s 2019 playoff run, and before. Backes worked to drop some weight ahead of the 2018-2019 season in an effort to keep up with a trend that favors speed over the heavier power-forward role that was prevalent when Backes broke into the National Hockey League. He was also an integral part of a second line that helped to combat the physical play of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the second round.

It looks as though Bruins fans may not have seen the last of David Backes donning the Spoked B. If that proves true, it is good news for a team that can use number 42’s leadership, experience, and never-say-die attitude to guide a young group of still-developing stars.

Charlie McAvoy’s Game Three Is Exactly What He And The Bruins Want Moving Forward

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PHOTO CREDITS: (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

The Boston Bruins now trail their Eastern Conference Semi-Finals series with the Columbus Blue Jackets two-games-to-one and there are many different theories and ideas as to why the Bruins have lost two of the three games to the second wild-card team in the Eastern Conference.

Some suggest that the lack of production from David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand is the reason while others may think that secret or unspecified injuries are the reason. After the loss in Game Three on the road, one player was one-hundred-percent not blamed (and he really shouldn’t be if he is), defenseman Charlie McAvoy.

Before Game Three, McAvoy has had a pretty solid 2019 postseason for the Bruins and he is truly showing that he can handle the big minutes that top-two defencemen in the NHL need to be able to handle. In the opening best-of-seven series against the Maple Leafs, the 21-year-old averaged 24:04 of ice-time, scoring one goal and adding two assists for three points in the seven games.

Between Games One and Two in the Second Round against Columbus, McAvoy averaged 27:33 minutes, highlighted by a 30:39-minute game in the double-overtime loss back in the second game. McAvoy trailed only Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo for the most minutes in that game, but his play was something to note heading into Tuesday’s contest in Columbus.

In Game Three, Charlie played in a team-high 24 minutes, led the team in recorded hits with five, and had the third-most shots on goal by defencemen on the Bruins roster. In addition to all of that, McAvoy’s skating and puck handling was on full display, often joining the rush as almost a fourth forward, setting up high-quality scoring chances because of it. During the third period of play with Boston down 2-1 on the scoreboard, McAvoy made a slick, no-look pass to Noel Acciari that beat Sergei Bobrovsky, but rang off of the post and went into the corner.

If Acciari buries that beautiful play, the game is tied and the two teams would have most likely made their way to a third-consecutive overtime session. It was a hard break for a Boston team that let the Blue Jackets come out on home ice with a two-goal lead, but made an effort near the end of the second period and the entirety of the third to even up the score and force that overtime period.

Regardless of the outcome of the game and regardless of how the series currently stands, Charlie McAvoy did everything in his power other than scoring goals to give Boston the lead in the series. Former Bruin Riley Nash has been on the wrong end of some heavy hits by the B’s and McAvoy was yet another contributor to that. In the dying seconds of the second period, not long after DeBrusk’s tally, the Long Beach, New York native sent Nash to ice in exploding fashion with a clean, shoulder-to-shoulder collision.

Charlie McAvoy was a crucial part to the small successes that Boston found in the Game Three defeat. As previously stated, McAvoy handled the puck with ease around oncoming defenders and managed to help the Bruins secure some offensive zone time – a feat that seemed difficult to accomplish at numerous times in not only this game, but the first two meetings as well. His zone entries were clean, feet were always moving, and his passes were clean – turning the puck over on only one occasion compared to the four turnovers he committed in Game Two.

Boston Bruins Head Coach Bruce Cassidy praised the efforts of McAvoy in the post-game press conference as well, as this quote taken from Shawn Hutcheon (@ShawnHutcheon) suggests.

“Excellent. He was all over the ice. Dominant. He wanted to be a difference-maker without being reckless. Really, really good. Charlie was a big reason why we were in the game.”

A topic that was often included in these conversations about McAvoy’s stellar performance on Tuesday night was that McAvoy usually does not play like this consistently and if he does, could be a strong asset to Boston as this series progresses further and further. Bruins Network (@BruinsNetwork) included that perfectly in a Tweet below.

Similar to Acciari’s post shot, McAvoy ripped one off of the red iron as well in the game. His speed and skill with the puck allowed a clean entry into Columbus’ zone, but his solid wrist shot hit the post behind a standing Bobrovsky. Just another digressive attack that demonstrated his confidence that he possessed throughout the sixty-minute hockey game.

Even in a losing effort, the end result for Charlie McAvoy could be a winning one in the long run. On July 1st, the young defender’s contract officially expires and he will become an unrestricted free-agent. As of the end of the 2018-19 regular season, McAvoy has played in 117 career NHL regular season games, amassing 14-46-60 numbers within that time span as well as 13 points in 28 NHL playoff games.

Following a recent poll on my Twitter page, 51% of voters predict McAvoy’s contract to be anywhere from $4.1 to $6 million annually, with many people suggesting that the length of the deal plays a role in that annual salary as well. The next highest percentage, at 35%, suggested a $6.1 to $7 million price gap.

On CapFriendly’s “comparable” tool on their website, I took a look at players similar to McAvoy when he will sign his new contract. Such parameters included a 21-year-old, right-handed defenceman with 60 points in 117 games making $5.5 million on a six-year contract. Of course, those numbers are going off of the Twitter results and do not result in a definite, expected number.

The best match for McAvoy according to CapFriendly is Arizona Coyotes d-man, Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Ekman-Larsson signed his deal back in March of 2013 when he was 21 years of age. At the time of signing, OEK had only 56 points in 157 games played. The website’s tool has both players matching at 97.1%.

Now, my first issue with this was the idea of the points scored. With the statistics provided above, Charlie McAvoy possesses a 0.51 points-per-game average while Ekman-Larsson had only averaged 0.35 points-per-game when he signed for $5.5 million for six seasons. In response, I re-adjusted my sliders for the attributes that I wanted to be considered the most, including career games played, points, and age. Below were my top 5 results. You can also CLICK HERE for the official CapFriendly table.

  • 98.1% – ARI D Jakub Chychrun – 21yrs – 118GP – 34pts – $4.6 million/6yrs in 2018
  • 97.1% – MIN D Jonas Brodin – 21yrs – 127GP – 31pts – $4.1 million/6yrs in 2014
  • 96.7% – NJD D Adam Larsson – 21yrs – 128GP – 27pts – $900,000/1yr in 2014
  • 96.6% – MIN D Brent Burns – 21yrs – 108GP – 22pts – $825,000/2yrs in 2006
  • 96.2% – ARI D Oliver Ekman-Larsson – 21yrs – 157GP – 56pts – $5.5 million/6yrs in 2013

Taking a look at the annual salaries, clearly the contracts of both Adam Larsson and Brent Burns are highly unlikely for McAvoy at this point in his career, but they do have a strong resemblance to McAvoy’s current situation. Jakub Chychrun, to me, makes the most sense. However, due to McAvoy having a significantly higher career point total as well as having a larger role on the Bruins team than Chychrun did, I personally see his contract around Ekman-Larsson’s.

For Charlie McAvoy, if his Game Three performance can be continued out for the remainder of the postseason, he can truly have some bargaining power on General Manager Don Sweeney and the rest of the Bruins management. For the Boston Bruins, even if they have to pay more than possibly expected at the start of the season, it is a win for them because they will have another young, solid defenceman of the future to build around once the likes of Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug move on.

Tonight, the Bruins are back on the ice against the Blue Jackets in Game Four. Puck drop is currently scheduled for 7:30pm EST. Can Charlie McAvoy play as dominantly as he did only two nights ago? Will the Bruins tie the series at two, heading back to Boston? They’re all just questions, but soon, they will become answers.

Bruins Marchand Continues Dominant Season With ‘Devilish’ Game vs. Devils

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj 

Brad Marchand has been with the Bruins organization since the 2009-2010 season, following being drafted 71st overall (3rd round) in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. In that time, Marchand has not always been the point-producing scorer that we happen to know him as today.

Marchand started his career in the National Hockey League with only one point in twenty games during the ’09/’10 campaign but returned the following season with twenty-one goals and forty-one points in 77 regular season games. In his first six seasons, Marchand never amassed more than fifty-five points in a season, a mark that he reached back in 2011-12.

Within the 377 regular season games from 2009 to the end of the 2014-15 season, Marchand scored 116 goals and 112 assists for 228 points – not bad, but something that seems odd considering what Marchand has been doing for Boston in the past four seasons. Even at the time, it seemed like Marchand was capable of more because of his performance in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, helping the B’s hoist the Stanley Cup with 11-9-19 numbers – including two goals in Game 7 of the Finals against the Vancouver Canucks.

For Brad Marchand, the offence truly started to click 2015-16. The Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada native scored thirty-seven goals that season and a lot of that could be attributed to his chemistry with Patrice Bergeron that had been growing strong over the previous seasons. Bergeron, even to this day, is one of the biggest reasons for the success of Brad Marchand.

Following that 37-24-61 year, Marchand entered the contract negotiation phase of career. Back in September of 2012, Marchand signed a four-year, $18 million contract worth $4,500,000 per season. With one year remaining, Marchand agreed to an eight-year, $49 million deal worth $6,125,000 every season until 2024-2025. Taking a look back on that deal, I and many other hockey fans feel that he could have very well demanded into the eight million range on the skill alone, but the age factor and the love of Boston persuaded him to take a little bit of a pay cut.

Right after signing the contract, Marchand went on to explode for eighty-five points on the final year of the previous contract, proving to all the naysayers that he deserves that long-term commitment. The 2016-17 season was so good for him, that he made it into his first career NHL All-Star Game. The question came up of course though, could he continue that success into the future years or was it a one-time sort of event to hit that point mark?

Well last season, Marchand answered that question by matching that exact point total. While he failed to meet the goal total, Marchand tallied six more assists than the year prior, mainly due to the emergence of young superstar David Pastrnak on the Bruins first-line. It is also fair to note, however, that Marchand scored 34-51-85 numbers in only 68 games.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Dan Hamilton/USA TODAY Sports Images)

That takes us to this season – the 2018-19 season. Brad Marchand started off the year on a slower pace than in the years prior but that could largely be because of the skill increase of Czech forward David Pastrnak. Pastrnak took the league by storm with his shooting capabilities and the scoring of Marchand kind of went under the radar by other NHL franchises, at least, the fanbases forgot about him.

With that said, Marchand is currently on pace for another career season. After sixty-four games, Marchy is averaging 1.19 points-per-game, currently the second-highest average of his career, behind last year’s effort. Marchand has only missed one game, leaving him the chance to hit 81 games played and with that 1.19 PPG average, Marchand can reach the 94-point mark and become the first Bruin since Marc Savard in 2006-07 (96) to hit ninety points in a single season.

Of course, Brad would have to finish off the season on this pace and avoid missing anymore time from injuries or suspensions. Even then, for him to hit a new career-high of 86 points, he would have to score ten points in the next eighteen games – very possible for Marchand.

He’s on pace to set a new career-high in points, so how exactly is Brad Marchand falling out of the mouths of opposing teams and fanbases, especially on social media platforms? Suspensions, or lack thereof rather. Over the past number of years, Marchand’s name has been on the news headlines for his in-game antics. The dirty hits, the spearing to the groin, and don’t remind me of the whole licking events. However this season, knowing that he may have received his final warning, Marchand has not yet been handed a suspension in the 2018-19 season. *knocks on wood*

Even if he fails to break or even match his personal point record, the fact that he has been able to consistently help the Boston Bruins win games and play well, then that is a win in my books and I’m sure, in a lot of your books as well.

On Saturday, Marchand played in his 666th career NHL regular season game, entering the contest with a combined total of 666 penalty minutes. Who did he happen to be playing against – the New Jersey Devils. I’ll let you put the pieces together from there. Regardless, Brad Marchand is on pace for a career season and without that, the Bruins may not be on a sixteen-game point streak and ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. From here on out to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we can only hope that Marchand’s season continues to build steam.

Marchand and the Bruins look to extend the point streak to seventeen games Tuesday night against the Carolina Hurricanes in the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.

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