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 Peter Cehlarik

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(Photo: Fred Kfoury III / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Bruins general manger Don Sweeney announced this morning that Boston has re-signed forward Peter Cehlarik to a one-year, two-way deal. The winger’s contract will carry an NHL cap-hit of $700,000.

The Zilina, Slovakia native has mostly spent the past three seasons with the Providence Bruins of the AHL with various cameo appearances with the varsity club in Boston after signing his entry level contract and coming overseas to North America in 2016.  In 137 games played in the AHL over that span, the 23-year-old registered 43 goals and 56 assists for 99 points as well as a plus-17 rating. Additionally, in 37 career games played in the NHL, Cehlarik has 5-5-10 totals with a plus-5 rating.

Last season, Cehlarik tallied 38 points (12 goals and 26 assists) for Providence in 53 games, matching his career-high for points in the AHL. In 20 games for the Bruins last year, the forward notched 6-4-10 totals, highlighted by a two-goal performance against the Philadelphia Flyers in his season debut.

The 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger was selected by Boston 90th overall in the third round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft. The subject of trade rumors and other speculation a few times in his career, this new deal is likely one more chance for Cehlarik to make a meaningful, lasting impact with the big squad in Boston. It is also worth noting that should Cehlarik not make the NHL roster out of training camp and need to be sent down to the AHL, he will need to clear waivers before reporting to Providence.

Report: Bruins Sign Connor Clifton To Contract Extension

NHL: Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo Courtesy Of WEEI Radio

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Prior to the start of free agency on Monday afternoon, it was reported that the Bruins had signed Connor Clifton to a three-year extension worth three million dollars total. The young defenseman had a year left on his current contract worth $725,000 for next season.

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Clifton appeared in 19 regular season games for the Bruins this past season, totaling an assist. He also skated in 18 playoff games during the B’s Stanley Cup run, scoring a pair of goals and adding three assists for five points. Clifton also appeared in 53 games for Providence this past season, posting six goals and 21 assists for 27 points. Clifton also skated for Providence last season, posting four goals and nine assists for 13 points in 54 games.

The Long Branch, New Jersey native was originally selected in the fifth round (133rd overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft by the Arizona Coyotes. Clifton signed with the Bruins last May after completing his senior season at Quinnipiac University. Clifton played four seasons for the Bobcats, posting totals of 19 goals and 37 assists for 56 points in 156 career games. Clifton should see a larger role this season considering how well he performed during the postseason. With this signing it certain seems as though we could see some movement on the Bruins blue line.

Report: Former Bruin Noel Acciari to sign with Florida Panthers

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( Photo Credit: NHL.com )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

According to hockey insider Elliotte Friedman of TSN, now former Boston Bruins forward Noel Acciari is signing with the Florida Panthers for a three-year deal worth five million dollars.

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The tough forward for the Bruins was signed to a two-year entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent in the summer of 2015 after three seasons at Providence College. The 27-year-old from Johnston, Rhode Island played 180 regular season games posting 18 goals and 13 assists for 31 points and a -10 rating. While racking up 80 penalty minutes, Acciari was never afraid to throw his body around and occasionally drop the gloves.

In 35 playoff games, he posted four goals and three assists with a plus-two rating and four penalty minutes.

 

Check out last weeks Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 133 below!

NHL Free Agency: Bruins To Sign Goaltender For Minor-Pro Depth

( Photo Credit: Dave Sandford /Allsport )

By: Mark Allred  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BlackAndGold277

Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and staff certainly have their hand full this offseason with locking down restricted free agents highlighted by names such as Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, and Danton Heinen. Also, on offseason agenda is to negotiate with unrestricted free agents before the July 1st NHL Free Agent Frenzy deadline. Forward’s Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari are currently per B’s GM Sweeney in discussions for a return which might seem unlikely with the salary cap sitting at $12 million per  CapFriendly.com.

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Regardless if players are coming and going after Monday’s free agent deadline, one thing that intrigued me was what Sweeney said in his post 2019 Bruins Development Camp press conference. Sweeney mentioned that the club will, in fact, be actively shopping the free agent market for another goaltender. With NHL netminders Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask under contract and seemingly not going anywhere for another year, this potential free agent signing is pointing towards the developmental depths of the organization with a crease addition in the AHL with the Providence Bruins.

It seems like the end of the road for AHL goaltender Zane McIntyre a player who’s been the property of the organization since 2010 when the B’s selected him in the sixth round from the USHL’s Fargo Force and later attended the University of North Dakota for three seasons. Assuming McIntyre does depart, many would think prospect goaltender Dan Vladar and Kyle Keyser who signed as a free agent back in October of 2017 would be fine manning the crease but with this recent news, it looks like the organization could be shifting players around for the upcoming season.

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Now I know many minor-pro teams have had the three-headed monster in goal in the past, but in my opinion, it’s not a very good idea. Playing time is so important to developing netminders, and in a league that predominantly operates on a Friday to Sunday weekly game schedule, one goaltender may take a step back in his pro progression due to lack of playing time. Another scenario that many may be sour about and get away from the potential three-ringed circus in Providence is to place one netminder in the ECHL whenever a Premier “AA” Bruins affiliate is mentioned. At the close of the 2018-19 campaign, the B’s do not have an ECHL club to work with as a feeder league to the higher AHL.

When the Bruins were affiliated with the Atlanta Gladiators, prospect goaltender Vladar spent a full season in the “Coast” and even though his numbers weren’t great on a struggling Atlanta franchise, he was there to get increased playing time and a whole lot of shots. Vladar’s experience in the ECHL was a positive one and could be the route this B’s organization takes again from another player that’s eligible to join the minor-pro ranks such as Kyle Keyser. After a career year in 2018-19, posting a record of 38-8-0, a goals-against-average of 2.75 and .915 save percentage, Kyle is more than ready to make the jump regardless of what pro level he ends up in.

It’s hard to say what avenue the Bruins take in signing another goaltender. Sweeney didn’t exactly give any indication if the franchise is going to look for experience or youth in the addition so I did some searching to see who would be a good fit with our developing netminders at the AHL level from both sides of the coin. Below is an idea in opinion form of course on who I would go after if the choice was mine.

Going With Experience?

Andrew Hammond

( Photo Credit: American Hockey League / Scott Paulus )

Yes, the hambugler will be looking for work next summer, and I believe he’d be a fantastic fit for the goaltending depth for the Bruins. In 56 NHL games, the British Columbia Canada native has a record of 27-15-6 with a 2.31 GAA and .923 Save%. Hammond played last season with the AHL’s Iowa Wild and had a record of 19-14-0. Might be a sneaky move to get a player like Hammond under the umbrella of the B’s organization with a one-year two-way cap friendly deal. The 31-year-old netminder made $300K in the Minnesota Wild’s system.

Chad Johnson

( Photo Credit: Alchetron )

Old friend Chad will also look to continue his career, and if he doesn’t field any NHL offers after July 1st, the Bruins could certainly come calling for the 33-year-old’s services. After already playing in Boston, this would be a solid veteran addition from a player that seen it all from so many different angles. Sadly, after Johnson posted his best year in the NHL when he backstopped the B’s to a 17-4-0 record, he really didn’t do much better with any of the several organizations he’s been with the last several years.  He did have a 22 win season with the Buffalo Sabres, but he also had 16 losses that year. In 192 career NHL games, Johnson has an 80-72-15 record with a 2.73 GAA and .907 Save%. Johnson’s salary was $1.75 million so if he’s still available depending on how long the B’s want to wait he’d be a decent low-risk insurance policy and mentor to a goaltender like Vladar.

Calvin Pickard

( Photo Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports )

Pickard has not had any luck securing a job in the last few seasons being waived and claimed by several teams looking to make space or add to the respected team’s depth, but I believe he still has something to give. In 104 career NHL games, he has a record of 32-50-9 spending time with Colorado, Toronto, Philadelphia, and Arizona.  The 27-year-old Moncton, New Brunswick native, might be a solid addition to the goaltending depth and a player that can start the year in Providence and be ready at a moments notice if Halak or Rask get injured. A one-year, two-way contract wouldn’t break the bank to have that security blanket, in my opinion.

Going With Youth?

Zachary Fucale

( Photo Credit: The Journal Gazette / Jeremy Wadsworth )

Fucale was a highly touted goaltending prospect that slowly slipped down the depth chart of the Montreal Canadiens who drafted him in the second round back in 2013. The 24-year-old has bounced up and down the minor league ranks having yet to see anytime in the show. They say goaltenders take longer to develop, so why not take a chance on Zachary and see what he can do with the tutelage of Bruins goaltending coaches Bob Essensa and assistant Mike Dunham. Last season with the ECHL Fort Wayne Komets, Fucale had a 20-9-3 record and although its a gamble his cap number wouldn’t be terrible if they wanted to take a risk.

Brandon Halverson

( Photo Credit: NHL.com / New York Rangers )

Halverson is another goaltender that’s been through the rigors of the AHL and ECHL all with the New York Rangers. The 23-year-old Michigan native posted an 8-11-0 record with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack and first-year ECHL affiliation the Maine Mariners where he had a 15-13-1 record. This might not be the greatest idea, but he is young and could serve a valuable service with Providence on a one-year roll of the dice.   A $600K two-way contract is not out of the realm to add depth in the crease. With only one NHL game under his belt, this is obviously not the ideal scenario in case something happens with the Boston goaltending in the NHL.

Mason McDonald

( Photo Credit: ECHL / Kansas City Mavericks Verified Account )

McDonald is a good sized netminder that hasn’t seem to have caught on to full-time professional expectations that the Calgary Flames expected of him when they selected him in the second round in 2014. I feel that he’s another player that could use a change of scenery and guidance to be a solid pro either at the AHL level or the NHL if needed. With no previous NHL games on his resume, I believe the drive is still there for Mason, and if I was the Bruins GM and adding depth, it’s not a bad low-risk thought. He’s another suggestion that the training staff and goaltending coaches could mold into something but who knows. McDonald played in 36 games last season with the ECHL Kansas City Mavericks and had a record of 23-10-3.

Exploring the European free agent market is another avenue the Bruins and scouting staff might consider. I know the ending was a train wreck but finding a goaltender like Niklas Svedberg’s who had two great seasons for Providence posting a record of 65-24-6 in 97 career games for the top minor-pro affiliate of the NHL Bruins. Again, who knows what’s going to happen with the Bruins and their search for another depth goaltender, but it should be interesting to see who in fact they do sign and what shifting will be done in the minor ranks to facilitate the addition.

Check out last weeks Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 133 below!

Bruins Extend Qualifying Offers To Six Players

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer / Getty Images Sport / Getty)

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

As July 1st, or better known as the start of NHL Free Agency Frenzy, gets closer and closer, teams around the NHL are looking to re-sign the players that are going to be around for a long time. Boston has some key players within the system that are going to become free agents, however, the biggest names – Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen – are all restricted free agents (RFA).

In order to retain negotiating rights on these RFAs and others within the Bruins organization, Boston had to extend qualifying offers to six players. For a brief description on what exactly a qualifying offer is, below is a statement from CapFriendly.

  • A qualifying offer is an official Standard Player Contract (SPC) offer which shall be 1 year in length, and which can be subject to salary arbitration should the player be eligible.

  • Clubs have until the later of June 25th or the first Monday after the Entry Draft to submit Qualifying Offers.

  • Qualifying Offers apply to Group 2 and Group 4 free agents.

  • Submitting a Qualifying Offers gives the prior club the right of first refusal to match any offer sheet submitted, or receive draft pick compensation.

  • If the player rejects the qualifying offer, they remain an RFA and their rights are retained by the team.

  • If a player does not receive a qualifying offer, the player becomes a UFA. – CapFriendly.com

As mentioned above, if the player decides to reject the offer, then he remains an RFA and can negotiate a new deal with the team. For the players that did not receive an offer at all, then they will enter the free agent market as a UFA and teams can no longer receive draft compensation in return.

Here are the six players that the Boston Bruins extended a qualifying offer to:

The qualifying offer depends on the salary that the player made in the previous season with their respective club. More on that from CapFriendly below:

  • The qualifying offer is calculated from the players base salary (NHL salary minus signing bonus), and at minimum must meet the seasons minimum salary requirements:

    • 110% of the base salary if the base salary is less than or equal to $660,000

    • 105% of the base salary if the base salary is greater than $660,000 or less than $1,000,000. However, this qualifying offer cannot exceed $1,000,000.

    • 100% of the base salary if the base salary is equal to or greater than $1,000,000.

    • CBA Reference 10.2 (a) (ii) – CapFriendly.com

On their website, there is a tool that allows you to select a player that is currently an RFA and what exactly their qualifying offer is worth. Here are the results of that. It should be noted as well that all qualifying offers are only one year in length.

  • D Charlie McAvoy – $874,125
  • D Brandon Carlo – $874,125
  • F Peter Cehlarik – $735,000
  • F Ryan Fitzgerald – $787,500
  • F Danton Heinen – $874,125
  • F Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson – $874,125

Players can choose to accept the contract if the salary works for them in hopes for earning a larger deal once the one year expires. Forwards Ryan Fitzgerald and Peter Cehlarik will most likely agree to the qualifying offer that has been presented to them.

Evidentally, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Danton Heinen will decline the qualifying offer as they are proven NHL players and will get a large payday very soon. By declining the offer, they remain RFAs and the Bruins do indeed keep their rights within the system.

Another player that will likely decline this qualifying offer is forward Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson who announced in May of this year that he has signed a contract with Vaxjo of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) for the 2019-20 campaign. GM Don Sweeney said in a press release that Forsbacka Karlsson wishes to be closer to his family while continuing his hockey development. This declining of the qualifying offer means that Boston will hold onto his rights for the time being.

Within the entire Boston Bruins organization, only one player did not receive a qualifying offer and that is forward Gemel Smith who skated in 47 games with the Providence Bruins, putting up 16-24-40 numbers. Smith will enter the 2019 Free Agent class as an unrestricted free agent.

July 1st is less than one week away and the free agency frenzy is only getting more and more interesting. Make sure to stay locked on Black N’ Gold Hockey for the latest on the Boston Bruins.

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

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!!

Bruins Joakim Nordstrom Taking Large Strides in Stanley Cup Finals

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

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

Tonight, the Boston Bruins have a chance to lead the Stanley Cup Finals three-games-to-one over the St. Louis Blues. Following a brief look at the roster, many can attribute the success found in the 2018-19 season to many different sources. Goaltender Tuukka Rask and the first line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak are four obvious choices while the defensemen of Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Zdeno Chara played equally important roles in not only getting to the postseason, but achieving the Prince of Wales Trophy.

Going back to October, one of the main topics of concern for the Bruins roster was the depth scoring, or lack thereof. Everyone was well aware of the powerhouse top line that dominated the previous playoff run, more specifically against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but after that, the consistent scoring was simply in question.

David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk had chemistry together but they had troubles gelling with a player on the right wing. Numerous players were tested with them, even Pastrnak at some points but the need for a top-six winger was on the Bruins’ radar. Further down the lineup, the third and fourth lines were decent, but they weren’t expected to produce numbers that are needed from your bottom-six in today’s NHL.

Fast forward to now and the Boston Bruins are being talked about for their resilient, hard-working depth that has carried them through the scoring droughts and struggles of the more well-known Bruin forwards. Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, and Noel Acciari had a fantastic fourth line throughout the season. The addition of both Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson have been tremendous boosts for the team and Danton Heinen has found a success role on their wing.

When Chris Wagner fell out of the lineup this postseason due to an injury that resulted from a blocked shot, the Bruins turned to Joakim Nordstrom to help the bottom line with Kuraly and Acciari. Nordstrom had been bounced from the third line and fourth line all season long and was deemed a healthy scratch quite often during the regular season due to the poor play he had shown.

During those times of scratches and long (and I mean long) scoring droughts, many believed that the two-year signing of Nordstrom in the 2018 NHL Free Agency period was a waste of money. His lack of production and value to the team was mentioned everywhere and it was apparent that the coaching staff felt the same way. Yet, that did not and will not alter the mindset of the 27-year-old, Stockholm, Sweden native.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)

Nordstrom started off the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs against Toronto with one goal in the opening four games. In that span, he averaged only 11:33 of ice time and was a -2 rating. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy scratched Nordstrom for Game Five, a loss for Boston, then went back to Joakim with their backs against the wall in Game Six in Toronto. Nordstrom played less than nine minutes in the win, recording only one hit and sat in the box for two minutes.

Now on home ice, Nordstrom scored the first goal of the game in Game Seven and helped out later in the game with a secondary assist on Sean Kuraly’s third period goal. Joakim Nordstrom finished the series with 2-1-3 numbers – not fantastic, but a definte improvement from his sub-par season. Unfortunately, he failed to score a single point in the entire six-game series against the Blue Jackets and he ended the Eastern Conference Finals sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes with only one assist.

Then came the Stanley Cup Finals and a new Joakim Nordstrom. During his two-year stint with the Chicago Blackhawks, Nordstrom played in three games over the course of the entire playoff run, but did get to raise the Stanley Cup over his head with the 2015 Hawks. With the experience of hoisting the Cup in the past, 2019 became the first time that Nordstrom got the opportunity to play in the Finals and he has taken that chance and has ran with it.

In the opening three games of the best-of-seven series against the St. Louis Blues so far, Joakim Nordstrom has one goal and three assists for four points to go along with his six blocked shots and +5 rating. All of a sudden, Nordstrom is one of the biggest factors to Boston’s winning lineup. In Game Two, the forward recorded five blocks, including this remarkable effort on an extended penalty-kill late in the second period to keep the game tied.

Earlier in the same game, Nordstrom squeaked a clean shot five-hole past Jordan Binnington to restore Boston’s one-goal lead only forty seconds after Robert Bortuzzo tied the hockey game in the opening frame. While Boston lost the game in overtime later in the night, the quick goal from Nordstrom prevented the momentum from drastically being in St. Louis’ favor.

As mentioned previously, the Bruins are on the road for Game Four tonight. With a 2-1 series lead on the Blues, Boston can take a stranglehold on the series with a win – giving them a chance to win the Stanley Cup at home on Thursday. Coming off of a stellar 7-2 victory in St. Louis on Saturday night, the momentum appears to be in Boston’s favor now.

However, in order for the winning team on Monday night to be wearing Black and Gold, players such as Joakim Nordstrom need to continue the admirable efforts on the ice. Of course, the best of the best to wear the Spoked-B this season need to show up as well, but as the history has shown in 2018-19 – it all comes down to depth. Will Joakim Nordstrom continue to silence the doubters on this Stanley Cup run and help lead the B’s to another victory? Puck drop for Game Four is scheduled for 8:00pm EST from St. Louis, Missouri tonight.

Four Boston Bruins Players That Could Win The 7th Player Award

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

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

Every year, the New England Sports Network, better known as NESN, releases a fan vote where fans of the Boston Bruins can vote for who they think should be awarded with the annual 7th Player Award. The 7th Player Award is awarded to the Boston Bruin who “has performed above and beyond expectations”. In years past, the team honour is handed out at the end of March, so the countdown is on for the winner.

Before we get into who should win the award for the 2018-19 season, let’s take a quick look at the past winners of the last decade. Information regarding this is courtesy of Ice Hockey Fandom.com. 

  • 2008-09 David Krejci
  • 2009-10 Tuukka Rask
  • 2010-11 Brad Marchand
  • 2011-12 Tyler Seguin
  • 2012-13 Dougie Hamilton
  • 2013-14 Reilly Smith
  • 2014-15 David Pastrnak
  • 2015-16 Brad Marchand
  • 2016-17 David Pastrnak
  • 2017-18 Charlie McAvoy

Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, and Charlie McAvoy are the most recent winners of the award and for good reason. Marchand exploded three years ago with a 37 goals and a new career-high in points with 61. David Pastrnak also had a great year when he won it back in 2016-17, scoring 34-36-70 numbers from his 26 the year prior. Finally, last year, Charlie McAvoy scored 32 points in his debut NHL season and truly came out as one of the best young offensive d-men in the league.

In the past, the award has been handed out at the end of March, just ahead of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April. We are already over a week into the third month of the new calendar year, so now is the perfect time to take a look at some of the players who can with the 2018-19 7th Player Award.

Jaroslav Halak -> 18-10-4, 2.33 GAA, .924 SV%, 4 Shutouts

When Anton Khudobin did not agree to a new contract with the Boston Bruins following the 2017-18 season, the concern came as to who the Bruins were going to fall on for the role of the backup goaltender position. Ideas of younger, prospect goaltenders from either the Providence Bruins or other affiliate teams were thrown around, but it was the free-agent market that would provide the solution for this new-found problem.

Boston signed journeyman goaltender Jaroslav Halak to a two-year contract with an annual average salary of $2.75 million. Last season, Halak finished up his fourth season with the New York Islanders, the fourth NHL team of his 13-year career. Halak finished last season with a 20-26-6 record, a 3.19 GAA, and a .908 save percentage – not great numbers.

Lucky for Bruins fans and himself, Halak turned a new leaf while wearing the Spoked-B sweater and is showing glimpses of top-level play, the type of play that we saw from him during his time with the Montreal Canadiens. Early on this season, starting goaltender Tuukka Rask was not on his game. He was struggling in net and was losing more often than he was winning. However, Jaro Halak made an appearance and took over the show in the meantime, keeping the Bruins afloat in the NHL’s Eastern Conference playoff race.

jaroslav-halak

PHOTO CREDITS: (NBC Sports)

Head Coach Bruce Cassidy mentioned the fact that he may look to split the number of games that Rask and Halak play down the final stretch and that shows that Halak has done enough to earn starts when it matters. When the original signing was made, many people, including myself was not a fan mainly due to his performance in the previous season but he has exceeded everyone’s expectations and should be a favourite for the 7th Player Award because, without him, Boston may not be second in the Atlantic division.

Chris Wagner -> 66GP, 12G – 6A – 18P, 4th Liner

Chris Wagner never once scored ten goals in his five-year NHL career. In fact, he never scored more than 15 points in a single season, a mark he once hit in 64 games with the Anaheim Ducks last year in 2017-18.

When the Bruins signed Wagner, the Walpole, Massachusetts native to a two-year deal on the opening day of free agency, the signing of Joakim Nordstrom and the hope that the young, up-and-coming players within the Bruins organization will get more NHL minutes, it seemed like Wagner was going to be a spare tire – a depth piece for injuries or for a replacement for a player who is struggling but no, Wagner has become a near-permanent member of the 2018-19 Bruins.

Part of the reason for his success is the help of his linemates, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari, who have helped bolster the game of Wagner to a level never seen before in the NHL. The trio has brought a high level of intensity and energy to the bottom-six while being able to add in a few goals here and there. Additionally, Wagner leads the Bruins with 226 hits, a stat that ties him for 6th most in the National Hockey League.

In today’s NHL, all four lines of any team need to have the ability to score goals when they are so required to do so, yet provide a level of physicality and defence that can keep them in the thick of things. Chris Wagner has been a big reason for the success of that line and he deserves to be in the conversation for the 7th Player Award. No one expected the performance of Wagner to be this solid and a brief stroll in past Twitter comments will highlight that.

David Krejci -> 69GP, 19G – 41A – 60P, +3 Rating

Without a doubt, David Krejci is one of the best second-line centres in the NHL and is one of the best playmakers in the league for the past few seasons. It may seem hard for a player of that stature to win an award that presents the player that has exceeded expectations, but he needs to be in the conversation.

Since putting up 17-46-63 numbers in the 2015-2016 campaign, Krejci seemed to be on a decline for point production. In 2016-17, Krejci scored 54 points in a full 82-game season followed by a 44-point year last year in only 64 games played. However, with the growing chemistry with left-winger Jake DeBrusk, Krejci is on pace for just over 71 points this season. That total would be the second-highest single-season point total for Krejci since his 22-51-73 effort back in 2008-09 – ten seasons ago.

In that 2008-09 season, Krejci averaged 0.89 points-per-game. In comparison, Krejci is averaging 0.87 points-per-game, the third-highest PPG average in his 13-year NHL career. Krejci has found 15 of his points on the man-advantage, meaning the bulk of his numbers have come from five-on-five play, a huge attribute to take into consideration.

Throughout the past few seasons, the Sternberk, Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic) native has been on the receiving end of hard criticism but quite clearly, he has used that as motivation for his success this season. The 32-year-old has three game-winning goals this season, including the overtime goal in the 4-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on March 5th. Linemate Jake DeBrusk said the following about his chemistry with Krejci right after the game versus Carolina.

“I think when you play with a guy for almost 2 years now, you generate that w just games played & different things like that. He’s been playing great all year. He’s the biggest reason why I’ve had success personally as well. To have a guy like that in my corner is something that I don’t take for granted.” – Quote from Shawn Hutcheon (@ShawnHutcheon on Twitter)

David Krejci exceeded the expectations that were placed on him back in September before the puck dropped to begin the regular season. His name is back in the minds of teams across the league if they so happened to forget about him and he has been a factor for the success of the Bruins.

Sean Kuraly -> 66GP, 6G – 11A – 17P, 4th Liner

Sean Kuraly joins linemate Chris Wagner on this four-player list because, in a way, they have to be. Kuraly and Wagner, with the inclusion of Acciari, have surprised most Bruins fans and hockey fans throughout the league with their energy, tenacity, and offensive capabilities while throwing in the occasional hit or fight.

Sean Kuraly came to Boston on June 30th, 2015 in a trade with the San Jose Sharks that sent goaltender Martin Jones off to California and Kuraly with a 2016 1st Rounder (Trent Frederic) to Boston. Martin Jones was acquired by the B’s from the L.A. Kings in exchange for beloved Bruin, Milan Lucic only a few days prior.

Kuraly didn’t play with Boston until 2016-17, skating in eight games, scoring a single point. Kuraly was given an opportunity in the 2017 Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals against the Ottawa Senators and he earned his way into the hearts of Bruins fans all over with two massive goals, one of which in the second overtime session in Game 5 of that series, forcing a Game 6.

After that remarkable game for Kuraly, he ended up playing 75 games during the 2017-18 season, scoring six goals and eight assists for a total of 14 points. In the offseason of this past year, Kuraly signed on the dotted line to a three-year, $3,825,000 contract extension, securing himself a position on the NHL roster for the time being.

Kuraly has done that and more. The Dublin, Ohio, USA native has matched his career-high in goals (6) and set a new career-high in points (17) and has played in twelve less games than in last year’s season. The threat of the fourth-line could be courtesy of the always hard-working Sean Kuraly. Kuraly still possesses that clutch goal-scoring talent, scoring two game-winning goals so far in 2018-19 – both coming in back-to-back games against the Sabres on December 29th and the Blackhawks in the Winter Classic on January 1st.

Kuraly has been one of those quite but deadly pieces to the puzzle that is the 2018-19 Boston Bruins – which can come across as a pleasant surprise for him, the management, and the fanbase.

My Winner: Chris Wagner

It seems like when the Bruins are down a goal late in the hockey game, scrambling to find their legs and score the tying goal or even the winning goal, Chris Wagner is inadvertently in the thick of things when the goal eventually crosses the red line. Wagner has scored the game-tying goal on three different occasions, two of which in the third and final period. Also, in each of those games where he scored the tying marker, the Bruins went on to either win the game or lose in a shootout.

I’ll be 110% honest here – I was fully anticipating Chris Wagner to be scratched for more games than he played and to see limited ice time when he is indeed in the lineup. Losing out on Tavares and Kovalchuk in free agency, at the time, it appeared as though Sweeney and the rest of the B’s management staff had no one else and wanted to go for depth. Tim Schaller, the now Vancouver Canuck, did not re-sign, but it looked like Nordstrom would replace him. Instead, the Bruins have a physical, gritty fourth-liner that has been big when scoring meaningful goals this season.

Chris Wagner is my personal pick to win this year’s 7th Player Award, who do you think wins the annual accolade? Was it one of the players I listed or does another player come to mind? Let me know via Twitter (@tkdmaxbjj) or on FaceBook comments!

Side Note: In the poll above, I listed D Brandon Carlo as an option, yet he is not on my list. I personally expected Carlo to be good this year, so he did not necessarily ‘exceed’ my expectations, but he has been great.

Check out the available tickets from our advertising partner SeatGiant for your next Boston Bruins game. Click the link below, and when purchasing any event ticket, from the NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL to concerts and shows, please use discount code BNGP to save a little money. Thank You! 

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Opinion: Boston Bruins Will Not Make A Big Trade At 2019 Trade Deadline

2015 NHL Draft - Round One

PHOTO CREDITS: (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The 2019 NHL Trade Deadline is less than two weeks away and the anticipation of every fan in the National Hockey League is growing by the hour. Similar to every season, in the weeks and days leading up to the February 25th deadline, the trade rumors are through the roof. NHL insiders and analysts alike are scrambling to find the latest, most in-depth scoop on any team involving trade.

For the past couple of seasons, especially this one, the Boston Bruins are one of the main teams in the mix to make a deal at or around the deadline. It is well known that the core of the Bruins – Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, etc. – are not getting any younger and it would be a good send off for some of these players to get another Stanley Cup ring under their belts.

In addition to that, the Bruins have some holes on their roster that need to be filled. Head Coach Bruce Cassidy has had an issue with the depth scoring since Opening Day back in October. In the two wins last weekend against the Los Angeles Kings and the Colorado Avalanche, Cassidy had star forward David Pastrnak on the second-line with Krejci and Cehlarik while Danton Heinen joined Bergeron and Marchand in an attempt to spread out the offence and spark offence on other lines than the top one.

Heading into the Trade Deadline, Boston is quite clearly going to push for a top-six winger, most likely to play with David Krejci, so Pastrnak can be reunited with Bergeron and Marchand, if they do end up making that push. With a quote coming from an article published on NHL.com by Amalie Benjamin (@AmalieBenjamin on Twitter), General Manager Don Sweeney does indeed recognize that need.

“My feeling is that we would like to try and add without necessarily giving up what we know is a big part of our future,” Sweeney said in comments provided to NHL.com by the Bruins. “We committed assets last year to take a swing where we felt we needed to address an area of need and we will try and do a similar thing this year. I can’t guarantee that’ll happen. This time of the year, prices are generally pretty high, but we’re going to try. We’re going to try because I think we still need it.”

cut

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

If the Boston Bruins want to be considered a Stanley Cup Contender this season or even just a really solid team coming out of the Eastern Conference, then Sweeney needs to pull the trigger and in my eyes – that is the move to make. Make a trade for a top-six winger who can score. However, even though I’d like to see a move made, I think for a few reasons that Boston will not make a big trade this Trade Deadline.

High Risk – High Reward, Maybe.

To make a trade, you have to send someone the other way – simple equation to all trades in every sport. The Boston Bruins appear to have a large pool of prospects in not only the AHL with the Providence Bruins, but across many different hockey leagues all throughout the world. With that said, the performance of these young players in the NHL this season may be a cause for concern for other General Managers on the other end of the phone call.

Ryan Donato and Jakub Forsbacka Karlsson were arguably the best prospects in the system as we closed in on the 2018-19 season, but with their lackluster performance in the NHL, resulting in their demotion back to Providence, it is a very good chance that the GMs across the league are worried that these prospects are “flops”, which could be completely false, but it is most definitely something they are discussing.

donato

PHOTO CREDITS: (CHARLES KRUPA / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO)

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Artemi Panarin is without a doubt, the number one player on the market. Boston Globe’s Matt Porter discussed what the idea of what Columbus may be wanting for the pending unrestricted free agent.

“The market for (Panarin) is reportedly a first-round pick, a player, and a prospect. It is a high price, especially for someone who could leave a team empty-handed on July 1. But the Bruins are interested, and they’re not alone,” Porter reported.

If I were a betting man, (I am not), I would imagine Jake DeBrusk having to go to Columbus as well as a Ryan Donato or Trent Frederic and the 2019 1st Round Pick. All that with the added dilemma on what happens to Panarin after the season ends, does he test free agency, or does he sign an extension in Boston? That is a high price for a rental player and it does not guarantee a Stanley Cup for Boston.

Even if it isn’t Artemi, players such as Mark Stone, Wayne Simmonds, Michael Ferland, or Kevin Hayes – the Bruins will have to give up assets that may or may not appeal to the future of this franchise. It has been mentioned that it is a buyer’s market right now, but teams with valued assets will most likely charge an arm and a leg for that player because they can most likely get those same assets back from one of the other 30 NHL teams.

Are the assets going out worth it? That is to be determined, but nothing is official.

Sweeney’s Trade History

Even though GM Don Sweeney expressed his interest in trading, he also said in the same quote that he wants to avoid moving a large part of their future for a possible rental player. When saying that, he wants to avoid a repeat of last year’s deadline acquisition with the New York Rangers.

Put in the same position as this year, the Bruins needed help on the top-six forward core. In what looks like now like a panic move, the Bruins sent forward Ryan Spooner, defenceman Ryan Lindgren, and Boston’s 2018 1st Round Pick (traded to Ottawa for D Jacob Bernard-Docker) to the New York Rangers for forward Rick Nash who played in eleven regular season games (3-3-6 totals) and another twelve playoff games (3-2-5 totals, -7 rating) and then retired this year.

Sweeney moved a lot of youth – mainly Lindgren and that 1st Round Pick for a player that played in a combined twenty-three games in a Spoked-B sweater. Don Sweeney has stated in the past that he does not want to move another first-rounder and if it is for a player that may decide on hitting the free-agent market come July 1st, the chances of him giving in are quite slim.

usatsi_11888891_0

PHOTO CREDITS: (USA Today Sports)

When considering that, there are teams, such as Toronto, Tampa Bay, Winnipeg, or Nashville that would gladly trade their first-round selection because they believe that they can be a serious Cup contender and that their pick will be a late round pick and in that regard, would not be that hard of a price to pay. Sweeney does not want to make a mistake on a trade nor make a move just for the idea of making a move, leaving some bargaining power off the table.

Free Agency Class – UFAs and RFAs

One thing that a lot of the hypothetical trade targets have in common, is that their current contract expires on July 1st. If the Bruins management decides to make a move for one of these players, it does not guarantee that they will remain on the team for the 2019-20 season. That plus the fact that the B’s will have to trade some pieces, like I have already mentioned, that may not be in the plans of the future.

Here are 10 unrestricted free agent players that could fill the Bruins holes in the free agent market IF they do not re-sign with their current organization and they decide to sign with Boston:

  • CBJ LW Artemi Panarin – 52GP – 21-42-63 in 2018-19
  • OTT RW Mark Stone – 55GP 25-31-56 in 2018-19
  • OTT C Matt Duchene – 46GP – 25-28-53 in 2018-19
  • NYI RW Jordan Eberle – 51GP 13-13-26 in 2018-19
  • OTT C/RW/LW – Ryan Dzingel 54GP 21-20-41 in 2018-19
  • NYR C/W Kevin Hayes – 46GP – 13-25-38 in 2018-19
  • DET RW/LW Gustav Nyquist – 56GP – 14-33-47 in 2018-19
  • NYR RW Mats Zuccarello – 41GP – 9-23-32 in 2018-19
  • ANA LW/RW Jakub Silfverberg – 47GP – 12-8-20 in 2018-19
  • CAR LW/RW Micheal Ferland – 48GP – 15-16-31 in 2018-19

Of course, there is no guarantee that any of these players make it to free agency and if they do decline offers from their respective teams, then there is no guarantee that they are swayed enough by the Bruins management members to come to Massachusetts and join the Bruins. However, the same can be true if the Bruins trade an arm and a leg for these players for them to just leave at the beginning of July. If Boston fails to win the Cup with them, then it is another bad move.

In the same breath, the 2018-19 free agent class has one of the most-skilled RFA class of any year’s past. When sending an offer to an RFA that makes it past July 1st, you must not only get acceptance from the player, but from the team, who has the option to match your contract offer. If the Bruins can land a player that is under a restricted free agent status, then compensation picks that vary on annual salary amount will have to be paid to the team. Under every option, the Bruins right now, are able to offer any amount. It is important to know that all picks are for the nearest Entry Draft so in this case, 2020 NHL Draft unless the compensation is multiple picks from the same round, then it can be from numerous years. Check it out below via CapFriendly Offer Sheet Calculator:

  • $0 – $1,339,575 – No Compensation
  • $1,339,576 – $2,029,659 – One 3rd Round Pick
  • $2,029,660 – $4,059,322 – One 2nd Round Pick
  • $4,059,323 – $6,088,980 – One 1st Round Pick and One 3rd Round Pick
  • $6,088,981 – $8,118,641 – One 1st Round, One 2nd Round, One 3rd Round Pick
  • $8,118,642 – $10,148,302 – Two 1st Rounds, One 2nd Round, One 3rd Round
  • $10,148,303 – ∞ – Four 1st Round Picks

If Sweeney and the Bruins make a move that will most likely have to require that first rounder, it makes a RFA offer less likely because Boston will be without a pick in the first round for three years in a row. The options for Sweeney are a lot, but the questions that are being asked often are the following.

Can the Bruins afford to move the youth and prospects that they have built up for a rental? Will a trade for a longer-term player work out? Will the lack of 1st Round Pick(s) impact the team in a negative manner for the long-term? Should Boston make a real push with Chara, Bergeron, etc., getting older and their time for another Cup running slim?

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PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

The questions continue from there but with the weeks and days counting down, only the B’s management know what they can get and what they want. We as fans just have to bite the fingernails off as we anticipate the breaking news, or lack thereof.

In one final conclusion, I do not think that the Boston Bruins will make a big, franchise-altering trade at the Trade Deadline this season. If there will ever be a big trade, it will be at the NHL Entry Draft in Vancouver or on the opening day of NHL Free Agency. Don Sweeney’s track record has not been pleasant nor will the assets going the other way for a player that may or may not stay with Boston next season all combined together with the simple fact that nothing guarantees a Stanley Cup. What do you think about the 2019 NHL Trade Deadline?

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