Many Questions Face The Bruins Before Regular Season Begins

NHL: New York Islanders at Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Hockey is oh so close to being back. The Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo contracts have been signed, and the Bruins are beginning to play actual hockey again. But even with the regular season less than two weeks away, many questions still face the Bruins entering the year.

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(Photo Credit: Paul Sancya/AP Sports)

How Healthy Is The Team Going to Be?

It seems like the Bruins, and the injury bug are becoming synonymous terms. Following the long and grueling playoffs, it’s not a major surprise that health is a concern, but the Bruins already have multiple regulars that are questionable to begin the year healthy. On the back-end, John Moore and Kevan Miller are already confirmed to be out for the season opener, and Zdeno Chara is questionable for the opener due to the jaw injury he suffered in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Patrice Bergeron has been practicing in a non-contact sweater and is also questionable for the opener. Luckily depth on defense isn’t a real issue for the Bs, but if the Bergeron and Chara injuries take a wrong turn, the Bruins may be in trouble.

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(Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer-Getty Images)

What Kids Can Make The Team?

The Bruins have a plethora of NHL-ready prospects that are fighting for a spot on the team. They have talented players like Jack Studnicka, Oskar Steen and Zach Senyshyn looking for their first extended looks in the NHL as well as Anders Bjork, Trent Frederic and Karson Kuhlman who are looking to add to their previous stints in the big-leagues. Obviously, the Bs just don’t have room for all of these guys with their already impressive roster, but I would not be surprised to see two or three cracks the opening night roster (as you will see me get more into later).

On defense, it’s unlikely that any youngsters can have an extended stay, but if Chara does end up missing some time, we may get to see a few games. Urho Vaakanainen has looked very comfortable in the pre-season and seems to be NHL ready. Jeremy Lauzon is another NHL ready defenseman we got to see last year and again, looked very comfortable in his 16 game stint last year.

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(Photo Credit: NHL.com)

Who Starts To Krejci’s Right?

So it seems Bruce Cassidy is sticking to his guns and keeping the top line of Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak and Bergeron together so we should see a revolving door of players auditioning on that second line. Cassidy has said that Brett Ritchie, David Backes, Anders Bjork, and Danton Heinen will all get looks on the line, but it seems that Karson Kuhlman, who had some success with the duo of Krejci and Jake Debrusk in the playoffs, may get the nod to begin the year. After four seasons (and one championship win) at Minnesota Duluth, Kuhlman was a bit of a surprise call-up last season but had a good amount of success in both the regular season and the playoffs.

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(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports)

How Does the Bottom Six Shake-Up?

The trio of Anders Bjork, Charlie Coyle, and Danton Heinen have played together in this pre-season and looked to already have developed some chemistry (all three tallied a point in the game). Albeit a very small sample size, but if the group continue to play well, they are a very strong candidate to begin the season as the third line. If Kuhlman ends up on line two and line three stays as it looks to be, that leaves a sea of players still vying for 4th line roles.

If previously mentioned young players like Frederic, Senyshyn, and Steen can’t crack the top nine, I see no reason to give them minimal minutes on the 4th line, eating up a lot of minutes in the AHL would be a far better alternative. The one kid that is the biggest wildcard is Peter Cehlarik. Unlike the other fringe-NHL prospects, Cehlarik is the only player that is not waiver exempt, meaning that if the Bruins want to send him to the AHL, he would need to pass through waivers. While he isn’t a game-changer, losing a guy with the skill and size for Cehlarik for nothing would hurt. Maybe that pushes him over the edge over players like Kuhlman or Bjork who don’t have to go through waivers but all we can do it wait and see.

That leaves David Backes, Brett Ritchie, Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner Sean Kuraly and Par Lindholm all looking for 4th line minutes. Nordstrom, Kuraly, and Wagner partnered up to be one of the most effective 4th lines in the entire league last year, and are certainly a very good bet to start the season as the line.

Ritchie and Lindholm were both brought in this offseason as low risk, high(ish) reward players. Ritchie is a former 16 goal scorer and will certainly look to return to that form after two very lack-luster seasons. Lindholm was just under a point-per-game in his final season the SHL and will look to replicate that after a solid rookie year in the NHL.

Finally, we have David Backes, who I really think will come back and have a solid year. He’s obviously not the player he used to be in St. Louis. He is still an outstanding veteran presence with a lot to prove this season after the disappointing end of the playoffs. Both Bruce Cassidy and Don Sweeney still have their work cut out for them.

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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Opportunities Are Abundant In The Bruins System For Anders Bjork

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(Photo Credit: Brian Babineau: NHL/Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

One of the most popular names in training camp in recent weeks has been Anders Bjork. Thanks in large part to an impressive showing at the prospects challenge, Bjork has caught the eyes of many. His dynamic skill set and comfortability are still ever so present after two shoulder surgeries in as many years.

Bjork has seen time with Danton Heinen and Charlie Coyle most recently, but there are still other options for him.

On the wing with Jack Studnicka in Providence

Whether it’s on the left-wing or the right, if Bjork and Studnicka both end up down in Providence to start the season, I would love to see what they could do together. Bjork and Studnicka are the two most dynamic forwards in the system and could seriously light it up together. The other winger could be any of a number of players, perhaps someone like Jakub Lauko, Ryan Fitzgerald, Cameron Hughes, or Oskar Steen.

If the coaching staff decides that playing in the AHL is best for Bjork to start, it would be best to equip him with skilled linemates such as the players listed above.

First-line right-wing

Despite not lighting it up on the scoresheet, it’s fair to say that Bjork has looked the most comfortable on the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Playing with two well-established veterans allows Bjork to learn and if he puts himself in the right spots to generate chances, score as well.

In time with the top line this past year, Heinen also looked pretty confident on the first line right-wing. With Bjork’s career off to a turbulent start with injuries, playing with two established veterans that he can learn from and potentially produce at a high-level with could be just what Bjork needs to ease into becoming a full-time NHL player.

Second-line right-wing 

This one isn’t very likely in my eyes, but it’s still possible. The way I see it, the second-line right wing job is Karson Kuhlman’s to lose. Alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci last season, Kuhlman completed a second line that generated 7.00 GF/60 last season. That’s insane. His speed and forechecking ability also adds a lot to that line and makes the line difficult to deal with in the offensive zone.

The speed of DeBrusk and Bjork on Krejci’s wings is definitely worth exploring at some point though. It just probably won’t be right away to start the 2019-2020 season.

Third-line left-wing

I think this is where Bjork will land to start the season. Bjork has been playing on Coyle’s left with Heinen on the right for the past week in practice, as well as last night against the Philadelphia Flyers. The three of them looked great together last night, consistently pushing the pace through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone.

Not only did they pretty much dominate through the neutral zone and into the offensive zone, but they also did a great job limiting the Flyers scoring chances.

31 shot attempts. 31! Anders Bjork was a menace to deal with last night. His smooth skating and offensive abilities could add an important element to the third line. Coyle was a tank last year, especially in the playoffs. His big body, prowess in all three zones, and scoring abilities in a third-line role make him the ideal man for the job.

As the third-line center, Coyle established some serious chemistry with Heinen. The two looked very comfortable with each other again last night.

Where Heinen thrives is creating scoring chances for his linemates and limiting opponent scoring chances. He thrived in that area in a down year offensively for him last year. If Heinen can get back to around the 47-point mark he hit in his rookie season, do what he does best, and Bjork and Coyle can bring what they do best to the table, as previously mentioned, this has the potential to be a dominant third line.

Bjork spoke to Bruins reporter Eric Russo about Charlie Coyle and Danton Heinen before last night’s preseason win for the Bruins over the Flyers.

Where Bjork lands is still to be determined over the next couple weeks, but there are certainly a lot of options for him. If he can stay healthy, he has high upside that is worth getting excited about.

Bruins F Charlie Coyle Will Have Big Role In 2019-20

NHL: MAY 09 Stanley Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final - Hurricanes at Bruins

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHLPA.com)

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

Boston has always had a close connection to forward Charlie Coyle, considering he was born just 16.7 miles south of Boston in Weymouth, Massachusetts. Similar to other young kids that live near an NHL city, Charlie always had a dream to play for the Bruins, in the TD Garden, in Boston, Massachusetts. In an article for the Player’s Tribune back in May, Coyle shared his thoughts when he heard of the trade that sent him to the B’s.

“Boston is in my blood. Boston raised me. This place is my home.” Coyle said, “Me on the Bruins? My hometown team? Playing next to guys like Zee and Bergy? Come on that’s like fairy-tale stuff.” – Charlie Coyle, Player’s Tribune

Coyle, drafted 28th overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft by the San Jose Sharks, was traded to the Minnesota Wild in the off-season of 2011 where he, Devin Setoguchi, and a 2011 1st Round Pick (Zack Phillips) were sent to San Jose in exchange for Brent Burns and a 2012 2nd Round Pick.

The trade allowed Coyle to make his National Hockey League debut in the 2012-13 campaign, skating in 37 games, putting up 8-6-14 numbers for his first NHL season. Over the course of the next seven seasons, Coyle played in a combined 479 games for the Wild, ending his tenure with 91-151-242 totals and an additional 15 points in 44 playoff games for the franchise. Coyle’s time with the Wild placed him in the top ten for games played, assists, and points in franchise history, cementing his name in Minnesota history books.

However, with the Wild on pace to miss the postseason for the first time in six seasons, management decided to part ways with Coyle, trading him to the Boston Bruins just days before the NHL Trade Deadline in exchange for prospect forward Ryan Donato and a conditional 2019 5th Round Pick.

The trade caught many Bruins off-guard, especially when they saw who they were sending back to Minnesota – forward Ryan Donato. Donato had been one of the most anticipated prospects to come into the organization and many fans had imagined him being a future top-six player as we now look at Pastrnak or DeBrusk. However, after a struggling season for the young forward, it was best for the Bruins to move away and get more of an experienced player in return.

Coyle came into the lineup and played in 21 regular season games, putting up 2-4-6 numbers and averaging just under 16 minutes per game. At this point, it seemed like the acquisition of Coyle was nothing too special, until the playoffs came around. In the first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the 27-year-old scored three goals and added an assist for four points in seven games – scoring the first of two empty-net goals in Game Seven.

“That Game 7 environment against the Leafs was just about the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Like Roman Coliseum s***, with thousands of people screaming for blood. There’s no better atmosphere in hockey, and that’s not up for debate.” – Charlie Coyle, Player’s Tribune

He was not done there. In Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Charlie Coyle stole the show on home-ice, scoring the game-tying goal with less than five minutes left in the third period to cause an uproar in the TD Garden. Not as loud, however, when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime to give Boston a 1-0 series lead.

Coyle finished the series against the Blue Jackets with 2-2-4 totals in six games, then went on to score four points in the four-game sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes in the Eastern Conference Finals – including an impressive three-assist night in the 6-2 victory in Game Two. In the Stanley Cup Finals against the Blues, Charlie buried three goals and assisted on one goal to finish the best-of-seven series with four points. All in all, Coyle proved to be one of the most valuable players in Boston’s playoff run in 2018-19, ending the post-season with 9-7-16 numbers in 24 games.

Entering this upcoming campaign, the current role of Charlie Coyle is undecided by some, but for me, it makes clear sense where he should be playing – third line center. His success that he found throughout those playoffs were because of his third-line time with wingers Danton Heinen and Marcus Johansson (who signed with the Sabres in the off-season). Coyle does a great job battling in the boards and during the post-season, he recorded 14 takeaways and only 9 giveaways – the type of ratio you want to see from your third-line center.

One concern for him playing in that position is his face-off percentage. Due to lack of regular season games, I once again go to his playoff numbers to tell the story. Coyle took a combined 257 face-offs, winning 122 of them, for a face-off win percentage of 47.5%. Although, that percentage is not too far off from second-line veteran, David Krejci, who had a 48.4% success rate on the face-off dot.

The alternative option would be to play Coyle on either the second-line right-wing, alongside David Krejci or on the first-line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron with David Pastrnak playing on the second-line instead. With that said, it would only create another hole at third-line center, an important position. Also, Coyle and Heinen showed great chemistry and separating that forces the third-line to have brand new chemistry, which is not always in the best interest.

Oftentimes, when a player is traded to a contender at the Trade Deadline, he only has one year remaining on his current deal. It is a way for a team to make a strong push without constraining the cap for the next season. However, the Bruins were able to acquire Coyle with another year left on his contract. For the 2019-2020 season, Charlie Coyle will make $3.2 million – the final year of his five-year deal that he signed in 2014.

Now, with the opportunity to play a full season and post-season with the Boston Bruins, it is Charlie Coyle’s time to shine. Regardless of his exact position in the lineup, he will bring his very best to every single game and will play a big role, no matter where Head Coach Bruce Cassidy decides to play him. Boston is his home and he wants to make his home proud.

“I want to win a Cup for Boston and Weymouth — for all the great people from my town who’ve supported me every step of the way. And I want to win one for all my cousins back home who I know are going to be losing their minds as soon as that puck drops.” – Charlie Coyle before Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals, Player’s Tribune 

Check out the Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 144 that we recorded on 9-8-19 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!

Boston Bruins 2019-20 Breakout Candidates

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(Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports)

By: Lucas Pearson  |  Follow Me On Twitter @LucasPearson_

Training camp is right around the corner, and the Bruins are almost back. From David Pastrnak to Brandon Carlo, it seems almost every year a player “breaks out” and really exceeds expectations. Here’s six who I think have a good shot and having big years for the black and gold.

Jake Debrusk

In his rookie season, Jake Debrusk tallied 43 points in 70 games, good for 8th in point-per-game out of all rookies. He added to those numbers by notching six goals and eight points in an excellent playoff showing. In just his second NHL season, Debrusk was able to light the lamp 27 times in only 68 games. After two solid seasons mixed with equally solid playoff runs, Jake Debrusk seems poised to take the next step in his NHL career and really have a big year. All of that may depend on who plays to the right of David Krejci. If Debrusk, Krejci and one of David Pastrnak (who would be my choice to play with the two) Charlie Coyle, Danton Heinen or an unmentioned winger can develop some good chemistry, a 30 goal, 60 point campaign is not out of the question. 

(Photo Credit: STEVE BABINEAU/NHLI VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Danton Heinen

It baffles me how many people dislike Danton Heinen. He began his tenure with the Bruins with a great rookie season where he notched 16 goals and 47 points to go with a +10 rating in 77 games (outscoring the aforementioned Jake Debrusk).  The following year did not begin the way Heinen would have liked, in his first 40 games he reached the back of the net just four times and added six assists but the second half of his year was a different story. The 24-year-old was able to score seven goals and 24 points in his final 37 games and was apart of arguably the Bruins best line in the playoffs with Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson. He’s one of the best defensive forwards on the Bruins and constantly does the little things right, and I really think this is the year that things will start to go his way.

Jack Studnicka

Probably the most well-known talent out of all forwards in the Bruins’ farm system, Jack Studnicka has all the tools to become a really good player in the NHL. I praised him in my “Top-10 Bruins Prospects” piece, and after an outstanding year in the OHL and strong play in the World Juniors for Team Canada, Studnicka seems to be a strong contender to make the big club this season.

If he’s able to crack the roster, I’d love to see him (and the two players you will see below) play alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. We’ve seen what that duo has done for players like David Pastrnak, a struggling Danton Heinen and others in the past. If Studnicka is able to make the big club and have a role on the team, a 40 point season is certainly obtainable.

NHL: Preseason-Philadelphia Flyers at Boston Bruins

(Photo Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)

Zach Senyshyn

This coming season will be Senyshyn’s first season with a legitimate chance to make the Bruins roster. The 6’1 winger hasn’t blown anyone away in his two years in Providence, but as a two-time 40 goal scorer in the OHL, the skill is certainly there. We saw a glimpse of what Senyshyn could do at the tail-end of the season, and he didn’t look out of place at all and was able to light the lamp once (albeit an empty netter, but still good to see). Just like Studnicka, a stint on the top line could be huge for Senyshyn, and a big right-shot winger could prove to fit very well.

Anders Bjork

Anders Bjork has had a tough go in his first two years playing pro hockey. After bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL, Bjork’s past two years have been unfortunately cut short due to shoulder injuries. If we’re able to see a healthy Anders Bjork in the NHL this year, I expect big things. The former Notre Dame star is arguably the most talented player in the Bruins’ system and has the speed to make it in today’s NHL. While he struggled in the NHL last season, totaling just three points in 20 games, he had quite a bit of success playing with the top line the season before which is where he should be playing if he’s able to edge out the previous two players and make the roster I see big things for this year.

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(Photo Credit: nhl.com)

Matt Grzelcyk

Matt Grzelcyk isn’t on this list because I think he’s going to turn into the next Torey Krug and put up a 60 point season. He’s on this list because this year is the perfect year to give Gryz a bigger role on the team. It seems the big man Zdeno Chara is nearing the very end of his career and we’ve seen that his age is starting to catch up with him. This past season, the Charlestown native developed into the Bruins’ best 5v5 defenseman and really showed he was ready for more than a bottom-pairing role. If coach Bruce Cassidy is able to rotate the duo of Chara and Grzelcyk with Charlie Mcavoy, Gryz should have his best, and most impactful season yet.

 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.

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! 

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! 

Salls: Ideal Bruins Lineup on Opening Night: Version One

Boston Bruins vs Winnipeg Jets

(Photo Credit: Christopher Evans, Boston Herald)

By Carrie Salls | Follow Me on Twitter @nittgrl73

First off, I’d like to give a shout out to fellow Black N Gold Hockey writer Mike Cratty, who started the ball rolling with his thoughts on what the Bruins’ opening day lineup should look like, as well as to the other members of the Black N Gold writing team who have since added their insights. Here are the links to all of their contributions. If you haven’t already, please give them a read.

Mike Cratty, Garrett Haydon, Max Mainville, Yanni Latzanakis, Tim A. Richardson.

Without further ado, I’m ready to throw my hat into the ring. Keep in mind, this is the lineup I think will give the team the best chance to beat the Dallas Stars on opening night, Oct. 3, based on the current players available and who I believe will be available once the season rolls around. A lot could and likely will change in the meantime. Enjoy.

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen

For all the knocks on Danton Heinen’s lack of production in this sophomore season, Heinen proved in David Pastrnak’s absence during the 2018-2019 campaign that he, more than any other option coach Bruce Cassidy tried, can be a valuable asset lining up alongside Marchand and Bergeron. Heinen has the puck possession and defensive skills to hold up his end against other teams’ top lines. An added bonus is that Heinen himself recently acknowledged that he needs to work on pulling the trigger. If he can improve on the hesitation to shoot that seemed to especially plague him during the team’s playoff run, he will be a solid choice for the first line.

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak

What to do with the second line? Not an easy fix for Cassidy and crew to be sure, but I think a little consistency can return this line to glory. Yes, the coaching staff tried moving Pastrnak to the second line a few times last season, with little to no success. However, the move rarely stuck for more than one or two games, sometimes even one or two periods. With a chance to build some chemistry with linemates Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci from the get-go, Pastrnak could very well bring a major scoring threat to a second line that has struggled to find its identity.

Third Line: Nordstrom – Coyle – Ritchie

Fourth Line: Bjork – Kuraly – Wagner

I myself almost cannot believe I am suggesting this, especially when it means breaking up arguably the best fourth line in the National Hockey League. However, the departure of Noel Acciari has changed the dynamic of that line a bit anyway. An argument certainly could be made to switch Anders Bjork and Joakim Nordstrom here, but I believe the team would be better served to use Bjork on a line with Sean Kuraly to start off the season. Bjork and Kuraly have played together in the past and may have a better comfort level than Bjork would with Coyle and Ritchie. This move is designed to help Bjork find his game, at least until he is far enough along in his comeback bid to warrant a promotion or until it appears he is not ready.

Extra Forwards: David Backes, Par Lindholm, Karson Kuhlman

Defense

Here is where it really starts to get tricky. Simply put, it doesn’t appear that the Bruins have enough available cap space to re-sign both Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, especially in the wake of the New York Rangers’ decision to give young defenseman Jacob Trouba a seven-year contract worth $8 million per year. As a result, consider these suggested defensive pairings to be written in pencil.

Chara – McAvoy

Of the two restricted-free-agent D-men the Bruins still need to sign, the team has more leverage to keep McAvoy in the Spoked B, and he is arguably the more attractive option between the two, even if the difference is negligible. Assuming McAvoy remains a Bruin this year, there is no real reason to stray from this normal pairing, keeping in mind that Chara’s minutes may be reduced.

Krug – Clifton

Since this projection involves the Bruins re-signing McAvoy, it is difficult to imagine how Brandon Carlo could also remain in the fold, barring a trade or the somewhat unlikely chance of one or both agreeing to sign a bridge deal. Connor Clifton filled in admirably in every defensive pairing he was placed in last season. In fact, he played so well that he stuck around after the blue-line contingency got healthier. Krug is likely the heir apparent to Chara’s slot, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pick up more playing time if the captain’s ice-time is cut back.

Grzelcyk – Kampfer

Few would argue that Matt Grzelcyk would be higher up in the lineup on a team that did not have the defensive depth the Bruins enjoy. Gryz played with a revolving door of partners in the past season, including Clifton, Steven Kampfer and John Moore, and didn’t seem to miss a beat. Kampfer works hard and is a true team player. He deserves a shot to start the year.

Extra Defense: Kevan Miller, Urho Vaakanainen

Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak

This was one of the best goaltender tandems in the National Hockey League last year and there is no reason to believe that would change. Halak may be one player who could garner some trade interest and open up some cap space, but it would most likely not be enough to keep both McAvoy and Carlo in Boston.

Latzanakis: Ideal Bruins Lineup on Opening Night: Version One

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( Photo Credit: The Hockey News )

By: Yanni Latzanakis  |  Follow Me On Twitter @yanlatz

First Line: Marchand – Bergeron – Heinen

Ever since Marchand and Bergeron began playing together, they have been inseparable. The duo has played together on the same line five on five, on the powerplay, and even the penalty kill and have shined together. While at times the line with Pastrnak on the right side was arguably the best line in the league, they also struggled to put the puck in the net. Also, the top line had so much pressure on them to score that they were gripping their sticks a little to tight and not producing like they can. I would like to see some balance in the Bruins lineup by moving Pastrnak to the second line and Danton Heinen getting a shot on the first line. When Pastrnak went down with a thumb injury and Heinen filled in on the right-wing, the line continued dominance without missing a beat and it was Heinen’s best stretch of hockey last season. When playing with Bergeron and Marchand, they produced 11 goals and gave up four against. Heinen is becoming a skilled two-way forward before our eyes and his development can take off if he plays with Marchand and Bergeron in the 2019-2020 season.

 

Second Line: DeBrusk – Krejci – Pastrnak

The second line has been a mystery, especially at the right-wing position all of last season and this offseason. With players like David Backes, Karson Kuhlman, David Pastrnak, Danton Heinen, and Peter Cehlarik just some of the right-wingers who were tried on Krejci’s right for Bruce Cassidy last year. My ideal lineup would include Pastrnak on the right side of Krejci. The two countrymen have been shown to have chemistry in the past and the balance throughout the lineup would be felt quickly, especially if that second line can produce goals at even strength.

 

Third Line: Bjork – Coyle – Ritchie

Charlie Coyle was a hometown playoff hero for the Bruins putting up nine goals and seven assists for 16 points in 24 playoff games this past spring. He built great chemistry with winger’s Marcus Johansson, who left as an unrestricted free agent and signed with division rival Buffalo Sabres, and Danton Heinen. The third line center position was in question all season until GM of the Year Don Sweeney made the deal for third-line center depth in Coyle. If Anders Bjork can make a comeback after a shoulder injury that required surgery and ended his whole 2018-2019 campaign he can add some spark on the third line. Bjork played 30 regular-season games in 2017-2018 for the Bruins scoring four goals and eight assists while appearing in 20 games in 2018-2019 posting a goal and two helpers. Bjork has always been looked at as a skilled prospect and if he can stay healthy, he might be able to provide some offense with Charlie Coyle and new free agent signing Brett Ritchie. Brett Ritchie played 53 games last season with the Dallas Stars and racked up four goals and two assists. Ritchie has an empty score sheet in three career playoff games. The Orangeville, Ontario native signed a one-year $1 million contract on July first and we will have to see how he fits in the Bruins lineup this upcoming season.

 

Fourth Line: Wagner – Kuraly – Nordstrom

With the departure of Noel Acciari to the Florida Panthers, the Bruins lost some grit and depth for their fourth line. However, they still have Chris Wagner, Sean Kuraly, and Joakim Nordstrom as an ideal checking line. Wagner, the Walpole, MA native, won the Seventh Player award as the player who went above and beyond expectations last season. Kuraly and Nordstrom also had strong years as depth, physical, and reliable players for Bruce Cassidy’s B’s. For the fourth line, I would not tinker much with these three for opening night.

Extra Forwards: David Backes, Par Lindholm, Karson Kuhlman

Defense:

Chara – McAvoy

Krug – Carlo

Grzelcyk – Moore

Extra Defense: Connor Clifton, Kevan Miller, Steven Kampfer, Urho Vaakanainen

The defense was strong this past season as well as into the playoffs and it is safe to say the Bruins have plenty of depth on the back end. Assuming Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy are signed to contracts before opening night, this is how I would line it up on the back end for the Black ‘N Gold. Moore did not have the strongest start to his campaign with the Bruins but towards the end of the season and in the playoffs, particularly the Stanley Cup Finals, Moore showed off his smooth skating and hockey IQ. With either Moor or Clifton in the last defense position, there is no doubt the Bruins have all bases covered on the back end.

Goaltenders: Tuukka Rask, Jaroslav Halak

As the offseason is flying by, it will be interesting to see if the Bruins make any trades or moves to their roster as they gear up for hopefully another Stanley Cup run next Spring.

Stay tuned to blackngoldhockey.com for more analysis and breaking news from our team!

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Bruins Re-Sign Forward Danton Heinen

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(Photo: Steve Babineau / NHL via Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

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

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

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

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

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

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!!

Less Is More For The Bruins In Free Agency

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Photo Courtesy of Bob DeChiara – USA TODAY Sports

By: Tim Richardson | Follow Me On Twitter @TimARichardson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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