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.

Bruins encouraged by losing effort in Washington: 'That's the kind of hockey we want to play'

Bruins encouraged by losing effort in Washington: 'That's the kind of hockey we want to play'

WASHINGTON  – It might have been the Bruins' fourth loss in a row and, for the first time all season, the B's have lost three consecutive regulation games, but there were glimmers of hope in the 3-2 defeat at hands of the Washington Capitals at Capital One Arena.

The Bruins marched out to a 1-0 lead after David Pastrnak’s first goal in five games and it would have been a two-goal lead early in the game if a silly offsides challenge that had nothing to do with the actual goal hadn’t overturned Patrice Bergeron’s power-play strike.

So, the Bruins had a better start than they have had recently, had a solid three periods of play while outshooting the Capitals 32-25 and played with more engagement, effort and urgency than they have shown in a couple of weeks. It was certainly encouraging that the Bruins are turning the corner back toward consistently good efforts rather than some of the forgettable, unfocused efforts of the past couple of weeks. Still, it was again a loss. 

“We’re all frustrated, but as a coach, you like how the 60 minutes transpired better than some of the other nights. We were in the game, right there and very easily could have won the game,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Two or three things probably changed that, but in terms of a 60-minute effort we’re getting a lot closer to where we want to be.”

The good news is that the Bruins leadership group sees light at the end of the tunnel with another big game against the Tampa Bay Lightning awaiting them 24 hours later. 

“I thought that’s the kind of hockey that [we] want to play and you want to get back to,” said Bergeron of a Bruins team that’s taken just one out of a possible eight points in their last four games. “There are still some things to rectify with us coming up short, but we’re trending in the right direction. But it’s a short turnaround with the game [against Tampa Bay].”

The Bruins are still sitting on a 10-point lead in the division over Buffalo and Montreal despite having dropped four in a row, so there’s clearly no panic or feeling like their backs are against the wall. On the contrary, that might be part of the lack of urgency that’s crept into the B’s game the past couple of weeks, but they showed Wednesday night that they still have a solid, consistent effort in them when the mood strikes them.

Perhaps the good, honest and hard-working losing effort against the Capitals can spin the Bruins back into a winning direction with a couple of road games in Florida staring them in the face.

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Bruins-Capitals Talking Points: Too much Oshie, not enough DeBrusk

Bruins-Capitals Talking Points: Too much Oshie, not enough DeBrusk

WASHINGTON - GOLD STAR: All T.J. Oshie did was score a couple of goals that powered the Capitals for all of their offense in the second period while setting Washington up to win the third. The first score was a power-play goal right in front of the net that tied things up and the second was a nifty individual move where he split defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Connor Clifton before dangling around Clifton and roofing a backhander for a beautiful goal. Oshie finished with two shots on net and four shot attempts overall in 20:31 of ice time to go along with a blocked shot. Still, it was all about the offense provided when the Capitals needed it as a bit of a one-man goal-scoring show on a night when Alex Ovechkin was pretty much held in check.

BLACK EYE: Jake DeBrusk at least had a positive play when he fed Patrice Bergeron for a first-period, power-play goal that would have given the Bruins a 2-0 lead. Instead, the goal was wiped off the board by an offsides challenge and DeBrusk was a negative player for the Black and Gold for the rest of the night. DeBrusk finished with no points, no shots on net and had three giveaways in 20:50 while finishing with a minus-1 rating. He certainly wasn’t alone with not bringing enough to the table for the B’s, but it was him fading into the background in a physical, gritty game against a quality opponent that conjured up memories of his issues in the playoffs last season.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins tied the score by grinding for a third-period goal from their fourth line, but then they gave up a go-ahead goal less than two minutes later. Then the B’s proceeded to get outshot 11-9 in the third period despite never leading at any point in the final 20 minutes and never really mounting enough pressure to potentially tie it to pus things to the extra session. It’s a massive letdown for the B’s to claw all the way back and then watch as it goes up in smoke in just a couple of minutes, but it was about Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson – two of Washington’s best players – stepping up and making the play when it needed to be made.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak snapped his longest goal-scoring drought of the season at four games as he scored the first goal for the Bruins on a sizzling wrist shot. It was a nice transition play from Charlie McAvoy bombing down the left side before moving cross-ice to Pastrnak at the bottom of the face-off circle. Pastrnak snapped it off the crossbar and into the back of the net for his NHL-leading 26th goal and got Boston off to a good start for the first time in a while. Pastrnak finished with the goal, seven shot attempts, a hit and three takeaways in 21:16 while playing a strong, solid, Pastrnak-like game.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 – the number of consecutive losses for the Bruins. They have lost four in a row one other time this season, but it’s the first time they’ve lost three regulation games in a row.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just told him I'm happy for him and congrats. He looks like he's got a six-pack now, so I'm just happy for him. It was great to see him. It's been a while." –Brad Marchand, on what he said to former teammate Tim Thomas when he was on the ice for the ceremonial puck drop as a new inductee for the US Hockey Hall of Fame.

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