Bruins

Bruins miss out on retaining Marcus Johansson, who signs with Buffalo Sabres

Bruins miss out on retaining Marcus Johansson, who signs with Buffalo Sabres

The Bruins don’t have much salary cap space for anything beyond their restricted free agents at this point, so it wasn’t a big shock that they weren’t able to retain the services of third-line winger Marcus Johansson.

The Swedish winger signed a two-year, $9 million contract with the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday morning and will stick around in the Atlantic Division for the next couple of years with an up-and-coming team in Buffalo. The $4.5 million cap hit was a little less than the $5 million annual salary that Johansson, who turns 29 in October, was seeking in unrestricted free agency, and may explain the hold up for Johansson not signing until about a week after the opening of free agency.

Johansson is coming off 13 goals and 30 points in 58 games for the Devils and the Bruins in a season where he missed significant time due to injuries, but he had a strong playoff with four goals and 11 points in 22 games as one of Boston’s more effective forwards.

Given that the Bruins have a little more than $10 million in cap space with Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen still to sign, they didn’t have the luxury of signing a third-line winger to a deal paying him $4.5 million per season. The departure of Johansson leaves openings at second- and third-line right wing, however, after David Pastrnak’s role as the right winger on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.

David Backes, 35, could fill one of those spots and is certainly being paid like a top-nine winger with his $6 million cap hit in each of the next two seasons, but the Bruins sounded as if they envisioned as a fourth-liner should he back next year.

The real question here is whether the Bruins should have done something extreme such as renounced their rights to Heinen, who filed for arbitration Friday, or use a top draft pick as a sweetener to trade Backes as the Maple Leafs did with Patrick Marleau, in order to free up space for Johansson. The feeling with this humble hockey writer is that there’s too much risk and too much money being paid out to a third-line winger a few years removed from his best offensive seasons and with concussion issues on top of it.

The Bruins have a number of young candidates to fill in as third-line wingers at the start of next season and if they can’t cut it, then it’s up to Don Sweeney to find the next Johansson-type at the 2020 trade deadline after things worked out well with Johansson and Charlie Coyle in trades this past spring. Don’t expect Bruins fans to be quiet about it, though, if Johansson ends up stinging the Black and Gold when Boston and Buffalo meet multiple times in their divisional showdowns. 

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Don Sweeney opens up about Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo contract talks

Don Sweeney opens up about Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo contract talks

It's been a quiet offseason for the Bruins, but the elephant in the room has been the contract situations of defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Bruins president Cam Neely said earlier this month negotiations were "still status quo" with the two restricted free agents. It's been radio silence from both sides since then, but on Thursday general manager Don Sweeney provided another update on how things are coming along in a conversation with Michael Tolvo of BostonBruins.com.

“Not as fast as everybody would like,” Sweeney admitted. “But that’s just the nature of the business and every negotiation has its own timeline. We’ll find a finish line at some point and time, Brandon and Charlie will be a part of our organization for a long time. We think really highly of them as players on and off the ice, we just have to find a common ground and we’re working to get there.”

While it's unclear what kinds of deals McAvoy and Carlo will receive, Bruins fans can at least take solace in Sweeney's confidence in the duo donning the Black and Gold for years to come.

As for a move the B's have made this summer, they did manage to lock up one of their RFA's, Danton Heinen. Both Noel Acciari (Florida Panthers) and Marcus Johannson (Buffalo Sabres) left in free agency.

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Appreciating legendary hockey writer Russ Conway at his passing

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NBC Sports Illustration

Appreciating legendary hockey writer Russ Conway at his passing

The phrase “larger than life” is thrown around a lot these days.

Sometimes it’s warranted and sometimes it’s simply hyperbole thrown around when more accurate words might do just as well.

In the case of Lawrence Eagle-Tribune Bruins scribe Russ Conway, it was legit in every way possible. Conway passed away earlier this week at 70 years old after a number of health issues related to his heart over the last few years. While the health issues certainly had their impact, it didn’t stop Conway from continuing to live the bon vivant lifestyle he was known for while covering the Bruins and then enjoying semi-retirement after essentially leaving the Bruins beat following the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out an entire hockey season.

The nuts and bolts of Conway’s life were impressive simply on his accomplishments alone.

Conway was awarded the prestigious Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award in 1999 for journalists inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

In 2006, a year after his retirement from The Eagle-Tribune as sports editor after nearly 40 years with the paper, Conway was inducted into the New England Racing Hall of Fame after serving as a longtime promoter and racetrack owner dedicated to the sport.

In 1992, he was nominated as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in beat reporting for a number of stories that exposed corruption with then-PHWA Executive Director Alan Eagleson. Because of that, Conway had a close relationship with Bruins legend Bobby Orr and was among the most respected of hockey journalists by the players themselves.

His book, "Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey”, is still required reading for aspiring journalists looking to get into the hockey beat reporting game.

But Conway was so much more colorful than his greatest accomplishments. He was a man who lived life to its fullest and was a welcomed storyteller on so many hockey occasions, including one of his last times at TD Garden this past season when he showed up for Rick Middleton’s number retirement ceremony.

He could hang with even the heartiest of hockey players when it came to knocking back beers and storytelling, and that’s not easy to do.

In my role as PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) Chapter Chair in Boston, I had more than a few phone conversations with Conway over the years. Of course, there would be stories that went along with those conversations. I still remember a few months ago hearing about the time that Don Cherry had an issue with his neighbors in the suburbs of Boston when his dog Blue either bit a person or another dog in the neighborhood.

I can’t remember the exact details, but I do remember that it was Conway who acted as mediator between Grapes and the aggrieved neighbors, and showed his penchant for helping out the players and coaches he covered without compromising his journalistic integrity in any way.  It was a delicate line he managed to walk throughout a career that saw him break the biggest of stories in the world of hockey.

My first year covering the Bruins in 2003-04 was also Patrice Bergeron’s rookie season with the B’s (Russ was a massive fan of Bergeron the person and player, by the way), and it was also Conway’s last year covering the B’s on a regular basis. It was amazing to watch him take his customary position with one foot raised up on the dressing stalls while engaging in long, animated conversations with the players postgame and post-practice.

What were they talking about? How did Conway manage to capture the attention of these players when this young hockey writer was simply in awe of being let through the doors in the first place?

It felt like they were having this great conversation rather than the typical interview patter we see so many times in locker rooms everywhere.  

Certainly that feeling of surreal awe isn’t there for me like it once was after covering Boston pro sports for nearly 20 years, but I’m still in awe of the way Conway turned beat reporting into such a personal, joie de vivre-filled endeavor. What I realized watching him was that it’s always about the relationships that you build covering a team when it comes to the big stories, and being the right guy in the right place at the right time as Conway was while breaking the Eagleson stories.

Russ never felt like he was grinding it out on the beat.

It felt like he was the show, and everybody else was happy to be along for the story-filled ride. The ride is over now sadly, but Conway’s legacy is going to live on in my memory and so many of the hockey people that he touched over the last five decades covering the sport.

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