Bruins

Bruins should make re-signing free agent Marcus Johansson a priority

Bruins should make re-signing free agent Marcus Johansson a priority

The Boston Bruins' trade-deadline acquisition of Marcus Johansson proved to be a very good move by general manager Don Sweeney, and the team would be wise to re-sign the veteran forward before/during NHL free agency.

Johansson, 28, is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He earned $4.75 million last season between the New Jersey Devils and the Bruins -- the final year of his three-year contract . Sweeney and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy held a press conference Monday, and the B's GM praised Johansson's fit with the team while discussing the possibility of re-signing him.

"Well, we met – we had some meetings. I told Marcus that I did have the same, along the same lines, with the RFA side of things that we have some things we need to clarify internally before I can definitively tell him," Sweeney said. "We found that Marcus was a really good fit for our hockey club. I was proud of how he got injured, came back and elevated his play, was really invested, thought he fit in really well with Charlie [Coyle] coming in, gave us some options on the power play, was a really good fit. Good person, great teammate and got us to a certain point. Wish we could’ve finished it off."

The Bruins enter the offseason with about $14 million in salary cap space, per Spotrac, and the first two orders of business should be locking up restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo to long-term contracts. These young d-men, especially McAvoy, are part of the bright future on Boston's blue line.

Johansson definitely needs to be a priority for the Bruins, however. One of the reasons why the B's were able to progress to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final after a disappointing 2018 playoff run was they bolstered their depth with speedy, skilled bottom-six forwards. Johansson was a critical part of that group alongside Charlie Coyle (another pre-deadline acquisition).

Injury prevented Johansson from making much of an impact for the B's in the regular season and he was limited to just 10 games. But he was effective in the Stanley Cup playoffs with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 22 games. The Bruins, according to Natural Stat Trick, had a positive differential in shot attempts, shots on goal, goals scored, scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances during 5-on-5 action in the playoffs when Johansson was on the ice. Johansson also played 2:13 of power-play ice time per game in the playoffs, the fourth-most among B's forwards.

The Bruins shouldn't break the bank to bring back Johansson, but at the right price he absolutely should be re-signed. He's still young, he provides scoring depth and we already have evidence he can be effective with several different linemates in Cassidy's system. Johansson spent a lot of time on the third line in 2018-19, but he also could fill a wing spot next to David Krejci on Boston's second line next season if needed.

Boston must capitalize on its remaining championship window, and that should include re-signing Johansson to help ensure the roster has enough depth to withstand injuries in future playoff runs.

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Bruins' Kevan Miller 'getting closer' to return, says Bruce Cassidy

Bruins' Kevan Miller 'getting closer' to return, says Bruce Cassidy

Kevan Miller hasn't appeared in a game for the Bruins since April 4 due to a fractured kneecap, but there's finally some encouraging news regarding the defenseman's recovery.

On Wednesday, B's head coach Bruce Cassidy told Bruins.com's Eric Russo that Miller is "getting closer" to joining the team although there still is no projected return date.

“I don’t know if it’s two (days) on, one off, or what they’ve got him on,” Cassidy said. “But he’s getting closer. Until he’s with the team, it’s hard to project (a return date). Let’s get him with the team, get him in a normal sweater, get some contact and I’ll probably have a better timeline of when he can return. So far so good, he’s working hard on the drills he’s been given.”

With fellow defenseman John Moore also missing time as he recovers from shoulder surgery, Miller would be a welcome addition to the Bruins' blue line.

For now, though, the Bruins will be tasked with taking on a couple of tough Atlantic Division foes in their next two matchups. They'll host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET, then visit the Toronto Maple Leafs for a Saturday night matchup at 7 p.m. ET.

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Bruins HC Bruce Cassidy: Poor second periods are 'going to bite us in the ass'

Bruins HC Bruce Cassidy: Poor second periods are 'going to bite us in the ass'

BRIGHTON, Mass. — Bruce Cassidy is obviously pleased that the Bruins have jumped out to a 5-1-0 start this season, but the B’s head coach also knows the team is playing with fire when it comes to their lackluster second periods.

Sure, the Bruins are outscoring opponents by a 4-3 margin in second periods this season, so it doesn’t appear to be a big deal statistically. But the B’s have also scored first in five of their six games thus far this season, and that plays into a bit of the middle 20-minute malaise that has been one of Boston’s weak spots in an otherwise encouraging start to the season.

Cassidy went so far as to call the second period effort “exceptionally poor” in Monday’s win over the Ducks as they were outshot 16-6, and admitted after Wednesday’s practice that they’ve been able to get away with the lollygagging as of late against less dangerous teams like the New Jersey Devils and Anaheim Ducks. Certainly the superior play of Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak in the early going has saved them as well, but that isn’t going to be sustainable against a higher caliber of competition.

In fact that’s going to change with Atlantic Division rivals in the Lightning and the Maple Leafs on the docket over the next week.  

“We could probably fall behind [on the scoreboard] and then we’d see a better second [period]. I don’t want to go down that road if we can help it because we pride ourselves on starting on time. [It’s about] the details of the game and getting their attention,” said Cassidy. “This might happen [against Tampa Bay] or on Saturday. We may start seeing teams that aren’t as offensively challenged as the last few that we’ve had to let them off the hook.

“We might learn just because of the competition that we’re playing. I don’t think it’s anything that they’re not aware of. They lose their focus, they lose their details, the line changes are slower and the puck management is softer. Some of these things they kind of lose their way a little bit. Some of it is on us to get their attention, but some of it is on them that it’s part of their responsibility as well when they step on the ice. I’m not losing my mind over it, but I know it’s something that’s going to bite us in the ass at some point.”

Will the Bruins tighten up their second period issues, or will it be the fatal flaw that sinks them in some ultra-important games against Tampa Bay and Toronto over the next few days? We’ll soon find out as the real regular season begins to get going with Boston’s traditional rivals that can expose weaknesses that have been masked over the first few weeks of the regular season.

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