Bruins

Morning Skate: Bruins "stand on shaky ground," in Atlantic Division

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Morning Skate: Bruins "stand on shaky ground," in Atlantic Division

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while everybody is literally working for the weekend right now. Loverboy, please take a bow from wherever you are in Canada!

-- The Bruins “stand on shaky ground” within the Atlantic Division right now, according to Pro Hockey Talk in an offseason overview of the division. Yes and no. Certainly they look third best behind Toronto and Tampa, and that could become an even more distant gap if the Lightning were to somehow land Erik Karlsson in the next few months.

But we’re also talking about a team that racked up 112 points last season, has a large wealth of young players and prospects and featured the best line in the NHL last season with Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. They are not on shaky ground within a division that features bad teams in Ottawa, Montreal, Detroit and Buffalo, and only the Florida Panthers as the kind of team that could rise up and challenge for a playoff spot. Did they get better in the offseason? Sure they did in a very incremental way. But they still seem like a lock for the third spot in the Atlantic and a playoff team, and perhaps even more if they can swing the right deal for a goal-scoring winger at some point over the next six months or so.

-- Congrats to Jarome Iginla on an excellent Hall of Fame career as he prepares to announce his retirement at the start of next week. He was an excellent throwback kind of power forward and a rugged competitor, and was a complete gentleman off the ice during his season that I covered him in Boston. He did seem to make some poor choices on the teams he joined up with later in his career – like eschewing the Bruins for the Penguins in 2013 at the trade deadline -- in the ultimately unsuccessful quest for a Cup, but that doesn’t take away from the consistency and class that defined his NHL body of work.

-- Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz says that he’s going to keep faith in his people running the hockey organization, but it sure does feel like they need a change. Just like the Bruins needed a change from Peter Chiarelli and Claude Julien a few years ago.

-- Dylan Larkin looks to improve next season after building up a solid career arc over his first four years with the Detroit Red Wings.

-- Dean Lombardi might have been in the running for a management position with the Vancouver Canucks, but his current contract with the Philadelphia Flyers precluded that from happening.

-- For something completely different: I need more stories about this video beatdown in a Vegas McDonald’s like I need air to breath. It’s the Jerry Springer show come to life.

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Bruce Cassidy doesn't commit to keeping David Pastrnak on top line

Bruce Cassidy doesn't commit to keeping David Pastrnak on top line

Head coach Bruce Cassidy and the rest of the Bruins front office and coaching staff have a lot to think about this summer.

After losing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins have more questions than answers heading into the offseason. What do you do with David Backes? Can Brad Marchand replicate his 100-point regular season? Sell high on Torey Krug? 

Arguably the most pressing question that arose at various points in the season and into the playoffs: Is the "Perfection Line" worth keeping together? On Monday afternoon, Cassidy addressed whether David Pastrnak's spot next to Marchand and Patrice Bergeron is safe: 

"Yeah, we had a lot of discussions this year about Pasta staying there," Cassidy said. "Going forward, to me it always depends (on) what are the options. Who’s going to go there and make us the best team? At times, Danton Heinen did a good job. I felt at the end of the day, could he sustain it every night? Wasn’t convinced. Not saying he could or couldn’t, but that was my decision to put Pasta back there.

"After that, I don’t know if we tried a whole lot of other guys. At the deadline we had some ideas. Unfortunately, the injury to Johansson, that’s the hand you’re dealt, so he could’ve been a good fit up there too. Going forward, next year I will talk about that. I think, geez, we went back to Anders Bjork we thought at a time would be – so, there could be a younger guy that steps up in camp. For me to say right now that this guy is going to go there, I don’t think you do that. You have to let the player earn it and see what they’ve got.

"So, that’s it, or maybe someone else will surface elsewhere. That’s internal stuff that we’ll have discussions about, but that’s the game plan for next year. They’ve been an excellent line. They want to grow as well. They want to keep getting better, so certainly a possibility they’ll stay together."

By no means did Cassidy shut the door on the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line. However, Pastrnak's poor playoff performance amid some self-described mental battles led some to suggest he should be moved down to David Krejci's second line. 

In the playoffs, Pastrnak finished with nine goals, 19 points and an even plus/minus in 24 games. But in the Stanley Cup Final against St. Louis, Pastrnak was a -7. In total, the Perfection Line scored two goals and had 19 goals against during five-on-five play against the Blues. 

The Bruins shuffled Pastrnak between the first and second lines during both the regular season and their playoff run, so shifting him permanently wouldn't be that extreme of an adjustment. To maximize the Bruins' ceiling, they need to get the most out of Pastrnak, whatever line he plays on. 

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Bruins should make re-signing free agent Marcus Johansson a priority

Bruins should make re-signing free agent Marcus Johansson a priority

The Boston Bruins' trade-deadline acquisition of Marcus Johansson proved to be a very good move by general manager Don Sweeney, and the team would be wise to re-sign the veteran forward before/during NHL free agency.

Johansson, 28, is eligible to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He earned $4.75 million last season between the New Jersey Devils and the Bruins -- the final year of his three-year contract . Sweeney and Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy held a press conference Monday, and the B's GM praised Johansson's fit with the team while discussing the possibility of re-signing him.

"Well, we met – we had some meetings. I told Marcus that I did have the same, along the same lines, with the RFA side of things that we have some things we need to clarify internally before I can definitively tell him," Sweeney said. "We found that Marcus was a really good fit for our hockey club. I was proud of how he got injured, came back and elevated his play, was really invested, thought he fit in really well with Charlie [Coyle] coming in, gave us some options on the power play, was a really good fit. Good person, great teammate and got us to a certain point. Wish we could’ve finished it off."

The Bruins enter the offseason with about $14 million in salary cap space, per Spotrac, and the first two orders of business should be locking up restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo to long-term contracts. These young d-men, especially McAvoy, are part of the bright future on Boston's blue line.

Johansson definitely needs to be a priority for the Bruins, however. One of the reasons why the B's were able to progress to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final after a disappointing 2018 playoff run was they bolstered their depth with speedy, skilled bottom-six forwards. Johansson was a critical part of that group alongside Charlie Coyle (another pre-deadline acquisition).

Injury prevented Johansson from making much of an impact for the B's in the regular season and he was limited to just 10 games. But he was effective in the Stanley Cup playoffs with 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 22 games. The Bruins, according to Natural Stat Trick, had a positive differential in shot attempts, shots on goal, goals scored, scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances during 5-on-5 action in the playoffs when Johansson was on the ice. Johansson also played 2:13 of power-play ice time per game in the playoffs, the fourth-most among B's forwards.

The Bruins shouldn't break the bank to bring back Johansson, but at the right price he absolutely should be re-signed. He's still young, he provides scoring depth and we already have evidence he can be effective with several different linemates in Cassidy's system. Johansson spent a lot of time on the third line in 2018-19, but he also could fill a wing spot next to David Krejci on Boston's second line next season if needed.

Boston must capitalize on its remaining championship window, and that should include re-signing Johansson to help ensure the roster has enough depth to withstand injuries in future playoff runs.

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