Bruins

Karlsson's intriguing, but Bruins should just say no

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AP Photo

Karlsson's intriguing, but Bruins should just say no

With the Bruins possibly still window shopping for a long term, top-4 defenseman ahead of the Feb. 26 trade deadline, should they make a push for two-time Norris Trophy winner Erik Karlsson? 

The dysfunctional soap opera continues in Ottawa with the Senators as owner Eugene Melnyk has taken over as club president, and now a CTV Ottawa report indicates that NHL teams “will be pitching” Ottawa this week with trade offers for the 27-year-old, game-changing defenseman. The catch is that any team looking for Karlsson also has to take on the contract of 30-year-old calcifying winger Bobby Ryan, who has a cap killer of a deal with four more years after this one at $7.25 million. 

That condition to a Karlsson trade is likely to knock many potential suitors out of the running, and with good reason. 

Ryan has 7 goals and 20 points in 39 games this season, and underachieved last year with 13 goals and 25 points in 62 games before getting his game together in Ottawa’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals. Karlsson has one more season at $6.5 million before unrestricted free agency, and the conventional wisdom is that trade talks have stirred because the Senators are balking at what’s sure to be a massive contract extension. It’s the same reason they shipped Kyle Turris to Nashville in the Matt Duchene deal when his big contract was coming due with the Senators as well. 

But Karlsson is so good at what he does that it might just be worth swallowing hard on the Ryan contract, and hoping that he’s got a few good seasons left in him. Like 2015-16, when he posted 22 goals and 56 points in 81 games. 

Karlsson is pace for another 60-point season from the back end, but is also a whopping minus-27 for a dreadful Senators bunch that’s slowly sinking to the bottom of the Atlantic Division. Clearly the numbers will be down from the 18 goals and 73 points Karlsson has averaged over his previous four seasons. Karlsson has also had some foot issues in his last few seasons, but there’s no reason to think he won’t be a dynamic, game-changing force for years to come. 

So should the Bruins give this heavy consideration given that they’re in the market for another frontline defenseman and a big, heavy experienced winger, and could get all of it done in one fell swoop? It might be intriguing to think about a right side of the defense in Boston where Karlsson and Charlie McAvoy could be dynamic D-men for the next decade, and if nothing else Ryan showed last spring that he’ll be one of those veterans that can rise to the occasion in the postseason even if he floats through the regular season. 

But in the end it’s simply too much money and too many prospects the Bruins would have to give up to secure both players when they could give up much less in both areas to chase after New York’s Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh in a similar combo deal. Chasing after Karlsson also doesn’t address Boston’s biggest need on the back end, which is a left shot top-4 D-man who can partner with McAvoy long term and potentially step in for 40-year-old Zdeno Chara when he eventually moves on. 

More realistically, Don Sweeney and the Bruins are still on course for a bigger, experienced veteran rental player on the wing now that they’ve addressed their back end depth with the trade for Rangers D-man Nick Holden. 

The Bruins might surprise everybody and beat a team like Tampa Bay to the punch for a blockbuster deal this month, but it doesn’t feel like that’s coming with a B’s team still poised to pass the Lightning for the top spot in the league all by themselves. 

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Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

Bruins go home empty-handed on NHL Awards night

The Bruins didn’t take home any hardware at the NHL Awards show on Wednesday night in Las Vegas, but appropriately one of their youthful players was recognized among the league’s best and brightest. Rookie D-man Charlie McAvoy was named to the NHL’s All-Rookie team along with New Jersey Devils D-man Will Butcher, forwards (Islanders) Mat Barzal, (Canucks) Brock Boeser and (Coyotes) Clayton Keller and Nashville Predators goalie Juuse Saros.

The 20-year-old McAvoy finished fifth in Calder Trophy voting as well behind Barzal, Boeser, Keller and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor, but the rookie D-man didn’t get any first-place votes on ballots across the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association). 

Patrice Bergeron finished third in the Selke Trophy voting behind Selke winner Anze Kopitar and Philadelphia Flyers center Sean Couturier while going for his record-breaking fifth Selke Trophy. While it might be a little shocking to see No. 37 finish third based on his season and his overall two-way prowess, he did miss 22 percent of the regular season (18 out of 82 games) and some voters may have dinged him a bit because of that. 

Likewise, Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy finished a distant second in the Jack Adams Award voting behind Vegas Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant. In any other season, Cassidy’s job leading the Bruins to 112 points in his first full year behind the Boston bench would have been a shoo-in for the coaching award. Instead, it deservedly went to Gallant after guiding the expansion Vegas Golden Knights to a playoff spot and eventually all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. 

Don Sweeney also finished fourth in the GM of the Year voting just behind the three finalists for the award, a clear recognition from those around the league for the job he’s done turning things around in Boston over the last few seasons. Zdeno Chara (Norris), David Pastrnak (a first place Lady Byng vote, no less), Bergeron (Byng and Hart Trophy), Tuukka Rask (Vezina), Jake DeBrusk (Calder) and Brad Marchand (Selke and Hart Trophy) all received at least single votes on award ballots in a pretty strong Black and Gold representation across the board. 

A positive thought for all the Bergeron backers that felt he got robbed this season: It was the NHL-record seventh consecutive Selke Trophy finalist appearance for Bergeron on Wednesday night, and there certainly should be several more chances for No. 37 to win again and add to a resume that looks more and more Hall of Fame-worthy with each passing season.

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Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

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Cassidy says Kovalchuk would be 'nice addition' to Bruins

As the free agency period of July 1 inches closer, the hype machine for 35-year-old Ilya Kovalchuk will grow more and more frenzied for teams like the Bruins.

And coach Bruce Cassidy gladly added to it on Tuesday in Las Vegas, telling reporters assembled for the NHL Awards that the Russian winger would be “a nice fit” for the Black and Gold. 

“Yeah, that would be interesting . . . you never want to speculate,” Cassidy said to reporters in Vegas during his press availability as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award. “You can’t get too far ahead . . . he’s a top-six guy, he can play left and right wing, he’s a big body. He’d be a nice addition. I am sure any team would say that right now. 

“He’s going to make your team better, and I think that’s what you always look at as a coach, and fitting [talented players] in is the easy part. The tough part is getting those types of players.”

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The Bruins will be among a handful of teams vying for Kovalchuk, who spend the last five seasons playing in the KHL after bolting the New Jersey Devils and the NHL after the lockout-shortened 2013 NHL season. Even at his advanced NHL age, the expectation is that Kovalchuk can still have an impact offensively even if he’s not exactly the same player who posted 37 goals and 83 points in his last full season in Jersey six years ago. 

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound winger still has the big shot, the scoring ability, the size and the game-breaking skills that made him a former first overall pick in the NHL draft, and it may just be that he has more left in his tank than the younger Rick Nash. Clearly there was a concussion that played a big part in Nash’s time in Boston, but he also didn’t look like the explosive scoring ability was still there like it was in the Columbus/New York power forward’s younger years. 

The Bruins haven’t yet locked in a time when they’ll make their pitch to Kovalchuk’s camp, but it’s expected to happen ahead of the July 1 opening of free agency. Kovalchuk's representatives have already had meetings with teams on the West Coast like the Kings and Sharks. It’s expected that Kovalchuk, 35, be looking at a shorter-term deal making something close to the $6.67 annual salary he was being paid by the Devils when he departed the NHL. 

If Kovalchuk were to land in Boston, he’d fill a need for secondary scoring behind the big guns of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.He would allow the Bruins to keep their top forward line intact while filling a hole on the second line right wing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. 

With the news that next season’s salary cap is going to be in the $79-80 million range, the Bruins will also have somewhere in the neighborhood of $12 million in cap space for their offseason shopping list. That should give them plenty of room to sign Kovalchuk to a short-term deal and still address the other openings on their NHL roster, including third-line center and a backup goaltender. Still, Kovalchuk would be the big fish, and that’s why the talk about him is front and center.

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