Bruins

Who is next for the Bruins when it comes to the Hockey Hall of Fame?

Who is next for the Bruins when it comes to the Hockey Hall of Fame?

The Bruins have been pretty darn fortunate over the last 15 years.

It started with the B’s signing defenseman Zdeno Chara away from the Ottawa Senators in free agency, and it’s been an impressive run since then with 11 playoff appearances, two Presidents' Trophies, three appearances in the Stanley Cup Final, and of course hoisting the Cup in 2011. With all that success comes Hall-of-Fame players right along.

The Bruins had another extended member of that group gain induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame this week when Jarome Iginla was named HOF-worthy. Iginla played just a single season with the Black and Gold, but it was a memorable one. Iggy joins Mark Recchi as B’s HOF players from this current core group’s run after he was inducted a couple of years ago as well. And certainly, Jaromir Jagr will join them in the near future after his time with Boston during the 2013 run to the Cup Final.

But it won’t just be about some of the veteran additions along the way for the Bruins, either. They will have at least a couple, if not even more, Hall of Famers from their core group when the current run is over.

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Here’s a look at the current Bruins team and the Hall of Fame chances of some of the more prominent players on their roster:

Zdeno Chara

A no-brainer at this point, the Bruins captain will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in one of the first few years he’s under consideration. The capper for him was becoming just the second European born-and-raised captain to win the Stanley Cup in 2011 and putting a Norris Trophy on his defenseman resume in 2009.

Chara is a seven-time All-Star and won the Mark Messier leadership award in 2011, and is the greatest shutdown defenseman of his generation as a 6-foot-9 intimidator. Chara just feels like a Hall of Fame legend too when you consider he’s the tallest player to ever suit up in the NHL at 6-foot-9, he’s played into his forties and he was a Norris Trophy finalist indicating his dominance over a long stretch of time.

He still holds the all-time hardest shot in NHL history at 108.8 mph and is something of a Paul Bunyan character that people will be talking about long after he’s retired. At this point, Chara has played over 1,000 games as the captain for the Black and Gold and is still moving up the charts in all-time games played (15th with 1,553), all-time playoffs games played (35th with 182) and plus/minus (32nd all-time with a plus-288 mark). He should be the next B’s player inducted into the Hall of Fame, unless you count Jaromir Jagr after his short stint in 2013.

HOF Verdict: He’s in.  

Patrice Bergeron

Another Hockey Hall of Fame sure thing at this point, Bergeron has withstood the test of time to become one of the best players to come out of his talented 2003 NHL Draft class along with Eric Staal, Ryan Getzlaf, Joe Pavelski, Marc-Andre Fleury, Brent Burns and Ryan Suter.

Bergeron was a second-round pick in that draft, but he jumped into the NHL as the league’s youngest player at 18 years old and has been the best two-way center of his generation. Bergeron has four Selke Trophies to tie Bob Gainey for the most in NHL history, won a Stanley Cup in 2011 and has been of the great winners of his generation with a Cup, a couple of Olympic gold medals, a world junior championship and a World Cup title on his hockey resume.

Aside from the defense, Bergeron also has 352 goals and 869 points in 1,089 games and still has at least a couple more years in the back end of his NHL prime to stockpile numbers and awards. Beyond the on-ice accomplishments, Bergeron is one of the classiest players in the league and one of the most respected by his peers across the league. He’ll also end up being a lifelong Bruins when it’s all said and done, which is becoming a rarity in this day and age of sports. It will be an easy discussion when it's his turn to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

HOF Verdict: He’s in.

Tuukka Rask

The all-time winningest goalie in Bruins history has parlayed his considerable talent, quality teams around him, and longevity to become the best regular season goalie in franchise history.

Rask has the most games played (536), the most wins (291), the most saves (13,711), and the best save percentage (.922) in Bruins history. Rask ranks seventh all-time in NHL history with a .9268 save percentage in the playoffs and is the active leader among all NHL goalies with a .9218 career save percentage. He ranks third all-time behind just Dominik Hasek and Johnny Bower, who are both Hall of Famers, and has a 2014 Vezina Trophy to his credit.

Rask has one Jennings Trophy and one All-Star appearance, but presumably will get his second Vezina Trophy finalist honor this season when the names are released. Rask is still just 39th all-time with the 291 wins, however, and 30th all-time with his 50 career shutouts. The fact he’s just 33 years old and seemingly still on top of his game means he could add substantially to his numbers if he keeps on playing and the save percentage is already HOF-worthy at this point.

Still, he’s fallen short in some big moments in the Stanley Cup Final and that is going to stick with Hall of Fame voters when compared against other goalies that are the opposite with average stats/multiple Cups like Marc-Andre Fleury for instance. His only time as a Cup winner was when he didn’t play in a game while watching Tim Thomas have a playoff run for the ages where he did all the things Rask hasn’t yet been able to do in the postseason. Tough call.

HOF Verdict: He’s not in unless he wins a Cup as the No. 1 guy.  

Brad Marchand

It might have been crazy to think at points earlier in his NHL career that Brad Marchand had a chance at the Hockey Hall of Fame, but it’s certainly possible if he continues to produce at his current level for another five years or so.

Marchand now has scored 290 goals in his NHL career and only Johnny Bucyk, Phil Esposito, Rick Middleton, Ray Bourque, Patrice Bergeron and Cam Neely have scored more in Black and Gold. All but Middleton either are Hall of Famers or will be someday. Marchand leads all Bruins players in franchise history with 27 shorthanded goals and has the most of any player in the NHL since he broke into the league back in the 2010-11 NHL season. Marchand has a Stanley Cup on his resume, he’s been named an All-Star twice in his career and he had a top-5 finish in the Hart Trophy voting last season.

Marchand will get his share of Hart Trophy votes again this year and now has 290 goals and 646 points in 751 games. He has even cleaned up his on-ice act in the last few seasons and has avoided any suspensions as well. A career full of fines and suspensions may end up detracting from his candidacy and he’s definitely made some enemies around the league that may try to deny him hockey immortality. But a few more seasons of 30 plus goals and 90 plus points could make it difficult to keep him out, and at 31 years old that is a very reachable goal.

He’s one of the best players in the NHL and one of the most notorious players of his generation, and those players turn into qualified HOF candidates. An NHL award or two or another Stanley Cup title could help put him over the top when it comes to consideration.

HOF Verdict: A few more great years could make this happen.   

David Krejci

Certainly, Patrice Bergeron gets a lot of the credit as Boston’s top center, but David Krejci has quietly been a dominant force down the middle as well. Krejci has 207 goals and 686 points in 911 games and is now eighth all-time on the Bruins franchise list for points (686), seventh with 911 games played and eighth with 479 career assists.

Both Krejci and Patrice Bergeron are in the top-100 of all-time NHL players when it comes to playoff points (103) and Krejci led all NHL players in points in both the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs. Krejci centered Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic during those golden years for the Bruins and in the last few years it’s been more of the playmaking center driving the B’s second line with interchangeable wingers.

Krejci had one of his best seasons in a few years two seasons ago with 20 goals and 73 points, but injuries have slowed him down at times over the last few seasons. Krejci has received some votes for the Lady Byng and the Selke Trophy in the past along with some All-Star voters thrown his way, but he’s never been in serious contention for any of the NHL Awards.

HOF Verdict: A very good player in Bruins history that won’t be Hall of Fame-worthy.

Torey Krug

The 28-year-old Krug has been one of the most prolific offensive defensemen during his career with the Bruins and his numbers stack up favorably with players like Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns and Roman Josi over the last few seasons.

Krug has 67 goals and 337 points in 523 career games and has made himself into a top-4 defenseman for the Bruins despite his 5-foot-8 height. He’s going to get paid one way or the other as he moves toward unrestricted free agency following this season, and that’s a tribute to the offensive D-man/power play quarterback that he’s turned himself into. But he’s also been a minus player in three of the last four seasons and his zero plus/minus ranking last year was the only one not in the negative.

He’s received Norris Trophy votes just once in his NHL career and finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting as a rookie in his best showing for an award. Krug does have 11 goals and 46 points in 62 career playoff games and has been a stellar performer when he’s been healthy in the postseason. He was one of Boston’s strongest Conn Smythe candidates had the B’s won the Cup last June, but instead, Krug and the B’s have been on the losing end of both Stanley Cup Final appearances since he’s been with the team.

Krug is still in his last twenties and should be productive for another five years or more, so the final numbers could be really impressive for him when it’s all said and done.

HOF Verdict: Another very good player for the Bruins that’s a level or two below the Hall of Fame.

David Pastrnak

Like Patrice Bergeron before him, David Pastrnak was the youngest player in the NHL during his rookie season in the league. So he’s got a chance to put up some massive numbers before he’s all done and already has 180 goals and 379 points in 390 games over six seasons.

He was on track for 50 plus goals and 100 plus points this season and he should be in that range for at least another 5-10 seasons at just 23 years old. Pastrnak finished with his first Rocket Richard Trophy this season while leading the NHL in goals, the first and only Bruins player to do that since Hall of Famer Phil Esposito in the mid-1970’s. Pastrnak should get heavy consideration for the Hart Trophy this season as well and that should kick off years of scoring, awards, All-Star honors and other things to go along with seeking his first Stanley Cup as well.

Pastrnak also has 17 goals and 43 points in 42 career Stanley Cup playoff games and broke a Wayne Gretzky-record as the youngest player with a six-point playoff game on his postseason resume a couple of seasons ago. Pastrnak will need a long stretch of greatness, some good luck and good Bruins teams around him, but everything is set up for him to become one of the greatest Bruins players of all-time given his youth, his makeup and his elite talent level.

HOF Verdict: He’s well on his way if he fulfills his vast potential.

Interesting details why NHL reportedly chose Edmonton as hub city

Interesting details why NHL reportedly chose Edmonton as hub city

It’s pretty much official at this point as countless reports have the NHL settled on Edmonton and Toronto as the two hub cities when teams return to play at the end of the month.

TSN Insider Bob McKenzie revealed on Thursday afternoon that Edmonton will also end up being the site for the conference finals as well as the Stanley Cup Final given how well the city has contained the COVID-19 virus over the last three months.

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Edmonton Oilers radio analyst Bob Stauffer confirmed that it indeed is looking good for Edmonton and outlined some of the finer points to the Edmonton plan that attracted the NHL once they decided to avoid Las Vegas despite its glamorous appeal.

“Edmonton is in a unique situation. It’s low-population density and the majority of the international travel went through Calgary, so if you compare [Alberta] to the U.S. there’s only four U.S. states that have fewer cases per million [people] than Alberta. And Edmonton only has 13 percent of the cases for the entire [Alberta] province despite the fact that Edmonton has 37 or 38 percent of the population. We only had 15 deaths total [from COVID-19] in the last 15 weeks and just three deaths over the last two months. The caseload has been light.

“That’s a major reason why Edmonton got this [hub city designation]. Make no mistake, the Edmonton Oilers Entertainment Group was really aggressive to get the bid. The province really wanted it. Edmonton has a brand new JW Marriott hotel that’s adjacent to Rogers Place and, if we’re able to push the ball over the goal line here, all 12 teams’ players will stay there. There are a couple of supporting hotels that will house the executives and the rest of that 50-man group as well the television crews that will be in to work it. I would call this more of an Olympic-style hub city bid. That was the key.

"They’ll work out an arrangement with 5-8 restaurants, they’ve got the hotel they want to use and they’re just going to cordon everything off. There’s lot of green space for the players and there’s a golf course five minutes away right in the downtown. The average temperature is 68-76 degrees during the day, so it’s not like the 110 degrees that it would be in Vegas. I get it that Vegas was super-sexy [as an option]. I think Gary [Bettman] wanted Vegas. I think the players wanted Vegas. But it seems that the COVID situation really knocked [Vegas] out. At this stage of the game it really looks like Edmonton and they’ve been working on it for a while.”

TSN Insider Darren Dreger had mentioned Edmonton as the biggest and best option for the NHL when he spoke to NBC Sports Boston about a month ago as well.

“Edmonton is on a full-out campaign. They’ve talked about having a million square feet inside their facility. They’ve got a practice rink there. They can literally put 12 dining areas and separate sanitization stations for all 12 teams inside that building,” said Dreger. “And then they’ve got the ice district and they’ve got the JW Marriott, which is a brand-spanking new, world class hotel. Everybody can be housed in that.

"You want to watch a movie outside on a big screen, or you want to watch some of the other games that are being played in the other hub city? You can do that in the ice district. You can watch multiple games if you’re not playing. They were heavily investigating a private golf course and renting it out, so that on their off days the players could go and play golf as a leisure activity as well.”

At that time, it seemed that Vegas, Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton were the lead candidates with other U.S. locales in the mix as well, but Edmonton became a no-brainer once it turned to an all-Canada setting for the NHL games. It also seems clear that the NHL is going to keep the Eastern Conference teams in Toronto and the Western Conference teams in Edmonton for the first couple of playoff rounds following the qualifying round/round-robin games.

But then it will be the many amenities being offered in Edmonton that are going to create a safe, remote environment for the NHL to pull off a Return to Play when so many areas in North America would not be right for it at this point.

Retirement or extension? Looking at Bruins' options for Tuukka Rask

Retirement or extension? Looking at Bruins' options for Tuukka Rask

The clock is ticking for Tuukka Rask and the Boston Bruins.

The 33-year-old Finnish netminder will be headed into the final year of his contract with the Bruins following this summer’s Return to Play playoffs, and he’ll be coming off a season that should make him a Vezina Trophy finalist for the second time in his career.

Rask, of course, won the award in the 2013-14 NHL season and is in a bit of a two-man race with Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck for the honors as the NHL’s top goalie this time around.

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But it’s all proof that he’s essentially lived up to a contract that paid him $7 million a season as one of the highest paid goaltenders in the NHL. Rask is also the second-highest paid player on the Black and Gold behind center David Krejci, but he’s dropped to fifth in salary among NHL goalies with Carey Price, Sergei Bobrovsky, Henrik Lundqvist and Marc-Andre Fleury all equal or greater in annual salary.

All of that makes it all the more fascinating what’s going to happen following this summer when Rask will enter the last year of his deal as a 34-year-old goalie with a 36-year-old backup in Jaroslav Halak. Rask and Halak won the Jennings Trophy as the NHL’s best goaltending duo this season and could very well be in line for those honors again next year.

Next year may be the last season that the Bruins can afford that partnership for a number of different reasons, but that doesn’t mean that Rask won’t continue as the No. 1 guy in Boston.  

Meanwhile, the regular season accolades go on and on for Rask. He’s the all-time winningest goalie in Bruins history with 291 wins, and has the most games played (536), the most saves (13,711) and the best save percentage (.922) in the B’s nearly 100-year franchise history. Rask ranks seventh all-time in NHL history with a .9268 save percentage in the playoffs and is the active leader among all NHL goalies with a .9218 career save percentage over his 13-year career.

He ranks third all-time in career save percentage behind Dominik Hasek and Johnny Bower, both Hall of Famers. All that and he showed this season that he’s still got it as one of the NHL leaders in goals against average (2.12) and save percentage (.929) while largely splitting time with Halak. The reduced workload has been a big deal to Rask in the last couple of seasons and it allowed him to carry the Bruins with a .934 save percentage during last spring’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

Still, Rask has yet to get the B’s over the top in two tries at the Stanley Cup Final in 2013 and 2019 and the contract negotiations are going to be fascinating given that the NHL is looking at a largely flat salary cap for the next three seasons.

According to Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Freidman, the cap is going to go up a million to $82.5 million in 2022-23, but that’s essentially a flat cap for three years considering that the salary cap ceiling had been going up $3-6 million pretty much every season like clockwork.

The good news for the Bruins: They are going to presumably have some salary cap space to work with following next season as they are currently committed to just $35.7 million in salaries for the 2021-22 season, and aren’t going to be on the hook for much more than $52 million when they’ve finally dealt with open contracts for Torey Krug, Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Zdeno Chara and Matt Grzelcyk following this summer’s run of playoff hockey.

A big factor is the $7.25 million cap hit for Krejci that will be coming off the books at the same time as Rask following the 2020-21 NHL season. The expiration of the Krejci contract is going to open up considerable cap space for a strapped front office, and taking both Krejci and Rask deals off the books at the same time lops off a whopping 17 percent of their cap. It will be fascinating to see how the Bruins utilize that space with the expectation a 36-year-old Krejci will either be done playing by then, or will be playing at a greatly reduced rate moving forward.

The real question will be exactly what kind of salary an aging Rask will command at 35 years old?

He’s flirted with the notion of retirement several times over the last couple of years and it seems clear he won’t be the type to keep hanging on when it’s clear he’s at the end of his career.

But he also reiterated his desire to keep playing when he spoke with reporters about it a couple of months ago on a Zoom call.

“I haven’t thought about retirement at all,” Rask said. “I know that this [offseason], I can start talking to the Bruins about a possible extension. When that day comes, we’ll see what happens. But definitely I haven’t put any thought into retirement, nothing like that. We’ll see how this season plays out, and then we’ll see if there’s extension talks.”

He also needs a particular situation to be successful and that means the B’s employing a backup who's good enough to help keep Rask to a modest 50-55 game workload.

The need for a quality backup in Halak has meant that the B’s have shelled out well north of $9 million per year for goaltenders in their three seasons (counting next year) together. That’s a big chunk of salary cap space devoted to the guys who stop the pucks.

Given that Rask isn’t a workhorse type goalie at this point in his career, perhaps that means the Bruins could get him back for a slightly reduced rate in the twilight of his career. At a similar stage in his career, Pekka Rinne signed a two-year, $10 million contract extension with the Nashville Predators in 2018 that should pave the way for exactly what Rask could be looking at following next season.

The $5 million cap hit would take $2 million off Rask’s current cap hit and hand the Bruins extra room to improve their roster while staring down a pretty bleak financial picture over the next three seasons, if not longer than that.

A two-year deal in the $5 million AAV range would still put Rask in the middle of the pack for NHL goaltender salaries, but it would also be the same kind of reasonable deal other core Bruins players like Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara and David Pastrnak have taken to keep the band together over the years. All in all, not a bad solution to the Tuukka contract dilemma.

As dire as things seem fiscally for the NHL and especially this coming offseason for the Bruins with limited funds to sign a handful of key players, it actually doesn’t seem like a new contract for Rask will be all that tricky as long as all parties involved want to keep Tuukka Time going for a while longer.