Bruins

Hagg Bag mailbag: Still deep-diving for defensemen

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Hagg Bag mailbag: Still deep-diving for defensemen

It’s been a month or two since the last Hagg Bag mailbag, and not a ton has changed for the Boston Bruins in terms of where they are, what they need or what their ultimate prognosis is for this season. They are in position to qualify for the postseason, they look like a low seed/bubble playoff team that might have trouble getting out of the first round and they still badly need at least one more top-3 defenseman capable of playing 20-plus minutes a night with strength and skill at both ends of the ice. Preferably that would be a young D-man that could be groomed as the heir apparent to take over for Zdeno Chara as the 38-year-old continues to show signs of slowing down.

I’d fully expect Don Sweeney to do something to address all of this over the next two months prior to the trade deadline, but it certainly won’t be easy if the Black and Gold are looking to find a real, permanent solution to the problem. With that in mind, on to the bag where I answer real questions from real fans sent to my twitter using the #HaggBag hash tag, emails sent to jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com and questions sent to my CSN Facebook page.

I'll answer both of the following questions as best I can:

From Christopger Foley (@cfol44) - Why can other teams make trades for needs, but Bruins can’t seem to get one done? They need D badly, have resources, why not?

From John D - Hey Joe,

It is obvious that the Bruins are in desperate need of a number 1 right-handed Defenseman. K. Miller has been their biggest liability and Trotman is just not a top 2 Defenseman.  I have not given up on Chara but he is no longer a dominant number 1 and he needs some help.

With two right-handed defensemen being traded in the last week, I was wondering if the Bruins were in on either Schenn or more so Seth Jones. Both seem like an upgrade this year and Jones could be the guy missing from this team for years to come. It seems rare for a guy like that to be available at all and yet I didn't hear the B's name at all being involved in those trade talks. If not those guys, any chance they would sell out and take a shot at a guy like Eric Johnson.

He could be the guy to make them a Stanley Cup contender now, and the next Bruins number 1 Defenseman for the next 5 years.

JH: The Bruins continue to look to upgrade their defense, but they are far from alone in that situation. That’s part of the problem right now is there’s still about 10 other teams looking for the same kind of player (a sturdy, skill and young right shot defenseman capable of playing big minutes) that the Bruins are seeking. So there’s lots of competition when a player becomes available, and the price will be at a premium when they hit the trade market.

Clearly a guy like Seth Jones would have been the dream target for the Bruins with all things being equal, and he ended up going to Columbus. I have no doubt that Boston was interested in a player like Jones because he’s got all the makings of a future No. 1 defenseman in the NHL. But the problem is he was dealt to Columbus for a young No. 1 center in Ryan Johansen in the kind of true hockey trade that you don’t see enough of these days.

The Bruins don’t have the equivalent of a Johansen on their roster to potentially swoop in and steal Jones from under the nose of the Blue Jackets. They have older, more established centers in Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, but both players have no movement clauses, and aren’t still on the upswing in their careers like a Johansen will be in Nashville. The Bruins could have packaged together some valuable draft picks and almost certainly would have had to give up David Pastrnak in a deal for a player like Jones, but at the end of the day that’s not what the Predators were looking for. They wanted a plug-and-play stud No. 1 center that can immediately carry the mail for them, and potentially be the missing piece for a team with deep playoff aspirations.

They had a surplus of D-men while Columbus had a player in Johansen that is as talented as he was in a desperate need for a change in scenery. Those two teams were a perfect match for the other’s needs, so it wasn’t surprising that the deal went down aside from the fact that nobody really knew Seth Jones was available.

That means there was no good match between the Bruins and Predators for Jones, and the B’s have to go back to the drawing board. Don Sweeney and the Bruins haven’t found the right deal yet, but they’ll keep on looking just as they have been since falling short of Noah Hanifin back on NHL Draft weekend last summer.

As far as Luke Schenn goes, he’s one of the most overrated players in the NHL that came overhyped because he played in World Juniors and for the Maple Leafs. He also just has a cool hockey name too. He wouldn’t have been much help for this Bruins team at all, though.

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Haggs,

This must be the deepest prospect pool the Bruins have had in recent memory. Although, I would not call any of them elite – (Perhaps Zboril and Senyshyn have the “potential”) they all seem to be very solid picks thus far. That being said, do you feel Sweeney and company may be willing to part with some of their top prospects for an impact player?

I feel they are in good position to make some moves. Obviously, they need a top-4 (more like a top-2 IMO) and perhaps a top-9 forward as they’ve been lacking secondary scoring.

Here are some names of interest:

Forwards

Rychel – CLB
Atkinson – CLB
Eberle – EDM
Ritchie – ANA
Nichushkin – DAL
Drouin – TB
 
Defensemen

Fowler – ANA
Faulk- CAR
Shattenkirk – STL
Trouba – WPG
Vatanen – ANA

Obviously, some more realistic than others but I’m curious what your thoughts are on how the B's will handle this trade-deadline. Do they go rental? Do they go with a proven young player? Or continue to build depth within the organization (prospects/picks)

Thanks Haggs!

-Jesse, The Dominican Puck-Head

JH: I’d add Keith Yandle to your list given that it the Rangers aren’t getting anywhere with him in contract extension negotiations. Why not? He’s been involved in some kind of rumor with the Bruins every other season for the last five years, so I’m not sure this season should be any different. Even if he doesn’t get traded to Boston, one would have to wonder if there’s interest on his part to look at the Bruins as a free agent suitor this summer now that other local guys like Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano are dotting the B’s roster.

Yandle knows all the players pretty well after skating with them during summers over the last couple of years, and he would bring a needed skill as a top-4 puck-moving defenseman.

But as far the players mentioned above, the D-man is a priority. I would keep an eye on Sami Vatanen in Anaheim as that Ducks team is an organization that could decide to start trading players quickly, and the 24 year old Vatanen fits the profile of what the Bruins are looking for in a young, talented, right shot D-man that’s just scratching his potential at the NHL level. He’s a little on the small side, but he’s on pace for 10 goals and 40 points this season during a dreadful Ducks experience for everybody on the roster.

Cam Atkinson is another guy that the Bruins have had interest in prior seasons, so there could be a possible match there. But I honestly don’t feel like scoring is a big problem for a Bruins team that’s been top-5 in offense all season, and has led the NHL in power play efficiency all season. They might need more of a veteran center presence, with some offensive upside, for the fourth line if Joonas Kemppainen doesn’t keep showing signs of improvement, but he’s actually looked pretty good since coming back from his upper body injury.

As far what they’re willing to give up, I’d expect their own first round pick would be in play given that they also hold the San Jose Sharks pick from the Martin Jones trade. That would be their best asset along with possibly Loui Eriksson as an available rental player should they decide to go that route with him. Given how important he’s been to this team this season, they may just hold on to him even if they can’t sign Eriksson to an extension before the deadline.

But in my opinion it’s too early to trade Brandon Carlo, Zach Senyshyn, Jakub Zboril or Jake DeBrusk while you’re still determining what their ceiling is as future pros. Carlo was excellent in the World Juniors for Team USA, and Senyshyn has been tearing it up with 26 goals in 39 games for the Soo Greyhounds this season while making the Bruins look very shrewd for going outside the box to pick him last June.

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With Chara becoming rapidly more of a liability, what are the Bruins to do with the big man? Is he untradeable?

--Chris Mathews (@cdm813)

 
JH: Chara is untradeable unless the Bruins are willing to blow it all up, and they won’t be doing that now that they’re in the playoff hunt. If things had continued down the path they were on in the first three losses to open the season, then it might have been a possibility if the playoffs weren’t going to be attainable for this group. But the Bruins are on track for a playoff spot, and they don’t have a suitable replacement for him as a de facto No. 1 D-man were they more motivated to on from the 38-year-old captain.

By and large Chara has been pretty good this season for a Bruins team that’s overworked him. He’s on pace for 11 goals and 44 points, is a plus-9 through 38 games and is right under 25 minutes a game (24:20) against the other team’s best players. But he’s starting to show the wear and tear of a situation where the Bruins are forced to play him quite a bit. He’s a minus-4 with just three points in his last nine games, and he continues to look slower to respond to certain things happening on the ice. In the last couple of games, Chara has been caught way up ice to leave rookie D-man Colin Miller as the last line of defense for the Bruins. That shouldn’t be happening. At this point in Chara’s career, stopping the other team should be job No. 1 because it simply takes him too long to recover when a turnover gets the puck moving the opposite way.

But to answer your question, I don’t see them moving Chara now. The time to move him was last season if they wanted to be bold, and that would have made sense only if they had determined that Dougie Hamilton was their future No. 1 guy. Clearly they had their reservations about that as well given the way they balked at his contract wants, and shipped Hamilton out for a collection of draft picks. That tells you Sweeney didn’t buy into Hamilton as a future No. 1 guy, and he certainly hasn’t played that way in Calgary to this point in his first season there.

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How about Pastrnak and a 2016 1st round pick for Shattenkirk?? –Jeff Gold (@jgold2004)

JH: Do you really want to give up on a 19-year-old with the offensive upside of Pastrnak for a 26-year-old Shattenkirk, who admittedly is an All-Star defenseman capable of giving the Bruins the puck-moving needs and top-4 play that they’re looking for? If I’m Don Sweeney I’m not trading Pastrnak for anything that’s out there unless it was a Seth Jones-type that is roughly the same age and talent ceiling as the guy I’m trading away.

I’d be more apt to talk Loui Eriksson and a pick for Shattenkirk as something approaching equal value with the knowledge that the Bruins would have to kick in extra since Eriksson is a rental, and Shattenkirk still has a year on his deal for next season. Clearly the Bruins like the former Boston University standout in Shattenkirk, and tried to deal for him back when he was a member of the Colorado Avalanche organization. But the Blues might also be pulling back on any desire to trade Shattenkirk with injuries befalling fellow D-men Carl Gunnarsson and Jay Bouwmeester in the last few days. It’s worse keeping an eye on because the B’s would try to make it work for a guy like Shattenkirk, and there was some discussions last season about sending Eriksson to St. Louis.

But right now there is more smoke than fire to any talk about Shattenkirk being traded imminently.

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Any news on Chris Kelly? Potential for re-signing in Boston at a discount, leaving as a FA, or being traded for cap room? #HaggBag –Justin Walden (@justwalden)

 JH: Nothing new on Chris Kelly. He’s been around the team while rehabbing and seems to slowly be making progress from a serious injury. He’s focused on somehow trying to get back to playing at the end of this season should the Bruins advance deeply enough into the playoffs, and there isn’t much thought about what’s up for him after that.

In this day and age where veteran players are getting squeezed out and forced to sign tryout deals in training camp just to win jobs (like Jonas Gustavsson), it’s pretty futile to handicap what’s going to happen with Kelly moving forward. He brings smarts, leadership, good defense and versatility to the table, but he’ll also be 35 years old and coming off a significant leg injury. My guess is he’ll be signing for $1 million on a one-year deal or less if he gets a guaranteed contract at all, and that it probably won’t be in Boston.

Maybe he’ll go back to Ottawa where he was a very well-respected guy before getting traded to Boston, and where he still lives in the offseason? That might be the best situation for him if he can’t remain with the Bruins. The B’s want to get younger, faster and cheaper on their bottom two forward lines, and that really wouldn’t seem to be Kelly’s game at this point.

I don’t see him getting traded for cap room since they can simply put him on long term injured reserve, and get his cap hit off the books that way. The Bruins have cap room to make moves, and that really wouldn’t be a hindrance to any deal they want to pull off.

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What talent do the Bruins have left from the Thornton, Seguin, Wheeler moves?

--dafactsjack (@dafactsjack)

 

JH: Well, there’s Loui Eriksson and Joe Morrow, and Jimmy Hayes from the Reilly Smith deal. They also have Alex Khokhlachev, who was acquired with a second round pick gained when they traded Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild. Kobasew, along with Andrew Ference, was one of the players acquired when they shipped Brad Stuart to Calgary. A fun fact about that deal: the fourth round pick Boston sent to Calgary along with Brad Stuart and Wayne Primeau in 2007 turned into Flames defenseman T.J. Brodie. Hope that answers your question, Jack.

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Hi Joe,

Huge fan, you’re my first search on Twitter all day on Bruins talk. Keep it up.

Two things:

Kelly's future?

Connolly? Do they sign him or has the youth movement proven to make him dispensable? He hasn't quite stepped up although it's clear he has the raw talent

--Jake Krilovich

 

JH: Thanks Jake…I talked about Kelly’s future up above. As far as Connolly goes, it’s tough to say until we see the full picture of this season. Right now it doesn’t look good because he’s basically scored one goal in the last two months, and was a healthy scratch in Ottawa on Saturday night. The 23-year-old signed a one-year, low money deal with the Bruins that was kind of a “prove it” contract, and he’s on pace for 11 goals and 29 points.

If this continues I don’t think he’ll be back with the Bruins next season, but he’s also a young player with good size, skating ability and offensive skills. Connolly could change the conversation if he starts getting hot like he was in October, and lights it up over the next couple of months. But it’s tough to ignore the fact Connolly had a long audition playing on the right side with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and wasn’t able to produce like I’m sure he hoped he would.

Right now, the investment of two second round picks to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Connolly last season looks like a deal the Bruins would like to have back. But let’s check back in a couple of months and see what a bigger cross-section of the season looks like for Connolly before deciding to cut bait on a 23-year-old former lottery pick.

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Why isn’t No. 16 hanging from the rafters?

--Phil

JH: If it was up to me, Phil, the Sturm Face would absolutely be hanging from the rafters.

In all seriousness, there are probably two different players worthy of having that No. 16 raised to the rafters: Derek Sanderson and Rick Middleton. Maybe they could do a shared ceremony with both players getting their names hoisted in infamy with their number? That would be pretty different, but an honor that I’m sure both great Old Time Bruins players would appreciate.

NHL free agents 2019: Ranking top 25 players available this offseason

NHL free agents 2019: Ranking top 25 players available this offseason

The 2019 NHL Draft is scheduled to begin Friday, and less than two weeks later free agency will open for all 31 teams.

It's going to be a busy and important couple of weeks for franchises looking to make major changes to their rosters with the hope of winning the Stanley Cup in 2020 and beyond.

Let's take a look at the top unrestricted and restricted free agents that could hit the market in July.

Click here for the top 25 free agents of the 2019 NHL offseason>>>

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Bruins plan to address Bruce Cassidy's contract as he enters final year of the deal

Bruins plan to address Bruce Cassidy's contract as he enters final year of the deal

As Bruce Cassidy enters the final year of his contract as head coach of the Boston Bruins, it probably goes without saying that he deserves an extension. 

The good news for B's fans, according to Joe McDonald of The Athletic, Boston is pleased with Cassidy's performance and plans to address his contract. 

'He’s under contract, so we have decisions that we’re going to progress with, and he’ll be part of that,' general manager Don Sweeney said. 'He’s under contract, so it’s not a concern right now, but we will address it.'

After a 107-point 2018-19 campaign, good for the second-best mark in the NHL, Cassidy led the Bruins to the brink of a Stanley Cup only to fall in Game 7 at TD Garden to the St. Louis Blues.

One of the major themes of this year's Bruins team was their resiliency under Cassidy. Boston fought back from a 3-2 deficit in the first round of the playoffs against Toronto and a 2-1 deficit against Columbus to win those series, and then won another Game 6 on the road down 3-2 to the Blues. 

The Bruins have made the playoffs in each of their first three seasons with Cassidy leading the charge, improving their finish in the postseason each year. 

BRUINS UNDER CASSIDY

2016-17: 44-31-7 (95 points), lost in the first round (4-2)
2017-18: 50-20-12 (112 points), lost in the second round (4-1)
2018-19 49-24-9 (107 points), lost in Stanley Cup Final (4-3)

Cassidy is the second-fastest Bruins coach to reach 100 wins as he has cemented himself as one of the best coaches in the league. And team President Cam Neely certainly thinks highly of him. 

'He’s done a very good job for us, obviously,' Neely said. 'Coming in when he did and getting us to the playoffs and then almost having two, back-to-back 50-win seasons — pretty impressive. He learned from our playoff losses and how to maybe coach a little bit differently in the playoffs.'

We'll see if the Bruins extend Cassidy before the 2019-20 season starts, but it definitely seems like they view him as their long term answer on the Black and Gold's bench. 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.