Bruins had green light, didn't feel big move necessary

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Bruins had green light, didn't feel big move necessary

WILMINGTON, Mass. While there have been close to 50 free agent signings on the first day of NHL free agency, the two big dogs (Ryan Suter and Zach Parise) are still sitting on the open market. There were phone conversations and official offers made for the first time, and it appears that things are beginning to materialize for both players.

But the Bruins dont figure to be in on either of those marquee players, and the free agent market certainly wasnt held up waiting for either of those guys to sign.

There are lots of high-end guys and they can take their time. That seems to be what theyre doing. There are lots of medium-level guys signing today, said Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli.

In gauging the way NHL free agent frenzy day played out on a lazy Sunday in the summertime with a noon-time start, Chiarelli was asked if things might be better served by a staggered beginning preferred by the NBA. The NBA has an official start to free agency, but then staggers the first day players can sign for a couple of weeks to allow GMs to court their targeted players.

Bruins taking a chance on Clarke in the fifth round

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Bruins taking a chance on Clarke in the fifth round

The Lone Star Brahmas aren’t exactly a household name in the junior hockey world, but NAHL team did produce a player worth of a Bruins draft pick last weekend. A 20-year-old defenseman named Cameron Clarke showed his offensive skills and playmaking en route to nine goals and 50 points in 59 games last season for the Brahmas, and continued to add strength to a wiry 6-foot-1, 170-pound frame that still needs to be developed as he heads off to Ferris State University.

The Tecumseh, Michigan native was floored at the prospect of being drafted by the Bruins after he was selected in the fifth round (136th overall) at last weekend’s draft in Buffalo, and excited to see some results for all of his hard work over the last few years.

“It’s a feeling like no other. I was just sitting in there with my family and when it happened, it was just pure excitement, and to go to Boston, they’re an Original Six organization,” said Clarke, who described himself as a good-skating defenseman and a good puck-mover that models his game after Capitals D-man John Carlson. “It’s just — it’s something you dream of growing up and it’s a great feeling.

“I talked to Mr. Sullivan [Bruins Scout Keith Sullivan] I believe it was in December and I knew that they had come watch me play a couple of times so I knew that they were interested. I knew that they were a team that could be a possibility that could be picking me and I’ve always watched hockey and my dad used to be a Bruins fan growing up when he was little [he grew up in Ottawa and was a big Bobby Orr fan], so it’s a great feeling. Boston’s an Original Six franchise. It’s very special, for sure.”

Clarke will obviously take a big step in his development headed to the Ferris State hockey program next season, and the Bruins hope to continue seeing improvements in the size and strength department during his college hockey years.

“We knew there were teams that were there [ready to take him], and our guys really liked him,” said Bruins Director of Scouting Keith Gretzky. “He’s gained a lot of weight in a year-and-a-half, but we know he’s going to take some time. We’re good with that. Our guys really liked him, so we took him.”

The Clarke pick is a pretty low risk/high reward selection that was off the beaten path of the normal OHL/European junior league paths, but it remains to be seen if it will pay dividends later for selecting the over-age player. 

Bruins may be getting cold feet on Trouba offer sheet

Bruins may be getting cold feet on Trouba offer sheet

The Bruins are still mulling the idea of a massive offer sheet for Winnipeg Jets restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba, but they’re having second, and third thoughts about the bold move according to a league source.

While a seven year, $49 million offer sheet could net them the 22-year-old Trouba with a high ceiling as a possible No. 1 defenseman, there would also be massive costs in assets, and in the kind of major stink it would cause around the league. The Bruins would have a manageable $7 million cap hit for Trouba if they did indeed fire off seven year, $49 million offer sheet to the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder on Friday morning, and they would potentially fill in a big piece of their blue line puzzle for years to come.

But the Black and Gold would also surrender four first round picks given that they don’t have the draft picks to offer anything less than a contract with an AAV (Average Annual Value) of $9.3 million after shortsighted trades sent their 2017 second round pick (for Lee Stempniak) and 2017 third round pick (for Zac Rinaldo) to other teams. Wrinkles within the offer sheet language in the CBA would turn a seven year, $49 million contract into a $9.8 AAV for draft pick compensation purposes, but that doesn’t make it any easier for the Black and Gold.

Perhaps the one thing Bruins GM Don Sweeney didn’t anticipate, however, is the bad blood that poaching an RFA would create across a league where all 30 GMs apparently play by the unwritten NHL Commandment that “thou dost not offer sheet to anybody.”

If the Bruins indeed followed through with the massive offer sheet for a player that finished with six goals and 21 points last season, then the Bruins would live in fear that it could be open season on their own restricted free agents for the foreseeable future. There’s little doubt Winnipeg, and perhaps others, would come sniffing around 20-year-old right wing David Pastrnak when his contract is up next summer, and so on down the line with Boston’s next wave of talented young players coming through the pipeline.

There’s also the simple fact that opinions are very mixed on the ultimate NHL ceiling for Trouba given the possible investment involved. One Western Conference scout thought he was on track to become a No. 1 defenseman, and could be worth all of the assets involved in preparing an offer for a player like Trouba.

“He has elite skating, and has the shot to go with it. He’s built for the new age of mobile defenders that dominate through the neutral zone,” said the scout. “[The physicality] is there, but guys don’t punish anymore because you can push and pin. They defend with their sticks and feet. Upon zone entry is when they lay the body, and he checks all those boxes.”

One other NHL executive wasn’t so sure, and harbored some doubts about whether Trouba could be “The Man” for a blueline crew that had Stanley Cup aspirations.

“The physical tools alone allow him to be big minute guy, but his overall hockey sense could prevent him from being a top D-man,” said the exec.

That seems to be the knock on Trouba: he turns the puck over under pressure, and his decision-making while moving the puck hasn’t really improved from a rookie year as a 19-year-old where he posted 10 goals and 29 points. But the tools, the impressive body of work since entering the NHL as a teenager and the cachet of being a lottery pick keep all NHL observers ever-optimistic that a young player like Trouba will eventually figure it out.

There’s also the very real scenario that the Bruins don’t have the trade assets to get a young defenseman like Trouba given that the Edmonton Oilers had to surrender Taylor Hall in a one-for-one deal to get Adam Larsson from the New Jersey Devils. They have to hope they can build up some kind of trade package that could net them Kevin Shattenkirk or Cam Fowler, or hope that Jason Demers somehow picks Boston as his free agent destination.

That’s barring the offer sheet from the Bruins for Trouba, which is still being discussed by the Bruins even as it becomes less of a possibility for Don Sweeney heading into the July 1 opening of the free agent market. That’s because throwing an offer sheet at Trouba might be the only way the Bruins can land a young, potential No. 1 defenseman this summer that can give them the building block to compete for the next decade, and that’s something for Sweeney, Neely and everybody else on Causeway Street to seriously debate over the next two days.