Wrapping up Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are high priorities for Bruins

Wrapping up Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are high priorities for Bruins

The most important thing the Bruins must do this offseason might also end up being the easiest thing they do this offseason.

When it comes to re-signing his own players and getting contract terms that are favorable to the team, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has shown that to be one of his strong suits. This summer Sweeney will again face incumbent free agents due new contracts, though the most important ones are young RFA defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

Sure the Bruins would like to bring back Marcus Johansson, but a long term contract worth $5-6 million per season for an injury prone, third-line winger isn’t really good business. They will do everything they can to bring back a warrior like Noel Acciari provided the price and term are right for a hard-hitting fourth line energy forward.

But the RFAs are the big ticket items at this point for the Black and Gold.

“I think the biggest priority is to have our guys get healthy, get recharged,” said Sweeney. “We have some RFA stuff that we have to take care, and then I go from there. I think we have areas that we would like to continue to address, whether that’s internally or externally, not just through free agency but through trades. We’re going to be active in trying to address those.”

In truth, inking 21-year-old McAvoy and 22-year-old Carlo are the high priorities of this summer and should be at the top of Boston’s to-do list with July 1 right around the corner.

Those two young defensemen are the future of Boston’s back end for the next 10 years, and they showed this spring in the playoffs that the future is now.

The deal for McAvoy is going to be a bit more complicated given his first-round pedigree, his ceiling as a No. 1 defenseman and some of the injuries that he’s had over the last couple of seasons. McAvoy would have been looking for something in the neighborhood of Aaron Ekblad’s eight-year, $60 million deal entering this past season, but he was limited to 54 games due to concussion and foot infection issues. The former BU standout was gangbusters in the second half of the season and excellent during the postseason, but there is a question as to whether he’s due that level of commitment after his first two full NHL seasons.

McAvoy was solid while averaging seven goals and 30 points in his first two seasons in Boston, and he’s actually logged a ton of ice time, averaging over 22 minutes in each of his first two NHL seasons.

By comparison, however, Ekblad missed only five NHL games in his first two seasons, and averaged 13 goals and 38 points in those first two NHL campaigns after being the first overall pick.  

More comparable for McAvoy: the six-year, $31.5 million deal for Hampus Lindholm, the six-year, $32.4 million contract for Sabres D-man Rasmus Ristolianen and the six-year, $34.8 million deal for Dallas Stars D-man Esa Lindell.

McAvoy should slot right into that neighborhood just shy of $6 million per season on a six-year contract and that would allow him to remain with a Bruins team that he clearly has fallen in love with after this spring’s Cup run.

“I don't want to go anywhere. [Boston] is the best place on earth," said McAvoy, during B’s breakup day. "This is home for me now. I live here in the summer. I love it here. I want to be here forever. I think losing in the manner that we did, I want to just win so bad, to just be a part of it, just to join - just a city full of champions and everyone here is winners and they all won at one point and I just want to be a part of that so freaking bad. We just have to believe that we'll be back.”

The situation for Carlo won’t be quite as difficult, it would seem. Certainly the 6-foot-5 Carlo had a strong third NHL season with two goals and 10 points in 72 games, and was strong in the playoffs as a top-4 D-man averaging 21:31 of ice time during the first 24 Stanley Cup playoff games of his career. But Carlo won’t be getting the same kind of payday as McAvoy, and is looking at something more along the lines of $3-4 million per season on a shorter term deal for his second contract.

While not a perfect comparable, the two-year deals handed out to Edmonton’s Darnell Nurse ($3.2 million per year) and Winnipeg’s Josh Morrisey ($3.15 million per year) last summer are in Carlo’s neighborhood with the B’s this summer.   

Just as with McAvoy, the restricted free agent has found a home in Boston after logging three seasons as an emerging shutdown D-man and is highly interested in staying with the Bruins for a long time.  

“It was my first experience with the playoffs and I enjoyed every minute of it except for the last one,” said Carlo. “I felt like I grew a lot as a player this year. Throughout the year there were slight bits mentioned [about contract] from time to time, but not anything to any great extent. I want to be in Boston for as long as I can.

“I love it here. I love the city, I love the fans and I like you all as media people. It’s fantastic. I couldn’t imagine myself playing any other place. It’s been a blessing for the last three years and I hope to experience it for many more.”

The good news for the Bruins with all of this?

They have $13 million plus in cap space for next season and the signing of both McAvoy and Carlo should only eat up about $9 million of that when it’s all said and done. Those second contracts for their RFA defensemen may preclude them from bringing back Johansson and will force Don Sweeney to free up cap space if he wants to make a big move in the free agent/trade market over the next few weeks with July 1 right around the corner.

The bottom line is this: McAvoy and Carlo should get done with little-to-no complications this summer, and as the top order of business for Sweeney and the Bruins that should allow them to devote a little more attention to making improvements to a team that made it all the way Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final this spring.

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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 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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