John-Michael Liles

Sweeney indicates Bruins will cut ties to all their unrestricted free agents

Sweeney indicates Bruins will cut ties to all their unrestricted free agents

BRIGHTON -- While not fully closing the door, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney indicated the B’s are moving on from all of their unrestricted free-agent veterans on the eve of free agency.

Dominic Moore, Drew Stafford and John-Michael Liles, who performed at varying levels last season, were all going to be hard-pressed to return to a Bruins club that’s skewing younger and more affordable in the salary-cap era. 

Sweeney said he’s been in touch with Stafford’s agent to keep that door slightly ajar, but it looks like Moore and Liles will definitely be playing elsewhere. In fact, Sweeney said he already told Liles that the veteran defenseman doesn't figure in Boston’s plans next year.  

“[We] haven’t closed out with either” Moore or Stafford, said Sweeney. “We haven’t had a lot of substantive talks with either player, and their parties. We will probably move in a different direction with both, but I’ve certainly had communication in particular with Staff’s group. I’m going to continue to do that today and tomorrow, and see where it goes. I’m just trying to balance out if we’re potentially adding somewhere else, whether or not we want to go anywhere else.”

Of the three, Moore made the most significant contribution last year. The 36-year-old played in all 82 games as the fourth-line center and finished with 11 goals and 25 points along with a plus-2 rating, and was a key asset in the areas of faceoffs and penalty killing. Liles, also 36, finished with five assists and a plus-1 rating in 36 games while also battling the after-effects of a pretty nasty concussion. He stepped up in the playoffs when injuries hit, but the B’s already have six D-men under contract while on the lookout for another top-four, left-shot blueliner via free agency or a trade. 

Stafford, 31, finished with four goals and eight points to go along with a plus-8 in 18 games with the Bruins following his trade from Winnipeg, and showed versatility as well as a penchant for scoring in big moments after arriving in Boston. It’s fair to say they got their money’s worth out of the fifth-round pick they sent to Winnipeg for Stafford, even if he doesn't return.

'No hard or fast decisions' made yet on Moore, Stafford or Liles


'No hard or fast decisions' made yet on Moore, Stafford or Liles

BOSTON – While the Bruins will certainly face some tough decisions with their own free agents as they continue to rebuild a roster based predominantly on speed, youth and skill sprinkled with some size and toughness, B’s general manager Don Sweeney didn’t close any doors while holding exit meetings with players on Wednesday.

“We didn’t make any of that – we went through exit interviews yesterday and really just tried to go through the whole season with guys and where they were at. Then we’ll sit down as a group and make some decisions,” said Sweeney, who also indicated the Bruins were leaning toward the 7-3-1 protection plan for the expansion draft. “We haven’t made any hard or fast decisions on any one individual as of right now. We have an idea for expansion and going forward, but haven’t made any concrete [decisions], didn’t deliver any of that news yesterday.”

Drew Stafford, John-Michael Liles and Dominic Moore are all veteran players set to be unrestricted free agents on July 1, and all three had varying degrees of success while finding their way in the lineup at the end of the season when it mattered most in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Stafford had four goals and eight points after arriving on NHL trade deadline day in a deal with the Winnipeg Jets, and kicked in a couple more goals in the six game series vs. Ottawa while bringing size, scoring and experience to the group up-front after arriving.

Liles didn’t play very much until the very end of the regular season when injuries began hitting Boston hard on the back and end, and had five assists and a plus-1 rating in 36 games before notching two assists in six playoff games.

Moore was the most effective of the three finishing with 11 goals and 25 points in 82 games largely on the fourth line, and was a big factor for the Bruins with his face-off ability, his penalty killing prowess and his skill to provide some secondary scoring.

All three voiced a desire to return to Boston, but also seemed to understand that the Bruins are moving ahead with youth as a major part of their reloading process.

It would obviously appear the restricted free agents David Pastrnak, Ryan Spooner (arbitration eligible), Noel Acciari, Tim Schaller, Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban and Joe Morrow will be of much greater concern for the Bruins, and undoubtedly looking for raises headed into next season.

McAvoy, wearing Ryder's old No. 73, practices for first time with Bruins

McAvoy, wearing Ryder's old No. 73, practices for first time with Bruins

BRIGHTON -- The Charlie McAvoy era appears to have begun in Boston. 

The 19-year-old Bruins defenseman signed his three-year entry level contract with the Bruins, was assigned No. 73 because his No. 7 was already spoken for by a gentleman named Phil Esposito, and practiced with the NHL club Monday morning at Warrior Ice Arena ahead of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Number 73 once belonged to Michael Ryder, and hopefully McAvoy won't inherit Ryder's tendency to disappear on the ice for weeks at a time during the regular. 

“Being here and skating with guys that you’ve looked up to all your life is pretty special,” said McAvoy, who was paired with John-Michael Lukes. “If I get a chance to play then I’m going to do what got me here and just to try to play a pretty simple game.

“The organization is going to decide what’s best for me and put me in the best position to succeed. I’m putting all of my trust in that process. It’s the next step and it’s obviously a higher level, but I have a feeling I’m going to be put in the best position to succeed.”

General manager Don Sweeney and interim coach Bruce Cassidy wouldn’t guarantee McAvoy will be in the lineup on Wednesday night for Game 1 in Ottawa, but it certainly feels like he’s in with both Torey Krug and Brandon Carlo “unlikely” to play in the Stanley Cup series opener. They feel McAvoy, one of the organization’s best puck-moving types, can step in and help.

“If that’s the decision [Cassidy] decides to make [with the lineup], we feel comfortable that we’ve seen him play recently and that with his skill set that he’d be able to handle it,” said Sweeney of McAvoy, who had two assists and a plus-3 in four AHL games with the Providence Bruins over the last couple of weeks. “Clearly with the injuries to Krug and Carlo we’ve looked to add to the depth of our group. There were several players in the conversation [about getting called up], but we think Charlie is ready to handle that. So we’ll see. 

“[Down in Providence] he did what he does best. He played well moving pucks and getting physical when he was supposed to. He was improving with his structure and playing without the puck, and those were the areas where we wanted him to understand that at the next level it was going to be more difficult. It’s a sharp learning curve, and it’s an even sharper curve that he’ll discover if he gets in Wednesday or Saturday, or whenever that is. But we feel very good about his skill set and what he brings to the table as a kid that seeks out the bigger moments.”

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings from Monday’s practice: 
K. Miller-C. Miller