Hagg Bag: Plenty of offseason questions facing Bruins

Hagg Bag: Plenty of offseason questions facing Bruins

With summer just a few weeks away and NHL free agency just a month away, things are starting to come into place for the offseason. Decisions are being made about impending free agents, trade scenarios are being played out and improvement plans are already in motion for the 29 teams watching the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights duke it out in the Stanley Cup Final.

With that in mind, here’s a late-spring Hagg Bag, where we take on some of those offseason questions, kick things off for the summer season and even maybe answer a few questions about “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Avengers: Infinity War” with the summer movie blockbuster season just about upon us.

As always these are real tweets to my Twitter account using the #HaggBag hashtag, real emails sent to my email account and real messages sent to my NBC Sports Boston Facebook page. Now, on to the bag:

#haggbag Moving Krug and his cap # seems like a risky, but potentially high reward, move; we need another solid D-man or wing and I feel we have McAvoy and Gryz to play to hear ur thoughts, Joe. Thanks

Allmanator (@dbiscardi78)

JH: Thanks. My thoughts are pretty much there depending on how serious the Bruins are about improving the left side of their defense. I don’t view a Torey Krug trade as dumping him or getting rid of him at all. Far from it. Did you know that Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and John Klingberg are the only D-men with more points (110) than Krug the past two seasons? It’s more a function of Krug’s value sitting pretty high at the moment, his cap hit is also fairly high for a player that probably should be a bottom pairing/power play specialist and the Bruins having some good, young and cheap options for an offensive defenseman in Matt Grzelcyk and Charlie McAvoy.

Would the Bruins power play miss much of a beat if they switched Krug for McAvoy as their trigger man at the point position? I’m not sure they would. Could Grzelcyk handle the five-on-five duties that Krug has manned the past couple of years? Would the Bruins be better off with a bigger, sturdier left side D-men in their top four considering Zdeno Chara is going to be 42 next season and that Krug has been banged up at the end of the past two seasons? I think they probably would despite the massive production that Krug provides.

Still, you don’t move Krug unless there’s real benefit behind it. If it gets you a package that includes an established top-six right wing who can play with David Krejci, then you certainly have to think long and hard about it. If it gets you assets that you can then use to help go out and get that frontline, left-shot defenseman, then I think you have to do that. Krug has a ton of value to a team that needs help on their power play or is looking for more offensive pop from their back end. In the short term, it’s going to make the Bruins offense a little less explosive, but one has to assume that McAvoy is going to fill those shows for next season and beyond as he improves. I would do it cautiously and only for a quality return, but I think Don Sweeney and the B’s have to think seriously about seeing what’s out there for Krug this spring and summer.  

Ilya Kovalchuk. Give him a shot. Nash sucked

--Chip O’Brien @chipobrien

JH: I’ll pass on Kovalchuk. Massive talent. Older guy now at 35. He’s going to cost high-end, bonus-laden money because many teams will be chasing after him, but I’m willing to bet he’s not the player he was when we last saw him in the Stanley Cup Final with the New Jersey Devils. I think there are cheaper, younger and better fits that can be found for the second line rather than jumping into the Kovalchuk Sweepstakes full bore.  

Hey Joe

Truly admire all the great work you do covering the Bruins and movie reviews!

I’m totally on board with bringing in Ryan Reaves, who is good friends with David Backes to bring some much needed sandpaper. What are the chances Sweeney brings in a Reaves or perhaps Matt Martin over the summer?

--Brian Cain

JH: Thanks, Brian. Much appreciated. I think the chances are very much predicated on the cost to sign them. Reaves, 31, had a cap hit and salary of $1.25 million this past season and could be looking at a bit of a bump this summer after playing the playoff hero for the Golden Knights. So, would the Bruins be willing to go for a two-year, $3 million contract for Reaves that would probably come at the expense of re-signing fourth-line winger Tim Schaller?

I would hope so, with the expectation that Reaves would provide intimidation, toughness, and the kind of swaggering attitude that the Bruins haven’t really had among their forward group since Shawn Thornton left for the Florida Panthers. It’s something that would really assist Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller as well. They wouldn’t have to constantly be the players dropping the gloves to protect teammates and thereby costing the Bruins valuable minutes with their better penalty-killers and stay-at-home defenseman while they’re in the penalty box.

The fancy stats pocket protector crew like to poo-poo the importance of tough guys such as Reaves, who can drop the gloves, but his contributing role in these playoffs for the Golden Knights isn’t something that can really be truly evaluated in a bar graph or a pie chart. As many nice things as we wrote about the young fourth line of Schaller, Sean Kuraly and Noel Acciari in the regular season, they were a bit of a bust and very much outplayed by Tampa Bay fourth-liners Ryan Callahan and Chris Kunitz in the playoffs.

I think the B’s fourth line could use a little more brute strength and toughness, a little more veteran savvy and a little more swagger and Reaves would bring all of those to the table. He isn’t going to be an offensive production or puck possession machine, but I still think there is very much some good value there for a perfect Bruins-type player that would be a nice deterrent to some of the cheap shots that Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have taken the past few seasons.      

I'm looking to buy a Bruins jersey, already have a Bergeron one that's close to my heart. Whose jersey should I pick up that will be a good investment for the future years to come?

--TechnoCop (@jon_landry192)

JH: I’d go either No. 88 with David Pastrnak or No. 73 with Charlie McAvoy. You can’t go wrong with either one of those guys as I think they’ll be in Black and Gold for a long, long time. Maybe you should just get a No. 33 Chara jersey because he’ll probably just keep playing like he is now until he’s ready for an NHL pension plan.

Kessel might be on the move. A fit with Krejci and Debrusk? Would be quite the story.

--Stefan Sveinsson (@stefangier32)

JH: Hard pass. There’s a reason he’s left three different organizations in acrimony and is perhaps most well-known for befriending hot dog vendors in Toronto. He’s way too high-maintenance and, at 30, the skills are going to start declining for Phil the Thrill despite the 34 goals and 92 points he posted for the Penguins this season. Kessel is signed for the next four seasons at $6.8 million per year as he begins the decline portion of his career after admittedly piling up offensive numbers with 330 goals and 741 points in his 914 games. The fact that the Penguins essentially needed an assistant coach in Rick Tochett who could be the Phil Whisperer is ridiculous to me. Now, if Pittsburgh was willing to eat half the money owed to Kessel over the duration of his contract? I might be willing to listen if I were Sweeney, but it still feels like a problem that you really don’t need to enter into a team equation that’s going pretty well. Not to mention, Kessel is a headache that Bruce Cassidy definitely doesn’t need either.   

Hey Joe,

Love the work you do.  Please keep it coming.  My question.....

Do the B's take a run at Kovalchuk? With the projected cap expected to go up, they'd theoretically have more flexibility money wise.  He'd be a real finisher to put next to David Krejci and a huge asset on the power play.  I also think they have the core leadership to deal with his "eccentric" personality.

And a Star Wars question.....if you could only pick one spin off...boba Fett or obi wan Kenobi?



JH: Thanks, Tim! The Bruins really don’t need any help on the power play at this point. I still think they need a big body that can finish around the net and bring some brute strength able to fight through big D-men groups like they had in Tampa Bay. Kovalchuk really isn’t that guy. I’d be more interested in the right-wing version of James van Riemsdyk, a big body that’s willing to camp in front of the net and mix it up for blue-collar offense. Or perhaps they just bring in JVR and then swing young left wing Jake DeBrusk into a right winger and see if it’s possible. Or move DeBrusk to the third line and swing Danton Heinen into a second-line right-winger with David Krejci. There are plenty of possibilities there if they want to open up the purse strings for JVR, who is five years younger than Kovalchuk.

Give me the Obi-Wan Kenobi spinoff movie, and have it connect some of the dots from the ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story” movie that I saw this week, that I liked very much and that is opening things up for a few more movies beyond it. Don’t listen to the naysayers or all of the reports about turmoil on the set of this movie, it’s actually pretty good.  

Hi Joe,

What will the B's have to give up to get Wayne Simmonds from Philly?

--Matt Latsis, via Facebook message 

JH: Hi Matt. What if it was going to cost you Krug and a second-round pick? How about Danton Heinen and Jakob Zboril? Would you do it? I’m not even certain either one of those things would get it done for Simmonds, but it would cost plenty given that there’s a full season left under contract before the Flyers power forward would get to free agency. It would take quite a bit to get him, but he’s exactly the kind of player the Bruins could use on that second line. I say all that despite the fact that he was a disappointment for the Flyers in the playoffs this season after putting up a minus-16 with 24 goals in the regular season. He’s also 29 and entering that stage where big-bodied players sometimes tend to break down, so there’s that to think about if you planned on giving up a lot for him and then wanted to sign him to a long-term contract. All that being said, if I had a chance to get Simmonds for the next few years, I would be very tempted to do it.   

I don't want PK @PKSubban1 in a Bruins uniform. I NEED him in a Bruins uniform. #beaut

--Richie Murray (@Richie_Murray)

JH: Duly noted, Richie. He has been spending a lot of time in the Boston area lately, so all they would have to do is give up a boatload to Nashville to make it happen. It would be fun to see him on the Bruins, but you also have to wonder why you’re seeing rumblings of the Predators moving on from him after Montreal shipped him out a couple of years ago. There are some warning signs there with a high-profile player being dealt twice, even if by all accounts, Subban is the model modern professional athlete. He’s also a right shot D-man, and the Bruins have their top pairing right-shot D-man for the next decade in  McAvoy, who they will have to pay after next season. So, I’d probably have to pass on a guy making $9 million a year for the next four seasons. Can you imagine if the Bruins traded for Subban and he immediately became the highest-paid guys on the Bruins roster? I wonder how that would go over with guys that battled against him for years when he was a member of the Canadiens. My guess is not too well.  


NHL trade targets: Top-6 forwards for Bruins to pursue at deadline

NHL trade targets: Top-6 forwards for Bruins to pursue at deadline

The Bruins sit at the break in the NHL regular season in first place in the Atlantic Division and are a virtual lock for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

There is plenty for the Black and Gold to be proud of as David Pastrnak leads in the NHL in goal-scoring and the Perfection Line, power play and goaltending have been undeniable strengths for the team all season.

But there are also some needs on this team with the trade deadline roughly a month away, and the Bruins are expected to be active over the next month looking to improve a team that ultimately fell short in last season’s playoffs and will need some new blood on a roster that’s played a lot of hockey over the last 18 months.

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The biggest need for the Bruins remains a top-6 right wing capable of scoring goals, finishing off plays and being enough of an offensive weapon that the Bruins don’t become a one-dimensional offense in the playoffs too reliant on Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak when the going gets tough.

There won’t be any shortage of candidates for the Bruins at the deadline and really, truly it will come down to A) their desperation level to fortify their offensive attack B) the development of their young players over the next month and C) how much they are willing to give up in assets — either in a big way like with Rick Nash a couple of years ago or smaller, more reasonable moves like Drew Stafford or Marcus Johansson-level trades that actually ended up working out pretty well in the short term.

There are no shortage of trade options expected to be available at the trade deadline, so let’s go through a few of the skilled top-6 forwards that will be available (All salary information via Cap Friendly):

Chris Kreider, New York Rangers
2019-20 stats: 
48 GP, 17 G, 15 A, 117 SOG
Contract: $4.625 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2019-20, modified no-trade clause

The price may have just gone up even more with Chris Kreider getting selected as an All-Star this weekend, and it’s well-deserved given his ability to parlay skating speed and a 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame into an average of 25 goals and 50 points each season. He’s fast, he’s big and he will play on the nasty side from time to time, bringing a lot of different elements that the Bruins could use in their top-6 right now.

Kreider is Boston’s top choice at the trade deadline and will be a player that the Bruins could potentially pay a high price for as they did with Rick Nash a few years ago. Given his background as a Massachusetts native and a college hockey player, one would also expect they’d be planning to keep Kreider beyond this season if they traded for him.

Tyler Toffoli, Los Angeles Kings
2019-20 stats: 
49 GP, 12 G, 15 A, 126 SOG
Contract: $4.6 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2019-20

The 27-year-old Toffoli is a natural right wing, has a Stanley Cup title on his résumé and is on pace for 20 goals and 45 points this season for a Kings team that doesn’t have much in the way of offense at all. Toffoli has surpassed 30 goals and 50 points once in his career, but is more along the lines of a player capable of the numbers he’s putting up this season.

It certainly looks like the 6-foot, 200-pounder has lost some of his game as the Kings have edged away from competitor status, and perhaps a return to a legit Cup hopeful like the Bruins would return some of the bounce to his game. He won’t cost nearly as much as Kreider, and remains a secondary option for the Bruins should they miss out on their top targets. That being said, there will be shortage of suitors for a player like Toffoli as well.

Kyle Palmieri, New Jersey Devils
2019-20 stats: 
44 GP, 16 G, 15 A, 103 SOG
Contract: $4.65 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2020-21, modified no-trade clause

The 28-year-old winger has really blossomed with New Jersey and has been good for at least 20 goals and 50 points in each season with the Devils while providing a deadly option on the power play. The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder would bring a shooter and finishing presence to Boston’s second power play unit and is exactly the kind of player who could finish off a lot of the David Krejci set-ups that aren’t currently turning into goals.

Palmieri would undoubtedly cost the Bruins a first-round pick and a significant prospect given that he’s signed through next season and isn’t a straight “rental” player. But once again Palmieri would be a player who would likely fit into Boston’s long-term plan.

On the downside, Palmieri isn’t the ideal solution at just 5-foot-11, 185 pounds and is more of the same of what they already have, and wouldn’t necessarily give the Bruins somebody to battle with the big defensemen corps that have successfully bottled them up in the playoffs.

Ilya Kovalchuk, Montreal Canadiens
2019-20 stats: 
25 GP, 7 G, 10 A, 57 SOG
Contract: $700,000 salary cap hit, UFA after 2020-21

Wouldn’t it be hilarious if the Bruins passed on Kovalchuk when they could have signed him to a two-way, $700,000 contract, but instead traded away perfectly good assets to Montreal for his services at the trade deadline?

It would be the second time Don Sweeney would do something like that after he similarly passed on Lee Stempniak as a tryout option in training camp and then traded draft picks to Carolina in exchange for him at the trade deadline five years ago. The 36-year-old has four goals and eight points in eight games since going to Montreal and now has seven goals and 17 points in 25 games this season.

It wouldn’t be a big cost for the Bruins to acquire him, and he’s another goal-scoring talent who could be dynamic with David Krejci, and a potent finisher who could make Boston’s second PP unit a lot more dangerous.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Ottawa Senators
2019-20 stats: 
46 GP, 19 G, 12 A, 103 SOG
Contract: $3.1 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2020-21

The Bruins could go a different route and trade for a third-line center that would allow them to push Charlie Coyle over to the wing for the rest of this season, and for a playoff run. Coyle would certainly bring the size, strength and offensive ability that the Bruins need for a top-6 wing, and J.G. Pageau is the kind of scrappy two-way center who would bring speed, tenacity and some underrated offense to the table along with penalty killing and face-off ability.

The 27-year-old is on pace for 33 goals and 54 points this season and already has three shorthanded goals in 46 games this season. Considering he’s already matched his season-high in goals and is just 12 points away from his career-high in that category too, it might be the right season to buy in on JGP as a rental before he hits free agency.

NHL Power Rankings: Who's leading the way at the All-Star break?

NHL Power Rankings: Who's leading the way at the All-Star break?

With the NHL All-Star break upon us, it’s time to focus on this weekend’s festivities in St. Louis where there will be a new skills challenge format, a great collection of the NHL’s best and a celebration of a pretty great NHL city that finally captured the Cup last season.

All of the NHL All-Star action will be on NBCSN and NBC, starting Friday with the skills challenge where David Pastrnak will undoubtedly look to defend his shot accuracy title, and the NHL’s hardest shot will again be a big draw even if Zdeno Chara won’t be there to wow the crowd.

For the fifth year in a row, there will be a 3-on-3 tournament on Saturday that will count as the All-Star Game, and there will be 19 new faces to All-Star Weekend with perennial stars like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Artemi Panarin, Tuukka Rask and Vladimir Tarasenko missing due to injuries, or a desire to get some rest over the break. 

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According to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, there will even be a part of the skills challenge where players are firing pucks from the stands and the concourse down onto targets on the ice for extra points.

So it should be a ton of fun this weekend in St. Louis with a lot of fresh blood and enthusiasm.

Click here for the midseason NHL Power Rankings.