Haggerty: Bruins should go bold and tender an offer sheet to Seth Jones


Haggerty: Bruins should go bold and tender an offer sheet to Seth Jones

The Boston Bruins are desperate for a No. 1 franchise defenseman, what with Zdeno Chara turning 40 this season.

Just how desperate is the question.

General manager Don Sweeney is hard at work to bolster the team's defense corps. Trade talks are percolating for puck-moving, All-Star defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, and there are several other irons on the fire.

Barring development of a diamond-in-the-rough defenseman (the way Duncan Keith developed in Chicago), that's the route -- going outside the organization -- the Bruins are going to have to take. They don't appear to have a No. 1 defenseman-in-the-making on hand, despite the obvious talents of young, developing players like Brandon Carlo, Robbie O’Gara, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon. Nor does it appear they'll be able to draft their future franchise d-man with the 14th overall pick in the first round. 

Unfortunately, young players like Sami Vatanen are getting locked up to long-term deals, while fellow promising young D’s -- Colorado’s Tyson Barrie, Winnipeg’s Jacob Trouba -- appear destined to remain with their current teams. The Bruins will be hard-pressed to muster offers tempting enough to land other young defensemen like Hampus Lindholm or Matthew Dumba, particularly if names like Taylor Hall and Matt Duchene get dangled by Edmonton and Colorado, respectively.

So here’s an outside-the-box thought that anybody involved with the Bruins would have to consider, seeing that their long-term future is very much in question right now:

What about a massive offer sheet to restricted free agent defenseman Seth Jones?

He won't come cheap. Thanks to their own missteps -- dealing a second-round 2017 pick to New Jersey for Lee Stempniak, flat-out wasting their 2017 third-round pick in the Zac Rinaldo trade with the Flyers -- the Bruins don't have enough compensation picks to make a reasonable offer to a restricted RFA. So they would need to make an offer of $9.3 million per season, and forfeit their next four first-round draft choices, in order to qualify for an offer sheet to the 21-year-old Jones.

But he would be the young, big-bodied franchise defenseman the B's need, and the move would be similar to a bold one made 10 years ago when they landed the prototypical big-bodied, franchise defenseman in Chara.

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Jones struggled last season with 3 goals and 31 points along with a minus-14 rating in 81 games for Nashville and Columbus, and he looked every bit the young D-man in late-season games against the Bruins. But he’s also the fourth overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, and still projects to be a frontline, franchise No. 1 defenseman once he grows into his massive body, gains NHL-level experience, and sees his game mature . . . like so many other young blueliners on a learning curve.

A $9.3 million cap hit would be 12.7 percent of Boston’s salary cap starting in 2016-17, and moves would obviously need to be made to fit him and Chara under the cap for next season. But to put it in perspective: Chara’s $7.5 million contract was 17 percent of Boston’s $44 million cap availability in 2006-07, his first year in Boston. The Bruins took a short-term hit on the huge deal that season, but watched the contract become reasonable as the salary cap consistently rose over the last 10 years.

If the Bruins believe Seth Jones could be the next Chara-type franchise defenseman, he certainly could be worth the monetary investment.

As far as the four first-round picks are concerned, losing them would be painful as well. But perhaps not as painful as one might think, given that -- since they'd start surrendering the choices in June 2017 -- the Bruins will have made five first-round picks in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 drafts, replenishing their prospect cupboard. And, besides, the Bruins could be picking in the 10-20 range for the foreseeable future as they’re stuck in the middle with a serviceable-but-not-good lineup on the cusp of the playoffs. They'd never got a shot at a Seth Jones-type player in the draft over the next four years anyway.

Also, the Bruins haven’t exactly consistently killed it with their first-round picks over the last 10 years. So perhaps shooting for the moon with Jones is a much safer bet than hoping to hit gold with a mid-first-round choice.

Offer sheets to restricted free agents are the exception rather than the norm in the NHL, where GM’s don’t want to break form from the other 29 members of the fraternity. In Boston’s case, however, part of the reason the B's lost Dougie Hamilton last season was fear of the Edmonton Oilers were going to swoop in with an offer sheet. So wouldn’t turnabout be fair play?

Yes, it's a very bold move. Yes, they’d have to ridiculously overpay, given their draft-pick situation.

But it’s something Cam Neely and Don Sweeney -- who need to do something creative, innovative and ballsy in order to reverse Boston’s slide to mediocrity -- should think long and hard about.

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Banged up B's 'look forward to the challenge' vs Tampa team they're chasing

TAMPA BAY – It certainly might not be the shape they envisioned themselves being in when these late season games arrived against the President’s Trophy favorites in Tampa Bay, but the Bruins are bracing for a showdown with the high-powered Lightning either way. 

The Bruins stand just four points behind the Bolts with one game in hand, and mathematically they absolutely have a shot of catching and surpassing the Lightning for the NHL’s top spot with three games remaining against them in the season’s final month. But realistically it’s got to be considered a long shot at this point with Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk all out for Saturday night’s meeting with Tampa, and Bergeron and McAvoy expected to potentially miss all three of their divisional scraps. 

Coming off a 3-0 shutout loss at the hands of the Florida Panthers and at the end of a week-long, four-game road trip, the Bruins know they’re going to need to tighten things up against a Lightning team they can’t match firepower with in their weakened state. 

“I think we’ve done a pretty good job of just playing the game in front of us, and not getting too far ahead, too high or too low. We’ve got the best team in the National Hockey League, arguably, at home and rested [in front of us],” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “We look forward to the challenge. They’re a high-scoring team, so we talked about that with our goaltenders and our ‘D’ today. We better be ‘on’ because they’ll be coming. Our forwards are going to have to help out in that area and make sure we’re reloading well, and keep getting pucks at the net. 

“We didn’t finish [against Florida] but it wasn’t because of lack of effort or lack of pucks at the net. That part of our game is trending pretty well offensively. I think you’re going to have score to a certain extent against this team because you’re not going to shut them down completely. That’s our game plan for whoever is going to be in the lineup. They’ve got to be ready for it because that’s how it works, and that’s how it’s worked all year long for us. We need the guys in there to do their part and do it well.”

Certainly the Bruins could still do some offensive damage with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak still intact on their top line, and David Krejci and Rick Nash also still developing their chemistry on the second line. Torey Krug also came through feeling healthy at practice on Friday after soaking up 26 plus minutes of ice time in the loss to Florida, so they’ll also have some puck-moving and offensive pop on the back end as well.

But it may come down to the Chara-less defense and Tuukka Rask to step up and go into shutdown mode against the Lightning if they’re looking to really push up on the Lightning, and make this a horse race for the Atlantic Division down the stretch. Not to mention, it would be a psychological swing for both teams if the Bruins could take down a rested, relatively healthy Tampa Bay hockey club with their undermanned, injury-ravaged bunch. 

That in and of itself should be plenty of motivation for a Bruins team that’s got their sights and set on bigger and better things this spring with the Lightning expected to be one of the big obstacles standing in their way.


Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

NBC Sports Boston Photo

Morning Skate: Tavares or Seguin?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while jacked and pumped about that Infinity War trailer. Wow. 


*Credit here for something outside the box and clear hockey satire while looking far into the NHL’s crystal ball where the new expansion team is called the Seattle Slippery Seals, and Brad Marchand is the head of the NHLPA. That is quite a twist at the end of the movie right there. 


*The Hockey Central crew debates whether they would want John Tavares or Tyler Seguin as a player to build their team around. Seguin is having a solid year (with the end of his contract coming into view), but I’m going with Tavares all day long. I think he’s more of a competitor and a reliable player along with an equitable level of talent, and that counts for quite a bit in team-building. 


*It’s good to see the PHWA decide to make public the ballots of all NHL Awards starting at the end of this season. It’s something I voted in favor of and already did annually as I think transparency is something we always ask for from those we cover, so it should never be something we shy away from. 


*The Flyers have hit the skids again after pushing themselves into playoff view. This has been such a streak team over the last couple of years. 


*Pro Hockey Talk says that the Montreal Canadiens need to take a long look into the mirror before they move on from this season. I couldn’t agree more. 


*For something completely different: I feel badly for my kids that Toys R us is liquidating as a company, and the stores will be closing. It’s getting to the point where there will be no more brick and mortar toy stores for kids to visit, and that’s something from my youth experience that they’re going to miss out on. Frankly, it’s kind of sad.