Bruins

Bean: Should the Bruins have just signed Kovalchuk?

bsb-ilya-kovalchuk-7-10-18.jpg
File Photo

Bean: Should the Bruins have just signed Kovalchuk?

The games aren't played on paper, but roster-building is. 

And on paper, the Bruins felt a pretty big need for another top-six scorer. If they hadn't, they wouldn't have made pushes for Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares. 

Now, having seen both go elsewhere, Don Sweeney faces the difficult task of deciding whether to trade one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, Torey Krug, in order to get that help up front. It begs a very fair question: Why didn't he just sign Kovalchuk? 

MORE BRUINS

Kovalchuk, who re-entered the NHL waters this offseason after a five-year stint in the KHL, proved to be too rich and/or risky for the Bruins' blood; the 35-year-old signed a three-year deal with the Kings worth $6.25 million a year. From a total money and term standpoint, it's identical to the deal Patrick Marleau signed with the Leafs last summer at age 37. 

It's not a good contract and it's a massive risk considering how long Kovalchuk's been away. That the Bruins did not want the player for that long is completely understandable. What's less understandable is the idea that doing something like trading Krug is a better alternative. 

Of course, that's an unfair shot to take because the Bruins have not traded Krug. They have made trading a defenseman likely, however, by signing John Moore. Krug, who finished three points behind Erik Karlsson last season and has two years left on a reasonable contract, would be a very appealing asset for other teams. 

Know why he would be appealing to those teams? Because he's really good. He's not great in his own end and he's by no means a top-pairing player, but he's also the third-best blueliner on a team that only has three really good blueliners. Whether a trade would be good or bad obviously depends on which player the B's would acquire, but trading Krug for a scorer would be robbing Peter to pay Paul when you could have just signed old-ass Russian Paul while leaving Peter the heck alone. 

MORE BRUINS

Having not landed that right wing (or Tavares, whose signing would have triggered some sort of roster shakeup that would theoretically have also gotten them some help on the right side), here are the Bruins' potential alternatives:

- Trade Krug as part of a deal for Artemi Panarin, a 26-year-old two-time 30-goal-scorer who will be commanding a big raise from his current $6 million mark after next season. 

- Hope that Rick Nash decides to keep playing and get him for a high cap hit on a one or two-year deal. 

- Hope one of the kids seizes the right wing job on David Krejci's line, though Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato are all lefties. 

- Hope David Backes finds the fountain of youth and goes back to resembling a top-six forward. 

Three of those four include the word "hope" and the other includes shelling out a ton of money. Signing Kovalchuk would have also included that word ("hope this doesn't end up an absolute disaster"), but at least you wouldn't be losing Krug. 

Of the options remaining, standing pat may be the best alternative unless Panarin is feeling generous in contract talks. Kovalchuk is far from a safe bet, but signing him would leave the Bruins with less of a dilemma today. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE


 

Stempniak, Winnik face uphill battle for Bruins roster spot

Stempniak, Winnik face uphill battle for Bruins roster spot

BRIGHTON, Mass – It was a little surprising when there were no veteran tryouts originally announced for the Bruins training camp roster a couple of weeks ago. That changed quickly when the two groups were split into those 23 players making the trip to China and those sticking behind in Boston, as the B’s also announced that veteran NHL forwards Daniel Winnik and Lee Stempniak would be in camp with the Black and Gold.

Both players have had long, solid NHL careers with a litany of teams after starring for New England college hockey programs, Stempniak with Dartmouth and Winnik with UNH, and both players are now veterans that will need to sing for their NHL supper in training camp. The 35-year-old Stempniak is obviously a familiar face having played for the Black and Gold a couple of seasons ago, and being a regular captain’s practice attendee given his permanent Boston residence.

Stempniak is coming off a tough season where injuries limited him to just 37 games with the Carolina Hurricanes with three goals and nine points, and the way things played out made things even more difficult. Stempniak was injured in training camp and then fractured his collarbone just minutes into his first game on a rehab stint, and that put him in futile catch-up mode for the rest of the season.

Given the way things ended for Stempniak last year it’s easy to see why he’s on a PTO looking for a job this season, but Stempniak is just happy to be healthy and making his preseason debut on Tuesday night for the Bruins.

“Last year was a tough one for me,” admitted Stempniak. “I got hurt in camp, got injured when I came back for rehab and didn’t even get into a game with Carolina until the middle of January. I just never felt like I was able to catch up to where everybody else was at that point, and you really just don’t feel like a part of the team in the first few months of the season when you’re coming back from injuries.

“I feel good now and last season is behind me now, so I come in here with a good chance to show what I can do. That’s all you can really ask for.”

Given his experience playing the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand during his last stint with the B’s, Stempniak provides Boston with a steady, solid and productive alternative if all of their young options aren’t ready for prime time. It may very well not play out that way for Stempniak with players like Ryan Donato and Danton Heinen off to strong starts, but the comfortable situation with Boston should put the veteran in a good spot to show other NHL teams what he can do as well.

“It’s great to be in a place where you know the people in the organization and there’s plenty of familiarity with the players,” said Stempniak. “There’s the added benefit of living here as well, so this was just a really good fit for me when I was looking for a spot in a training camp. Given how last season went I’m not all that surprised to be coming in on a PTO, and now it’s just about working hard and competing for a job.”

It’s a bit of a different story for Winnik, who is coming off a solid season as a bottom-6 forward with the Minnesota Wild and showed he can still play at a high level last season. The 33-year-old had six goals and 23 points in 81 games, had a plus-5 rating and provided the versatility of playing both left wing and center in a third or fourth line role. He’s had to go the PTO route a couple of times in recent seasons, so it wasn’t a big shock to come to Boston competing for an energy line spot with guys like Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner, Joakim Nordstrom and others that already hold guaranteed NHL deals with the Black and Gold.

Winnik had a decent debut with the B’s on Sunday afternoon when he finished with a couple of shots on net, won more than 50 percent of his draws and showed his penalty kill abilities while playing with the B’s group that stayed behind in Boston.

“Last year I was on a PTO, so it’s similar to that. But even in year’s past I feel like I’ve always had to establish myself on the roster no matter how firm I might be set by a contract. There were always young guys trying to take my position,” said Winnik. “Signing with the Bruins would obviously be the best case for me. We’ll see how it goes. I thought I was off to a good start in that last game.

“I think it’s the way the league is going that PTO’s are just becoming more popular. I don’t know how many guys are on them this season, but in year’s past there have been tons of guys in camps on PTO’s, and they’re all well-established guys that are third or fourth line players like myself. For older guys it’s harder to get jobs these days.”

The bottom line is this for both veteran players: It’s going to take injuries and under-performance from younger players to open up an NHL roster spot for either Stempniak or Winnik to start the regular season. 

Noel Acciari, Torey Krug make their on-ice debuts at B's training camp

Noel Acciari, Torey Krug make their on-ice debuts at B's training camp

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins got one step closer to full health in training camp on Monday as both Noel Acciari and Torey Krug returned to action with the early group skating at TD Garden. Both Acciari (sports hernia) and Krug (fractured ankle) skipped the first few days of training camp along with Patrice Bergeron (back spasms/groin surgery), and didn’t play in Boston’s preseason matinee vs. the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.

Acciari and Krug were both out on the ice for about 20 minutes or so during the near hour-long morning session, so it looks like each player is making steady progress with an eye on getting into the lineup at the end of preseason.

“It was good to be back with the group and to be back in practice form, so it was a good step there,” said Acciari, who snapped home a career-high 10 goals in 60 games as a fourth line banger for the B’s last season. “It’s night and day with how I felt last year [playing through injury] and how I feel right now, so I’m excited for the season and jumping back in with the guys to get ready for games.”

Krug likewise has been on a deliberate rehab progression just as he was last fall coming off a shoulder surgery, but feels like he’s making progress to be ready when he needs to be for the Oct. 3 opener against the Washington Capitals.

“It was good to just get the timing back, anticipate some drills and just being out there with the guys is a lot of fun,” said Krug. “It felt good. It’s kind of the same as last week to stay on the course, the plan with our schedule, and just kind of do the same thing. I’ll probably do [shorter stints in practice] for another day or two and see how I feel, and take it day-by-day.”

Bruins youngster Ryan Fitzgerald was missing from Monday’s practice group with a nagging injury after playing in Sunday’s matinee against the Capitals, and Bergeron remains off the ice with the plan still for him to get into some exhibition game action at the end of the preseason.