Bruins

Haggerty: B's got better in NHL free agency, but still short one big move

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Haggerty: B's got better in NHL free agency, but still short one big move

The good news for the Boston Bruins is that the July 1 open of NHL free agency wasn’t the yawn-inducing dud that NHL draft weekend was just a week ago. 

But it wasn’t exactly energizing either as the Bruins didn’t wind up anywhere close to the finish line in the John Tavares sweepstakes as he signed a seven-year deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs. One of the teams in the Atlantic Division (Tampa Bay) proved they were better than the Bruins as is in a second-round playoff series this spring, and another Atlantic Division team (Toronto) took a quantum leap forward to legit Stanley Cup contender with the seismic Tavares signing.

So clearly the Bruins didn’t crush NHL free agency and instead seemed to be cornering the market on fourth liners. 

The Bruins took care of many of their NHL roster holes by signing Chris Wagner, Jaroslav Halak and Joakim Nordstrom to modest contracts, and added the left shot D-man they were looking for with a five-year, $13.75 million contract for former first-round pick John Moore. Moore played 20 plus minutes per game as a top-4 defenseman for the New Jersey Devils last season, and the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder put up respectable numbers with seven goals and 18 points given that he wasn’t a regular power play guy for Jersey. 

Wagner and Nordstrom address the free agent departures of solid bottom-6 players like Tim Schaller and Riley Nash, and Halak will step in for Anton Khudobin after the affable Russian backstop signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Stars. 

The Moore deal is an interesting one in that it gives the Bruins four left-side defenseman with Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Moore and Matt Grzelcyk, and begs the question as to whether the ultra-productive Krug will be used as the prime asset to bring in an impact top-6 winger like Jeff Skinner, Wayne Simmonds or Artemi Panarin. The Panarin talks, in particular, should pick up steam with Columbus this week among teams still looking for a high impact forward, and with the Bruins having the geographical advantage of an East Coast location where the Russian is said to want to settle down. 

There were even some hockey sources wondering if the Bruins could revisit Krug-Klefbom trade talks with the Edmonton Oilers if it meant Milan Lucic (with the Oilers picking up a good chunk of his contract) making a triumphant return to Boston, but that feels like a pretty remote possibility at this point.

At this point, the Bruins are open to any possibilities that will land them another offensive impact player on their second line, and make up for the stinging reality that currently Don Sweeney has taken two home run swings with Kovalchuk and Tavares, and missed on both of them.  

That’s essentially where the Bruins are right now as they fell short in the free agent chase for Ilya Kovalchuk and for Tavares, and now will have to execute a hockey trade in order to find that goal-scoring answer on the second line. 

The good news is that only four D-men (Brent Burns, Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson and John Klingberg) have scored more than the 110 points produced by Krug over the last two seasons, so the power play quarterback is going to hold significant value on the trade market with teams starving for offense, or simply for a better man advantage. The equally good news is that the Bruins have an over-abundance of forward prospects as well, and would be able to spare a talented young player like Anders Bjork with Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato all ready to contribute heavily at the NHL level next season. 

So clearly Sweeney and the Bruins still have more work to do as the dust settles on the July 1 opening of free agency, and the roster we see right now might not be the one that opens up the regular season in early October. But it could be much, much worse right now after the Bruins spent only $7.5 million of next season’s cap space in order to fill most of the holes on next season’s NHL roster. They could be the New York Islanders, who just basically watched their generational franchise player say “peace out” to them with no advanced notice and no way to recoup any value whatsoever for the massive void he’ll be leaving on Long Island. 

At least the Bruins got a little bit better during the July 1 open of free agency without burning through crazy money, and they’re now in a position to get much better if they can pull off one good hockey trade between now and the start of the regular season.  

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Morning Skate: Who ya got in draft of hockey movie characters?

Morning Skate: Who ya got in draft of hockey movie characters?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading as training camp skates a little closer and summer winds down.

*Fun little exercise from Barstool Sports where the NHL has an expansion draft to pick up hockey movie characters. I was, however, a little disappointed to see that the Bruins got somebody from Mystery, Alaska (not one of my fav hockey movies) instead of Ross “The Boss” Rhea, who has Black and Gold written all over him.

*A Q&A with Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn where he talks about anything and everything ahead of an important season for the Stars organization.

*Tim Benz doesn’t want to see anybody else ever wear No. 71 or No. 68 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think it’s a safe bet we won’t see that.  

*Pro Hockey Talk says to expect a huge year from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty no matter where he plays. Count me as a little skeptical on that one.

*So how good is Colton Parayko? Varying NHL talent evaluators offer variations on a “Ummm, pretty good” theme.

*For something completely different: RIP to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who I will forever remember for crushing her scene in the Blues Brothers. She was the real deal.

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Is Karlsson ready to win third-line job?

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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Is Karlsson ready to win third-line job?

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson.

When Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson signed out of BU after his sophomore season, the expectation might have been that he’d quickly be in the NHL based on his two-way abilities and the maturity to his game at the NCAA ranks. That hasn’t happened for the 21-year-old center prospect to this point, but it could happen soon after a solid rookie campaign at the AHL level with 15 goals and 32 points in 58 games. Consider JFK one of the Bruins prospects close to an NHL breakthrough at this point after getting more accustomed to the speed and physicality last season.  

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What Happened Last Year: Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson didn’t make much of an impression during NHL training camp, and then went to Providence where he began to gather experience and log development time. There were injuries and slow periods, but Forsbacka Karlsson finished with a very strong 15 goals and 32 points of production in 58 games while centering Providence’s second line. Forsbacka gained valuable experience playing in all situations, sharpening his defensive skills and face-off abilities against improved competition, and built up enough in his own game to be much more competitive next time around in camp. A concussion knocked JFK out for most of the last six weeks of the season, however, and that put an unfortunate pause on what was a pretty strong opening campaign in the pros. 

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The only real question about JFK is whether he’s going to be ready to step up and seize the third line center job after the departure of free agent Riley Nash. The Bruins appear to be throwing a number of players into the mix for the third line center job with Sean Kuraly, Chris Wagner and Joakim Nordstrom all being considered for the job, and young prospects in JFK and Trent Frederic readying for their big NHL chances as well. The question is whether JFK is ready to handle the physicality and speed at the NHL level where much is expected out of a third line center right out of the bat, or whether another half-season of AHL development time would be more beneficial for the 21-year-old former college player.  

In Their Words: “It’s likely internal at this point, yes, and we have some very strong candidates. We have some young players that certainly want that slot, and we have a couple of guys internally that I think can move up and play that slot. At times when Anaheim was really injured at the first part of the year, Chris Wagner played in third-line roles, more of a shutdown situation, which we’ve used our players as. Sean Kuraly is certainly a player that wants to have a bigger role, and then you have the three younger players (including Forsbacka Karlsson) that we feel [can compete], and we also have a couple of other guys that we’ve added to the group that we’re going to go to work with and see where they fit in.” – Don Sweeney, talking about the third-line center competition headed into training camp.  

Overall Outlook: The 21-year-old Forsbacka Karlsson will go as far in training camp as his play allows him to with the Bruins. If JFK has reached the point where he can compete for an NHL job as the third-line center, then the Bruins will be getting a skilled, smart and dedicated two-way center able to hold down a top-9 center position. If JFK clearly isn’t ready and still needs another season, or at least a half-year, of gained strength, improved conditioning and learning the ins and outs of the NHL world, then the Bruins will move to the next group of candidates including Trent Frederic, Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner among others. Third-line center is an important enough position that the Bruins will make sure their young guys are ready to go if called into battle, but they’re also hedging their bets with viable veteran options in case the kids need more development.     

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