Sweeney on Tavares: "We put our best foot forward and it didn't fall our way"

Sweeney on Tavares: "We put our best foot forward and it didn't fall our way"

BRIGHTON, Mass – While it was ultimately disappointment for the Boston Bruins in their chase for big ticket free agent John Tavares, it wasn’t the kind of crushing blow that will discourage Don Sweeney in his offseason team-building efforts.

Tavares picked the Toronto Maple Leafs team he grew up rooting for on Sunday afternoon while deciding between six teams including the New York Islanders team that drafted him No. 1 overall almost ten years ago. The 27-year-old Tavares signed a seven year, $77 million contract with the Leafs after spending his weekend mulling the decision, and by most accounts left money on the table with better offers from teams including the B’s, Stars, Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Clearly the addition of Tavares to an already strong Toronto core group significantly improves the Maple Leafs, and that leaves the Bruins as the third best team in the Atlantic Division behind both the Leafs and the Lightning. That’s the most disappointing part for Sweeney, who took it as an organizational compliment that Tavares considered Boston in the first place.

“I would’ve preferred [Tavares] not be in our division. The overall process was a really good process to structurally have somebody else dive inside our own team. We were thankful for the opportunity to present,” said Sweeney. “Pat [Brisson] and his group and John himself were really good about it, and he was well prepared. We felt we were.

“We put our best foot forward and it didn’t fall our way. But, again, to be in that situation is something that our group should be happy about, and it’s probably a reflection of what we’re trying to do and trying to accomplish…but I wish it had fallen our way.”

The good news is that the Bruins don’t have to go through the salary cap gymnastics that would have been mandatory had they signed a player of Tavares’ caliber. Sweeney admitted earlier this week that he had moves already set in place if they did somehow land the elite center, and it was expected that either David Krejci or David Backes, or perhaps both, would have been on the move if those dominoes started falling.

Now the Bruins have less urgency from a salary cap perspective with their current roster with roughly $4 million in cap space after entering the NHL free agency market. They still need a second-line winger to add some scoring punch to their attack up front, but sounds like it might be a slow play on the trade market to eventually get that player.

On this day, though, it was about the Bruins shooting for it all by chasing Tavares in free agency, and falling short again after they took a similar swing at Ilya Kovalchuk during NHL Draft weekend as well. The Bruins are falling short in closing the deal on these elite players, but there’s also something to be said with Boston being in the mix at all with game-breaking players.

“It’s obviously a reflection of our current players and a testament to them. I think stylistically, to our coaches, to the organization, to the support from ownership, with this [new practice] facility, overall, it’s a reflection of our entire organization,” said Sweeney. “I’ve said all along, it’s about winning. That’s the mandate that we’re trying to put forward to all of our players, whether it was the development camp guys or the highest-level free agency players that we’re trying to attract and to be a part of what we’re trying to do.”

That was obviously part of the Boston sales pitch with Tavares that included a phone call from Patrice Bergeron, but eventually fell short of the rival Maple Leafs getting much, much better in NHL free agency.  


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.


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

USA TODAY Sports Photo

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.  


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.