Cam Neely

Bruins don't expect David Backes to retire after demotion to AHL

Bruins don't expect David Backes to retire after demotion to AHL

David Backes was waived by the Boston Bruins late last week. The statement move to demote the veteran Bruin was part of two critical changes that the B's made to their team. The other was waiving fellow enforcer and physical forward Brett Ritchie.

After Backes' demotion, there was some speculation that the 14-year veteran may opt to retire instead of playing in the AHL for the Providence Bruins. But according to Bruins president Cam Neely, Backes hasn't indicated that he will do that.

"I don’t think he has a mindset of retirement," said Neely per Kevin Paul Dupont of The Boston Globe. "He’s a very proud man, and a professional. I still have the feeling he thinks he can help, so we’ll see where it goes from here."

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This isn't altogether surprising. Backes may be holding out hope that he'll get another chance to play moving forward if he can prove himself in the AHL. 

Backes turns 36 in May, but hockey players often have long careers. So, it's possible that Backes could find a role as a veteran depth piece for another team. It'll just be on a deal much cheaper than the five-year, $30 million deal he signed with the Bruins back in the 2016 offseason.

That said, it's worth noting that Backes has had concussion issues in recent seasons. So that could impact his decision-making moving forward.

In 16 games this season, Backes had just one goal and two assists for the Bruins. He'll take some time off before joining the Providence Bruins later this month.

Werenski contract a pretty obvious blueprint for getting McAvoy deal done

Werenski contract a pretty obvious blueprint for getting McAvoy deal done

For most of the summer, the talk has been that Bruins restricted free-agent defenseman Charlie McAvoy was looking for a long-term team with the B’s on his second contract. Certainly, it was encouraging from the perspective that McAvoy, 21, wants to remain in Boston for a long, long time and loves being a member of the Bruins.

The former Boston University standout said as much at Bruins breakup day back in the middle of June.

"I don't want to go anywhere. [Boston] is the best place on earth," said McAvoy back in June. "This is home for me now. I live here in the summer. I love it here. I want to be here forever."

But there was also a common-sense belief that a shorter bridge deal would make a lot more sense for both sides. After all,  McAvoy has missed almost 50 games with injuries and health issues in his first two NHL seasons and really hasn’t put together the kind of dominant season that precedes a monster, maximum-term contract, particularly for a player coming out of his entry-level deal.

McAvoy certainly appears on track to be a No. 1 defenseman and has averaged seven goals and 30 points his two NHL seasons. He kicked it up a notch in the run to the Stanley Cup Final when he averaged 24:30 of ice time and posted two goals and eight points in his 23 playoff games. But the Bruins admittedly would like to see McAvoy put together a healthy, strong and consistent season before they shell out the huge term and megabucks similar to the eight-year, $60 million contract Aaron Ekblad signed with the Florida Panthers.

Bruins President Cam Neely said as much in his sit-down with NBC Sports Boston this summer when asked about McAvoy.

“You look at a player that’s had some health issues two years in a row at a young age,” said Neely to NBC Sports Boston, referencing McAvoy. “You look at that and say ‘Okay, is that going to stay the same or is it just bad luck?’ We all can see what Charlie is capable of doing. You’d like to see a bigger sample size, obviously. Since the cap has come into effect we’ve all seen deals that have been signed where three years down the road you say it’s not as good as you anticipated it would be.

“Charlie has had three playoff years and two full seasons where he hasn’t been healthy. A lot of times obviously that’s not his fault, but it’s nice to have a better sample size of where a player is going to go. You see the skill set that [McAvoy] has. We want both Charlie and Brandon [Carlo] to be Bruins for their whole career, but we also have to do what’s right for the organization.”

Similarly from McAvoy’s perspective, if he were to take a two-to-three-year deal for $5 million to $6 million per season now then he’d set himself up for a massive payday a couple of years down the line provided he plays up to his major talent.

Enter the three-year, $15 million contract signed by Zach Werenski and the Columbus Blue Jackets this week that’s exactly the kind of bridge deal envisioned for McAvoy and the Bruins. Werenski, 22, has averaged 13 goals and 42 points in his first three NHL seasons, has missed just nine games in those three seasons and played in all 82 games last season while averaging 22:54 of ice time.

On paper, Werenski has done a ton more than McAvoy to this point in his career and stayed healthy while doing it for Columbus. Werenski is an obvious, direct comparable contract to McAvoy and Flyers RFA Ivan Provorov and should set up the template for both of those contracts to be in a very similar neighborhood when they are finally signed. McAvoy may want a six-to-eight-year contract and perhaps someday he’ll get it once he’s played like a franchise defenseman for an extended period.

Still, the precedent has now been set this fall and now it’s up to McAvoy to sign for fair market value without missing too much training camp. The longer he holds out for something that simply isn’t there will become a problem for the player and the team.

Don Sweeney was asked about it at the Prospects Challenge tournament in Buffalo and referenced that the Werenski deal is going to have an impact on the McAvoy talks.

“I haven’t checked my phone since you and I started talking, I think the deal just came down,” Sweeney said Tuesday afternoon in Buffalo to a group of reporters. “Every deal allows things to continue to take shape. We’ll be in touch, as we have been, with Charlie and Charlie’s group, as well as Brandon’s group.”

It’s the way of the Bruins. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak all took market value, or a little less, in order to set up Boston’s salary cap structure for years to come. Now, it’s up to McAvoy to come to terms with the way the restricted free-agent market is playing out and get a bridge deal done with both sides that could lead everybody involved to greatness in the near future.

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Bruins Debunked: Torey Krug trade rumors this summer are just that

Bruins Debunked: Torey Krug trade rumors this summer are just that

In a series of “Debunked” articles, we’ll take a look at some of the hot and heavy Bruins rumors from this summer and just how much truth there is, or isn’t, to the grist in the rumor mill.

Of all the trade scenarios out there this offseason for the Bruins, the rumors of Bruins D-man Torey Krug on the block are the most persistent.

They’re also the most logical when all things are considered. The 28-year-old Krug is entering the final year of his contract with the Bruins, and just put together his third consecutive 50-point season punctuated by a postseason that would have him in the Conn Smythe conversation if the Bruins captured the Cup.

Krug finished with six goals and 53 points in 64 games during the regular season while mastering his quarterback role on the power play, but also finished as a minus player for the second time in his NHL career. Then he crushed it during the Stanley Cup playoffs with two goals and 18 points in 24 playoff games while averaging 22:21 of ice time, and more than held his own at both ends of the ice while staying healthy for the entire postseason run.

Krug withstood a crushing hit from Jake Muzzin in the first round against the Maple Leafs and then delivered his own iconic, punishing hit in the Stanley Cup Final.

He’s at the top of his game and in the prime of his career, and because of all that Krug is about to be in line for a massive raise next season. In other words, there’s never going to be a better time for the Bruins to sell higher in trade on their undrafted gem out of Michigan State.

The Bruins could conceivably get the top-6 winger they’ve been looking for in the last two seasons to pair with David Krejci, and they could also clear more than $5 million in cap space while still looking to sign Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo.

But the uncertainty of McAvoy and Carlo’s contract status and the lack of a clear PP QB replacement means the Bruins simply can’t deal their diminutive D-man. That’s essentially what Bruins President Cam Neely said when asked about it by NBC Sports Boston earlier this summer as his hockey club was in the midst of their offseason improvement program.

“[Krug] had a fantastic playoff…there’s no question,” said Neely. “It’s the delicate balance you have. You’ll have players on expiring contracts and we talk internally about what we’re going to do and how it’s all going to pan out.

“With Torey he’s one of the top PP defensemen in the league and our power play has been pretty damn good, and has won a lot of games for us. [Matt] Grzelcyk is coming along, but I don’t know if he sees the ice the way that Torey does. And Charlie just hasn’t shown that he’s a No. 1 power-play defenseman just yet. Maybe some of that is just opportunity that hasn’t been there yet because of the way Torey handles the first unit. Torey has been a big part of our success the past few years.”

Maybe McAvoy can be that No. 1 power-play guy and put up 50 plus points as well. But it wouldn’t be good business for the Bruins to deal away Krug until they are 100 percent sure of what they have in McAvoy. 

If the Bruins are expected to have another season close to last year’s runner-up role in the Stanley Cup Final and at the very least continue to keep up with the Atlantic Division joneses in Toronto and Tampa Bay, then they can’t trade Krug headed into this season. Perhaps that line of thinking will change next summer with Krug poised to cash in on a major contract at 29 years old, or even this coming trade deadline if things go southward for the Black and Gold.

There’s even a chance the Bruins will end up waving goodbye to Krug for nothing after this coming season while knowing full well they won’t be able to afford his next contract. In some ways it would be a waste of a prime asset when the Bruins could reap value right now for a player like Krug at the height of his puck-moving, point-producing abilities.

But the bottom line is this: Contending teams like the Bruins don’t deal off prime assets like Krug if they intend to remain contenders. The B’s most certainly intend to do just that and Krug will be a part of it barring anything crazily unforeseen over the next month.

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