Don Sweeney: "We feel comfortable with where we're at" with restricted free agents

Don Sweeney: "We feel comfortable with where we're at" with restricted free agents

BRIGHTON, Mass – With a bit more than $10 million in salary cap space after the July 1 open of NHL free agency and Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen still unsigned, the Bruins are locked in a tight salary cap space.

It would appear that the Bruins will need to make at least one salary cap space shedding deal in order to sign all three young RFAs to second contracts, and that the negotiations could push on for a while between B’s general manager Don Sweeney and each of the player’s camps. Still, Sweeney indicated that the Bruins are confident they have the resources to sign all three of their restricted free agents and didn’t seem overly concerned by an offer sheet like the $42.27 million one that Montreal just laid out for Carolina forward Sebastian Aho.  

“It depends on where those deals land and the terms, obviously, [but] we feel comfortable where we’re at, you know, from our current cap space,” said Sweeney. “We don’t foresee any problems reaching deals with players, depending on the terms.

“I’ve been patient in terms of where we’re looking going forward. We’ve always said we’re going to introduce newer players. We’ve committed to it, and now we’d like to keep them. We’d like to continue to develop and see them grow with us as impactful players. I think we’ve had several of those that are starting to come along those same lines. You have to prepare for that.”

Clearly all three players (McAvoy, Carlo and Heinen) are going to command significant raises from their entry level deals, and that is part of the reason the Bruins were quiet in free agency aside from adding depth forwards in Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie.

But McAvoy has also missed 47 games with an assortment of injuries and medical issues over his first two seasons was a mid-first round pick and averaged seven goals and 30 points over those first two NHL seasons.

The most comparable contracts for McAvoy would not be Aaron Ekblad and his eight-year, $60 million contract: Instead it would be the six-year, $31.5 million deal for Hampus Lindholm, the six-year, $32.4 million contract for Sabres D-man Rasmus Ristolianen and the six-year, $34.8 million deal for Dallas Stars D-man Esa Lindell. If the Bruins are offering just shy of $6 million per year on a six-year deal and McAvoy’s camp is expecting $7.5 million per year on an eight-year deal, then they are understandably far apart in contract negotiations.

The 6-foot-5 Carlo had a strong third NHL season with two goals and 10 points in 72 games and was strong in the playoffs as a top-4 D-man averaging 21:31 of ice time during the first 24 Stanley Cup playoff games of his career. Carlo won’t, however, be getting the same kind of payday as McAvoy, and is looking at something more along the lines of $3-4 million per season on a shorter term deal for his second contract.

While not a perfect comparison, the two-year deals handed out to Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse ($3.2 million per year) and Winnipeg’s Josh Morrisey ($3.15 million per year) last summer should be in Carlo’s neighborhood with the B’s this summer.

Maybe Carlo gets closer to $4 million per season (like $3.5 or $4 million per season) or another year or two in term, but it’s not going to be a salary cap-busting kind of contract.

The pathway for Heinen is a little more interesting because his 27 goals and 81 points over the last two seasons are strong, but the 23-year-old also took a big step back this past season with just 11 goals and 34 points in 77 games. Kasperi Kapanen just signed a three-year deal worth $3.2 million per season and Andreas Johnsson signed a four-year deal worth $3.4 million per season with the Maple Leafs. Both those players hit 20 goals last season for the Leafs, but Heinen has better numbers than them over the course of the last two seasons. Perhaps Heinen gets a little less in term than the two Leafs forwards, but he’s tracking to right around $3 million per season on a 2-3 year deal.

Add it all up and it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $12.5 million in cap space for next season and the Bruins will need to free up at least a couple of million dollars somewhere along the way, and probably more if they want any breathing room with their cap space. The good news is that it doesn’t seem like Sweeney is all that stressed out about it with a solid three-plus months before the Bruins start suiting up for regular season games again.

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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.