Bruins

Is McAvoy really in line for 'a huge contract' with Bruins? Maybe not

Is McAvoy really in line for 'a huge contract' with Bruins? Maybe not

There’s quite the interesting debate going on these days about just how much Bruins RFA defenseman Charlie McAvoy should get on his second contract.

NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk tweeted out a story proclaiming that both McAvoy and Columbus Blue Jackets D-man Zach Werenski should be in line for “huge contracts” and conjured up some numbers that put those two young defenseman in a class with Drew Doughty and Erik Karlsson at the same stage of their careers.

Certainly the 21-year-old McAvoy and 21-year-old Werenski have shown promise as excellent puck-movers and developing two-way D-men in their short NHL careers. But to lump the two of them together into the same class is not something I’m sure the Bruins would do at this point in their separate negotiations.

First off, both Doughty and Karlsson were Norris Trophy finalists before they got their massive contracts. Secondly, do you know how many games Doughty missed with injuries before he signed his eight-year, $56 million contract?

He missed seven NHL games with injuries in his first three seasons with the Kings, including just one in his first two seasons in Los Angeles. Doughty also put together a 16-goal, 59-point masterpiece sophomore season, all while averaging 24 plus minutes of ice time per game over those first three NHL seasons in L.A.

All due respect to a special talent in McAvoy who idolizes Doughty, but he hasn’t even been close to that kind of dominance yet in his very promising, young NHL career. He was brilliant in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and he's shown big time flashes for the B's, but he's also missed almost 50 games with injuries over the last two years. 

Werenski has averaged 13 goals and 40 points in his three NHL seasons with Columbus and missed a total of nine NHL games in his first two seasons before playing the full 82-game schedule this past season for the Blue Jackets. He’s a lot closer to Doughty in terms of a comparable situation at this point in his young NHL career.

Werenski has the ability to be offer-sheeted by other prospective NHL teams, and has all the makings of an RFA who could cash in on something similar to the massive eight-year, $60 million deal signed by Florida’s Aaron Ekblad a couple of seasons ago.

McAvoy, on the other hand, has topped out at seven goals and 32 points in the better of his two NHL seasons (his rookie campaign) and has missed a whopping 47 games due to injuries in his first two seasons. McAvoy also can’t be tendered with an offer sheet by other NHL teams because he has fewer than three full years of NHL service based on the 40-game rule adopted by the league when it comes to restricted free agents.

So really there are very few parallels between Werenski’s negotiating leverage right now and McAvoy’s situation headed into his third NHL season with Boston.

If McAvoy wants to get the “huge contract” with the B’s then he’s going to have to earn it with a dominant, healthy season that he has yet to put together at the NHL level. It’s really as simple as that, regardless of his Corsi numbers when he has been healthy over the last two seasons.

The best course of action for both the Bruins and McAvoy?

It would be sign a bridge contract for a couple of years where the young D-man gets the $5-6 million per season based on his closest comparable players (Esa Lindell, for one), and puts together the kind of years that would put him closer to the Doughty/Karlsson/Ekblad max contract neighborhood that he’s clearly aspiring to at this point.

Basically, McAvoy at this point will need to sign the qualifying offer given to him by the Bruins or sit out until he agrees to a long-term second deal with the Boston. The reality is this: The Bruins young D-man has zero leverage this time around in negotiations aside from being a key player for the B's in both their present and future plans. Then again, the Bruins did pretty well in the first half last season when McAvoy was barely a presence while battling through concussion-related issues, and before he put together a very strong second half and postseason during their run to Game 7 of the Cup Final.

There’s no reason to think they can’t do the same this season with a Stanley Cup Final-worthy group if McAvoy’s camp plays hardball and holds out ahead of NHL training camp.

All signs point to McAvoy getting a big raise and eventually getting the cap-busting contract that he’s clearly going to be looking for, and he could get it as soon as a year from now at this time. But the 21-year-old needs to earn it first, and shame on Don Sweeney and the Bruins if they shell out tens of millions of dollars on an admittedly talented, highly-gifted player before he’s done the kind of things that earn players that type of money at the NHL level.

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Bruins absolutely should play for Islanders matchup over Hurricanes

Bruins absolutely should play for Islanders matchup over Hurricanes

It comes down to a simple equation for Boston’s opponent in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week, and it all depends on how the Bruins perform in their round-robin finale Sunday against the Washington Capitals.

If the Bruins win in any fashion against the Capitals then they will face the New York Islanders in the first round starting Tuesday or Wednesday, and if they lose Sunday then they will go up against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round. Friday started with the Pittsburgh Penguins as a possible first-round opponent as well for Boston, but that went out the window once they were eliminated by the No. 12 seed Montreal Canadiens.

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As the Bruins players themselves had discussed, there is no preferred first-round adversary while knowing every team is going to be a quality opponent.

“We do sit and talk as a group every and whether it’s the first or the fourth seed, it does not matter who you are going to be playing…it’s going to be tough,” said Torey Krug in a zoom call with NBC Sports Boston earlier this week. “We went through all the teams yesterday and it just doesn’t matter. That being said we’re working our way into that playoff mode of hockey and trying to get our head wrapped around it.”

In all honestly, it’s clear the Bruins should want to win on Sunday vs. the Capitals, clinch the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference and face off against an admittedly solid Islanders team. The Islanders are well-coached as a Barry Trotz team, they have outstanding goaltending in Semyon Varlamov (.923 save percentage vs. Florida in the qualifying round) and they boast some very good players like Mat Barzal, Brock Nelson, Jordan Eberle and Jean-Gabriel Pageau among others.

But the Islanders are a hustle-and-hard-work kind of team that maximizes its talent level during the regular season. That means they tend to have a more difficult time beating talented opponents in the playoffs working just as diligently as they are during the postseason. There is an absolute ceiling to how good the Isles can be while constantly scrapping for offense, and that means they would experience a difficult time matching the firepower of the Bruins.

The Islanders were 22nd in the NHL in offense averaging 2.78 goals per game and finished 24th in the league in power-play percentage. They relied heavily on defense, goaltending and hustle to offset the modest attack.

They will play physical and try to frustrate the Bruins, but they just can’t hang with the high-end talent of the B’s provided they show a little more urgency and competitiveness than they have during the round robin.

On the other hand, a B’s loss would put them against a Carolina team that absolutely dominated the New York Rangers in the qualifying round. The Hurricanes are a deep, young and very talented roster with young scorers like Sebastian Aho (3 goals and 8 points in 3 games vs. the Rangers), Andrei Svechnikov (3 goals and five points vs. the Rangers) and Teuvo Teravainen up front, and Jaccob Slavin and Sami Vatanen on the back end with the hope that ex-Bruins D-man Dougie Hamilton may return at some point in the first round as well.

The Hurricanes were a top-10 power play team during the regular season and had one of the best offensive groups in the NHL. They are a significantly improved team compared to the group that the Bruins ushered out of the Eastern Conference Finals with a sweep a year ago, and they added big pieces Vatanen and Vincent Trocheck at the trade deadline.

Clearly, the goaltending is still an area to exploit with the Hurricanes, but they are also coming off a playoff series where Petr Mrazek played the best hockey of his career while posting a .940 save percentage in two starts. Combined, James Reimer and Mrazek had an amazing .955 save percentage in the three wins over the Rangers in the qualifying round, but neither one is a clear-cut No. 1 guy for the Hurricanes in the postseason.

What does it all mean?

Carolina is to be avoided if you are the Boston Bruins based on the torrid way it has played in the Toronto bubble, and based on the way Rod Brind’Amour’s crew can match firepower with the B’s all over the ice.

It will be entirely up to the Bruins to control the fate of their first-round playoff matchup with a win or loss against the Capitals on Sunday, and that ultimately could make all the difference on how long the Bruins will manage to stay in the hunt for the Cup.

Here's Bruins' first-round playoff scenario entering Sunday vs. Capitals

Here's Bruins' first-round playoff scenario entering Sunday vs. Capitals

The Boston Bruins' potential first-round playoff matchups are laid out for them as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Washington Capitals.

The Montreal Canadiens upset the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday, thus eliminating the Pens from playoff contention. That means the B's will either begin their Stanley Cup run against the New York Islanders or the Carolina Hurricanes.

If the Bruins beat the Capitals on Sunday, they'll face the Islanders in the first round. If they lose, they'll face the Hurricanes.


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Carolina comes off three straight convincing wins over the New York Rangers in the Toronto bubble. As for the Isles, they took three out of four from the Florida Panthers.

Either way, the B's will have a tough test in Round 1, and their fate will be determined by their final round-robin matchup on Sunday.

Boston currently is 0-2 in Toronto, falling 4-1 to the Philadelphia Flyers and then 3-2 to the Tampa Bay Lightning. In order to gain some momentum heading into the postseason, there's no doubt the Bruins will need to show more of a sense of urgency than they have in the bubble to this point.