Bruins

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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Kevan Miller (kneecap) ruled out for the start of the season for Bruins

Kevan Miller (kneecap) ruled out for the start of the season for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – The good news is that the Bruins have Charlie McAvoy back in the fold after he signed a three-year contract on Sunday morning.

The bad news is that the B’s also confirmed today that a second player won’t be ready to go on opening night as Kevan Miller (fractured kneecap) isn’t going to be ready for the Oct. 3 season opener against the Dallas Stars. Miller is coming off a pair of fractured kneecaps, among several injuries, that limited him to just 39 games played last season and kept him out of the entire run to the Stanley Cup Final for the Bruins.

The 31-year-old Miller joins fellow defenseman John Moore, who will also be out at the start of the regular season as he returns from summer shoulder surgery. Clearly that’s going to leave a couple of open spots on the back end even when the Bruins have both McAvoy and Brandon Carlo signed and playing, but the injuries will also enable the Bruins to use the cap space occupied by Miller ($2.5 million) and Moore ($2.75 million) while they are on long term injured reserve to start the season.

“It depends on the term of the next deal, but the opportunity to [use LTIR] is there if we need to,” said Sweeney. “Moore isn’t going to start the season and [Kevan Miller] isn’t going to be ready to start the season.

“Miller’s timeline isn’t going to be opening day. He hasn’t even been on the ice yet. He’s got a test coming around [Sept.] 24 and that will determine his next step in rehab. We’re going to be very cautious with the next steps with Kevan for a healthy return.”

That means the Bruins will be able to go beyond the $3.2 million they currently hold in salary cap space with the unsigned Carlo still waiting for his agreement.

Another Bruins health update that’s a little more positive: Patrice Bergeron is expected to join the main training camp practice group on Monday after sitting out the first on-ice weekend of training camp while recovering from a lingering groin issue this summer.

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Bruins sign Charlie McAvoy to a three-year deal that's extremely fair when all things are considered

Bruins sign Charlie McAvoy to a three-year deal that's extremely fair when all things are considered

BRIGHTON, Mass – The pieces are starting to come into place for the Bruins with the Sunday morning news that B’s defenseman Charlie McAvoy has signed a contract for three years with an AAV of $4.9 million per season. This puts the 21-year-old defenseman in the exact same neighborhood as fellow RFA defenseman and future No. 1 guy Zach Werenski, who last week signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Some may think it’s an amazing steal for the Bruins because they bought into the hype that McAvoy was going to get a 6-8 year deal paying him upwards of $7 million per season, but that was never realistic with the talented young blueliner. McAvoy has missed almost 50 games in his first two NHL seasons due to injury and illness, and as a less than full-fledged restricted free agent he wasn’t able to receive offer sheets due to his service time at the NHL.

McAvoy had very little leverage headed into the negotiations, and truth be told he’s fortunate to be getting a comparable contract to the more accomplished Werenski all things considered.

From the Bruins perspective, they’ve locked up their future franchise defenseman for the next three seasons on a bridge deal that will still leave him a couple of seasons shy of unrestricted free agency. For now it leaves the Bruins with enough cap space (roughly $3.2 million according to capfriendly.com) to sign fellow RFA defenseman Brandon Carlo with very little need to cut cap costs on the NHL roster.

The contract gives McAvoy a pretty healthy payday, of course, but it also leaves him with the chance to stay healthy and fully realize his potential over the next three seasons. McAvoy was excellent in the postseason for the Bruins while averaging 24:30 of ice time during the 24-game run and simply needs to stay healthy to develop into the future No. 1 D-man and heir apparent in Boston to Zdeno Chara.

He's averaged just seven goals and 30 points over his first two NHL seasons and has battled some fairly uncommon health issues along the way, so the production on the ice just wasn’t there for a bigger deal either.  

The Bruins will now have three years to make certain the 6-foot, 208-pound D-man just ran into a little bit of bad luck with the health stuff over his first two years.

If all goes according to plan, the Bruins are going to be paying McAvoy a much bigger deal three years down the line. But at that point they’ll have moved on from some of their current contracts, will have more cap space to negotiation and will happily pay their young D-man if he turns into the perennial Norris Trophy candidate he should become if can stay on the ice.

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