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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Bruins' David Pastrnak gets wistful in tweet about missing hockey

Bruins' David Pastrnak gets wistful in tweet about missing hockey

There’s no doubt it’s hurting hockey fans to not have the NHL as a welcome distraction from the global coronavirus pandemic currently ripping through North America.

But there’s also little question it pains those involved in the NHL even more to not have hockey at a time of year when teams are finishing up the regular season, and gearing up for the best time of year in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Bruins hotshot right wing David Pastrnak sent out a tweet over the weekend that was simple and short with its actual words, but truly conveyed exactly the kind of heartbroken emptiness that the 23-year-old is feeling while house-bound amidst what was the best season of his excellent NHL career.

“Haven’t done the thing for a while…” wrote a wistful Pastrnak without any need to elaborate that he was talking about playing hockey and scoring goals.

For young, single NHL players like the happy, go-lucky Pastrnak this period of time has to be particularly difficult with no immediate family to keep their minds off just how much they are missing hockey in their lives.

Pastrnak was approaching both 50 goals and 100 points for the first time in his NHL career (48 goals and 95 points in 70 games) and was destined to be a Hart Trophy finalist when the NHL regular season was suspended nearly three weeks ago. It feels like hoping for more regular season games is more fantasy than reality at this point, but hockey players like Pastrnak are still clinging to the hope that there will still be some kind of hockey playoffs when some sense of normalcy hopefully returns months from now.

The good news is that guys like Pastrnak and Jake DeBrusk are doing something good with their downtime as they played on a Fortnite tournament over the weekend to raise money for the COVID-19 Solidarity Relief Fund for the WHO (World Health Organization).

NHL players are still currently in quarantine after a handful of them tested positive for the coronavirus over the last week, most notably in Colorado and Ottawa, but at least the league is beginning to host video conference calls between players and the media to make certain that fans can still keep an eye on what their favorite players are up to these days.

Shawn Thornton, Mark Recchi reflect on Bruins' Game 7 vs. Canadiens in 2011

Shawn Thornton, Mark Recchi reflect on Bruins' Game 7 vs. Canadiens in 2011

The Boston Bruins' 2011 Stanley Cup run was unbelievable -- especially since Claude Julien's team was considered an underdog throughout the entirety of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

Although Tim Thomas, David Krejci and Nathan Horton played key roles in the 2011 championship, everyone did their job, including Mark Recchi and Shawn Thornton. 

Recchi and Thornton reflected on that historic 2011 Cup run in a recent interview with SportsNet's Eric Engels and solely focused on Game 7 of their quarterfinals matchup with the Montreal Canadiens.  

"The whole series was so intense like it always is with Montreal and Boston and it just got elevated because you're in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs," Recchi said of an epic Game 7 against the Habs. "Just the energy and the passion in both teams displayed was just incredible to be a part of. There was a lot of ups and downs throughout the whole game and it just showed you how even everything was throughout the whole year with our two teams." 

Thornton had a similar take but also mentioned how much the B's-Habs rivalry impacted his career. 

"This rivalry was everything for my career," Thornton said. "I loved playing Montreal. I love being involved. I loved the passion, the fire. This game... was I even on the ice for most of it? I think I just had the best seat in the house. I think most people in Boston paid $1,000 bucks and I just got to sit there for free and watch Recchi do his thing.

"But you know, we were lucky we ended up moving on and had a great finale to that season. Being there was a lot different than the Game 7 my first year when I was in Boston when we lost to Montreal. That rivalry was at its height when we were playing there and I'm just happy to have been a part of it. Doesn't matter what side you're on really. I mean, I'm a Bruin in those days but either side you just had to enjoy the rivalry."

And of course there would've been no Stanley Cup victory without former Bruins head coach Claude Julien, and Thornton reflected on how much of an influence Julien had on that 2011 team throughout the entire season.

"I remember Lake Placid the most. We were going to Lake Placid to hide but when you go to Lake Placid there's nowhere to hide so all the media knew we were going there and it ended up being a bigger fishbowl," Thornton said. "But, Claude [Julien] was amazing at the one game at a time or the one period at a time. Like we don't have to win four straight guys. We don't even have to win the next two games, we just have to win the next period and then take it from there.

"I think our team really adopted that. He should also send Recchi and Horton some of his paychecks that he's still getting because he wouldn't be getting those sheets in Montreal if it wasn't for us winning that game. We were there for a lot of years together and he definitely had a calming influence when it came to those situations and our leadership group in the room too was huge for us."

After defeating Montreal in seven games, the B's went on to sweep the Philadelphia Flyers in the semifinals, crush the Tampa Bay Lightning's hopes in the conference finals, and well, we all know what happened in the Stanley Cup Final. 

That team was something special, and the only members from that squad still with the Bruins are Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand and Tuukka Rask. 

If one thing's for sure, those four guys will need to become leaders in the 2020 playoffs, provided they happen, and help Boston avenge its 2019 finals loss to the St. Louis Blues. 

You can watch the full interview below or by clicking here.