Dominic Tiano: What’s Next for Bruins (Pt. 10) Key offseason dates to watch

(Editor’s note- Dominic Tiano gets full credit for writing this in-depth piece on key dates linked to the 2017 NHL offseason. It’s a reminder of how plugged in he is to the business and operations side of hockey. If you ever have a question about the CBA or free agency rules or pretty much anything that deals with the nuts and bolts of the NHL’s infrastructure, then he’s the guy to follow and engage with on Twitter. @dominictiano  – KL)

Of course, some of you may think it’s early, but decision time is fast approaching. In less than two weeks, Don Sweeney, Scott Bradley and company will be busy at the week-long NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo N.Y. where they make key decisions on the future of your Boston Bruins. Plenty of time will be spent watching players do some off-ice testing and they will also be conducting plenty of player interviews. It’s when a scout sees his year long work (sometimes longer) come to the forefront.

It’s also less than two weeks away that NHL teams will have to make decisions on prior year’s draft picks if they have not already signed an NHL contract. You will see the term bona fide offer used a lot, so let me explain a bona fide offer if I may.

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Dominc Tiano: What’s Next for the Bruins (Pt. 6)- the Goaltenders

(Editor’s note- Dominic Tiano returns with his view on the B’s and the situation between the pipes. Enjoy!- KL)

Tuukka Rask came up big for the B’s in Brooklyn (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

It’s obvious, and General Manager Don Sweeney has stated as much, that one area of concern the Boston Bruins should look to address during the offseason is the goaltending situation. There is no questioning that Tuukka Rask is the de facto number one. Barring a major trade, that position is set in stone. Although it’s been said that the Bruins were in discussions at the 2015 draft in a possible Rask deal, there will be no such discussion this summer.

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Bruins extend Marchand to team-friendly deal; drop 1st preseason game in SO

Brad_Marchand

Brad Marchand looks to be a Bruin for life after re-signing for eight more years effective in 2017 (Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

Monday was an exciting day for the Boston Bruins and their fans, as news of the long-awaited Brad Marchand extension popped in the morning to the tune of eight years and $49 million, with an average annual cap hit/value of $6.125 million. That comes in under projections, many of which had the former 2006 third-rounder exceeding $7M per season.

The term is perhaps the only sticking point; the new contract expires when Marchand is 37, and is a bit risky- but the reality is that the B’s not only have locked in their top goal scorer (37 goals) with their top player, Patrice Bergeron (who wears No. 37) in the prime years of his career, all spent in Boston since breaking in as a full-time NHLer in the 2010-11 season.

This is a big win for GM Don Sweeney, John Ferguson Jr. and the Bruins- after Marchand’s outstanding showing at the World Cup of Hockey in the past couple of weeks, there was buzz that his chemistry with Sidney Crosby might see the Pittsburgh Penguins come calling, but the reality is- the Bruins and Marchand had been working on this extension for weeks. It was something the B’s knew needed to get done and Sweeney set about doing it, breaking up each year with a blend of salary and signing bonuses. The signing bonus ($24M of the $49M total compensation package over the life of the contract) is interesting because it is guaranteed during a work stoppage where the standard base salary is not. It also allowed the team to break up Marchand’s compensation structure in that he is getting front-loaded pay to the tune of $8M per season in the first couple of years, and then it goes down to $7M, $6M and $5M at various points per before closing out at $4M at the end. Those numbers combine to lower the cap hit to a manageable AAV.

Bottom line: the B’s have both Marchand and Bergeron ($6.825 AAV), their top two forwards, under long-term contracts for just a combined $13M. When you compare that to other top duos around the league- mainly Chicago’s Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane combo of $10.5M AAVs for $21M total per annum- it’s pretty solid work by Boston’s front office.

Marchand has proven he’s a huge piece of this team’s fortunes, and he’s also grown up considerably after putting himself in difficult situations on and off the ice in his junior career and earlier in his Boston years. Last year, he was the MVP (in our view here) and with goal scoring at a premium, he’s shown that he’s absolutely worth the commitment. Boston needs to get more production (and health) out of David Krejci ($7.25M AAV), but Marchand and Bergeron represent some impressive savings that Sweeney can leverage elsewhere on the roster.

Marchand could no doubt have gotten more on the open market if he had held out, but the pride of Hammonds Plains, Nova Scotia has found a home in Boston and wanted to stay. He’s certainly not getting paid peanuts, but he earned this deal and he’s taken the kind of contract that will help his team be competitive, rather than force the B’s to break the bank.

Fans have every reason to be excited.

***

The first preseason game is in the books, and the B’s kids dropped a shootout contest to the Columbus Blue Jackets after Danton Heinen deflected a Brandon Carlo point shot home to tie the game 2-2 early in the 3rd period.

It’s probably apropos that these two combined on the tying goal because they’re the ones who are thought to have the best chance of making the Bruins out of camp of the new crew of rookies. Carlo is huge, mobile and played a poised and effective game last night that drew post-contest raves from Boston assistant and former Providence Bruins bench boss Butch Cassidy. Heinen is just so smart and you can see his hockey sense on display with the way he works the walls and the front of the net. He had a memorable assist against the New Jersey Devils rookies on a Jake DeBrusk goal by going in for the puck then backing out for the return pass and feeding it over to DeBrusk for the one-timer. That vision, anticipation and soft passing touch are why we’ve been pumping Heinen’s tires here at TSP and could very well land him an NHL job right away given Frank Vatrano’s recent foot surgery (which happened yesterday, btw- start the three-month recovery clock now).

Carlo is so big and smooth- he’s not going to come in and dominate as a major two-way threat, but he’s showing that he could earn a role with the big club right away and help to stabilize the right side, unless the coaches feel that top minutes in Providence takes priority. He’ll have the rest of the preseason to determine that decision, but so far so good.

Jimmy Hayes scored Boston’s other goal off a nice pass from DeBrusk- he’s been impressive at the rookie camp as well and is probably ticketed for Providence (but don’t be surprised to see him in Boston at some point).

Anton Khudobin started the game and gave up two goals in two periods, while Zane McIntyre played the third and 3-on-3 overtime periods before giving up Sam Gagner’s shootout goal to end it. He looked poised and effective, which is a needed shot for his confidence going into the new season.

Heinen

 

3 Amigos Podcast: the Free Agency edition

The 3 Amigos ride again!

Dom, Reed and I are back with our 3rd podcast together, recapping the 1st week of NHL free agency with a decided Boston bent, covering David Backes, Anton Khudobin, Riley Nash, Tim Schaller and Alex Grant to name a few. Dom will tell you why he thinks Khudobin for two years, beyond the solid addition of a proven backup, has key implications for Malcolm Subban not getting snapped up in the expansion draft.

We also issue a Danger, Will Robinson! alert to fans of the Edmonton Oilers as we look at the impacts of recent signing and additions to that club’s cap picture and we see some eerie parallels to how it all came unraveled in Boston.

We also discuss (about 55 minutes in) the Bruins and Don Sweeney’s still pending move to upgrade the NHL talent on defense- that kind of a move to shore up the club’s right-shooting depth chart has been curiously lacking. Dom mentions an interesting name with Ontario connections and Reed has had plenty of looks and shares his thoughts on why this particular player (an RFA) might be a stealth target of the Bruins via trade.

All in all, it’s a little over 90 minutes of hockey talk, unvarnished and calling it like we see it. Ole!

Bruins sign six: still looking for that D upgrade…

While waiting for Bruins GM Don Sweeney’s conference call to recap the David Backes signing and day 1 of NHL free agency, here are some more names to ponder. Some are old, some are new…some are…what’s that old saying about something blue again?

From the team’s release:

BOSTON, MA – Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney announced today, July 1, that the team has signed the following six players: defenseman Tommy Cross (one-year, two-way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level), goaltender Anton Khudobin (two-year contract through the 2017-18 season worth an average annual value of $1.2 million), defenseman John-Michael Liles (one-year contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $2 million), forward Riley Nash (two-year contract through the 2017-18 season worth an average annual value of $900,000), forward Tyler Randell (one-year, two-way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level) and forward Tim Schaller (one-year, two way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level)…

…Defenseman Tommy Cross signed a one-year, two-way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level.

Cross, 26, completed his fourth season in the Bruins organization in 2015-16, skating in 64 games with Providence and recording three goals and 20 assists for a career-high 23 points with 97 penalty minutes. Cross also saw his first NHL action in 2015-16, appearing in three games with Boston and registering his first career NHL point, an assist in the Bruins’ 5-3 win at Arizona on October 17, 2015. In his AHL career, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound defenseman has played in 217 games with Providence, amassing 11 goals and 52 assists for 63 points with 261 penalty minutes.

The Simsbury, Connecticut native was originally selected by the Bruins in the second round (35th overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Goaltender Anton Khudobin signed a two-year contract through the 2017-18 season worth an average annual value of $1.2 million.

Khudobin, 30, completed his seventh NHL season in 2015-16, appearing in nine games with the Anaheim Ducks and posting a 3-3-0 record with a 2.69 goals against average and .909 save percentage. The 5-foot-11, 203-pound netminder also played in 31 games with the San Diego Gulls of the AHL in 2015-16, recording a 19-8-3 record with a 2.46 goals against average and a .921 save percentage.

Khudobin was previously acquired by the Bruins in a trade with Minnesota in exchange for defenseman Jeff Penner and forward Mikko Lehtonen on February 28, 2011. Khudobin appeared in 15 games with Boston over the course of two seasons from 2011-13, posting a 10-4-1 record with a 2.13 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. He also played in 60 games with Providence, compiling a 30-23-4 record with a 2.48 goals against average and a .919 save percentage. In his seven-year NHL career with Anaheim, Carolina, Boston and Minnesota, Khudobin has appeared in 100 games, amassing a 44-39-0-8 record with five shutouts, a 2.42 goals against average and a .918 save percentage.

Representing Russia on the international stage, Khudobin has earned a gold medal at the 2014 World Championships as well as a silver medal at the 2015 World Championships.

The UST-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan native was originally selected by Minnesota in the seventh round (206th overall) of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles signed a one-year contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $2 million.

Liles, 36, skated in 17 games and notched six assists for the Bruins in 2015-16 after being acquired in a trade with Carolina in exchange for Anthony Camara, a 2016 third-round pick and a 2017 fifth-round pick on February 29, 2016. Prior to joining the Bruins, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound defenseman played in all 64 games for Carolina, recording six goals and nine assists for 15 points with 16 penalty minutes. In his 12-year NHL career with Boston, Carolina, Toronto and Colorado, Liles has skated in 800 games, amassing 87 goals and 278 assists for 365 points with 282 penalty minutes. In 40 career playoff games, he has notched four goals and seven assists for 11 points.

The Indianapolis, Indiana native was originally selected by Colorado in the fifth round (159th overall) of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft.

Forward Riley Nash signed a two-year contract through the 2017-18 season worth an average annual value of $900,000.

Nash, 27, completed his fifth NHL season with Carolina in 2015-16, appearing in 64 games and producing nine goals and 13 assists for 22 points. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound forward skated in 68 games with Carolina in 2014-15, notching eight goals and establishing career highs with 17 assists and 25 points. Nash set a career high in goals in 2013-14, when he potted 10 goals and added 14 assists while skating in a career-high 73 games. In his five-year NHL career, Nash has played in 242 games, amassing 31 goals and 50 assists for 81 points with 69 penalty minutes.

The Consort, Alberta, Canada native was originally selected by Edmonton in the first round (21st overall) of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.

Forward Tyler Randell signed a one-year, two-way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level.

Randell, 25, completed his first NHL season in 2015-16, skating in 27 games with Boston and producing six goals with 47 penalty minutes. He had goals in each of his first two NHL games played, becoming the first Bruin to do so since Dmitri Kvartalnov opened his NHL career with a five-game goal streak from Oct. 8-17, 1992. The 6-foot-1, 198-pound forward has also played in 172 games with Providence in the AHL from 2011-16, recording 17 goals and 16 assists for 33 points with 314 penalty minutes.

The Scarborough, Ontario, Canada native was originally selected by Boston in the sixth round (176th overall) of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Forward Tim Schaller signed a one-year, two way contract through the 2016-17 season worth an average annual value of $600,000 at the NHL level.

Schaller, 25, completed his second NHL season with Buffalo in 2015-16, producing one goal and two assists in 17 games. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound forward also played in 37 games with the Rochester Americans of the AHL in 2015-16, notching 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points with 48 penalty minutes.

In 2014-15, Schaller split time between Buffalo and Rochester. He played 65 games with Rochester, recording 15 goals and 28 assists with 116 penalty minutes, while also appearing in 18 games with Buffalo, scoring one goal and adding one assist. In his first professional season with Rochester in 2013-14, Schaller netted 11 goals and added seven assists in 72 games.

Prior to joining the Sabres organization, Schaller spent four years at Providence College from 2009-13, playing in 131 games and amassing 29 goals and 39 assists for 68 points with 161 penalty minutes.

The Merrimack, New Hampshire native was originally signed by Buffalo as a free agent on April 2, 2013.

Shots fired: Report- Eriksson to Vancouver, Khudobin back to B’s

Nick Kypreos reporting that Loui Eriksson has agreed to terms on a 6-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks. AAV to be determined, but have to think it will be around $5.5-6M range- too rich for the Bruins, in all honesty.

The Bruins now just have D Joe Morrow and winger Jimmy Hayes to show for the Tyler Seguin trade that happened just three years ago on July 4th. The criticism will only grow, as once again- it was the return, dummy. Seguin still has a lot of growing up to do, but man- the guy is a super star and the B’s failed to get commensurate value. Period. End of story. There’s no dodging that one, even if I still maintain that I understood the reasoning behind moving him.

What adds fuel to the fire is that the B’s could have flipped Eriksson to St Louis back in February for Kevin Shattenkirk, but neither team could make the money work. Based on connected sources to both teams, I am told that there is a sense of regret that the sides did not work harder to make it happen. The Bruins have now lost Eriksson to free agency for zip and the Blues may have lost David Backes to the open market as well.

Ultimately, though- unrestricted free agency represents a sense of insanity, where teams pay above market prices for older players who more often than not represent the law of diminishing returns. If the Bob McKenzie rumor that the Bruins are in heavy on Backes, (and hey- it’s Mr. McKenzie- no one is going to doubt it for a second) and they end up with him, this one is going to sting for Doug Armstrong, as dealing Shattenkirk to the B’s would have likely given him the cap space to get a deal done with his captain.

Backes makes perfect sense when you look at what the Bruins value- size, ability but leadership and character. They have to get bigger up the middle, and getting him would mean that Don Sweeney can flip other assets for help on defense.

Farewell, Loui- he was a good Bruin and had his best season in Boston at the right time. These guys should be given every chance to cash in, and Eriksson did just that. The B’s wanted him back, just not at the price Jim Benning was willing to pay. Now, we wait to see who the B’s bring in to shore up their non-playoff squad that is weaker than it was without Eriksson.

Also from Mssr. McKenzie- the Bruins are reportedly bringing back goalie Anton “Dobby” Khudobin– the diminutive but plucky netminder who played well for them as Tuukka Rask’s backup before signing with Carolina a few years back. He’s bounced around after failing to earn that elusive No. 1 spot elsewhere, and this is a fine (and cheap) signing to bring in veteran insurance, while Malcolm Subban may still be given every opportunity to earn the backup spot. Jeremy Smith is no doubt gone now that Borat is indeed back.

EDIT: He’s on a 2-year, $2.4 M deal which helps keep the costs down on Rask’s $7M hit- $1.2M for a capable backup is a little higher than ideal, but the B’s know what they are getting and he’s shown he can get the job done when called upon, despite the lack of ideal NHL size for the position.