Bruins

Haggerty: Do the Bruins' moves signal a Krug trade in the future?

Haggerty: Do the Bruins' moves signal a Krug trade in the future?

With the signing of free agent defenseman John Moore on July 1, don’t blame the Bruins if they begin suffering a case of déjà vu over the next few months.  

It was four seasons ago when the Bruins had a similar surplus of defensemen and some accompanying salary cap issues entering training camp. Everybody around the organization answered questions throughout the preseason about all of the quality NHL bodies they had on the back end, and what they were going to do with them.

As most Bruins fans will remember, training camp ended that fall with Peter Chiarelli infamously dealing top-4 defenseman and Stanley Cup champ Johnny Boychuk away to the New York Islanders for a couple of second round picks that eventually turned into Brandon Carlo and Brett Connolly.

The fact it involved No. 55 was a bit of a surprise at the time, but the writing was on the Black and Golden wall that one of the D-men was on his way out the door prior to the start of the season.

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Now the Bruins have a similar surplus of NHL-caliber defensemen with Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, Matt Grzelcyk and now Moore on the left side, and Charlie McAvoy, Carlo, Adam McQuaid and Kevan Miller on the right side. Clearly something has to give for the B’s, and all signs point toward Krug being the very valuable trade chip for Boston.

Clearly it’s not that the Bruins are anxiously looking to jettison the diminutive, super-productive D-man, but instead Krug is the biggest valued asset that could bring Boston a goal-scoring forward suitable for second line duty.

The 26-year-old Krug is far and away their most marketable D-men in trade talks with a whopping 110 points over the last two seasons, and a key PP quarterback role on a Bruins power play that’s been dynamite in the last few years. Krug is an easy sell to a team in need of major power play upgrades, and in the all-around offensive game only elite D-men Victor Hedman, Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and John Klingberg have more points than him over the last two seasons.

Much like Boychuk a handful of years ago, there will be some growing pains moving on from a quality player like Krug with his puck-moving and elite offensive ability. But then again Krug has also ended each of the last seasons with an injury that knocked him out of the postseason, and put into question his ability to remain healthy through the physical playoff pounding.  

So will the Bruins deal him with a couple of seasons to go left under contract in Boston with a cap hit slightly north of $5 million?

The smart money says “yes” and it may happen late in training camp a la Boychuk with Krug is coming off a fractured ankle. The undrafted D-man will need to show that he’s fully healthy and up to speed as he’s expected to be in training camp. Clearly the extra B’s bodies on the back end will be one of the big talking points of training camp this fall, and it would very interesting if it leads up to a hockey trade right at the tail end of preseason.

It’s also entirely possible, however, that the Bruins could carry all these D-men into the regular season given that they still have roughly $4 million in salary cap space, and a number of young forwards they’d like to try out on the second line. Perhaps Ryan Donato, Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen turns into an offensive force and negates the need for the Bruins to go out and get a heavy duty, scoring winger like Artemi Panarin, Jeff Skinner, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Wayne Simmonds.  

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Reading between the lines, Don Sweeney admitted as much when talking about teams with “surplus” at certain positions in good standing for trade discussions now that the free agency period has passed by the first day of July. There’s also the very realistic scenario that second-year D-man Charlie McAvoy is ready to be a top PP quarterback and point producer for the Bruins, and that young guys like McAvoy and Grzelcyk will be ready to take the next step.   

“We feel very comfortable with the group of guys we have [on the back end], and we’ll move forward with it. When the [trade] calls come as a result, that’s part of the business, and everybody understands that. It also allows some of our younger players to develop at the natural pace without necessarily putting them in situations they’re not ready to handle,” said Sweeney. “If they are, we’ve been adamant in that, in terms of consistently sending that message that, if they are, then we’ll move and do what we have to do.

“There are teams that maybe were trying to accomplish things [in free agency] that didn’t, now whether or not you have surpluses or…there’s certainly been discussions leading up to it that have indicated [trades will happen] in some point in time. When that is, whether that is training camp or the first part of the season, everybody is going to kind of look for surpluses or areas that other people have strength in that you don’t. It was leading up to it. Whether or not that actually happens, you just never know.”

One thing is certain right now with the Bruins: They have at least one too many D-men, and they don’t have enough bona fide goal-scorers that could diversify the very one-dimensional offense that we saw from Boston in the playoffs.

That could change with one hockey trade over the next several months, and the onus is now on Sweeney to find that deal and pull the trigger on a trade that would put the Bruins back on equal footing with the improving Maple Leafs and Lightning this spring.

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Don Sweeney opens up about Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo contract talks

Don Sweeney opens up about Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo contract talks

It's been a quiet offseason for the Bruins, but the elephant in the room has been the contract situations of defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Bruins president Cam Neely said earlier this month negotiations were "still status quo" with the two restricted free agents. It's been radio silence from both sides since then, but on Thursday general manager Don Sweeney provided another update on how things are coming along in a conversation with Michael Tolvo of BostonBruins.com.

“Not as fast as everybody would like,” Sweeney admitted. “But that’s just the nature of the business and every negotiation has its own timeline. We’ll find a finish line at some point and time, Brandon and Charlie will be a part of our organization for a long time. We think really highly of them as players on and off the ice, we just have to find a common ground and we’re working to get there.”

While it's unclear what kinds of deals McAvoy and Carlo will receive, Bruins fans can at least take solace in Sweeney's confidence in the duo donning the Black and Gold for years to come.

As for a move the B's have made this summer, they did manage to lock up one of their RFA's, Danton Heinen. Both Noel Acciari (Florida Panthers) and Marcus Johannson (Buffalo Sabres) left in free agency.

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Appreciating legendary hockey writer Russ Conway at his passing

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Appreciating legendary hockey writer Russ Conway at his passing

The phrase “larger than life” is thrown around a lot these days.

Sometimes it’s warranted and sometimes it’s simply hyperbole thrown around when more accurate words might do just as well.

In the case of Lawrence Eagle-Tribune Bruins scribe Russ Conway, it was legit in every way possible. Conway passed away earlier this week at 70 years old after a number of health issues related to his heart over the last few years. While the health issues certainly had their impact, it didn’t stop Conway from continuing to live the bon vivant lifestyle he was known for while covering the Bruins and then enjoying semi-retirement after essentially leaving the Bruins beat following the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out an entire hockey season.

The nuts and bolts of Conway’s life were impressive simply on his accomplishments alone.

Conway was awarded the prestigious Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award in 1999 for journalists inducted in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.

In 2006, a year after his retirement from The Eagle-Tribune as sports editor after nearly 40 years with the paper, Conway was inducted into the New England Racing Hall of Fame after serving as a longtime promoter and racetrack owner dedicated to the sport.

In 1992, he was nominated as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in beat reporting for a number of stories that exposed corruption with then-PHWA Executive Director Alan Eagleson. Because of that, Conway had a close relationship with Bruins legend Bobby Orr and was among the most respected of hockey journalists by the players themselves.

His book, "Game Misconduct: Alan Eagleson and the Corruption of Hockey”, is still required reading for aspiring journalists looking to get into the hockey beat reporting game.

But Conway was so much more colorful than his greatest accomplishments. He was a man who lived life to its fullest and was a welcomed storyteller on so many hockey occasions, including one of his last times at TD Garden this past season when he showed up for Rick Middleton’s number retirement ceremony.

He could hang with even the heartiest of hockey players when it came to knocking back beers and storytelling, and that’s not easy to do.

In my role as PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) Chapter Chair in Boston, I had more than a few phone conversations with Conway over the years. Of course, there would be stories that went along with those conversations. I still remember a few months ago hearing about the time that Don Cherry had an issue with his neighbors in the suburbs of Boston when his dog Blue either bit a person or another dog in the neighborhood.

I can’t remember the exact details, but I do remember that it was Conway who acted as mediator between Grapes and the aggrieved neighbors, and showed his penchant for helping out the players and coaches he covered without compromising his journalistic integrity in any way.  It was a delicate line he managed to walk throughout a career that saw him break the biggest of stories in the world of hockey.

My first year covering the Bruins in 2003-04 was also Patrice Bergeron’s rookie season with the B’s (Russ was a massive fan of Bergeron the person and player, by the way), and it was also Conway’s last year covering the B’s on a regular basis. It was amazing to watch him take his customary position with one foot raised up on the dressing stalls while engaging in long, animated conversations with the players postgame and post-practice.

What were they talking about? How did Conway manage to capture the attention of these players when this young hockey writer was simply in awe of being let through the doors in the first place?

It felt like they were having this great conversation rather than the typical interview patter we see so many times in locker rooms everywhere.  

Certainly that feeling of surreal awe isn’t there for me like it once was after covering Boston pro sports for nearly 20 years, but I’m still in awe of the way Conway turned beat reporting into such a personal, joie de vivre-filled endeavor. What I realized watching him was that it’s always about the relationships that you build covering a team when it comes to the big stories, and being the right guy in the right place at the right time as Conway was while breaking the Eagleson stories.

Russ never felt like he was grinding it out on the beat.

It felt like he was the show, and everybody else was happy to be along for the story-filled ride. The ride is over now sadly, but Conway’s legacy is going to live on in my memory and so many of the hockey people that he touched over the last five decades covering the sport.

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