Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins should go after Stamkos

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Haggerty: Bruins should go after Stamkos

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins InsiderFollow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Heres a tantalizing question for all of those still drunk off the glorious Boston champagne party following the Bruins' Stanley Cup season.

What better reason is there to go for NHL broke than putting all the chips on the table for an explosive, exciting 50-goal scorer not even close to approaching the prime of his pro hockey career?

Were talking, of course, about the one and only Steven Stamkos.

The 21-year-old has cashed in 96 goals over the last two seasons for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and is considered to be the type of player Boston hopes Tyler Seguin to be once he's fully developed.

Stamkos will become a restricted free agent at noontime on Friday when free agency begins, and any team can legally push a drunken sailor offer sheet toward Stamkos bursting with cash, perks and anything else a creative GM could dream up in the nights leading up to July 1.

Thats exactly why the Bruins should grow bold and make the Stamkos move while they have a chance at the explosive force of hockey nature.

The rare opportunity has presented itself with Boston sitting way under the salary cap with more than 10 million to spend once the number goes up this season and Stamkos and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman have been unable to find common ground on a long term deal in the days leading up to Friday.

Its not easy for the Lightning as they scrounge around for some way to fit Marty St. Louis, Vinny Lecavalier and Stamkos under the same salary cap while overturning the couch cushions looking for loose change.

There is no magical cap exemption in the NHL collective bargaining agreement to bail out the Lightning, and Stamkos heads up some talented names among the RFA group that include defenseman Keith Yandle and Drew Doughty. Unfortunately the Bruins dont own their own 2012 second-round pick given up in the Tomas Kaberle deal, and that precludes them from sending any offer sheets with an average annual value between 4.7-7.8 million.

That development leaves the Bs out of the RFA sweepstakes for Yandle and Doughty, but still leaves them in play for a Stamkos-level player that should command upwards of 7.5 million per year.

Instead Yzerman is left to publicly vow that hell match any offer sheet thrown Stamkos way over the next few weeks if it devolves to that point, and privately hope none of the other GMs go for the kill.

If the Bruins hypothetically offered Stamkos an eight-year offer sheet at 8 million a season there is little way for them to lose anything as an organization.

If they somehow ended up with Stamkos the Bruins would surrender their next four first round picks in drafts that are likely to see them pick close to No. 30 after collecting top 10 players in each of the last two drafts through the shrewd Phil Kessel deal brokered by Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. Sure, the Bruins would have some tough cap decisions after next season, but that will be under a new NHL CBA with uncertain terms.

Planning too far ahead for a new CBA can be disastrous as the Bruins should know firsthand after letting Mike Knuble, Brian Rolston, Sergei Gonchar and Michael Nylander walk away coming out of the lockout a series of moves that left the Bs with nothing more than an expansion team-level roster.

The Bs could pair Stamkos and Seguin together for the next decade and feature their game-breaking offensive forces that would make the offense hum. And that's not to mention the power play, which would click like it hasn't since Marc Savard caught Matt Cookes blindside elbow. It would literally be the most impactful move the Bs could make with Michael Ryder (4 million) and Tomas Kaberle (4.25 million) potentially coming off the books, the future of Savard (4 million) seriously in doubt and another 5 million plus floating in for the 2011-12 season. The NHL salary cap website capgeek.com has the Bruins currently sitting with 12.097 million in cap space, and with Brad Marchand set to cost the Bruins somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million per season.

That is some serious monopoly money the Bruins are playing with, and Stamkos is Boardwalk and Park Place combined with hotels mortgaged to the hilt.

Stamkos-to-Boston sounds pretty good for a Bruins team coming off their first Stanley Cup trophy in 39 years, and would play awfully well to a burgeoning and hungry fan base that showed up 1.5 million strong at the Rolling Rally parade.

There are bushels of money to be made at Bruins Inc. these days, and the organization needs to find ways to be even bigger, better, badder and more exciting than they were last year. Thats not an easy feat, but pushing for Stamkos would do just that on all fronts.

Theres also the argument to be made the Bruins simply need to pull the offer sheet trigger in a conference thats quickly improving.

With Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin returning to health for the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Eastern Conference will be much more of a dog fight next year and beyond.

The Bs also have another need to improve substantially: There is a virtual certainty that the Detroit Red Wings will be migrating their winged wheels to the East in two years when the league realigns. The Red Wings will immediately become another obstacle in the way of the Black and Gold, and the Bs will need to match their talented roster.

Boston must gain offensive explosiveness and generate pure speed from all spots on the ice, and Stamkos holds both of those qualities among an ever-expanding tool box that saw him get stronger and grittier around the net this season.

Add that to the toughness he displayed by returning to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals after nearly getting his nose ripped off by a Johnny Boychuk slap shot, and Stamkos is the definition of a franchise player worth altering the long range plan for.

Theres obviously the chance Tampa Bay matches any offer sheet -- as Yzerman has guaranteed he will do -- and is forced to blow up part of the Bolts roster in order to retain their young superstar.

But theres really no down side here for the Bruins.

All is fair when it comes to competition within the NHL, and there are few chances to significantly weaken the only Eastern team that stood between the Bruins and their Stanley Cup in the conference finals. The Lightning are a hockey club on the rise, but salary cap complications could suck the gigawatts right out of Tampa Bay's attack in very short order.

The RFA offer sheet is a cold, ruthless and unmerciful move in the fraternal world of NHL GMs, but one can be certain nobody is going to do the Bruins any solid favors after they won the Cup this spring.

Its the right time to be bold and take chances with a team shooting to become the first to repeat as Cup champions in the last 15 years of the NHL.

The next few days or week should be the only chance the Bruins will ever have to seize Stamkos as Boston hockey property, and it could be the only chance theyll get at a proven 50-goal scorer in a long, long time.

Its a little crazy and very risky, but the Bruins should do whatever it takes to make Stamkos the newest member of the Stanley Cup Champions.

That certainly has a nice ring to it, doesnt it?

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

NHL Power Rankings: Bubble starting to burst for Cinderella teams

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NHL Power Rankings: Bubble starting to burst for Cinderella teams

The bubble is beginning to burst for some of the Cinderella teams out of the starting gate around the NHL. The Kings have lost four games in a row and look like the offense is again becoming a problem, the Rangers are back to losing after an extended winning streak, and both the Flyers and Stars have dropped three games in a row after decent starts to their seasons amid low expectations.

There are still a few other teams like the New Jersey Devils, Detroit Red Wings, Winnipeg Jets and Vegas Golden Knights, among others, that are bucking expectations and defying convention thus far. It will take a bit more sustained success before people are truly ready to buy in on them this season. Until that happens they remain a nice little story among the true contenders vying for league dominance.  

Anyway, without further ado here are this week’s preseason power rankings:

1.  Tampa Bay Lightning (regular season record: 15-2-2, rank last week: 2) – The Bolts are on another five-game winning streak, and continue to serve notice that they were the sorta new, sorta old sheriff in the Eastern Conference. First in the NHL in goals scored, second in goals against and second in power play is some pretty amazing performance.

2.  St. Louis Blues (14-5-1, rank last week: 1) – Brayden Schenn and Jordan Schwartz are the top two scorers for a Blues team that’s fought their way to the top of the Central Division. While that’s a great story in St. Louis, it does raise questions about how long they can sustain that over the course of a full hockey season.

3.  Winnipeg Jets (11-4-3, rank last week: 5) – Three wins in a row and one regulation loss in the last 10 games for a Jets team that seems to finally be getting it. Mark Schiefele has really become a difference-maker in Winnipeg.

4. Toronto Maple Leafs (13-7-0, rank last week: 6) – The Maple Leafs have won five games in a row without Auston Matthews, which is a pretty impressive feat for such a young group. It does appear like it could also be a season of streaks for a Toronto club that’s shown both extremes already this season.

5. New Jersey Devils (11-4-3, rank last week: 7) – The New Jersey home for wayward Bruins has been pretty good thus far with both Drew Stafford and Jimmy Hayes making the most of their next opportunity after varying degrees of success in Boston… very varying.

6. Los Angeles Kings (11-6-2, rank last week: 3) – The Kings have hit a bit of a wall with four losses in a row where they’ve scored a grand total of six goals while looking much more like last season’s bunch of Kings. Jonathan Quick will keep them in those games now that he’s healthy again, but you’re not going to win if you can’t score.

7. Columbus Blue Jackets (12-7-1, rank last week: 8) – The Blue Jackets have bounced back from four losses in a row to win three games in a row where they needed to grind it out with an on-his-game Sergei Bobrovsky. That’s pretty much how it’s going to go for Columbus.   

8. Pittsburgh Penguins (11-7-3, rank last week: 4) – Phil Kessel is leading the Penguins in scoring and Sidney Crosby has been merely okay offensively (six goals in 21 games) with a minus-12 on the season. Has the whole world of the Penguins turned upside down or what?

9. Vegas Golden Knights (11-6-1, rank last week: 9) – The long goaltending nightmare is over for Vegas as it appears that Malcolm Subban is approaching a return to the lineup. Credit to the Golden Knights for holding things together while the injuries played out, and continuing to defy the odds of what they could do this season.   

10. Nashville Predators (10-6-2, rank last week: 10) – The Predators are 5-1-1 in Music City and once again making that a tough place to play for opponents. Certainly the sight of PK Subban in a cowboy hat during pregame warm-ups is sign that the Predators players are fully buying into what’s going on in Nashville, and that makes them a very formidable opponent.

11.   New York Islanders (10-6-2, rank last week: 11) – The Isles have won a couple of games in a row and appear to have hit their stride while slowly moving up the Metro Division ranks. That they’ve done with so-so seasons for Jordan Eberle and Andrew Ladd certainly says plenty about other guys stepping up.  

12. Ottawa Senators (8-4-5, rank last week: 13) – Nobody has played fewer games in the NHL than the Senators, and they are just outside a playoff spot after adding Matt Duchene to their lineup. I’d say things are looking pretty good for Ottawa and where they’re set up at this point in the season.

13. San Jose Sharks (10-7-0, rank last week: 20) – The Sharks are the best defensive team in the NHL, and have the second-best penalty kill in the league this season. That’s certainly a change from the past for the Sharks, but they remain, as ever, in the hunt for the playoffs.

14. Detroit Red Wings (10-8-2, rank last week: 19) – It’s less than a week before Thanksgiving and the Red Wings are in a playoff spot. It’s a big question if they can sustain what they’ve built up this far and they do have three or four games on much of their Atlantic Division competition, but they are in a better spot than anybody could have imagined at this point.

15. Minnesota Wild (9-7-2, rank last week: 26) – The Wild have won four games in a row as Devan Dubnyk is starting to get his stuff together, and are once again in the mix in the Central Division as they seemingly always have been over the recent past.

16. Chicago Blackhawks (9-8-2, rank last week: 24) – The Blackhawks have been jolted back to life by rookie Alex DeBrincat pumping up the offense to support the longtime veteran core. They’ve won two of their last three games and scored 15 goals in those three games as well.

17. Calgary Flames (10-8-0, rank last week: 12) – The Flames have won five of their last seven games, but also gave up eight goals to the Red Wings in their last loss. Jaromir Jagr has been pretty okay since getting healthy for the Flames, so the legend keeps on growing.

18. Washington Capitals (10-9-1, rank last week: 18) – The Capitals are 24th in the NHL in goals against and Braden Holtby has been pretty ordinary for the Capitals this season. It sure feels like they’ve lost a little something defensively this season, which doesn’t bode well for their Cup chances.

19.  Vancouver Canucks (9-8-2, rank last week: 15) – All three of their leading scorers are young, talented forwards, so at least the Canucks have that going for them…which is nice. But the Sedins have five goals and a combined 15 points in 38 games, and it appears the end may be nearing for the Swedish twins.

20.  Colorado Avalanche (9-7-1, rank last week: 21) – It feels like Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon have both played much better since the Matt Duchene train left the station. Maybe that’s a coincidence, but it doesn’t feel like it for whatever reason.

21. Philadelphia Flyers (8-6-0, rank last week: 14) – The Flyers have scored a grand total of one goal in their last three games, which is also a three-game losing streak for the Broad Street Bullies. Who would have guessed that offense would be a major issue for this group?

22. Anaheim Ducks (8-7-3, rank last week: 17) – The Ducks have points in four of their last five games, and finally seem to be pulling things together a month into the season. This isn’t the same team that was a Western Conference powerhouse a couple of years ago, but they can still be a heavy, formidable foe on any given night.

23. New York Rangers (9-9-2, rank last week: 16) – The bad news for the Rangers is that the six-game winning streak is in the rearview mirror. The good news is that Rick Nash seems to have found his game, and is producing offense for a Blueshirts group that needs everything they can get.

24. Boston Bruins (7-7-4, rank last week: 23) – The Bruins, through injuries and major inexperience, are slowly sliding down into oblivion before Thanksgiving, and are going to need to find some things to hang their hat on if they want to survive the month of November.  

25. Dallas Stars (9-9-1, rank last week: 22) – The Stars are 2-4-1 in the month of November, and have been outscored 24-7 in the losses this month. It really feels like there is a compete problem in Big ‘D’ where they shouldn’t be getting dominated like that from a talent standpoint.

26. Montreal Canadiens (8-10-2, rank last week: 25) – While it’s good that Charlie Lindgren has stepped up and been pretty good for the Habs in an emergency-type situation, it’s an absolute disaster that Carey Price is banged up again for Montreal. This is a season where everything that could go wrong pretty much has for the Habs.

27. Carolina Hurricanes (7-6-4, rank last week: 27) – The Hurricanes have taken seven of their last 10 points, but it’s not really making much of a dent in the Metro Division. The one truly encouraging sign has been some very good goaltending from Scott Darling and Cam Ward.

28. Edmonton Oilers (7-10-2, rank last week: 28) – The Oilers seemed like they might be pulling out of their early-season funk, but then lost four of their last five games to stick close to the Pacific Division basement. It’s been a rough start for Cam Talbot, and that’s been one of the big differences for the Oil.   

29. Florida Panthers (7-9-2, rank last week: 30) – You have to wonder where the Panthers would be if they hadn’t brought in a player like Evgenii Dadonov, who has been one of the best offensive players on the team this year. That’s a nice win for Florida’s management group to get him back in the fold this season.

30. Buffalo Sabres (5-10-4, rank last week: 29) – So many sticks to break for Jack Eichel, so little time.

31. Arizona Coyotes (3-15-3, rank last week: 31) – The Coyotes have gone 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. That is considered a major roll for them, so they have to be getting pretty excited out in the desert.

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Bruins will play Blackhawks in 2019 NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame

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Bruins will play Blackhawks in 2019 NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame

The Bruins will once again be taking things outdoors and participating in their third Winter Classic in franchise history, but for the first time they won’t be hosting the NHL’s centerpiece event. The B’s announced on Saturday afternoon that they’ll be facing off against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2019 Winter Classic that will be played at iconic Notre Dame Stadium. Both the Bruins and Blackhawks aren’t exactly strangers to the outdoor showcase, and per usual the Black and Gold are happy to be part of a big deal event for the league.

“The Boston Bruins are excited to be playing in the 2019 Bridgestone Winter Classic against another storied Original Six franchise, the Chicago Blackhawks,” said Bruins President Cam Neely, in a press release. “The rich history of Notre Dame Stadium is well documented, and our team looks forward to playing at such an iconic venue. We hope that by participating in these large scale and unique NHL events we can bring Bruins fans new hockey experiences, and that we can use these opportunities to help grow our great game and attract new fans.”

There will be some natural storylines for the game including the rematch of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final participants, and a return to Notre Dame for Fighting Irish forward Anders Bjork after playing three seasons in South Bend. The Bruins/Blackhawks Winter Classic matchup was first reported by Barstool Sports almost two weeks ago, but it wasn’t until Saturday that any of the officials involved were ready to confirm the game.

The Bruins will be in their third Winter Classic after hosting the Jan. 1 outdoor game at Fenway Park in 2010 in an overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers, and at Gillette Stadium in 2016 in a blowout loss to the Montreal Canadiens.  It is a league-most fourth Winter Classic appearance for the Blackhawks, who hosted the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field in 2009, took on the Washington Capitals at Nationals Park in 2015, and most recently played the St. Louis Blues at Busch Stadium in 2017.