Morning Skate: Bruins cap situation isn't messy at all


Morning Skate: Bruins cap situation isn't messy at all

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while going through withdrawals with no Game of Thrones on Sundays anymore. 
-- I love PHT writer James O’Brien like the NBC Sports brother that he is to all of us over here at CSN New England, but I think there’s some serious sportswriting hyperbole being used when he talks about the Bruins with a “messy” salary cap situation. That hasn’t been the case since the Bruins swallowed hard once Don Sweeney took over and traded away Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton as high-priced items they weren’t going to pay anymore. Sure they have a few contracts -- like David Krejci, David Backes and Matt Beleskey -- that wouldn’t be considered very good at all under any circumstances, but they also have cap space this season (roughly $3 million) along with almost zero big contract decisions to make for at least a couple of years. It’s literally been years since they needed to make a trade due to salary cap reasons. They also have an armada of young, cheap and talented prospects coming up through the system right now or already on the team, like Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy and Anders Bjork, who are going to be cheap labor for the foreseeable future. Could their cap situation be better? Sure. Anybody’s could. But they got Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak signed to under-market deals and they face no imminent cap issues with the cap ceiling expected to still go up by a few million each season. So as far as I can see, Boston’s cap situation is actually a pretty good one as compared to many other teams around the league.  
-- Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov aim to pick up where they left off this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning after the Stamkos injury hurt them last season. 
-- It looks like former Merrimack standout Stephane Da Costa is going to have to put the NHL return on hold after suffering an injury while reportedly talking to the Montreal Canadiens about a contract. 
-- A number of prominent players, like JVR, Evander Kane and others, are entering the final season on their contracts, and could be at play in trade talks moving forward this year
-- Here are a few things that the NHL can learn after its first foray into China, where the league hopes to really make a dent in a massive, growing market. 
-- Interesting piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Joe Smith on Tampa Bay’s evacuation for the Lightning organization during Hurricane Irma, and the menagerie of animals that it included.  

-- For something completely different: This is truly a sad state of affairs when artists like U2 and Ed Sheeran have to cancel concerts in St. Louis due to safety concerns for themselves and their fans.

Sweeney on Kovalchuk: 'We feel we're a team he has strong interest in'

Sweeney on Kovalchuk: 'We feel we're a team he has strong interest in'

DALLAS – The Bruins are officially interested in 35-year-old free agent winger Ilya Kovalchuk, and have held extensive enough discussions with the Russian star’s camp to discuss what kind of role he’d be expected to play with the Black and Gold. It sounded like the B’s haven’t made any hard offers to Kovalchuk’s camp at this point in the proceedings, but they are very clearly interested in a right winger that could fit in very nicely as a game-breaking scorer with David Krejci on their second line.

Don Sweeney said there aren’t any timelines or face-to-face meetings set up with the winger at this point, but the interest remains high from Boston if Kovalchuk decides to pursue things with the Black and Gold. 

“We’ve spoken to their camp. We have not met with them in person, but we’ve spoken and had numerous conversations with his representatives about where they’re at. We feel we’re a team he has strong interest in and we’ll see where it goes between now and however long he takes to make his decision,” said Sweeney of the Kovalchuk pursuit. “We’re in a position to explore it. We talked very specifically about our roster with him and where we see him fitting in, and what he brings to the table. We’ll be excited to continue to explore, but I don’t know necessarily where it goes. 

“The scoring potential, the size and strength [are all positives]. It is five years removed from the NHL [for Kovalchuk] and a lot has changed in those five years if you think about what’s transpired in the league. But I think he’ll be fine. He’s played in big stages and been very successful. He’s a unique talent and fits into a slot that we could hopefully utilize if it comes to fruition.”

It certainly sounds like Kovalchuk is still weighing the pros and cons of free agent NHL suitors like the Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings and Vegas Golden Knights among others, and determining which teams could put him in the best position to succeed and compete for a Cup. The 6-foot-3, 230-pounder certainly may not be the guy that last scored 37 goals and 83 points for the New Jersey Devils in his final full NHL season, but Kovalchuk still topped 30 goals and 60 points in 53 KHL games last season in addition to winning a gold medal for Team Russia. 

It’s expected that Kovalchuk wouldn’t be looking for a long-term deal at this point in his career, and something in the two-year, $12 million range would be a fair offer for a player looking to reestablish himself after bolting from the NHL five years ago. The Bruins are also keeping the door open for 33-year-old Rick Nash after giving up a boatload of assets to the Rangers for him at the trade deadline, but it’s pretty clear at this point that Nash is the B’s backup plan.

With that in mind, it sure feels like Nash is headed for free agency on July 1 after underwhelming in his two-month stint (six goals and a minus-11 in 23 regular season and playoff games) with the Bruins following the trade deadline. 

“We continue to talk to Rick, and he’s going to continue to take some time to make the decision that he wants to make,” said Sweeney. “Time is on his side. He gets to make that [decision] into looking at that. Obviously, we close the door [on Nash talks] if we were fortunate enough to sign Ilya, but you’re kind of jockeying simultaneously. He will have options [in free agency] as well.”  

If the Bruins miss out on Kovalchuk and Nash while looking to fill that second line goal-scoring winger, it remains to be seen what exactly they’re going to do to find some of that scoring depth they sorely needed in the postseason.


Sweeney admits B's not picking in first round will be 'painful'

Sweeney admits B's not picking in first round will be 'painful'

DALLAS – With the first round of the NHL Draft less than 24 hours away, it’s looking like the Bruins aren’t going to find their way back into the first round after dealing the 26th overall pick to the New York Rangers for Rick Nash at the trade deadline. While it was clearly an understandable move at the time for a player in Nash that seemed like he’d be a great fit for the Bruins, it obviously didn’t work out that way with the 33-year-old power forward struggling to consistently finish off plays while dealing with a concussion just before the postseason.

With hindsight being 20/20 and the Bruins without a pick on Friday night at the American Airlines Center, Don Sweeney admitted it will be a “painful” exercise watching the other NHL teams select the top 31 players among the 2018 draft class. 

“This is buyer’s remorse right now in terms of where we sit not having a first-round pick,” admitted Sweeney. “Walking in there tomorrow night [for the first round] is painful. We’ve spent a lot of time with our amateur scouts over the last two days that we’ve been here tightening up the list from top to bottom. 

“You feel badly that these guys have covered a lot of ground [to scout players], and I mentioned that the deadline. We took a swing. I don’t feel badly for taking a swing given where our team was, but it didn’t work out. There are probably seven by my count [that traded first-round picks] and only one team won…and they didn’t give it up. We still think there will be a very good player at No. 57 and we’ve improved our position in the third round.” 

Clearly, it’s a totally different space for Sweeney than his first few years running drafts in Boston where the reloading B’s had a bevy of first and second round picks and stocked up a prospect cupboard with talented young players that are now filtering through their system. 

Barring any last minute trades, the Bruins won’t be picking until the 57th overall choice in the second round and will obviously be much busier on Saturday morning’s second day of the draft in Dallas when they make all their selections.