Bruins

Hagg Bag: Looking for ways to improve the B's, including trading Tuukka

Hagg Bag: Looking for ways to improve the B's, including trading Tuukka

With the first month of the NHL season firmly in the books, the Bruins are off to a pretty good start at 7-3-2. They’ve endured some injuries, taken advantage of a schedule that eased them into the regular season and left a lot of room for improvement over the remaining 70 games. So, there is plenty to review and even more in the future to talk about in this week’s edition of the Hagg Bag mailbag. As always these are real questions from real fans sending them on Twitter using the #HaggBag hashtag, via a message on my NBC Sports Boston Facebook page and via email at @JHaggerty@nbcuni.com. Now, on to the bag:

Hey Joe

Enjoy reading your coverage of the Bruins. Here is an early season blockbuster with a bit of a gamble. Tuuka, Grezlcyk and Shenyshyn to the Oilers for Talbot, Puljujarvi, Kassian and a 2nd.

Bruins get another 1B tender and reduce goalie annual cap hit to 7 million per season. They get a right winger with upside to play with Krejci (a worthwhile gamble for 4th overall pick). Much needed toughness upfront for when the situation calls for it Marchand 2 fighting majors are enough don’t need him breaking his hand although it is admirable. Oilers 2nd or Isles 3rd to offset the different ability of goalies and the Oilers get a true No. 1 who looks like he needs a change of scenery. A long sought after puck moving D-man and throw in Senyshyn to offset Puljujarvi.

The B’s take a bit of a gamble but Puljujarvi but playing him with a more experienced center and a change of scenery maybe everything he needs.

And salaries are within a 1M of each other

Thoughts?

DJ Lund

JH: Hi DJ. Interesting scenario. I am sure that Peter Chiarelli would be happy to bring on a goalie of Tuukka Rask’s pedigree to the Oilers situation, and Edmonton assistant GM Keith Gretzky was the head scout with the Bruins when Zach Senyshyn was picked back in 2015. There are a few things that might punch some holes in this trade happening, though, and I’d imagine the biggest is that Rask could squash this deal with the no-trade language in his contract. I like Edmonton. It’s a lovely Canadian city full of red-blooded hockey fans that love their Oilers and there are plenty of great people that cover the team in Edmonton too. But I don’t see Rask agreeing to go to Edmonton, or really anywhere else aside from Boston in the NHL at this point. In an ideal world, the Bruins could trade either Rask or David Krejci at some point down the road to free up cap space, and they might just be able to do it once the no-trade language is lessened a bit in either one of their contracts. This just isn’t the time for that to happen since both players like it here in Boston and have young kids that I can’t imagine they’d be wild about uprooting right now. People don’t want to hear this kind of stuff, but these are the kind of real-world things that factor into these kinds of scenarios. On paper, I think this deal is tilted a little too much toward Boston’s favor given the upside that’s still there presumably for Puljujarvi. Grzelcyk is a puck-mover, but he’s also a bottom-pairing D with limited offensive upside and Senyshyn hasn’t really looked like an NHL player to this point in his pro career. But I do think this is the kind of deal that the B’s will need to make when/if dealing Rask becomes a realistic scenario.

Hi Joe,

Once again, great job covering the Bruins. I agree with you and the Hagg Baggers, Rask is not an elite goaltender. Another soft goal last night, what's that 6 or 7 softies in 6 starts? Halak has allowed one soft goal. An elite goaltender stops the shots he is supposed to, makes the big save when the game is on the line, and steals games when the team is bad in front of him. When's the last time Rask stole a game for this team? I'm not sure Halak is the answer, but he is certainly the best option right now. What's with Marchand the number of poor decisions and giveaways lately? Marchand needs to simplify his game.

Terry Carpenter

JH: Thanks, Terry. I agree with you on Rask to this point this year. When he’s going bad, it seems like he gives up about a soft goal per game and that’s one soft goal too many in the NHL. He’ll get hot at some point this season (maybe it’s even November) and eliminate that from his game, but one really has to wonder what’s behind his slow starts every season. Maybe he’s not putting in the proper amount of work in the offseason to get ready or maybe he needs to play a little more in the preseason to prepare for the regular season. Whatever he’s doing now is leading to some pretty piss-poor October performances on a consistent basis. That needs to change.

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As far as Marchand goes, he can get loose with the puck when he’s going throw bad stretches and can throw some ill-advised passes when he’s not feeling it offensively. He’s done some of that in the early going, but his two-goal performance against Carolina on Tuesday was encouraging given that he was shooting and scoring the puck. That’s what he’s doing when he’s at his best rather than filling the playmaker role that he can also do on occasion. It’s an area he’s made a lot of improvement at in his game, but the risky plays and turnovers are still there when he hits a period of struggle.

Any chance we get KoKo to return from KHL? How is he playing this year?

--David Landry (@davmonti)

JH: Alex Khokhlachev has eight goals and 16 points in 25 games for Moscow Spartak this season and 19 goals and 50 points in 52 games for them last season. So, he’s playing okay this season. But he’s clearly not lighting it up in the KHL, so is he really worth the effort to get him back in the North American fold and clear off a roster spot at the NHL level when he has shown little evidence that he’s any better than the young guys they have now?

God bless Bruins fans for constantly viewing their Russian prospects as some kind of sleeping giant, but I didn’t see much evidence that Koko could actually play in his years in Providence/Boston. He felt like a classic tweener to me: A quality AHL player that was too small, not fast enough to succeed when he got called up to the show. He’s probably in the right place for him now that he’s in the KHL, and no longer has to complain about not getting a proper chance in Boston.

Not dogpiling on Tuukka, but just a question: does he have a no-trade clause? Maybe limited? I bet we could entice the Kings. I’m not even looking for a return, just cap flexibility to get the winger we need.

Sign me Dr. Nate

JH: You’re not the only one judging by the emails in my inbox, Dr. Nate. I don’t see Tuukka waiving his no-trade clause to go anywhere, but you’d need to get some kind of a return for an All-Star, former Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender that’s still in his prime. The cap flexibility really becomes important once guys such as Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk get out of their entry-level contracts in the next few years.

And to answer your question, Rask’s modified no-trade includes just eight teams that he can be traded to, but that number jumps up to 15 teams next season.

Bruin fan 45 years Haggs...I want to know if Bruins GM thinks his team is heavy enough up front?

--M.Reel (@MReel10)

JH: Given that the Bruins were chasing after Ilya Kovalchuk and John Tavares over the summer, I would say the answer is “no” when it comes to being heavy enough or dangerous enough offensively. The Bruins are short at least one top-six forward right now in my humble opinion, and probably short a couple of top-nine forwards when you consider their third-line center situation.

Who knows? Maybe Joakim Nordstrom is this year’s Riley Nash and he’ll take the third-line center job and really run with it. That remains to be seen, or he could give way to bruising, physical, young third-line center Trent Frederic who might be able to help this B’s team in the second half. He checks some of the boxes that you’re asking about.

They could absolutely use a bruising, tough winger that can score goals and intimidate, but those guys don’t exactly grow on trees. Maybe Wayne Simmonds becomes available if the Flyers really fall out of it, but he’s also a player who's had his share of injuries recently and does most of his damage offensively on the power play. Still, he’d be a dangerous player to put on a line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci. That’s exactly what they need right now.

Given how undersized and outgunned physically this team has looked at times after dealing away Adam McQuaid, I’d really like to see them trade for a tough energy player who could drop the gloves if it's needed. But the fourth line (Noel Acciari, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner) has been the least of Boston’s problems, so I think that goes way down on the priority list right now.

Sup Haggs?

Thanks for answering my question in your last bag!

I agree with your story about that boring B's/Habs game Saturday night. What happened to this sport? As a kid, I remember getting fired up to watch Boston vs. Montreal. Would Jay Miller and John Kordic go for what seemed like the 500th time! Would Lyndon Byers wrap Todd Ewen with one of his patented upper cuts. Would Neely crunch Svoboda in the boards.

Would Bruce Shoebottom get called up for the game!! I hear the league yelling that they want to open it up and have more scoring but last time I checked, Gretzky was putting up over 200 points in a year with the likes of Dave Semenko and Kevin McClelland on his team. Seriously, who would you rather have on the current Bruins 4th line right now?

Guys like Wagner, Acciari or Kuraly or Shawn Thornton? I'd take Thornton every time and the funny part is, you barely lose any offense with Thornton. Wagner, Acciari and Kuraly aren't lighting up scoreboards. Thornton provided way more to the B's than any of those guys. The "Merlot Line” impacted games in the biggest moments. Stanley Cup Finals moments! You were right in your article. The emotion is gone. Max Domi and Jake Debrusk's dad's must watch a game like that and cringe.

When the game was too flat when those two animals played, they made a point to create some excitement. Every B's game I ever attended in my life, the bigger the confrontations, the better the memories. Terry O' Reilly with his left hand from hell. Chris Nilan sucker punching Paul Boutilier. L.B. getting jumped by Dirk Graham after beating the bag out of Everett Sanipass. PJ Stock throwing an insane amount of punches against that dude from the Capitals. All the way up to Looch and McQuaid, kind of the last of the Big Bad Bruins. Tell me Haggs. What the hell happened to our sport?

Billy Hud

JH: It’s a legit question, Billy, and one I ask all the time. I don’t think it’s ever going to be like it was back in the '70s and '80s because of concussions and the clear and present danger that too many blows to the head are scientifically proven to lead to brain damage. Nobody wants to see players unable to enjoy quality of life after their careers. or have their lives come to tragic ends, just to satisfy the old-time hockey fan in all of us.  

But there’s got to be some kind of happy medium in there where hits and fighting are tightly legislated, but still allowed in the NHL while the emotion and hate still stay part of the game as well. The other problem is that across all pro sports there’s just not as much as hate in the game as there used to be. That hate created sparks and rivalries and led to so many of those unforgettable moments. It seems as if players these days would rather build their personal brand through social media rather than do it by making things happen on the ice.

Somebody needs to inject some life into the Bruins/Canadiens rivalry to get it back to where it needs to be. The only way that’s going to happen is by somebody stirring things up as they did in the old days. Is there anybody on the B’s roster still willing to do that? Outside of Marchand, who awaits a massive suspension the next time he crosses the street without looking both ways, it doesn’t seem like there is right now.

That’s all for the Bag this week. See you next week. 

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Bruins' David Pastrnak is among NHL's biggest bargains — and he's getting better

david_pastrnak.jpg
File photo

Bruins' David Pastrnak is among NHL's biggest bargains — and he's getting better

BOSTON — Monday afternoon served as a welcome reminder that David Pastrnak is one of the best young forwards in the NHL, and that the 23-year-old is back mentally and physically after battling through an up-and-down playoff performance last spring.

Pastrnak pumped in a career-high four goals in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, and now has six goals in six games to start the season while once again kicking off a season where 50 goals and 100 points might be realistic goals for the game-breaker. It’s something that Pastrnak could have done last season had he avoided the late-season thumb injury that disrupted his best regular season, and left him at a bit of a disadvantage in the playoffs.

Now Pasta is looking for bigger and better things this time around.

“I definitely want to get to that point as a player. I think I can. It’s just going to take time,” said Pastrnak, of being a 50-goal scorer like Alex Ovechkin. “I think I can do it. [Alex Ovechkin] is a special player and he’s been on top of the league for a while. Sometimes he gets one chance in a game and it’s in the net. That’s the biggest thing. Sometimes I get four chances and it’s not in the net. It’s probably the consistency with him. He can have a bad game and still ends up with a goal.

“There is no regrets [about last season]. I just move forward. I want to get to that point where I have a shot at 50 goals. But it’s not my No. 1 focus. Hockey is a team sport and I’m just focused on being the best player I can be for this team.”

The four goals scored showed off all his elite-level skills and how his work over the last few years has heightened them. Pastrnak has worked hard on his one-timer over the last few years and it was one of the things that mysteriously deserted him during last spring’s playoff run. But he fired a bullet off a Patrice Bergeron backhanded dish for the B’s first goal and then snapped off a finishing shot in a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand to close out the second period.

In the third he cleaned up pucks around the net and showed off his quick hands, scoring on a broken face-off play in the offensive zone.

Pastrnak looks every bit as good as he did last season when he scored 38 goals and 81 points in 66 games, and he wants to be even better for the Bruins this year.

“It’s obviously nice,” said Pastrnak of his four-goal performance. “That’s what I’m getting paid for. Obviously it’s good for the confidence to get some goals. It’s been really good with my linemates and now we get the two points in the standings. It’s a new year we’ve started and I’m just trying to be better than I was last year. That’s my focus every year coming into the season is being a little better than the year before. That’s what I’m working on.”

It all begs the question whether Pastrnak is the biggest bargain going in the NHL. After all, he is the 74th highest-paid player in the NHL and that means there are some pretty bad contracts out there around the league.

Pastrnak is signed at $6.66 million per season for the next four years, and was paid roughly $175,000 per goal last season. The numbers would be even lower if he had remained healthy, obviously.

Compare that number to Alex Ovechkin ($187,000 per goal), Auston Matthews ($314,000 per goal), John Tavares ($234,000 per goal), Steve Stamkos ($188,000 per goal), Patrick Kane ($238,000 per goal), Nikita Kucherov ($231,000 per goal) and Connor McDavid ($304,000 per goal), and Pastrnak looks like a great value that will get even better when he stays healthy enough to hit 40-50 goals on an annual basis.

Then again, Leon Draisaitl ($170,000 per goal) and Nathan MacKinnon ($153,000 per goal on a great contract for Colorado) come in lower than Pastrnak, and both Brayden Point and Alex DeBrincat were super bargains last season as 40-goal scorers on entry-level deals.

Likewise, Pastrnak isn’t even the best contract on his own team with Marchand ($170,000 per goal last year) coming off a 100-point season while holding down a salary of $6.125 million per season. But the Bruins are obviously happy to have him at his current number while knowing full well that there are still gains to be made in his game at 23 years old.

“He’s just a stronger person, works hard in practice. They have good chemistry, him and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] on where he wants the puck. Torey [Krug] too, sliding it through there [on the power play], so that’s part of it as well. I think it’s just practice and some God-given ability and a bit of maturity in his strength,” said Bruce Cassidy. “[Pastrnak] has been real good for us. We’ve needed it, we’re not getting the balanced scoring yet. You know, it was like everyone else in the playoffs. He had his moments and he had his moments where he could have been better, no different. I don’t know why he’d need to put extra pressure on himself to be ‘on’ for us. If it’s coming from a good place then it’s a good thing, that he wants to be better.”

None of Monday’s four-goal performance takes away the sting from the Stanley Cup Final, when Pastrnak managed just two goals and four points along with a minus-7 in those seven games against the Blues. But it’s a reminder that Pastrnak is still learning, still getting better and still climbing to the very height of his hockey powers where things like “scoring four goals in a game” are entirely possible along with 50-goal seasons in his near future.  

Marchand's way of playing 'knockout' is perfectly on brand>>>>>

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David Krejci forced to exit Bruins win with injury

David Krejci forced to exit Bruins win with injury

BOSTON – David Krejci made it through a few games without incident after a lower-body injury kept him out of the season opener, but had to leave Monday afternoon’s matinee midway through the game with something that’s assumed to be related to the same injury.

Krejci exited the first period early and then made it through two more shifts in the second period before exiting entirely in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks at TD Garden. There was no real update following the Bruins win, so it’s unknown if the playmaking center is going to be able to suit up for Thursday night’s big game against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“Obviously, he left [the game]. He tried to play through it, but didn’t come back. We’ll see how he is. [Tuesday]  is an off day, so Wednesday we’ll have a better idea. How did we play through it? We had to use other people, obviously, more.

“We put [Joakim] Nordstrom in the middle in the third. We put [Chris] Wagner in the middle a couple of times, so good to have those guys that can move around. I tried to get Charlie Coyle extra minutes. Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] always going to play his minutes, and I’m willing to bet that [Sean] Kuraly’s minutes are up too. That’s what happens. You’ve got to plug someone in there. I thought they did a good job going in there. We moved some people around and at the end of the day got through it, and hopefully Krech is good to go against Tampa.”

If Krejci can’t play on Thursday then the Bruins would likely go with Par Lindholm centering the second line as he did in the first two games of the season. The biggest concern, obviously, is if the injury to Krejci is going to be something that’s going to hamper him for a long period of time. Krejci has one assist in four games while averaging 17:01 of ice time since coming back from injury, and was just beginning to round into form after getting pretty much zero game action in the preseason. 

Krejci played 81 games last season in an impressive show of good health, but it looks like all those games played last season might just be taking a toll on him this season already. 

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