The Boston Bruins and Rick Nash: What Could’ve Been

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins

Photo: (Bob Dechiara/USA Today Sports)

By Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Earlier today, former Bruin Rick Nash announced his official retirement from the NHL.

You can find Garrett Haydon’s article breaking down the news here.

For context, Nash’s early retirement comes as a result of concussion issues as he suffered one with Boston that he likely came back from too early. A true shame that head injuries forced a player of his caliber out of the game; Nash sat third in active goal leaders with 437 and had 805 points in 1,060 games played.

Looking back at last season and the trade that brought Nash from the New York Rangers to Boston, the Bruins gave up a ton for a player who would only suit up in 11 regular season games and 12 playoff contests. That is not exactly ideal for a player that the Bruins gave up a first round pick and a promising young defenseman (Ryan’s Lindgren) for, among other assets (Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey with 50% retained salary, and a seventh rounder).

Nash instantly looked like a perfect fit alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, filling a hole that had been on Krejci’s right side since Jarome Iginla replaced Nathan Horton for the 2013-14 season. The Brampton, Ontario native played a style that was a perfect compliment to David Krejci’s game, harkening back to the days of the Milan Lucic-Krejci-Horton line.

While Nash was productive for the Bruins with three goals and six points in 11 regular season games to go along with three goals and five points in 12 playoff games, it was a stiff price to pay for a guy who neither stuck around long term nor brought a Stanley Cup. So, aside from a concussion and an embarrassing second-round exit at the hands of a far superior Tampa Bay Lightning squad, things went decently for Nash and the Bruins.

This all brings me to last summer. Personally, I think the Bruins would have been able to keep Nash for more than just a portion of last season. Even Elliotte Friedman said he believes the Bruins really liked their chances to re-sign Nash on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. After the news broke today, Darren Dreger confirmed that the Bruins were among teams keeping tabs on the power forward:

Things did not end up panning out for the Bruins as Nash decided to forgo free agency to evaluate his future which led to him starting this season without a team and his retirement today.

Ultimately, Nash will be remembered for his contributions with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Rangers, but it’s not hard to wonder what he and the Bruins could have done for an extended period of time, health permitting.

It’s no secret that Boston has had a gaping hole at second line right wing all season long. It was an issue last season too before the acquisition of Nash, although Ryan Spooner ended up being a fine temporary solution. Had Nash gotten healthy and re-signed in Boston, the 6’4″ 211-pound winger presumably would have picked up right where he left off on the second line, and we wouldn’t be having this season-long conversation.

With this hypothetical second line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash, there would not be nearly as much pressure on the first line to drive the offense game in and game out, and the sophomore slumps of Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato wouldn’t be as glaring, but rather much more manageable.

So, if general manager Don Sweeney and Nash had struck a deal to keep the right-winger in Boston, the Bruins would not be forced into a pricey trade market in search of a second line wing, and this team’s secondary scoring issues would not be as pressing of a matter.

More importantly, however, you can’t fault the guy for looking out for his long-term mental health and his family; there are more important things in life than hockey, after all.

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Former Bruin Rick Nash Retires At 34

rick-nash-in-bruins-jersey-featured-imagePhoto Courtesy Of 98.5 The Sports Hub

By: Garrett Haydon | Follow Me On Twitter @thesportsguy97

Rick Nash announced his retirement from the NHL this morning at the age of 34 after 15 seasons in the league. Nash was traded to the Bruins last February in exchange for Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, prospect Ryan Lindgren and two draft picks including the B’s first round selection in last year’s draft. Nash skated in 11 regular season games, totaling three goals and three assists. He also appeared in 12 playoff games, posting three goals and two assists.

 

Nash appeared in 1,060 career regular season games, posting 437 goals and 368 assists for 805 points. Appearing in 89 playoff games, Nash posted career numbers of 18 goals and 28 assists. Spending the majority of his career in Columbus, Nash is the Blue Jackets career leader in goals, assists, and points.

The Brampton, Ontario native was named to the NHL All-Star team six times and was a member of the All-Rookie team in 2003 when he posted 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points. Nash was also a two-time goal medalist with Team Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics. Nash called it a career after concussion issues towards the end of his time with Bruins but he ends his career as one of the greatest forwards in the entire league over his successful career.

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Boston Bruins: Sweeney Staying The Course

Sweeney

Photo Credit: Angela Rowlings, Boston Herald

By: Drew Johnson   |    Follow Me On Twitter: @doobshmoob

The Boston Bruins created quite the buzz this offseason. It started with reports indicating that General Manager Don Sweeney was looking to make a big addition. The Bruins were in the running to sign both Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares. Even though they went down swinging, it indicated that Boston was willing to pull the trigger on a potential home run.

But missing out on the home runs didn’t discourage Sweeney. In fact, it allowed him to add a few minor pieces to the puzzle. In addition to re-signing restricted free agent (RFA) Sean Kuraly, the Bruins brought aboard Jaroslav Halak, Joakim Nordstrom, Chris Wagner, and John Moore. They weren’t exactly blockbuster deals, but is a blockbuster really what the Bruins need right now?

Bruins’ Road Ahead

Tavares and Kovalchuk are stellar players. So are the Buffalo Sabres’ newest addition, Jeff Skinner, and the consistent subject of trade rumors, Artemi Panarin. They would be great Bruins for sure, but there is a plan that Sweeney must see through.

It should not be forgotten that the Bruins have a healthy pool of prospects. It’s almost as if Boston has found the Fountain of Youth. With this in mind, adding a big, long-term player is not a necessity. These young skaters need time before we can pinpoint exactly where they will land within the roster in their respective primes.

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Photo Credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Adding a rental at some point may bode well, however. The Bruins, unfortunately, gave up a lot for Rick Nash who has turned out to be just that — a rental. If Boston finds they need to bulk up heading into the playoffs, then giving up one of their prospects (which at this point could be considered to be a surplus) and a mid-to-late-round pick may land a seasoned veteran with skill but also locker room presence. We’ve seen these types of deals across the league, often between a team in the running and a team looking to rebuild.

Outside of those circumstances, adding a big piece just doesn’t make much sense. Boston would likely have to give up quite a bit, and that is not something they need to do right now. They’ve successfully avoided a rebuild, and why risk that by trading a bunch of prospects and early picks in order to land a guy who they may not be able to afford to keep around? The Bruins must re-sign Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, and Danton Heinen next summer. It will be an expensive task, and handcuffing himself to a big contract isn’t something Sweeney ought to explore. It would force the Bruins to pursue bridge deals — short, mid-money deals that lead the way to larger contracts — with some of those RFAs mentioned above when they should free themselves up to give them long-term deals.

Boston has mastered the transition game — one that doesn’t take place on the ice but in the office. By the time the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask are ready to retire, Boston’s wealth of prospects will be reaching their primes. This will keep the Bruins competitive for the long haul, and a Stanley Cup feels almost imminent within the next few years. There is no need to abandon that road. So be patient, and wait for this plan to fully unfold.

Boston Bruins: John Tavares Signing Should Be Avoided

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Author: Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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

As the NHL Offseason passes the NHL Entry Draft, the rumors of free agent signings arise left, right, and center, but often the names of those players do not peak the interest of many fans. However, during the 2018 NHL Offseason, some big names become unrestricted free agents on July 1st.

Forward Ilya Kovalchuk was the main player in the rumor mill prior to the draft, but on Saturday, June 23rd, numerous sources confirmed that Kovalchuk will sign with the Los Angeles Kings on a three-year contract worth $18.75 million.

The days before the announcement brought some interesting possibilities for Kovalchuk’s return to the NHL, following a five-year absence to play in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with the St. Petersburg SKA. Surprisingly, the Boston Bruins appeared to be one of the favorites to sign the Russian forward. However, Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney would not budge on a contract that exceeded two years according to The Athletic analyst Pierre LeBrun.

Once the news of the deal emerged, it became clear that signing a 35-year-old player to that contract did not make sense in terms of the Bruins’ future plans. At the end of the deal, Kovalchuk will be thirty-eight years of age, sparking the question as to if he can produce at a high level when that time comes.

But for the Boston Bruins, free agency was not quite done just yet. The news came out from multiple sources including The Athletic’s Arthur Staple, TSN’s Darren Dreger, and Sportsnet’s John Shannon that the Boston Bruins were also in on the John Tavares sweepstakes and would get the opportunity to interview the current captain of the New York Islanders.

At first glance, signing Tavares would make the Bruins a standout threat in the Eastern Conference and possibly the league heading into next season. When you imagine the top-six that includes Bergeron, Marchand, Pastrnak, DeBrusk, and Tavares, all you need is that definite answer on the second-line right-wing, and the Bruins may have the best top-six in the NHL.

However, just simply signing Tavares will not work for Boston. Moves within and possibly outside the organization must occur for the Bruins to make the blockbuster deal. As of June 25th, the B’s have $11,984,333 in available cap space, without the likes of Anton Khudobin (who may not re-sign with the team) and some bottom-six players that also require new deals, the Bruins cannot just sign Tavares to a contract with what they have salary cap wise.

The options for salary-cap relief begins at either David Backes or David Krejci. Backes has three years remaining on his $6 million contracts and at 34-years-old, the price may be too steep to keep. However, Backes still has a no-trade clause for the entirety of the 2018-19 season and it will remain that way until the 2019-2020 season where his deal includes a modified no-trade clause. This would require Backes to waive the agreement in order for the Bruins to move him this free agency.

On the flip side of that, not many teams will be eager to bring on the salary of Backes for another three seasons, as the league continues to shift to a faster, younger style of hockey. Unfortunately for Backes, his six-foot-three, 221-pound frame is not particularly fast.

The other possible trading asset is David Krejci. Like Backes, Krejci has a no-trade clause for the upcoming season, with a modified no-trade clause coming into effect during the 2019-20 campaign. Krejci also has only three years remaining on his contract, at a much higher price of $7,250,000 annually.

Along with the contract stipulations that may prevent a David Krejci trade, is the fact that Krejci has found success with left-winger, Jake DeBrusk. During the twelve playoff games, Krejci scored three goals and produced seven assists for ten points. The chemistry he built with DeBrusk is something to be noted heading into the future.

Although, with Krejci’s age and his past of injuries, an upgrade at center with the emergence of John Tavares would drastically better the team – considering the 27-year-old is coming off of an 84-point season with the Islanders.

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PHOTO CREDITS: (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

While salary cap becomes an issue in the short-term, it may also become an issue for the years to come. According to TheHockeyWriters.com, John Tavares has been offered an eight-year contract worth roughly $88 million by the Islanders prior to his interview period with the other teams that he has chosen. While there are no other confirmations that an offer similar was made, it is safe to assume that Tavares will be on the lookout for $10 million or more for at least seven years. With some other incentives, the price and term may be adjusted accordingly, but that could be your base for Tavares’ deal.

Without any trades, the Bruins would be putting themselves in a tight situation in accordance to the salary cap. With no current backup goaltender and some holes left to fill, the Bruins still need extra salary cap space. For the future, however, the problems would only continue to accumulate.

Next season, the Bruins need to re-sign Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo – all of which are coming off of an entry-level contract where they make less than one million per season. At the same time, defenceman Adam McQuaid’s $2.75 million contract expires and it is likely the Bruins do not re-sign the 31-year-old, giving a little more room to work with.

But, the issues continue to pile up. Two years from now, Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk, Torey Krug, and Matt Grzelcyk will all be on expiring deals, causing some more pay raises to ensue. It is fair to note that with the continued growth of the National Hockey League over recent years, the maximum salary cap limit for a team may increase by a couple more million dollars, but with the long list of names to offer new contracts to, the raise in salary may not be enough.

If somehow Boston is able to unload David Backes or David Krejci, then the John Tavares trade seems logical and can truly benefit the team going forward. The signing would most likely end the talks of Rick Nash returning to the Boston Bruins, leaving the question of second-line right-wing. Will it be Anders Bjork? Another young player? Cheap free agent or even possible trade acquisition? That decision would be in the hands of management.

So when the thought of John Tavares in a Boston Bruins sweater comes around, consider the headaches of the future. While trades can go through to free up the salary restraints, it is unlikely that the big contracts on the current Bruins roster get shipped out for Tavares. At this point in time, the big fish does not make sense for the team.

 

Ilya Kovalchuk: A Bad Idea For The Boston Bruins

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Gold medal winner Ilya Kovalchuk #71 of Olympic Athlete from Russia celebrates after defeating Germany 4-3 in overtime during the Men’s Gold Medal Game on day sixteen of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Hockey Centre on February 25, 2018, in Gangneung, South Korea.
(Feb. 24, 2018 – Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images AsiaPac)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                             Twitter:    @Godwentwhoops

Free agent Ilya Kovalchuk is back on the market, and he’s interested in coming back to the NHL. Naturally, Boston area organizations jumped on the story and began spinning and weaving the idea that the 35-year old Russian player would want to wear the ‘spoked B’ and play for the Boston Bruins.

Are the Bruins actually looking to get him? Honestly, who knows at this point. There is active speculation that the B’s are a ‘top contender’, but it’s just speculation. Boston-area media has an ugly tendency to go ‘full Toronto’ at times when it comes to hockey rumors.

So, what are the odds the B’s are actively pursuing him?

Kovalchuk could provide a big body on the wing for the Krejci (who is also under aggressive speculation on him being moved) line next season. In his five years in Russia’s Continental Hockey League, Kovalchuk’s game has expanded into something that better resembles Patrice Bergeron (who is a finalist for the Selke award for the seventh consecutive year).  It also seems that the B’s might thank forward Rick Nash as his time as a summer rental and move on.  This leaves an opening that former No. 1 overall pick could fall into.

Kovalchuk is certainly not a bad player. He led the KHL in scoring last year, putting up 63 points in 62 games. He could bring size, snarl, and a very dangerous shot to the second line, especially if David Pastrnak finds himself on that line at the start of next season.

While a Kovalchuk signing sounds like a great idea, it’s very unlikely that it will happen in Boston, and there are several reasons why.

Kovalchuk has been out of the NHL for five years. While the KHL isn’t the AHL, it’s certainly not the NHL. Kovalchuk is 35 years old, and the last thing the B’s need to do is to swap out a quarter-season rental for a full season one.

Kovalchuk is also a natural left winger. That’s the one position the B’s are positively overloaded with talent right now. Sure, he did play at right wing with the Devils organization, but again that was five years ago.

Financially, it doesn’t seem to be a good fit for the Black and Gold. Kovalchuk will be expecting a decent salary to return. Ty Anderson from 98.5 The Sports Hub projected that Kovalchuk would be looking for a contract similar to the one signed by Patrick Marleau to join the Toronto Maple Leafs. That was a three-year, $18.75 million dollar deal ($6.25 million dollar cap hit).

Frankly, the Boston Bruins aren’t going to be able to afford him. The Black and Gold have about $7.4 million left in cap space after they signed Matt Grzelcyk to his two-year deal.  Assuming the B’s do move on from Rick Nash, they’re still short a few forwards, and they’ve yet to sign Riley Nash, Sean Kuraly, and Tim Schaller. Trying to pull off a two or three-year deal at $6 million will certainly price himself out of Boston, even with a potential cap increase next season.

Finally, it also seems like a bad idea from the perspective of the B’s current culture. The B’s have invested heavily in the youth movement right now. The last thing the Bruins need to bring into the locker room is a player whose time is rapidly running out.  The B’s can’t afford to tie themselves down to another Rick Nash type signing.

The Boston Bruins aren’t really looking to make sweeping changes going into the 2018-19 season. Kovalchuk might sound great on paper, but he won’t be what the Bruins need to be better moving forward.

Dissecting The Possibility Of Ilya Kovalchuk Signing In Boston

(Photo Credit: Getty Images)

By Mike Cratty | Follow me on Twitter @Mike_Cratty

Time has passed since his retirement from the NHL in 2013, but Ilya Kovalchuk wants to return to the NHL for another go. Most recently, he has visited with the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks in pursuit of said return. With some cap maneuvering and good contemplation, Kovalchuk could be a fit in Boston.

Having worn a letter on his sweater throughout all of his time in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg since retiring, Kovalchuk was relied on as a leader. After winning Olympic gold and seeing some steady KHL success, the Russian sniper wants another try in the NHL, and there will undoubtedly be interest.

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For the Bruins fans who want to see Rick Nash re-signed, think of Kovalchuk as a slightly older, and better option on the right side. In 262 KHL games dating back to the 2013-2014 season, Kovalchuk amassed 120 goals, 165 assists, and 285 points, thus averaging over a point-per-game. Even at 35-years-old, it is apparent that Kovalchuk can still produce at a high level. Before then, he produced at a very high level in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils and Atlanta Thrashers.

The controversy related to how he left the NHL in the midst of a 15-year, $100 million contract and screwed over the New Jersey Devils may scare some and for a good reason. That reason provokes to bring up the idea of a short-term deal. The contract was eventually terminated in 2013, leading to New Jersey having to pay just $250,000 through the 2024-2025 season instead. Offer Kovalchuk a year or two and $5.5-6 million AAV and see what he says.

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In the Bruins’ case, Anders Bjork will be returning from injury and will have something to say about a top-6 right-wing gig that Rick Nash or Ilya Kovalchuk may get in the way of. It’s also worth noting that Kovalchuk will likely fetch more money annually than Rick Nash. Not to mention Ryan Donato will be looking for a consistent role on the NHL roster as his first full season approaches. I’m not necessarily for the possibility of limiting ice-time for younger players in this scenario, but, if Don Sweeney does decide to plug in a veteran in free agency, I’d prefer it be someone like Ilya Kovalchuk versus Rick Nash. Those are some important things that Don Sweeney and crew will have to consider if they decide to pursue Nash or Kovalchuk in free agency.

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One-year for Kovalchuk could give David Krejci an experienced and lethal sniper on his wing to feed for goals, along with a young, dynamic left-winger in someone like Jake DeBrusk or Ryan Donato. If things go well in this scenario, the Bruins have a lethal second line, and the signing is a win. A player with Kovalchuk’s shooting capabilities could fit very well on an already productive Bruins powerplay on his opposite wing eyeing one-timers and back-door goals. If that doesn’t work out, I’m sure teams could be interested in acquiring Kovalchuk as a rental player at the trade deadline. That’s the doomsday scenario.

Pieces will have to fall into place to get a free agent like Kovalchuk to Boston, but it is definitely possible. Whether it will happen or not is to be determined.

(Video Credit: The Bet via YouTube)

Boston Bruins Roster Analysis: Part 2

61, Krug, March - Goal

Photo Credit:  Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

By: Chris Nosek | Follow me on Twitter: @cnosek6342

When constructing the roster for the 2018-2019 Boston Bruins, there many factors that Don Sweeney and his team will need to examine. We have already looked at the simplicity that is leaving alone the Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak line; so let’s continue to take a look at two more of the Bruins lines from this past season.

(For more information on the first scoring line click HERE to view part 1 of this series)

DeBrusk – Krejci – Nash (Rick)

Jake DeBruskPhoto credit:  Mike G. Morreale / NHL.com Staff Writer

The second line left wing was one of the biggest questions marks coming into this season. Early in the season, it was thought that Anders Bjork had won the job. It took a season-ending shoulder injury to pull Bjork from the lineup – we will have more on him in a later article – and open the door for 21-year old Jake Debrusk. It wasn’t long before he locked down that slot for himself. By posting 43 points in 70 games, and finishing with a +13 rating, DeBrusk showed great chemistry with Krejci – like we haven’t seen since Milan Lucic was in town. With his performance and goal celebrations of just pure joy, Debrusk has earned himself the LW spot on line number two for at least one more season. Dethroning Debrusk shouldn’t be out of possibility, he still needs to be pushed to perform. Cassidy needs to be open to letting someone steal that job from him in training camp and preseason, but it is going to take a LOT for that to happen.

It would greatly benefit Krejci for Cassidy to make it near impossible to for Debrusk to lose his spot because the Czech centerman has already had too much of turnstile on his right side, it’d be nice to see the left side remain steady again. Krejci has arguably the worst contract on the team with a cap hit of $7.25 million he generated a lot of fan buzz about dealing off the big contract. With only two years remaining on his contract it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to find a willing trade partner, however, I question which teams who on this short list would be ones that Krejci would waive his modified no-movement clause to go to.

Let’s say all of the above occurs, and you find the perfect trade partner, you would be selling Krejci at an all-time low as he just showed in 12 playoff games that he is still capable of being the point-per-game player who earned the $7.25 million contract. His performance also looked completely rejuvenated upon the arrival of Rick Nash. By putting up 10 points in those 12 playoff games, Krejci has shown the value of keeping him is greater than what you would receive in return for any deal you send him away in. It will be up to Cassidy and Sweeney to ensure that the best possible linemates are next to Krejci at all times.

Last but not least, Rick Nash. This line saw the addition of the second Nash at the trade deadline along with the subtraction of David Backes from this line – yes the team lost Spooner in the deal, but Backes was bumped to replace him on the third line. Nash proved to be a significant upgrade over Backes on the wing, and they didn’t give up too much to get him. In fact, even though I am a fan of Spooner’s, I like the deal overall – we can talk about that further at another time.

The point here is that this line was considerably better with Rick Nash over David Backes once the move was made and it showed that this team is capable of having two offensive powerhouse lines. We also learned that Krejci has only “lost a step” when he doesn’t have the right guys around him. So now for the big question – do the Bruins resign the 33-year-old winger?

The correct answer to this is no. Not because they can’t, but because they shouldn’t. Don’t give me that “for the right contract they can bring him back” crap. Any team would take any player “for the right contract.” The issue here is going to be that Nash will want more than the Bruins SHOULD be willing to commit to him. He is 33 years old and coming off of a 21 goal season that also saw 13 assists. He may be looking for his last long-term deal, and if he is, that isn’t something Sweeney should touch with a 30-foot pole. IF Sweeney can convince Nash to take a one year “prove it” type deal, then you may have something to talk to him about. Putting up only 34 points in 71 games played between the Rangers and Bruins, along with his -19 for the season, Sweeney MIGHT be able to convince him that hitting free agency again at 34 years old with a full season in Boston next to Krejci will help him get a better contract.  Anything longer than this type of one year deal would be one of the biggest mistakes of Sweeney’s time in Boston. If Nash were 10 – or even 5 – years younger, I would have no hesitation in bringing him back with more term, but right now this team has too many young talented players who will be owed significant pay raises in the next two seasons to sink that much into Nash. They also have more holes opening up that will need addressing, and he absolutely will be getting better offers from other teams looking for his services.

Schaller – Kuraly – Acciari

Kuraly, Schaller, and Acciari

Photo Credit: Mike Stobe

Back when the Bruins won the cup in 2011, they had a 4th line that brought everything you look for in your grinder guys. This year, these three guys showed the same abilities as a fourth line as the infamous merlot line. They were always at their teammates’ side and ready to drop the gloves when necessary. They brought physical play when it was needed, and although they were not what many would consider a “scoring threat,” the combination of these three guys accounted for 47 regular season points and 8 in the playoffs. So what do we do about this line going into next season?

The good news here is that Kuraly is a restricted free agent and can be resigned for qualifying offers under $1 million. This is a no-brainer decision to bring him back. This will allow you one more season to get a better feeling of his true ceiling as a player and have him for another playoff run. It is always important to have players who can find the back of the net in the playoffs – and Kuraly has proven with some big goals he can do just that.

Neither Acciari or Schaller should be overly expensive. If you can retain them for anything shy of $1.5 million for 2-3 years, then that is not only acceptable but is an opportunity that should be jumped on. Yes, this team got in a lot of cap trouble for a few years because Peter Chiarelli invested too much money for too many years in the 3rd and 4th line guys, so this may lead to some of you to wonder why this type of contract would be ok for Schaller and Acciari when it was too much for guys like Paille and Campbell. The difference here is that Schaller and Acciari have shown they COULD if needed play on a higher line in a game in an injury forced Cassidy’s hand. Now I wouldn’t overextend on them, and if another team is willing to give either one of them more than $1.5 million then, by all means, Sweeney should let them overpay. I don’t see anyone else overpaying either of these guys nor finding more value in bringing one of these guys in over someone already on their rosters. In their mid to late 20’s, Cassidy may be able to deal off the last big of their contracts for a team to negotiate with them before Free Agency, but I wouldn’t expect anything more than a late-round pick for either of them.

In summary: Krejci and Debrusk should see no change in their status at this time. Rick Nash should be allowed to walk in free agency. Kuraly should receive his qualifying offer and be brought back on short money to see if he is able to raise his ceiling next season and score a few more playoff goals for you. Acciari and Schaller should be brought back on short-term, low money deals that don’t exceed a combined $3 million. Although I don’t see either one signing more than a 2-3 year deal at that kind of money, it will be worth not having to worry about the fourth line opening up again for those next couple of seasons until you have other young players ready to step up into those minutes.

Boston Bruins: A Tale Of Two Nashes.

 

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Riley Nash #20 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game Six of the Eastern Conference First Round in the 2018 Stanley Cup Play-offs at the Air Canada Centre on April 23, 2018, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Bruins 3-1.(Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
(April 22, 2018 – Source: Claus Andersen/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                             Twitter: @godwentwhoops

With just over a month before the start of free agency, the Boston Bruins are going to have some tough choices to make on which of their free agents will be staying with the team next season. Among the UFAs the B’s will have to make a decision on are the two players with the last name Nash.

Riley Nash had a solid year as a three-zone, two-way center. With a 41 point (15 goals) season, he put up the best stats of his career while wearing the spoked ‘B’. He even held his own as the B’s top-line center while Patrice Bergeron was dealing with an injury.

Rick Nash was brought on as a late-season rental for Boston. The B’s were hoping he would be a dynamic player in the playoffs and he was mostly invisible. The B’s were hoping for Milan Lucic 2.0 and ended up with Zac Rinaldo.

So much for giving up Ryan Spooner, who finally seemed to have found a solid and steady stride with the Black and Gold (not to mention a first-round pick in 2018).  The losses sustained by the B’s organization weren’t worth the three goals put up in 12 games by the 33-year old Nash.

Riley Nash certainly wouldn’t mind coming back to Boston.

“I’ve been around for a while, so winning is going to be one of my top priorities,” said Nash. “If they see a fit here, then I’ve truly enjoyed my two years here, it’s been awesome and I’d love to come back. I think they have one of the best teams coming up with the young players and the veteran leaders, so this has been a good fit for the last two years. We’ll see if we can figure something out.”

Rick Nash would also enjoy playing another season with the Black and Gold.

“The organization was great,” offered Rick Nash on his hopes of coming back to Boston. “The guys were awesome…So, it was a great chapter here and hopefully, it can continue.

“I would love to [return], for sure. They’ve got a special group here and a lot of talent. It’s a great place to play.”

So, what are the odds that one or both Nashes remain in Boston?

Frankly, not very good. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney knows the odds are long on retaining the current squad.

“Obviously, our team accomplished a lot to get to the 112-point level. Ideally, you’d like to bring everybody back and think you take another run at it. I don’t think that’s realistic in a cap environment,” said Sweeney on the B’s current roster. “We can afford the salaries they’re currently at, but some of the guys had very good years and you expect that to change. I’ve had discussions periodically with some of those players and will have with their representatives going forward in the next month or so.

Bruins President Cam Neely wasn’t entirely optimistic either, especially when it came to Rick Nash.

“It’s unfortunate that [Nash] got banged up near the end of the season there, and it really took him a while to get back. I don’t think he was himself. He said that during the exit meetings that he wasn’t quite himself. It’s disappointing because we felt we had a guy that was really going to help our secondary scoring and that line and help David [Krejci] get going in some offensive situations,” said Bruins team president Cam Neely at the end of the season press conference.

“You could see the big body and how he protects the puck, and how good he is in the corners and along the walls. But he just wasn’t quite himself after coming back from that [concussion] injury.

“As Don [Sweeney] mentioned, we’re going to look at every UFA that we have, and RFA, and come to conclusions on whether or not it makes sense for us to move forward with those players.”

At the moment, the Bruins look fine when it comes to cap space in the offseason. But is it worth taking a gamble on a player like Rick Nash? Not really.

A stronger case can be made for Riley Nash (who should have won this season’s 7th Player Award).  Riley Nash became the B’s Swiss Army Knife of forwards, playing in all four lines at some point during last season. The biggest problem for Riley is that his career season may have priced him out of the TD Garden.

It will certainly be an interesting free agency period in Boston, that’s for sure.

 

 

A Look At The Boston Bruins Salary Cap

 

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David Backes #42 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning during the third period of Game Four of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2018 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at TD Garden on May 4, 2018, in Boston, Massachusetts.
(May 3, 2018 – Source: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images North America)

By: Andrew Thompson                                                                 Twitter: @godwentwhoops

The Boston Bruins exceeded most fans expectations last season. The youth movement helped lead the team into a second-round run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While their early exit was disappointing, the B’s front office now have to turn the page and look to the upcoming 2018-19 season.

Moving forward, the Bruins have a few things going for them regarding the salary cap. The Las Vegas Golden Knights slightly magical (and sort of improbable) Stanley Cup Final appearance will certainly help propel the league’s overall financial performance. This will certainly add a few dollars to the salary cap next season.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman claimed the salary cap would go up. He mentioned that it would at least $78 million. That figure could go up even more, perhaps as high as $82 million. If the salary cap goes that high, it would certainly help the B’s out now and down the road.

The Bruins currently have $65.3 million reserved for their current roster of players. That figure includes 10 forwards, six blueliners, and Tuukka Rask. With the projected minimal cap increase, the B’s will have $12.7 million to lock up the remainder of the squad. At the moment, it would be three forwards, one defenceman, and a backup goaltender for Rask.

The B’s are very likely going to keep Anton Khudobin on the roster. He was the better goaltender early in the season and was a dependable player for the Black and Gold last year. The B’s will likely sign him in the high-six, low-seven figures (Best guess would put the figure at a cool million).

This leaves $11.7 million.

The Bruins will still have a lot of space available for their restricted free agents. Forward Sean Kuraly and middles Matt Grzelcyk will be retained for relatively low costs.  A realistic guess would have the B’s picked up both players for roughly three million. Those three purchases would lock up the team at the defencemen and goaltender positions and still give the B’s 8.7 million to sign the forwards.

The Bruins have a few less-than-ideal contracts on the books right now. The B’s are paying six million a year for David Backes. At 33, he’s one of the more expensive middle-six forwards in the NHL. There have been a lot of complaints on David Krejci’s seven-plus million as well.

The complaints about Tuukka Rask could fill a dozen articles. No matter what Rask does, there will always be arguments about him not being a Stanley Cup goaltender.

Unless something radically changes during the offseason, the Bruins organization are going to keep all three players. (Personally, I’d like to keep all three as well. My inner backseat GM would try to move Backes solely on the six million for a middle-six player.)

So, who are going to be the three players that the B’s should sign for next season? Riley Nash’s strong regular season performance should put him at the top of the list. The Bruins should be able to secure him for a high-two, low-three million dollar deal.

That gives the team roughly between $5.6 and $6 million left to play with.  The Bruins front office now have a more difficult choice to make among the remaining players. Do they retain veterans like Rick Nash, or do they fully embrace the youth movement?

Bruce Cassidy seems to be leaning towards doubling down on the youth movement. At the end of the year press conference, the Bruins bench boss expressed his excitement over the large pool of young talent that could earn themselves a position come October.

“So we have players that had positive years in Providence,” said Cassidy.  “Austin Czarnik had a really good year. He could come in and take somebody’s job. He’s a pending group six. Again, I can go through the whole list of players I’m sure you’re referencing, whether it’s Jakub Zboril, whether it’s [Zach] Senyshyn, whether it’s [Trent] Frederic coming out of school, we’re cognizant of every one of them and sort of where their potential trajectory is. Our exit meetings with [Jakob] Forsbacka-Karlsson, as an example, who had a tough injury and missed a stretch down there, they’ve all made good progress, but when the rubber hits the road in training camp, you’ve got to take someone’s job.

“That’s what we try to tell them. Prepare for what’s in front of you and your opportunity will be there. We’re excited about our young players. But, the player himself will dictate it. The opportunity will be there. Nobody is boxed out. We have depth. Hopefully, we’re going to continue to add to that in our organization, because you need it.”

If we are to take anything out of this, it seems that Rick Nash will not be re-signed by Boston. Tommy Wingels and Brion Gionta will also likely be thanked for their service and not re-signed. Tim Schaller seems the only one of the team’s current UFA forwards that will be retained, and his contract will likely be around Anton Khudobin’s price range.

The Bruins will likely comb through the talent pool of Providence and see if any of the young forwards are ready to make the big move to the NHL. Several of them have already shown flashes of brilliance, and that may make the choice easy for the organization come training camp in September.

While there are storm clouds on the horizon for the Bruins, those hard choices are two seasons away. At the moment, the B’s salary cap position looks relatively secure for the 2018-19 season.

Boston Bruins Offseason Preview

Don sweeney

PHOTO CREDITS: (Bill Sikes/Associated Press)

By: Court Lalonde | Follow me on Twitter  @courtlalonde

When the final buzzer went on the Boston Bruins season, I had a mixed bag of emotions that had me feeling disappointed and proud at the same time.  At the start of the season, many people in the hockey world either had the Bruins as a fringe playoff team or not making it at all.  Instead, we got a team that had a slow start but became a cup contender in December and never looked back.  That’s where the disappointment sets in because you started to believe that this team could win it all and you start drawing comparisons to the 2011 team in your head that won the cup before the playoffs had begun.  I got caught up in the hype, and when they blew out the doors of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first two games of the playoffs, the hype train had left the station.  The team came back down to earth but did eventually win the series in a game seven for the ages and advanced to the second round.

That’s when they ran into a team that most thoughts were the better matchup for the Bruins and that some people including myself thought they would beat.  The reality of this is that the Tampa Bay Lightning where the better team and the Bruins failed to compete with the Lightning 5 on 5 and lost the series.  People will give excuses that the refs missed calls, which they did, or that Tuukka didn’t play well, which he did.  Now that the playoffs are over for the Bruins they get to move on to the offseason, where the speculation begins with fans and when Don Sweeney works as the boys prepare for next season.

What To Do With Rick And Riley

Rick Nash came over to the Bruins just before the deadline and made an immediate impact and warmed the hearts of Bruins fans across the country.  His tenure as a Bruin seemed to have derailed when he suffered his concussion near the end of the season and lost all momentum and energy he brought to the team after the trade.  When he came back from injury, he didn’t look like the same player the Bruins acquired and struggled on the ice even to win puck battles.  I think he came back too soon from his injury and wasn’t fully healed and was having more bad days than good but is me speculating.  Only he can let us know if that was true and I doubt he would give us an honest answer or even use that as an excuse.  He said all the right things on Breakup Day “The organization was great, the guys were awesome, so it was a great chapter here, and hopefully it can continue” Nash said.  I know it’s not the popular opinion, but I would have him back, but it would have to be on a team friendly deal that was no longer than two years, so the odds aren’t in my favor and more than likely he won’t be returning.  If he doesn’t return I don’t see it as a cause for concern because of the youth that seems poised to step into that second line role.  Both Ryan Donato and Anders Bjork shoot left, but that doesn’t mean they can’t slot into the right side and learn that role for the intern.  With the play of Jake Debrusk during the regular season and the playoffs, it doesn’t look like he will be moving off the second line left wing spot anytime soon.

That brings us to Riley Nash who for a guy making $900,000 a year was lights out for this franchise and did everything that was asked of him and then some.  The 29-year-old finished the regular season with 41 points ( 15 Goals, 26 assists) as the Bruins third line center and filled in for Bergeron on the top line when he went down with an injury near the end of the season.  My thought on Riley is he played himself out of a contract in Boston because he deserves a raise and will get a raise on the open market.  The Bruins in the past have rewarded third line players with extensions that have come back to bite them like Chris Kelley, and I don’t see them repeating this.  I have no doubt they will offer an extension to Riley but doubt it will be in the 3.5-4 million dollar range that he could get on the open market.  The Bruins have the likes of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Austin Czarnik, and Ryan Fitzgerald that could impress and take that spot on the third line next season at a considerably less cap hit.  I don’t see Riley coming back because I’m sure he isn’t interested in signing a short-term deal and is looking for a long-term contract in the 3.5 to 4 million dollar range.

Does Dobby Come Back?

dobby

PHOTO CREDITS: (NHL.com)

Anton Khudobin will become an unrestricted free-agent on July 1 and will have many suitors for his services because he showed the league that he is one of the top backup goaltenders in the National Hockey League.  The backup position has been a challenge over the years for the Boston Bruins, and some might think it has been an afterthought for upper management since they have had so many different ones since Tuukka Rask became the starter. Khudobin solidified his role as a top backup last year when at the beginning of the season Tuukka hit a rough patch, and he stepped in and helped win some games for the Bruins.  He started out this season a lot better than the previous year which saw him struggle at the start of the season and even got him sent down to the minors at one point because he couldn’t win a game.  He came back at the end of the season to help the Bruins make the playoffs.  This season he was less than stellar at the end of the season and only registered one win in his last six games.  I hope that he does return because he has played exceptionally well in the backup role and has provided Tuukka with the much-needed rest during the regular season and has given his team a chance to win on most nights.  Currently, his salary is $1.2 million a season, and you would think based on his play he would be asking for raise.  The current projected cap space is $9.6 million for next year but still have to make some decision on the restricted free agents and the unrestricted free agents.  I just spoke about two unrestricted free agents that I don’t think will be returning so that does possibly open up some room for Khudobin to get a raise which I’m hoping would be in the 1.5 million dollar range on a two-year deal.  With the fact that both Dan Vladar and Zane McIntyre haven’t shown any signs that they’re ready to make the jump to the big club I think the obvious decision is to bring back Dobby.  I think Khudobin would take a team friendly deal to stay with Boston and have some stability in his life plus stay in a city he enjoys.

Should They Stay Or Should They Go?

Moving onto the remaining free agents on the Bruins roster who are restricted or unrestricted.  I think it would be safe to say that Brian Gionta, Nick Holden, and Tommy Wingels will not be returning next year.  If anything maybe Wingels might return because it seemed as Bruce Cassidy had some confidence in him during the playoffs.  Wingels isn’t a bad option to have as your energy guy that can come into your bottom two lines throughout the season when needed.  Sean Kuraly I can see getting a slight raise from his $808,750 he made last year but nothing that will break the bank.  My guess is he will get a deal in the 1.5-2 million dollar range something like a Jay Beagle in Washington who is making $1.75 million a season with similar stats and role.  Tim Schaller is an interesting one because he is an unrestricted free agent and the Bruins have so much youth down in Providence waiting to get a chance to make this lineup.  I see things in his game that I like and I see flashes on offensive output sometimes and gave him the nickname “silky mitts” this year with some of his goals.  He has played well enough to earn another contract and has chemistry on that fourth line with Noel Acciari, and Sean Kuraly.  He made $775,000 last year, and I don’t see a big raise in his future.  He is a local boy that added energy to his line but does have some defensive issues in his zone from time to time, but you could almost say that about a lot of players.  Could Peter Cehlarik, Anton Blidh, or Jesse Gabrielle fill his role next year or do the Bruins look to free agency?  My guess is if he is willing to be paid close to the same cap hit he could be back on a one-year deal.  Last but certainly not least we have Matt Grzelcyk who I had my doubts about and couldn’t see what everyone else saw in him all year.  People were calling to trade Krug and slot him in that spot near the end of the season.  I didn’t agree then and still don’t agree now but did think he played well in the playoffs and proved me wrong.

His defensive game is better than I originally thought but still tends to make the mistakes that most kids his age make with regards to forcing passes in his zone sometimes when he should be holding onto the puck.  I do think he will get a three-year deal in and around 1.5 to 2.5 million dollar range a year.  I don’t see him taking the torch from Krug just yet but do see the potential the kid has and hope he improves next season.

This offseason is going to be a difficult one for Don Sweeney and his team because moves he makes this offseason can have an impact on the next offseason when he has some big names to resign and decisions to make if there is another expansion draft.  The big names I speak of are Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, and Danton Heinen.  McAvoy is going to cost the most with regards to the cap, and I’m sure Sweeney will be thinking about future cap when he is making some of his decision this summer.  I’ve put my faith in Sweeney when becoming the GM, and he has made some questionable trades and signings, but I also feel he has done some great moves and signings and has been thinking about the future of this franchise just as much as the present.  So yes I’m disappointed in the second round exit but I’m still excited to see what the future of this franchise will look like and I’m already counting down the days to training camp.