Bruins

Bruins playing with fire with Charlie McAvoy bridge deal

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Bruins playing with fire with Charlie McAvoy bridge deal

I think Charlie McAvoy is going to be really good, so naturally, I don’t like his new deal.

That will be an unpopular opinion. For the cash-strapped 2019-20 Bruins, this contract rules. The AAV is very low ($4.9 million), which means the Bruins don't have to subtract from their roster as they try to make one or two more Cup runs during the Chara era. It lets them keep Torey Krug for at least the final year of his contract. You can understand why this pact works for them.

But that sweet cap hit comes at a price, which is that, if all goes according to plan and McAvoy becomes the player we all think he’ll be, the Bruins will be paying huge dough for his services when it expires in three years.

McAvoy will be 24 when this contract ends. He’ll be in the prime of his career, two years from unrestricted eligibility and will have received Norris votes. Maybe he’ll even have a Norris win, and you don’t want to have to be negotiating with a young franchise player who’s already won a Norris. Ask the Canadiens how that worked out.

Of course, I’m projecting. The Norris talk is hypothetical. His development could stall or he could struggle to stay on the ice. He’s missed at least 19 games a season thus far.

But if you think this is a good contract, you're projecting, too. You're projecting that McAvoy will stay where he is, which is a guy who will lead the team in ice time, play in all situations, average half a point per game and miss a good chunk of time each season. You don't think, as Bruce Cassidy said, that he'll get stronger. You don't think, as Cassidy said, that he'll become a more aggressive offensive player. 

If you do think he's going to keep improving and become one of the top defensemen in the league, you should be worried about what he's going to cost next. There are currently seven defensemen in the league with an average annual value of $8 million. If McAvoy is a superstar when he signs his next deal, he'll enter that club and then some. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty are at the top of the list at $11.5 million and $11 million, respectively. 

Yes, the NHL will have a new TV contract by the time McAvoy's deal is up, so the cap will in all likelihood spike. David Krejci's $7.25 million a year will be off the books. More importantly, so will David Backes' $6 million hit. It's tough to say what Tuukka Rask's next contract (he's up in two years) looks like, if it's even here.

So the Bruins should be in a better position to spend then than they are now. That doesn't mean they shouldn't be kicking themselves for having to go the bridge route with McAvoy now. 

McAvoy's contract is similar to that of Zach Werenski (three years at $5 million per), another big-name RFA who took forever to sign this offseason. The better bang for the Bruins' buck would have been a deal like the one Ivan Provorov just took (six years at $6.75 million annually). It would have taken him straight to unrestricted free agency, but the Bruins would have had two more years before a massive third contract kicked in. 

The B's couldn't swing that without clearing a good amount of space, and if they were going to trade a first-round pick to get rid of Backes' deal they probably would have done it earlier the offseason. They still have to sign Brandon Carlo and have only $3.2 million in cap room. 

Now, it's logical to argue that it makes sense to wait until McAvoy is a superstar before paying him like one, but the goal is to have great players on bargain deals during their best years. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all fit in this category. Two of those deals, Marchand and Pastrnak, were Don Sweeney signings. This McAvoy deal shouldn't get the gold sticker those deserve. 

Sweeney clearly thinks this Bruins team can make another Cup run. Otherwise, he would have moved guys off the roster to accommodate a longer, richer second deal for McAvoy. Instead, the Bruins will wait and see just how much their franchise defenseman will cost them in a few years.

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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 5-1 win over the Devils

Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 5-1 win over the Devils

GOLD STAR: Matt Grzelcyk kicked off the scoring for the Bruins and finished with the first two-goal game of his NHL career in the win over the Devils. Grzelcyk had the two goals along with a plus-2 rating in 19:16 of ice time while showing exactly what he can do offensively with Torey Krug out of the lineup. The second score in the third period was a highlight-reel goal as he faked out PK Subban at the offensive blue line and then rocketed a shot under the crossbar past Mackenzie Blackwood to ice things for the Black and Gold. Grzelcyk finished with three shots on net, a hit and a blocked shot in the biggest offensive game of his career.

BLACK EYE: PK Subban looked bad against the B's. Subban finished with a minus-2, took a lazy tripping penalty in the third period that led to David Pastrnak’s insurance power-play goal and then got completely posterized by Grzelcyk on a third-period goal where he dangled right around the New Jersey D-man. Subban didn’t do much of anything at the offensive end either aside from one shot in the slot area that Tuukka Rask made a pretty routine save on. It all underscores just how much Subban’s skills have apparently eroded due to either age or injuries because he sure isn’t the same guy that he was in his younger years in Montreal.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins had a solid 2-1 lead after the first 40 minutes, but they had given up a goal late in the second period that ate away at their momentum a little bit. So, it was important for them to come out guns blazing in the third and that is exactly what they did while blowing the Devils out of the water. The Bruins scored three goals and took advantage of some sloppy mistakes from the Devils to pull away in a game that felt a lot closer than it ultimately ended up being on the scoreboard. Certainly, seeing the B’s pull away from teams in the third is a much more welcome sight than the third-period implosion we saw against Florida a week ago.  

HONORABLE MENTION: David Krejci was excellent sliding in as the top center between Brad Marchand and Pastrnak, just as he was last season when Patrice Bergeron also missed time with an injury. Krejci got the secondary assist with a great backhanded pass on Grzelcyk’s first-period goal and then he set up Pastrnak for his first-period score as well. Krejci finished with a couple of assists, a plus-3 rating and 7-for-14 on face-offs in 15:49 of ice time. Krejci is again showing exactly what he could do if he was ever centered between a pair of elite offensive wingers instead of the carousel of right wings the Bruins have provided him the past couple seasons.

BY THE NUMBERS: 19 – the number of goals for Pastrnak this season after another two-goal outburst. That leads the NHL. There have only been seven games this season for the Bruins where he hasn’t scored a goal.  

QUOTE TO NOTE:  “I don’t think we made one mistake in the third [period]. We just played winning hockey in the third.” –David Pastrnak, to NESN on the B’s pulling away from the Devils in the final 20 minutes.

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Is it time to start getting worried about Bergeron's lower body injury?

Is it time to start getting worried about Bergeron's lower body injury?

Is it time to get nervous about Patrice Bergeron if you’re a Bruins fan?

Maybe so.

Bergeron, 35, took the ice at the Prudential Center in New Jersey for the Tuesday morning skate ahead of the game against the New Jersey Devils and he was declared a game-time decision. Bruce Cassidy said that Bergeron would take the warm-up and then decide his availability.

"He felt a lot better today, but I don’t want to confirm it just yet,” Bruce Cassidy said to reporters in New Jersey after the morning skate. Cassidy was then asked if they might be a little careful about playing Bergeron in back-to-back situations when he does come back. “It’ll be his call. He’s been around a long time. He knows his body better than we do, so we’ll talk about it. Obviously, I wouldn’t say it automatically that we would do it, but it’s something we’d have to consider so that he’s as healthy as possible going forward.

“We talked about that this summer. We talked about that with a few players because of the long playoff run last year. We may have to look into that.”

Instead, Bergeron missed his second consecutive game with a lower-body injury suffered last weekend and all are left to wonder if it’s for precautionary reasons against a bottom-feeder New Jersey team, or if it’s because the old groin problems have cropped up for him again. The mere fact that Bergeron missed the warm-up after the Bruins expected him to take it this morning, is a warning sign that the injury didn't respond as they were hoping it would. 

Certainly, a “load management” type plan with Bergeron would be smart as the B's hope to have him at his level best when it matters most down the stretch and into the playoffs, where last spring the groin issues dogged him in the  Stanley Cup Final.

The concern is that Bergeron could possibly again be dealing with the groin issue that over the summer needed a PRP (blood-platelet plasma) injection to get him healthy for training camp. If that is indeed the case, and it appeared to be when he tweaked his lower body while getting hauled down on an offensive zone face-off on a second-period power play in Toronto, then this might be something the Bruins and Bergeron will have to manage going forward.

That seemingly is the only thing that could slow down the Bruins, who sit atop the Atlantic Division at 13-3-5, and a Perfection Line that’s been routinely dominating opponents the first month-plus of the season.

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