Bruins

Ryan Donato starring for Team USA; is role on Bruins next?

Ryan Donato starring for Team USA; is role on Bruins next?

It would be easy to see Bruins prospect Ryan Donato as some kind of trade deadline secret weapon for the NHL club after watching his breakout two-goal effort against Slovakia in the Winter Olympics. Donato was the sole source of offense for Team USA in their 2-1 win over Slovakia on Thursday at the PyeongChang Games, and is expected to be one of the top players for a rag tag roster comprising college players, AHL veterans and a couple of NHL guys in Brian Gionta and James Wisniewski at the end of their respective pro hockey career roads. 

The first goal was a wrist shot sniped from the high slot after a clever, skilled play by fellow collegiate player Troy Terry to set him in the shooting area, and the game-winner was just pure skill and dangle curling to the net through defenders before beating the goalie down low. It’s more of what people around Harvard have seen out of a dominant Donato this season as he scored a whopping 21 goals in 23 games for the Harvard Crimson before leaving for South Korea. 

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Certainly it would appear that no matter what happens the Bruins crushed their 2014 Draft, the first one run by current Edmonton Oilers assistant GM Keith Gretzky, with David Pastrnak, Donato, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork as their first four picks. There’s also plenty of speculation that the 21-year-old Donato is going to sign with the Bruins after the Olympics, with the only thing in question whether or not he’s going to finish out the season at Harvard University before going pro. 

That situation probably has many old school Bruins fans thinking back to Bobby Joyce and Craig Janney jumping straight from college to the NHL to make an impact on Boston’s run to the Stanley Cup Final in 1988. But this isn’t 1988, and this Bruins team isn’t the veteran-laden group in need of a youth injection that iteration of the B’s hockey club was 30 years ago.

The one thing the Bruins really don’t need any more of: Inexperience and youth on the wing where the Bruins already have Jake DeBrusk and the aforementioned Heinen in key top-9 roles. They have been a giant part of Boston’s success and are enjoying great success as first year players, but the Bruins also need to vary things up a little at some point. 

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With Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, DeBrusk, Ryan Spooner and Heinen as five of their top six wingers, they are skilled and fast to be sure with plenty of offense getting generated. But they’re also very small and not particularly strong at the point of attack outside of 33-year-old David Backes, and could really use a bigger, stronger veteran forward with some scoring touch if they were to upgrade up front. 

This is why the Bruins are closely watching players like Rick Nash, Patrick Maroon and Michael Grabner among others because they fit the exact need at the NHL level when considering a current group that has Boston competing for the President’s Trophy. 

This isn’t something Donato can be for the Black and Gold no matter how well he plays in the Olympics, and the simple truth is the talented 21-year-old is probably going to need the same AHL development that fellow NCAA guys in Heinen, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Bjork all required.

Expecting Donato to be able to jump from college to the NHL and make a big impact a la Charlie McAvoy last spring simply isn’t realistic, and that’s not certainly not something the Bruins are banking on headed into the Feb. 26 trade deadline. It should be good enough that the 6-foot-1, 181-pound Donato looks like another legit forward prospect for the Bruins, and could perhaps make it a little bit easier to part with a talented young forward like Bjork as a trade chip if the right deal comes along in the next couple of weeks. 

For now everybody should just enjoy the kid from Scituate, and son of longtime Bruins forward Ted Donato, as he does everybody proud wearing the Red, White and Blue in South Korea, and further cements himself as a future NHL prospect that will someday fit in well with the Youth Movement transpiring on Causeway Street.

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Kevan Miller (kneecap) ruled out for the start of the season for Bruins

Kevan Miller (kneecap) ruled out for the start of the season for Bruins

BRIGHTON, Mass – The good news is that the Bruins have Charlie McAvoy back in the fold after he signed a three-year contract on Sunday morning.

The bad news is that the B’s also confirmed today that a second player won’t be ready to go on opening night as Kevan Miller (fractured kneecap) isn’t going to be ready for the Oct. 3 season opener against the Dallas Stars. Miller is coming off a pair of fractured kneecaps, among several injuries, that limited him to just 39 games played last season and kept him out of the entire run to the Stanley Cup Final for the Bruins.

The 31-year-old Miller joins fellow defenseman John Moore, who will also be out at the start of the regular season as he returns from summer shoulder surgery. Clearly that’s going to leave a couple of open spots on the back end even when the Bruins have both McAvoy and Brandon Carlo signed and playing, but the injuries will also enable the Bruins to use the cap space occupied by Miller ($2.5 million) and Moore ($2.75 million) while they are on long term injured reserve to start the season.

“It depends on the term of the next deal, but the opportunity to [use LTIR] is there if we need to,” said Sweeney. “Moore isn’t going to start the season and [Kevan Miller] isn’t going to be ready to start the season.

“Miller’s timeline isn’t going to be opening day. He hasn’t even been on the ice yet. He’s got a test coming around [Sept.] 24 and that will determine his next step in rehab. We’re going to be very cautious with the next steps with Kevan for a healthy return.”

That means the Bruins will be able to go beyond the $3.2 million they currently hold in salary cap space with the unsigned Carlo still waiting for his agreement.

Another Bruins health update that’s a little more positive: Patrice Bergeron is expected to join the main training camp practice group on Monday after sitting out the first on-ice weekend of training camp while recovering from a lingering groin issue this summer.

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Bruins sign Charlie McAvoy to a three-year deal that's extremely fair when all things are considered

Bruins sign Charlie McAvoy to a three-year deal that's extremely fair when all things are considered

BRIGHTON, Mass – The pieces are starting to come into place for the Bruins with the Sunday morning news that B’s defenseman Charlie McAvoy has signed a contract for three years with an AAV of $4.9 million per season. This puts the 21-year-old defenseman in the exact same neighborhood as fellow RFA defenseman and future No. 1 guy Zach Werenski, who last week signed a three-year, $15 million contract with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Some may think it’s an amazing steal for the Bruins because they bought into the hype that McAvoy was going to get a 6-8 year deal paying him upwards of $7 million per season, but that was never realistic with the talented young blueliner. McAvoy has missed almost 50 games in his first two NHL seasons due to injury and illness, and as a less than full-fledged restricted free agent he wasn’t able to receive offer sheets due to his service time at the NHL.

McAvoy had very little leverage headed into the negotiations, and truth be told he’s fortunate to be getting a comparable contract to the more accomplished Werenski all things considered.

From the Bruins perspective, they’ve locked up their future franchise defenseman for the next three seasons on a bridge deal that will still leave him a couple of seasons shy of unrestricted free agency. For now it leaves the Bruins with enough cap space (roughly $3.2 million according to capfriendly.com) to sign fellow RFA defenseman Brandon Carlo with very little need to cut cap costs on the NHL roster.

The contract gives McAvoy a pretty healthy payday, of course, but it also leaves him with the chance to stay healthy and fully realize his potential over the next three seasons. McAvoy was excellent in the postseason for the Bruins while averaging 24:30 of ice time during the 24-game run and simply needs to stay healthy to develop into the future No. 1 D-man and heir apparent in Boston to Zdeno Chara.

He's averaged just seven goals and 30 points over his first two NHL seasons and has battled some fairly uncommon health issues along the way, so the production on the ice just wasn’t there for a bigger deal either.  

The Bruins will now have three years to make certain the 6-foot, 208-pound D-man just ran into a little bit of bad luck with the health stuff over his first two years.

If all goes according to plan, the Bruins are going to be paying McAvoy a much bigger deal three years down the line. But at that point they’ll have moved on from some of their current contracts, will have more cap space to negotiation and will happily pay their young D-man if he turns into the perennial Norris Trophy candidate he should become if can stay on the ice.

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