The Culture Of The Boston Bruins

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(Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports Photo)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

Like every other sport, hockey is a game that requires skill and certain physical abilities in order to be successful. Hockey is also a sport that involves a lot of intangibles. Anyone who follows the game, whether you have ever laced them up or not, knows how highly leadership and perseverance are valued. There are whispers about guys being dealt because they “weren’t good in the room.” We all know the story of the 2013 Finals when Patrice Bergeron played through a veritable laundry list of injuries that included torn rib cartilage, a broken rib, a separated shoulder, and a punctured lung. Just a few months ago, Zdeno Chara broke his jaw in multiple places in Game Four of the Finals…and didn’t miss a single game.

Both of those players are revered around the league for their toughness and leadership abilities. Players that join the team from other organizations speak to the culture of the room. As John Moore so succinctly put it during an interview back in May, “For lack of a better way to put it there are no ****heads.” Bergeron and Chara’s acts of will no doubt inspire the other guys in the room to play through pain and for one another. The 2011 and 2019 teams were reputed to have two of the tightest-knit rooms in the NHL. As fascinating as it is to discuss those displays of pure willpower (and it is), I have been asking myself if perhaps these events inspire a more tangible benefit than a bunch of guys that get along? Does the culture in the B’s dressing room directly affect the product they are able to put on the ice?

Looking at the deals that Peter Chiarelli and Don Sweeney have negotiated over the last few years, I think the answer is yes. There appears to be a trend in Boston of players taking “less than fair market value” in order to stay with the team. Boston is a great city with good schools, medical facilities and lots to do, but let’s face it, NHL players making millions will be able to get that in most cities. Bruins players truly enjoy coming to work every day, and it’s reflected in the “fair deals” they sign with the team.

Chara Room

(Photo Credit: AP/Charles Krupa)

This trend first started before Don Sweeney was named GM, with the two de facto leaders in the room, Chara and Bergeron. In 2010, Chara was in the last year of the five- year, $37.5 million contract that marked his departure from Ottawa for Boston. He came to an agreement on a seven-year, $45.5 million extension in October of 2010 that would set the tone for the rest of the guys in the room for years to come. When comparing contracts signed in different years (and with different cap ceilings) the key is to look at the percentage of the cap the deal eats up. Chara’s contract accounted for 11.64% of the cap at the time.

Next up was Patrice Bergeron. In July of 2013, after the Bruins made their second trip to the Finals, Bergeron signed an eight-year extension at $6.875 million per season that would make him a Bruin for life. This contract would take up 10.69% of the cap that year. Nearly seven million dollars and more than ten percent of the cap sounds like a lot until you look at deals for similar players. The closest comparison that year to Bergeron was the Anaheim Ducks captain, Ryan Getzlaf. The season before Getzlaf had 11g/46a (Bergeron had 22g/42a), which was a down year for him. Despite that, in March of 2013, he inked an eight-year deal for $8.25 million a season that accounted for 12.83% of the Ducks total cap space. A little more than a two percent difference doesn’t sound like a lot until think about the other 21-22 players on the team that are going to want a few more percentage points on all of their deals (because that’s what the team leaders did).

Another veteran that signed a long-term extension in 2014 was center, David Krejci. While his six-year, $43.5 million contract was for a slightly higher AAV ($7.25m) then Bergeron’s, it didn’t take effect until 2015-16. In the interim, the cap went up, and as a result, Krejci’s deal was actually a slightly lower percentage to the cap than Bergeron’s (10.51%). So, now it’s the 2016 offseason, Sweeney is the GM, and the Bruins have three of their key (and most influential) veterans locked up on long-term deals at very reasonable money. Whether it was intended to do this or not, the effect of having those three Cup-winning leaders locked up was to create an artificial ceiling. Combine that with the personalities of those guys and the culture in the room and what happened next should not have been much of a surprise in hindsight.

Boston Bruins vs Winnipeg Jets

(Photo Credit: Christopher Evans/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

Brad Marchand was in the last year of his four-year, $4.5 million per deal and B’s Nation was worried. Marchand was coming off career highs of 61 pts and 37 goals. There was talk of an $8m contract, not being able to afford the controversial wing, and potentially trading him, rather than losing him for nothing to free agency. This went on all summer, and all through camp, until the last week of September. At that time Sweeney and Marchand announced an eight-year deal for $49 million (8.39% of the cap) that would likely keep Bad Brad in Boston for the remainder of his career. He has done nothing but make that deal look like a bargain since. His point totals the last three seasons are: 85 pts (39 goals), 85 pts (34 goals), 100 pts (36 goals). Many believe Marchand’s contract to be the best value in the league.

Fast forward to the following summer. The Bruins returned to the playoffs under Bruce Cassidy, who replaced Claude Julien with 27 games left in the season. They were eliminated in the first round, but optimism reigns. The team has a new coach and an exciting young wing in David Pastrnak who produced 70 points, including 34 goals. The only thing more captivating than Pasta’s scoring ability was his gap-toothed smile and Bruins fans adored him. There was one problem. Pastrnak had his breakout season in the last year of his ELC. To most fans, this meant that he would command a big salary that would put a strain on the salary cap. I guess we should have known better by this point? After several months of angst and speculation, in September of 2017 Pastrnak signed a six-year deal for $40 million ($6.66m per year, 8.89%). In the two seasons after, he has 73 regular-season goals and 161 points. Another deal that has some fans referring to the Bruins GM as “Sweenius” for his team-friendly extensions.

It seems like every offseason, there are contracts that need to be negotiated, and this year was no exception. Three young regulars: Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo were all coming off their ELC’s and needed new deals. After the long postseason run, and loss in the Finals, fans were cranky and needed something to complain about. The dialogue was that there was no way Sweeney could sign his three restricted free-agents with David Backes’ deal still on the books, limiting him to roughly $12 million to work with. It would turn out that all the gnashing of teeth and stress were for nothing. The solution would come in the form of three “bridge” deals. Heinen signed first, two years, $2.8m per season. McAvoy was next and he came in at $4.9m for three years. That left only Carlo, who ended up at $2.85m for two years. A Top-9 forward and two Top-4 defensemen for less than $11 million. Who would have thought it possible?

The thing that makes all of this even more delicious is that the Bruins main division rival du jour, the Toronto Maple Leafs, had their own high-profile RFA to sign. Leaf wunderkind Mitch Marner was coming off three 60+ point ELC seasons, culminating in last season’s 94 point effort. He ended up signing a six-year deal for more than $65 million ($10.89m per, 13.37% of the cap), which was significantly more than any of his RFA peers. I am not saying that Toronto has “bad” guys in their dressing room, but the leaders on that team have not taken “team-friendly” deals, and you can see the trickle-down effect with a lot of their contracts.

It started with John Tavares. He signed in July 2018 to the tune of $77 million (7 years, $11m AAV, 13.84% of the cap). Then restricted free agent William Nylander held out until December, missing the first two months of the regular season. On the last day of eligibility to play in the 2018-19 season, Nylander inked a deal with the Leafs worth $45 million (6 years, $6.96m AAV, 12.93% of the cap). After those two contracts, can you really blame Matthews and Marner for wanting their piece of the pie? Matthews signed his extension in February of 2019. It was a five-year deal worth almost $58.2 million ($11.63m AAV, 14.63% of the cap) that will make him an unrestricted free agent at the ripe old age of 28.

Carlo and Krug

(Photo Credit: Stuart Cahill/Media News Group/Boston Herald)

Obviously, you have to take into account that the league has changed over the last few years, and also the ages of the players involved. Even taking those factors into consideration, the difference between the paths the two teams have taken is striking. Toronto’s top four forwards account for more than $40 million, or roughly half the cap. Boston has its top four forwards signed for a total of less than $27 million. Each one of the Leafs forwards has a percent-to-cap number of about four-to-five percentage points higher than the comparables in Boston.

I realize that there are a lot of numbers involved in what I have been talking about and that the salary cap can be a very confusing topic of discussion. That said, if I had to boil it all down to a single overriding idea for the reader to take away from this article, it would be that the culture in the Bruins dressing room has had a very tangible and measurable effect. In addition to being good in the room, Bruins veterans have been willing to take less money to enable Bruins management to keep the core of the team together. It started about five or six years ago and continued into this past offseason. Next year Don Sweeney will have roughly $24 million in cap space, and he will have to make decisions on players like Krug, Coyle, DeBrusk, and Grzelcyk. It will be extremely interesting to see if the unique culture in the Bruins dressing room influences these players to be reasonable in their salary demands so the band can stay together. Only time will tell.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 146 that we recorded on 9-22-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Bruins Sign Carlo To New Contract

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Photo Courtesy Of Getty Images

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced this morning that the team has signed defenseman Brandon Carlo to a two-year deal with approximately $2.85 million per season. The signing comes just two days after the B’s were able to come to terms with Charlie McAvoy. Carlo skated in 72 regular season games for the B’s last year, recording two goals and eight assists for ten points. He also appeared in all 24 postseason contests last spring, posting two goals and two assists.
 

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The Bruins drafted the Colorado Springs native in the second round (37th overall) of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Carlo skated in all 82 regular season games for the B’s in his rookie year, posting six goals and ten assists for 16 points which are still career highs for the young defenseman. Due to injuries at the end of both of his first two seasons, Carlo didn’t appear in the postseason either of those years. Carlo spent seven games in 2015-16 with the Providence Bruins, recording an assist.

Carlo may not be the offensive force that Charlie McAvoy is but he is just as important to the team if not more. He has already cemented himself as one of the best young defensive defensemen in the entire league. Don’t be surprised if the B’s increase his ice time this season, and if all goes well he may contribute a little offense.

Bruins Ink McAvoy To New Deal

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Photo Courtesy Of The Boston Globe

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

First reported by Bob McKenzie of TSN, the Bruins have signed Charlie McAvoy to a three-year contract worth about $4.9 million dollars per season. McAvoy skated in 54 regular season games for the B’s last year, posting seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points. He also appeared in 23 postseason games last spring, posting two goals and six assists for eight points.

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In McAvoy’s rookie season in 2017-18 he posted seven goals and 25 assists for 32 points in 63 regular season games. He also posted a goal and four assists in 12 postseason contests. The 21-year-old also appeared in six playoff games in 2016-17, posting three assists in six games. In that year, McAvoy also appeared in four games in Providence, recording two assists. The Long Beach, New York native was drafted by the Bruins in the first round (14th overall) of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

McAvoy will certainly be a big part of the Bruins future and perhaps the present as well. Number 73 should see increased ice time overall and on the power play and we could see a breakout season if he can stay healthy. Now with McAvoy locked up, the Bruins defense corps will be solid for years to come. Logically, signing Brandon Carlo would be next on the list for Don Sweeney.

Bruins Defensive Depth Could Be Tested Early On In The Regular Season

TORONTO, ON - APRIL 19: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Four of the Eastern Conference First Round in the 2018 Stanley Cup play-offs at the Air Canada Centre on April 19, 2018 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Bruins defeated the Maple Leafs 3-1. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Matt Grzelcyk(Claus Andersen)

(Photo Credit: Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Ideally, this scenario never happens and we can resume peaceful existence, but there is a chance that Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are not in the opening night lineup for the Bruins. In this event, things need to be done in a certain way, in my eyes. This scenario also assumes that John Moore and Kevan Miller will be out of the lineup recovering from their respective injuries.

First defensive pairing; Chara-Clifton

Zdeno Chara and Connor Clifton have a little bit of experience with one another, but not much. I still think this is the ideal first pairing with a decimated defensive core. While I think there is a chance Chara’s playing time gets scaled back ever so slightly this season, this would not be the scenario to do so. A shutdown presence is very much needed in this case.

Clifton didn’t shy away from a larger role no matter where he played in the lineup last season, making him the best option in this scenario, with Matt Grzelcyk on his off side not being the worst thing either. But ultimately, I think Clifton should be the guy on pairing number one in this scenario.

Clifton’s physical presence, skating, and puck-moving abilities could really compliment Chara’s shutdown style pretty well.

(Video Credit: Tom Brady on YouTube)

Second defensive pairing: Krug-Kampfer

On the second pairing, Torey Krug and Stevie Snipes join forces to further stabilize the top-four. Torey Krug is a wagon and Kampfer really improved as the season progressed. He even scored a huge goal in game one against Carolina in the Eastern Conference Finals, earning himself the title of Stevie Snipes.

Krug’s defensive game took a step in the right direction, and Kampfer’s defensive and puck-moving abilities are solid enough to complement Krug’s game and potentially create a solid duo on the back end.

Third defensive pairing: Vaakanainen-Grzelcyk

This is where it get’s interesting. This pairing has the potential to be a puck possession, zone exit-entry monster pairing. Grzelcyk has seen time on his opposite side with Chara in the past, but I think putting him with Urho Vaakanainen could be very beneficial for Vaakanainen.

Who knows? Maybe Grzelcyk will be able to showcase his one-timer again on his opposite side.

(Video Credit: SPORTSNET on YouTube)

Despite being undersized, Grzelcyk’s been able to handle himself in the physical game fairly well, and he and Vaakanainen could very well create offense and facilitate plenty of puck possession through the neutral zone.

A good chunk of this pairing success hinges on how well Vaakanainen continues to adapt to the NHL in a second stint. His first stint this past season was cut short due to a concussion after an elbow from Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki. An elbow that netted Borowiecki a one-game suspension.

In this doomsday scenario, I would love to see what this pairing could do with one another.

What else is there?

Alex Petrovic is set to join the Bruins in camp on a PTO. There is also still a chance that the Bruins perhaps sign another defenseman to join the mix at camp and potentially provide reinforcement past a PTO.

There are also a few AHL options, god forbid it gets to the point so early in the season. Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, and Wiley Sherman are the three available options at this point in time. Lauzon and Zboril have seen brief NHL time, Sherman hasn’t. Hopefully it doesn’t come to disrupting their AHL development in the event of more chaos on the back end for the Bruins.

In this scenario, things could be a lot worse, and I think this would be the best way to operate with McAvoy, Carlo, Moore, and Miller all potentially out of the lineup to start the season. The depth was tested for quite some time early last season, but let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. I don’t think it will, but crazier things have happened.

Bruins Prospects Part 1: Grade A

(Photo credit: Nancy Lane/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald)

By: Michael Robert |  Follow me on Twitter: @b_blackandgold

 

Here we are entering into September, a short few weeks away from hockey season. What better time than now to roll out an article series. This will slot the up and comers into a grading system that will give us a glimpse of what to expect as these young chaps look to climb the ladder. I will give my lineup position projection and ceiling for each player in each grade.

The prospects will be put into a grading system from A to D, and to wrap up this series, there will be a future projected Bruins lineup. The grade A prospects are your ultra high-end prospects that are sure to make their mark with the team and league right away. Highly touted through their path to the NHL and immediate, big impact players. Grade B prospects are the players that will have an impact with the NHL squad but may take some time to develop and find how their game fits into the big league. Grade C are prospects that have the skill to make the NHL team but need further development time and are not players that are sure to make the leap into the NHL. Grade D is prospect projects that have the skill to play but need some time put into them to further develop their skills and improve in all areas.

These are players that played well through their journey to the draft and have shown flashes of what they have, but have yet to find that consistency and level of play that really puts them into serious consideration for an NHL job (think full time AHL player or players that land in other pro leagues for their career). For Part 5, the projected Bruins roster, it will be with players currently in the system, not including any projected future draft picks or projected trades. For this, Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo will be considered as signed. The rest of the back end will have Zdeno Chara retired, Steven Kampfer will be off the roster, John Moore will be gone along with Kevan Miller will be gone. The forward corps will see Joakim Nordstrom, Brett Ritchie, Chris Wagner, and Par Lindholm gone. This is based solely off of me thinking these players arent here for the long haul for various reasons we won’t get into here. The foundation for the series is laid. Let’s get into this.

Grade A Prospects:

None. Zilch. Nada. Nil.

However you want to put it, the shelf in this cupboard is totally bare. Not one crumb left. I’ll admit it. This sucks. Although, I did throw up a poll and the community that voted is pretty evenly divided on this so far. Feel free to weigh in with your comments!

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Many teams around the league have bright shiny toys in their system, unlike the Bruins. But this also comes at a price. The Bruins have been able to quickly adjust and retool on the fly, making them a competitive team every season that no team takes lightly. Many of the teams with bright and shiny things have those things because of some years of real suffering.

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So there is a price to be paid. Totally overhaul and be content with not being a playoff team or in contention and hope you land some juggernauts in the draft in those years, or remain competitive and give yourself a shot while sacrificing the opportunity to grasp at some of these obvious top guns that come along. There is, of course, the exception where you land some real high-end players in spots you can’t believe they were had at. Examples Bergeron, Pastrnak, etc. Then there is the one thing we all want to forget, the 2015 draft. There were the projected obvious ones there, ready and ripe for the picking, that would have most definitely shaped out the Bruins future core for at least a decade or more. I don’t want to dwell on this as I still don’t know what they were thinking, so let’s just roll on, accept, and forget (or continue to try to).

Some of our beloved Bruins core is very near the end of their careers, or are getting into the tail ends of it. The Bruins scouting and development of what they do have, and will pick in the next one to three drafts, are going to be extremely important in this team remaining a competitive team that can be playing playoff hockey. This is barring any trades of course for top prospects or high picks. And of course, there is the chance of finding a gem deeper in the draft.

I wish there were some players to slot in here, but they just don’t exist right now. I hope you’ll follow along here for this ride as Part 2 in the series gets better for us, I promise!

Bruin’s Offseason: All Quiet On The Eastern Front (2 of 2)

Bruins D

(Photo Credit: Matt Stone/ Boston Herald)

By Joe Chrzanowski  |  Follow Me on Twitter @jchrz19

In part 1 of this two part series, I discussed the open positions among the Bruin’s forward group, the options, and how those spots were likely to be filled. Now we are going to look at the Boston defense, which many believe is the strength of the team, based on the depth they possess on the back end from top to bottom, positions 1-8.

If we discussed this back in July, the conversation would not have been a very long one. Five of the starting six positions appeared to be relatively set with regulars from the 2018-19 team that lost in the Cup Finals. Chara, McAvoy, Krug, Carlo, and Grzelcyk would have been pretty much unanimous choices, with Connor Clifton and Kevan Miller the likely candidates to be battling it out for the last spot on the right side of the 3rd pair. Steven Kampfer signed a two-year extension worth $800,000 per season and would appear to be a lock for the 8th/Press Box spot. John Moore was the other guy in the mix, but will likely start the season on LTIR after playing through a broken humerus in the playoffs. There also would have been some calls for Vaakaneinen, Lauzon, and Zboril, the Providence defensemen that are on the cusp and next in line for a shot.

Fast forward about eight weeks and that conversation has become a lot more complicated and the starters on defense a lot less certain. The first problem (and the most serious) is obvious and has been a talking point since the regular season. Both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo (the Bruin’s first and second pair right D-men) are restricted, free agents. As of today, neither has agreed to terms on an extension with the team. The second issue is that Kevan Miller is reportedly not skating yet after his knee injury and subsequent setback during the playoffs. Due to Miller’s tendency to get hurt every season, I don’t think many thought he would last all year unscathed. However, if he is unable to start the season the Bruin’s blue line depth will take yet another hit. If he can be ready for October, he could provide valuable insurance on the right side of the Boston defense.

Let’s take a look at the cast of characters that should make up the Bruin’s back end and the ones that may have to fill in for either injury or hold outs.

At the top of the list of any discussion regarding Boston’s defense is the 42-year-old Slovakian behemoth, Zdeno Chara. The captain signed a one-year deal with the team worth $2 million for 2019-20, but the Cap hit could rise to $3.75 million if he meets his performance bonuses. Chara is no longer the guy that could once log 26 minutes a night for 82 games against the Bruin’s toughest opposition, but he still can do it for shorter periods of time and has a key role on the team, both on and off the ice. I would love to see Boston cut down on Chara’s minutes even more than they have in recent years, and use him as a 3rd pair PK specialist. I think this would allow him to play at a higher level and save him for a playoff run. However, given the current makeup of the left side of the defense, I’m not sure that will be possible? With Moore injured, Chara is the only left defenseman that is capable of playing a defensive shutdown role.

That brings us to 21-year-old, Long Island-born Charlie McAvoy. In most circles, McAvoy is considered the next all-star D in what has been a long line of them in Boston. In any other offseason, we would be discussing the positive impact that he would be having on the team come October, but not this year. Right now, there is a hefty list of impact restricted free agents that have yet to agree to terms with their respective teams. Unfortunately, McAvoy, who averaged 22:10 TOI and totaled 7g/21a in only 54 games last season is one of the big names on the list. The point of this article is not to debate McAvoy’s salary, but it would probably be safe to assume he will get in the $6-7 million range easily. The rumor is that McAvoy turned down a 7-8 year deal in the $7.5 million range. If that is the case, I can only assume he wants to go the route that Auston Matthews did and sign a five-year deal that will make him an unrestricted free agent at the age of 26.

The next Bruin’s defenseman is a lightning rod among fans and media alike. There may not be another player on the team (well, maybe Tuukka) that inspires more debate and venom than Torey Krug. People are divided about how much he’s worth, how good he is offensively, how much of a liability he is in his own zone…even who is taller, he or Brad Marchand. No matter what your feelings on Krug (I am a fan personally), even his harshest critics have to admit he’s an offensive catalyst on both the power play and at even strength. He stretches the opposing defense like no other defenseman in the organization, whether it be by a long outlet pass or bringing the puck up the ice himself.

Since Krug signed a four-year deal worth $21 million in 2016-17 ($5.25m per) he is 5th in the NHL for defensemen with 163 regular-season points in 221 games. To say he is a bargain on his current deal would be an understatement. The question people have now is not about this deal, it’s about his next one. How much money and term should the Bruins invest in a 29-year-old that many view as a one-dimensional player? That’s the $6-8 million question. I ask myself that same question, but Krug went a long way towards convincing me with his performance (both offensively and defensively) in last season’s playoffs. In my opinion, he was hands down the Bruin’s best blue-liner in the postseason, and his defense was above average on the whole. He’s a key player any year, but if Boston has holdouts, he will play an even bigger role.

The second potential holdout and another key player on the defense is Brandon Carlo. The soon to be 23-year-old had his best year as a pro last season, building on what fans saw in 2017-18. While his point totals didn’t necessarily reflect it, Carlo took a big leap forward. His TOI was up about 90 seconds per game (20:55), and his shots, hits, and plus/minus were all career highs for a season. Unfortunately for Carlo, while there is some potential there, he has shown very little in the way of offense since making the Bruins as a rookie three years ago. In the NHL, there are very few, if any, defensive-minded defensemen that get paid like their puck-moving brethren. If I had to compare him to a recent player and his contract, the closest I can come is probably the Avs Nikita Zadorov, who signed a one-year deal with Colorado in July for $3.2 million. Zadorov is roughly 18 months older than Carlo, but he plays a similar defensive style. He does produce offensively at a better clip with 62 points in 292 NHL games, versus 32 points in 230 games for Carlo. To be honest, I am not quite sure what the hold up is here? I expected this contract to be the far easier of the two Bruin RFA defensemen without deals, but that has not been the case.

Grizz Photo by Claus Andersen - Getty Images

(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

That brings us to the Bruins third pair, which will most likely be made up of two of these three: Matt Grzelcyk, Connor Clifton, or Kevan Miller (health permitting). For the sake of discussion, I am going to assume that Miller will not be able to start the season. If he can, to me he is the favorite for the RD position on the third pair, despite a strong showing by Clifton last season in his absence. Barring injury, I don’t see how Grzelcyk is not your starter on the left side. While his advanced stats were not as impressive in 2018-19 as they were in his rookie campaign, I would chalk that up to the fact that his playing time rose almost 2:30 minutes per game, he faced stiffer competition due to injuries, and his offensive zone starts were down nearly five percent. Despite those obstacles, Grelcyk finished the regular season a “plus nine” and up three points from the year before. In my opinion, he is the perfect puck-moving third pair in today’s NHL. While he does lack size, he has a good stick and sound positioning in the defensive zone. His contract ($1.4 million) is also a bargain by today’s standards. The question in a lot of people’s minds is whether or not Grizz can jump into a Top Four role with the team if they are forced to move Krug. I root for guys like Grzelcyk, but I’m not sure he’s up to that task? Despite the size similarities, he and Krug have different games. Grizz is the better skater and better defensively, but he lacks Krug’s cannon shot and end to end passing ability. I would prefer the Bruins keep number 48 right where he is, but Cap concerns may force their hands?

On the right side (assuming Miller can’t go), the likely candidate will be Connor Clifton. The 24-year-old New Jersey native played his college hockey at Quinnipiac College in the ECAC. He was a 5th round pick of the Arizona Coyotes in 2013 but was unable to come to an agreement with the Yotes after graduating and ended up signing a deal with the Providence Bruins in 2017. He played 54 games for the Baby B’s that year and impressed the front office enough to get a two-year NHL deal. He started 2018-19 in the AHL, but was called up in November and again in the Spring because of the plethora of injuries on the B’s back end. He endeared himself to the fan base by playing what Coach Bruce Cassidy called “Cliffy Hockey,” a blend of fearless physical play along with joining the rush that was exciting but at times stressful.  Stressful or not, Don Sweeney liked what he saw enough to sign Clifton to a three-year deal worth $1 million per season that begins next year when his current contract expires. Despite all that, I have to admit that I am not 100% sold on him. I am hoping that one of the three or four prospects I am about to discuss can steal one of those third pair spots, and Clifton becomes the 7th d-man eventually.

Last year when injuries ravaged the B’s defensive corps, three rookies other than Clifton also made their NHL debuts. Urho Vaakaneinen, Jeremy Lauzon, and Jakub Zboril all donned the Black and Gold for the first time to varying degrees of success. Zboril (2015) and Vaakaneinen (2017) are both former first-round picks that have pretty impressive draft pedigrees, but it was the lower-drafted Lauzon (52nd overall in 2015) that made the more lasting impression. The big, rangy left-handed product out of Rouyn-Noranda in the QMJHL is a good skater, but not quite as smooth as his Euro-counterparts. He’s a little more physical and played more of a “stay at home” game than I expected, given his production in Juniors. I’m sure that some of that was due to nerves and wanting to take care of his own end before joining the rush as a rookie. He had only one goal in his first 16 NHL games but looked increasingly comfortable as the games mounted. If McAvoy and Carlo do hold out, Lauzon would be my choice to step in, although management might prefer the more experienced Steven Kampfer, at least to start.

Vaakaneinen and Zboril would appear to be the next ones in line, but like Lauzon, both are left-handed shots. Vaakaneinen, a 20-year-old Finn, did spend some time playing the right side for SaiPa in the Liiga (the top tier men’s league in Finland), which may give him an advantage. It’s easy to see why the B’s European scouts liked Vaakaneinen, as he combines good size (6’1″, 190 pounds) and excellent skating ability in one package. Early viewings suggest that right now “Vaak” is more comfortable playing a defensive game. I think that his ability to get up and down the ice will eventually lead to more offense in his game. I thought he looked pretty good in his debut, but unfortunately, a nasty elbow by the Ottawa Senators Mark Borowiecki in Vaakaneinen’s second game resulted in a concussion that sidelined him for months.

Zboril was the 14th overall pick in the now infamous 2015 draft for the Bruins, where they passed on players like Matt Barzal, Kyle Connor, and Thomas Chabot. The B’s were starved for defense prospects at the time, and Zboril was given a mid-first grade by most scouts, so I have no issue with the pick. I am a fan of Zboril’s but am a little perplexed by him. He is as smooth a skater as I have ever seen, making it seem effortless as he makes his way around the ice. He displayed some offensive ability for Saint John’s of the QMJHL, and I have also seen him show bit of a mean streak. When you add it all up, he should already be playing in the NHL. It appears that inconsistency is holding him back? This is a big year for Zboril, he’s on the last year of his ELC, and the Bruins have several other young defensemen vying for spots. If he doesn’t “put it together” this season, I could see him playing elsewhere going forward.

The two defensemen at the bottom of the Bruin prospect food chain (and this is not an insult in any way) came to the organization in completely different ways. Cooper Zech was an undrafted free agent that signed with Providence after an impressive freshman year at Ferris State. Axel Andersson was a 2nd round pick by Boston in the 2018 draft. He played a full season for Södertälje in the Allsvenskan (Sweden’s second-tier pro league) at age 18, which is impressive in its own way as well.

Despite not being drafted, the left-handed Zech (5’9”, 170 pounds) has been busy piling up the awards the last couple of years. In 2017-18 while playing for the Wenatchee Wild (BCHL), he was named First Team All-Star, Top Defenseman, and won a championship. Last year at Ferris State (WCHA) he took home Rookie of the Year honors and was again named First Team All-Star. He left Ferris State and signed with Providence, acquitting himself quite well in twelve regular-season games (0g/4a) and four playoff games (2g/0a). There will be the obvious size comparisons to Krug and Grzelcyk, and his game is similar. He’s a smallish puck mover and power play guy that will put up the points but needs some work defensively against pro-caliber players. The B’s have an excellent recent history with free agent NCAA defensemen (Miller, Krug, Clifton) and they are hoping Zech is the next diamond in the rough.

Last, but not least, we have 2018 second-round pick (57th overall), Axel Andersson. The Bruins didn’t have a first-round pick in that draft, and I remember saying, “Axel who?”, when the pick was announced, but since then, I have become a fan. Last year at the Bruins Development Camp he was one of the best players there when I saw him. He followed that up with a very good preseason, getting first pair minutes with Chara. The 6 foot, 180 pound native of Järna, Sweden is bigger than I thought, but still an excellent skater and puck mover. It appears those two skills have become prerequisites for nearly all of the Bruins recent draft picks on defense. The organization clearly believes that is the direction the NHL is headed.

There seems to be some question about where “AA” will be playing in 2019-20? He is eligible to suit up for Providence, but he was also drafted by Moncton (QMJHL) 30th overall in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. Recent news seems to indicate that he will play there and get big minutes for a good Junior team. The only way this may change is if McAvoy and Carlo hold out, which would likely open Top Four spots in Providence. I don’t think the Bruins can go wrong either way, as long as Andersson is getting the time on ice he needs to progress. The situation on the Bruins blueline is a fluid one at the moment, but if everyone is signed, I see the defense pairs like this to start the season:

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Carlo

Grzelcyk-Miller/Clifton

Kampfer

That alignment would give the Bruins a puck-mover and a strong defensive presence on each pair, which I believe is the proper way to go. In the past few years, the Bruins have been bitten hard by the injury bug on the back end. If everyone is in camp, the team should be well-positioned to handle the inevitable injuries. If there are holdouts, the organization’s depth on defense could be tested right out of the gate.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 142 that we recorded on 8-25-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

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Bruins Report: Contract Discussions With Carlo, McAvoy Are “Stalled”

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports)

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

According to an article by NHL.com writer Mike Battalingo, Boston’s contract discussions involving restricted free-agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo “remain stalled” in the latest update.

The two defensemen have been the biggest talking points of the Bruins offseason, especially in the fanbase as both play a crucial role on the blueline of the defending Eastern Conference Champions. In an interview with BostonBruins.com, General Manager Don Sweeney gave some light to a topic largely filled with darkness in terms of details released on contract negotiations.

“But that’s just the nature of the business, and every negotiation has its own timeline,” Sweeney told the Bruins website Thursday. “We’ll find a finish line at some point in time, Brandon and Charlie will be part of our organization for a long time. We think really highly of them as players on and off the ice, we just have to find a common ground and we’re working to get there.” (quote was taken from NHL.com)

Following their Stanley Cup Finals run that ended just one game short of winning it all, the Bruins knew that the offseason was going to be an important one regarding the extensions of key RFAs in the system. On July 9th, GM Don Sweeney managed to lock up forward Danton Heinen to a two-year, $5.6 million contract ($2.8 million AAV), leaving only Carlo and McAvoy left to prioritize.

Charlie McAvoy was the 14th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft by the Bruins and has since become a top-two defenceman alongside captain Zdeno Chara. McAvoy started his NHL career in the 2017-18 campaign, recording 7-25-32 numbers in 63 games played that season with another five points in 12 playoff games.

This past season, injuries kept McAvoy down to 54 regular-season games but the 21-year-old defender still managed to match a career-high in goals with seven to go along with his 21 assists to finish the season with 28 points. Charlie also led the entire Bruins roster in time on ice, averaging 22:10 over the course of the 2018-19 campaign. McAvoy added 2-6-8 totals in the 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games, playing a key role in the success the team found down the stretch.

Brandon Carlo is not as offensive as McAvoy, but he brings the type of defensive play that is needed in front of your goaltender. The 6-foot-5, 212-pound Carlo had the most hits among defenceman in 2018-2019 and was fourth on the team with 134 recorded hits. According to Hockey Reference, Carlo ended the season with 42 takeaways and 41 giveaways, a large improvement from the year prior. Improvements like that will only continue year-to-year.

The Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA native set a new career-high in minutes per game, averaging 20:55 on the ice in 72 games played. In addition, Carlo played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time in his young career due to untimely injuries that forced him out of the past two postseasons.

Sweeney went on to say that negotiations with both players are “not as fast as everybody would like”, but failed to provide any insight on the likelihood of the duo joining the rest of the roster for the official Boston Bruins Training Camp next month. Earlier in August, Boston offered a professional tryout contract to defenceman Alex Petrovic in the event that Carlo and McAvoy are absent from the camp.

Should fans of the Bruins be worried? Not yet. Sweeney made it clear that the organization wants the pair of blueliners to wear the Spoked-B on their chest for the long-term and he showed a level of confidence that the two will eventually be signed so there is no need to worry and stress, yet.

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 141 that we recorded on 8-18-19 below! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher.

Please subscribe to our new Black N’ Gold Hockey YouTube channel! We’d really appreciate the continued support. Click HERE For Link To Our YouTube Channel! 

Why The Bruins Can’t Afford To Mess Up The Torey Krug Situation

Torey Krug Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports))

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

It’s no secret that Torey Krug’s role on the Bruins is a pretty vital one. Being the power-play quarterback, top scorer from the back end, and a high-energy player, Krug is tasked with quite a bit.

One of the main storylines this offseason has been what to do with Torey Krug down the road, as he is set to hit unrestricted free agency next July. Whatever ends up happening, it needs to be executed a certain way, in my eyes. Things could end up panning out a few different ways.

The ideal solution: A long-term deal

Ideally, the necessary moves and negotiations are made to accommodate Krug. While ideal, it won’t be easy. Krug’s stock continues to trend upwards as time passes by due to his consistency. His stock as a free agent has never been higher after another great regular season and a stellar playoff run.

His 53 points in the regular season and 18 in the playoffs were best on the team amongst defensemen. While points aren’t everything when it comes to evaluating defensemen, they certainly don’t blemish a player’s image.

For an undersized defenseman, Krug proved this year that his size won’t affect his ability to be an effective defenseman in his own zone and in the physical aspect of the game. He also continued to show why he is one of the most effective power-play quarterbacks in the entire league, amongst a great first power-play unit that included David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron.

Additionally, Krug further established excellent chemistry with Brandon Carlo. Their differing styles actually complement one another very well. Carlo often cleans things up defensively, as that’s where his expertise lies, allowing Krug to effectively carry the puck and create offense. Having that comfortability and chemistry is huge for Carlo, and vice versa, as he is still developing into a shutdown defenseman at 22-years-old.

When it comes to comparables, CapFriendly has a great tool for drawing contract comparables on their website. Some of the contracts they list as comparables to Krug are Tyson Barrie ($5.5M AAV), Jared Spurgeon ($5,187,500 AAV), and Matt Dumba ($6M AAV).

While I think Krug will make north of $6 million per year in his next deal, whatever the exact amount may be, these are potential starting points for contract comparables that could come up in future contract negotiations to stay in Boston.

With things very much up in the air right now surrounding how much Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo will make, proper accommodations need to be made to make Krug’s next contract fit under the cap. Not only will however much Carlo and McAvoy make factor into the cap, Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom, Charlie Coyle, Brett Ritchie, Zdeno Chara, and Kevan Miller will all be looking for new deals next summer.

Don Sweeney has his work cut out for him in that department.

If you can’t keep him, trade him

Do everything you possibly can to keep Krug long-term, but if you can’t, you have to trade him if you’re Don Sweeney. If you don’t trade him in this case and lose him for nothing as a UFA, it’s bad mismanagement of assets.

A player of Krug’s caliber could fetch a large haul on the trade market. Whether a trade revolves around a top-six right-winger to play with David Krejci, or picks and prospects, a large haul could be obtained.

With Krug’s pending UFA status, it’s anyone’s guess as to what Sweeney could get in return for him. But as mentioned previously, in a perfect world, Sweeney doesn’t even have to seriously consider having to move on from a player of Krug’s caliber.

Will Bruins Sign McAvoy or Carlo Before Camp?

NHL: Dallas Stars at Boston Bruins

(Photo credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

By Carrie Salls | Follow Me on Twitter @nittgrl73

August is upon us. With only about a month remaining until the players and coaches begin returning to Boston and training camp gets underway for the 2019-2020 season, the Bruins still have not signed key restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy or Brandon Carlo to new contracts. In fact, it doesn’t appear that team president Cam Neely and general manager Don Sweeney have done much at all since making a few unrestricted free agent signings on July 1, at least nothing that has been reported.

The first mention from team management about the status of talks with Carlo and McAvoy was not a particularly promising one, as vice president Cam Neely seemed to indicate Thursday that there is a chance that one or both of the blue liners may not be with the team at the beginning of camp.

Potential bridge deals aside, it stands to reason that the Bruins do not currently have enough cap space available to sign both young defensemen. A few other teams have found buyers for players who, like Boston forward David Backes, have expensive contracts but whose contributions to their teams have diminished. However, it appears the window may be closing, if it hasn’t already, on finding a team willing to take some or all of Backes’ contract off the Bruins’ hands.

There are a few issues that likely make moving Backes challenging, to say the least. One is that he has a no movement clause, so the Bruins would either have to make a deal with a team to which Backes has previously agreed or ask him to waive the clause. Teams may also be asking for a high draft pick to accompany the aging winger. After losing a first-round draft pick in the Rick Nash trade, general manager Don Sweeney understandably seems to be reluctant to go that route again. Boston also is not in a position to swap one expensive contract for another, like the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames did in their recent Milan Lucic for James Neal trade.

If freeing up space from Backes’ contract is not an option, it makes sense that the team would turn to a trade to find the money to come to terms with both McAvoy and Carlo. Potential trade pieces could include Torey Krug or David Krejci, most notably. Back-up goaltender Jaroslav Halak could also provide some cap relief if dealt, albeit not as much as Krug or Krejci.

Certainly none of these options are ideal for the Bruins. That, coupled with the team’s decided defensive depth, may be why Neely seems somewhat resigned to the reality that Carlo and McAvoy could start the season as holdouts.

The team has the most leverage in negotiating with McAvoy, as other teams cannot “offer sheet” the 21-year-old first-pairing defenseman. However, if McAvoy is looking at the contracts signed this summer by other young defensemen and asking the Bruins for most or all of the available cap space, that leaves the door open for Carlo to sign a potential offer sheet from another team.

The summer has been slow league-wide, with several bigger-name restricted free agents still un-signed. Offer sheets have also been in very short supply. So, it may not be just the Bruins who are taking their time in shoring up their rosters for the upcoming season.

It may be safe to assume at this point that neither player is willing to accept a bridge deal, especially given the going rate for future stars like McAvoy and Carlo. The Bruins front office definitely finds itself in a difficult position. The coming weeks will tell if a solution can be found.

Trouba’s Contract Could Play A Factor In Bruins’ McAvoy, Carlo Extensions

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images)

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

As just announced on Friday, July 19th, the New York Rangers and RFA defenceman Jacob Trouba came to an official agreement on a new contract extension. The deal, as being reported by numerous outlets, is a seven-year contract worth an average of $8 million per season until the 2025-26 campaign.

Trouba is a 6-foot-3, 202-pound defenceman who was drafted 9th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. The 25-year-old has spent his entire NHL career with the Winnipeg Jets, scoring 42-137-179 numbers in 408 regular-season games. In the recent 2018-19 season, the Rochester, Michigan native hit the 50-point mark for the first time with eight goals and 42 assists in a full 82-game season.

However, cap constraints in Winnipeg led to the June 17th trade that sent Trouba to the Big Apple in New York with the Rangers in exchange for D Neal Pionk and 2019 1st Round Pick. A little over a month after the trade, the Rangers extend the young blueliner to the contract listed above.

For the Bruins, this news could end up playing a role in the continuing dialogue with fellow restricted free-agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo who are still left without a contract for the upcoming 2019-2020 NHL season.

Charlie McAvoy has played in nearly 300 less NHL games than Trouba, scoring 14-46-60 numbers in his respective 117 games. This past season, however, McAvoy’s 7-21-28 stat sheet looks somewhat sub-par compared to the 50-point plateau that Trouba reached. The reason – McAvoy underwent numerous injuries throughout the year and limited him to only 54 games on the ice.

With that said, it is highly likely that the 21-year-old McAvoy played top-two minutes alongside captain Zdeno Chara as he progresses towards being the future franchise defenceman for the Boston Bruins. The potential and growth that McAvoy is expected to reach in the coming years will have to be a talking point as well. Chara does not have much longer as a 20-plus-minute player and the Bruins need to develop McAvoy to take that role sooner rather than later.

That dependence and reliance on the defenceman are similar to the Rangers and Trouba as Jacob will most likely become one of the best defenceman, if not the best defenceman, on the New York club. As previously mentioned, Trouba has a lot more NHL experience than McAvoy – over 300 games worth – but McAvoy does have a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals under his belt, an accomplishment Trouba is lacking.

If there is one factor that allows the Bruins fanbase and the management to take a sigh of relief, it is the fact that Charlie McAvoy is not eligible to be offer-sheeted by any of the other 30 teams in the National Hockey League and possesses zero leverage. Either he plays with a new contract or he sits – nothing else.

The other RFA in the Bruins organization, Brandon Carlo, is a little more concerning. Unlike McAvoy, Carlo can receive an offer sheet from the other NHL franchises and if Boston is unable to match the offer with the salary cap that they currently have, then they run the risk of losing the 6-foot-5 d-man.

Carlo is not known to be a puck-moving, offensive defenceman like a Trouba or a McAvoy, but his role is just as important, if not more important on a successful team. Carlo is more of a ‘defensive defenceman’ and while that sounds like an obvious description of a player, it isn’t all that common in the NHL anymore with the advancements of speed and skill in all positions.

In the three years that Carlo has been on the Boston Bruins, his minutes have increased consistently. In the first two seasons, Carlo showed great developments but suffered heart-breaking injuries late in the campaign that forced him to miss the entirety of the playoffs in both years. However, for the first time in his career, Carlo was able to play in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Coincidence or perfect reasoning, the Bruins made it to the Cup Finals with Carlo in the lineup. The 22-year-old Colorado Springs, Colorado native averaged the third most time on the ice behind Charlie McAvoy and Torey Krug with an average time of 21:31. There were several instances where Carlo prevented a true scoring chance and turned it into a chance for the Boston forwards the other way. Here are two examples from the second-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

As discussed earlier, Zdeno Chara’s career is winding down and the B’s need that replacement for the years to come after his inevitable departure. If you’re looking more along the lines of similar size and defence, Carlo is the answer. With a 6-foot-5, 212-pound frame, Carlo is a scary presence on skates and he is getting better at using that body – recording the most hits from a defenceman on the Bruins in 2018-19 with 134 hits according to Hockey Reference.

Brandon Carlo did have fewer giveaways than the newest New York Ranger and only a couple fewer takeaways, with Trouba playing only two more minutes on average per game. Both players have a large size and can skate better than older defensemen their size currently in the league.

Trouba’s seven-year, $56 million contract gives the agents of McAvoy and Carlo to have a similar comparison. In this case, McAvoy’s camp may lean against the suggested bridge deal that has many fans intrigued by. There are three things that may be discussed with Trouba and the Bruins’ blueliners and are questions that I have as well.

1. Experience

  • Does the regular season experience of Trouba out-weigh the Cup Finals experience of Carlo and McAvoy?

2. Offensive or Defensive?

  • Does an offensive defenceman mean more to a team than a defensive defenceman? Is there a comparison there? If so, could the agents of either Carlo or McAvoy use their client as an argument piece?

3. Bridge or Long-Term?

  • Does the long-term deal with Trouba mean Carlo and McAvoy will want to lean that way over a bridge deal, considering how much they claim to love playing in Boston?

Will those aspects even be in consideration? Possibly. It is also very possible that the teams of McAvoy and Carlo don’t even bring up Trouba because the differences outweigh the similarities. I personally feel that this bigger deal for Jacob Trouba with the Rangers can play a factor in the discussions for Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as the 2019 NHL offseason continues on. Let me know your thoughts on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj.

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