Bruins

Bean: Bruins putting themselves at risk of Pastrnak offer sheet

Bean: Bruins putting themselves at risk of Pastrnak offer sheet

I hate articles about offer sheets. Most of them are idiotic. This puts me in a pickle, as I am an idiot. 

Yet here we are, nearly two months into David Pastrnak’s restricted free agency. Don Sweeney and J.P. Barry are in their latest blinking contest (Barry represents Dougie Hamilton and Loui Eriksson, among other Bruins to depart in recent years) and one of the best young right wings in the world doesn’t have his second contract. As of late Sunday evening, the sides were still not close to an agreement. 

MORE ON PASTRNAK

Despite my hatred of offer sheet chatter, the Bruins, who traded Hamilton out of fear of an offer sheet before he could even be offer-sheeted, are actually vulnerable in this case. It isn't likely because it never is, but if I were another team, I’d be thinking about it. 

First, an explanation of why I hate talk of offer sheets: 

Because. Offer sheets. Don’t. Freaking. Happen. 

Why don’t they happen? Because they’re harmful to both the team that loses the player and to the team that does the poaching. And to the other 29 teams, for that matter. 

Teams don’t offer-sheet a player unless they’re nearly positive their offer won’t be matched. If they sign a player to an above-market deal, it creates inflation regardless of who gets the player, as that player’s contract becomes a comp for similar players across the league. In other words, if you sign an 18-goal scorer for $6 million a year because you really want him, have fun trying to sign anybody who matches or exceeds that production in future seasons.

There’s also the stuff about GMs not wanting to piss each other off, but it’s mainly the inflation thing because, as in life, everything comes down to money. 

There hasn’t been an offer sheet since the Flames’ idiotic attempt at signing (and then immediately losing because they didn’t understand the CBA) Ryan O’Reilly in 2013. The Flyers signed Shea Weber to a 14-year offer sheet in 2012, but that was matched by Nashville.

Another reason why I hate articles about offer sheets: Because its authors (definitely myself included once upon a time) often don’t understand RFA compensation. The draft picks awarded to victimized teams are done based not on the actual cap hit/average annual value of the deal, but of the deal’s total money divided by years or five, whichever is smallest. 

So when you see charts such as this one … 


… it doesn’t mean that you can sign a player to a seven-year, $7.8 million deal and only have to surrender a first, a second and a third. That contract would contain $54.6 million in total dollars, and since five is fewer than seven, the total money would be divided by five. That would make the number $10.9 million, which would cost a team four first-round picks. 

If you understood all that, I offer both congratulations and my apologies, but here’s where the part about the Bruins being vulnerable comes in: A longer deal would carry a higher cap hit because it buys out years of free agency; a shorter deal would carry a lower cap hit because it gets Pastrnak to his next big raise even sooner. If a team signs Pastrnak to an offer sheet that splits the difference, the Bruins get the worst of both worlds. 

One potential offer sheet that would likely frustrate the hell out of the B’s: A five-year deal at $7.8 million per. 

That contract would screw the Bruins whether they match or not. If they walk away, they get just a first, second and third-round pick for a goal-scorer who drives goalies to drink but is barely old enough to legally drink himself. 

Matching would stink as well, as that cap hit would not suit the term well. The Oilers gave Leon Draisaitl $8.5 million a year on his recently signed contract, but they did so because they were able to lock him up for eight years. That means that the Oilers will have their star forward signed through his age 30 season, buying out years of unrestricted free agency without having to give him another raise during his prime. 

A five-year deal would mean Pastrnak would be an unrestricted free agent at his deal’s conclusion. The Bruins would have paid the high cap hit that comes with a seven-or-eight-year deal, only to have to give him a raise again -- or lose him for nothing -- when he’s 26. If Pastrnak improves upon (or even maintains) what he was last season and the cap keeps going up, the AAV on his third contract in such a scenario could surpass $10 million. Plus, a seven or eight-year deal at that point would mean signing him into his mid-30s and risking diminishing returns. A five-year, $39 million contract right now would carry all the bad of the Draisaitl deal (the AAV) without enough of the good (the years). 

So is there actually a team that could put Sweeney and Co. in such a tight spot? The answer is an emphatic “yeah, kind of.”

Teams that have the picks required to sign Pastrnak to such a contract and the cap space to fit such a deal this coming season are the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, Canadiens, Jets, Avalanche and Devils. You need your original picks in order to sign a player to an offer sheet.

The NHL allows teams to go over the salary cap by 10 percent of the upper limit in the offseason (so $7.5 million this summer), meaning a number of additional teams could theoretically sign Pastrnak to that deal and figure out their cap situation later. Those teams are the Islanders, Rangers, Lightning, Penguins, Ducks, Flyers, Predators, Kings and Canucks. 

Where the Bruins are fortunate is the fact that teams that would figure to be logical suitors for Pastrnak -- ones like the Sabres and the Flames -- don’t have the draft picks. In the Flames’ case, they’d need to reacquire their first and second-round picks from the Islanders to even send the papers Pastrnak’s way. 

Clearly, the fear of an offer sheet hasn’t scared the Bruins with Pastrnak the way it did with Hamilton. If it had, he’d either be signed or traded by now. With teams mostly done with their offseasons, the Bruins may not be likely to see their 21-year-old scorer offer-sheeted, but they’re certainly leaving themselves exposed. With over $10 million in cap space, the Bruins could afford to match any offer to Pastrnak, but they shouldn't want another team dictating what kind of contract they give to one of their best players. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

carlo_bruins_flyers_1142017.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

Looking at it from the long term view, the Boston Bruins are in a fantastic position at this point in time.

They’re a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the NHL’s top spot, they have a group at the NHL level that’s an ideal combination of proven, veteran Cup winners and talented, enthusiastic young players ready to make their mark.

The Bruins also have a wealth of young prospects below the NHL level working their way to Boston whether it’s former first round picks like Jakub Zboril or Zach Senyshyn just a step away in Providence, or college hockey players like Ryan Donato or Trent Frederic that form the next wave of youngsters. The simple fact of the matter with the Black and Gold is that there isn’t going to be room for every single prospect at the NHL level, and that goes doubly so for a deep, talented group like the Bruins. Another simple NHL fact is that teams have to give up something to get something around the trade deadline, and that means the B’s are going to have to part with something of quality if they want to land a potential big fish like Ryan McDonagh or Rick Nash, or perhaps even a medium-sized fish like Michael Grabner.

Whether it’s again dealing with the Rangers, or the Edmonton Oilers for Patrick Maroon, or the Vancouver Canucks for Thomas Vanek, the GMs around the league are also well aware of the wealth of prospects within the Bruins organization. And they’re looking to land some of them in any potential deals with the Black and Gold. The Rangers, in particular, want NHL-ready prospects to quickly reload their roster, but that’s what all of these teams are looking for in potential rental deals, or trades for players like McDonagh with more term on the contract.

So the million dollar question is what the Bruins should be willing to part with in those types of deals. GMs will certainly ask about Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Brandon Carlo at the NHL level as all four players are midway through their entry level contracts, and have already established themselves as considerable NHL players. McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should all be completely off the table in any of the deals the Bruins could be expected to make, and the expectation is that Don Sweeney isn’t going to deal any of them. Those three players are already tightly woven within the fabric of the team, and subtracting them from the roster would substantially worsen the team both in the short term and the long term.

Carlo is perhaps in a little bit of a different story in that the 21-year-old could be a viable trade piece if it was in something like the McDonagh deal, where the Bruins were going to be able to substantially upgrade their defensemen situation. Still, the Bruins aren’t very deep organizationally when it comes to right shot defensemen, and dealing a young, promising righty like Carlo for a lefty like McDonagh would only further complicate that situation.

That's above and beyond the fact that a clever, experienced GM like Jeff Gorton is going to attempt to maximize his return for a big asset like McDonagh, and attempt to get a package featuring two young NHL players (Carlo and either DeBrusk or Heinen) and a pick in exchange for New York's captain. 

The bottom line: of the four established NHL players mostly likely to be coveted by other NHL GMs in trade talks, stay-at-home defenseman Carlo is the only that should be seriously considered as a trade piece.

In the same vein, the most viable Bruins prospect up front that could be moved in the right deal is Anders Bjork. The 21-year-old Bjork has four goals and 12 points in 30 games for the Bruins this season while jumping from Notre Dame straight to the NHL, and is currently injured with an upper body injury suffered last month. He’s shown great skating speed, good hockey IQ and the offensive creativity needed to be a top-6 forward, and has been considered the same class of forward prospect as Heinen and DeBrusk.

It’s still entirely possible that Bjork becomes the best of all three players when it’s all said and done, but it’s also clear Heinen and DeBrusk have hopped over him on the organizational depth chart as this season has played out.

More importantly, Bjork, if traded, could be replaced rather immediately in the B’s talent pipeline by forward Ryan Donato after his impressive five-goal performance for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. That’s how it works for an organization like the Bruins where draft and development has become a success story. Some prospects make it to the NHL level and supplant veterans while keeping the salary cap from becoming an issue, some prospects perhaps don’t live up to the hype and other prospects are used as trade assets to address roster needs at the NHL level when things like the trade deadline come to the fore.

The real challenge for Sweeney over the next few days will be deciding which ones like Robbie O’Gara can be utilized in trades to support the NHL team, and which ones like McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should be absolutely untouchable right now.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

What we learned: B's own the third, Chara's still go it

What we learned: B's own the third, Chara's still go it

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-2 comeback win in over the Oilers on Tuesday night in Edmonton.

1) The Bruins continue to be a dominant force in the third period.


That's a testament to their superior conditioning this season and the way they use their depth to overwhelm opponents in a 60-minute game. The Bruins scored their three goals in the third period to come all the way back from a two-goal deficit and have now outscored opponents 68-38 in the third this season in a jaw-dropping statistic. Basically, the Bruins are a plus-30 in goal differential at the time it matters most. They outshot the Oilers 14-6 in those final 20 minutes and continued pouring it on after they’d hit a couple of posts and missed some golden scoring chances earlier in the game. Some of that was certainly a testament to their resolve and character as they just keep on coming even when they’re getting a little frustrated by the game’s circumstances. Still, some of it is also about a clear time in the game where the Bruins have owned just about all their opponents this season. The third period is theirs.

2) Noel Acciari is finally looking healthy and back to form on the fourth line.


Acciari went through a 10-game scoreless drought and wasn’t playing up to his usual physical standards while he was playing through a lower-body injury in January. Acciari sat out for a couple of weeks to rest the injury, came back midway through February and in the past couple of games is finally back to the hard-hitting, hard-charging factor on the energy line (two hits and a couple of takeaways in his 13 minutes of ice time) that can actually provide a little offense. Acciari’s wraparound goal in the third period was important, too, as he spearheaded the three-goal outburst in the final 20 minutes. The Rhode Island kid now has seven goals on the season and has a legit chance of hitting double-digits this year if he can remain healthy down the stretch, which will always be a challenge given his no-holds-barred style.

3) It’s time to stop fooling around with the trades for left-shot D-men and sign Zdeno Chara to a contract extension.


Chara was immense shutting down Connor McDavid and holding him to two shots and continues to play excellent shutdown defense the past month against some of the top scoring stars in the league. Who can forget the way he completely smothered Auston Matthews in Toronto’s last trip to Boston as the B's gear up for another meeting with the Leafs on Saturday night? Chara has been an excellent warrior, leader and sort of an on-ice coach for the young D-men on the Bruins this season. He’s done everything that Boston has asked of him. Before making a blockbuster trade for a Ryan McDonagh or any other left side D-men that could ostensibly be seen as a long-term replacement for the Bruins captain, they should take care of things with Chara and try to get him locked down ahead of the playoffs. Nobody suspects it’s going to be an issue for the player in any way, shape or form and clearly, a contract year has brought out the best in a player who's a team-best plus-26 on the season. But I don’t think there’s that much more for Chara to prove about their still being gas left in the tank. It’s a reasonable assumption that he can play to this level next season at 41 as well. Certainly, he’s going to have his rough moments when the Bruins play 16 games in March and the playoff grind will always be a challenge for a 40-year-old, but Chara has already proven that Tom Brady isn’t the only 40-year-old ageless wonder still doing his thing in Boston these days.

Plus


*Bruce Cassidy deserves plenty of credit for switching out Riley Nash and David Krejci in the third period while still trailing. That proved to be the impetus behind the B's final two goals. Nash fed a crashing Matt Grzelcyk for the tying strike with his new linemates, and then Danton Heinen fed Krejci for the winner to put the B’s on top for good. Those are masterful adjustments from the B’s coaching staff.

*Chara played 22:39 of ice time while completely shutting down McDavid, had five shots on net and five blocked shots in a yeoman’s effort on the second night of back-to-backs. You know, 40-year-old players aren’t supposed to be able to do that stuff. Impressive,

*David Backes won a key one-on-one battle with Drake Caggiula along the side boards to set up Krejci’s goal, had five shots on net and was a stalwart, physical beast for the Bruins against a pretty rough-and-tumble Oilers crew.

Minus


*No shots on net in 13:22 for Milan Lucic. He did have six registered hits, but he wasn’t noticeable at all in a game where you’d expect the motor to still be running high.

*The same can be said for Patrick Maroon, who had a shot on net and a hit along with a minus-1 rating in 17:23 of ice time for the Oilers. If that was an audition to be a member of the Bruins, he didn’t really do a heck of a lot to impress them after killing them the past few years.

*One shot on net in 13:43 of ice time for Ryan Spooner, who was dropped to the third line with Nash in the third period. The Oilers might be a tough match-up for Spooner given their size and strength, but he’s got to find a way to be effective against those teams down the stretch.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE