Haggerty: Hartnell deal could provide blueprint for Lucic

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Haggerty: Hartnell deal could provide blueprint for Lucic

There will be plenty of good, old-fashioned contract-watchin by the Bruins this season. Its crucial that general manager Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the front office track the potential free agent market under new CBA conditions since a bevy of its own players are entering some level of free agency after this year is over.

Labor talks between the NHL and the NHLPA could go in a few different directions, but lets assume the new CBA is something similar to the current agreement that expires on Sept. 15, and the contracts of Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask and Nathan Horton all expire at the same time.

Under those circumstances, the six-year, 28.5 million contract agreed to by Scott Hartnell and the Philadelphia Flyers might be of particular interest to Lucic and the Bs brass. Hartnell agreed to long-term, guaranteed money on Monday and a limited no-trade clause to remain in Philly on the heels of first NHL All-Star season at the age of 30 years old.

Hes a big, active body with deceptive offensive abilities, and always seems to be in the middle of everything for the Flyers.

Lucic is six years younger and a restricted free agent rather than a player headed for unrestricted free agency like Hartnell would have been after this season. So a side-by-side comparison between Lucic and Hartnell is out with each player in a different spot bargaining-wise under the current CBA parameters. But the six-year, 27 million handed out to Montreal forward Max Pacioretty certainly would be a fair comparable to Lucic given his current contractual situation and a bar for the bare minimum he could expect in his next deal with Boston.

Both Lucic and Hartnell play a hybrid power forward game that mixes offensive production with varying degrees of nastiness. Lucic is a more fearsome fighter dealing in intimidation while Hartnell is more of rabble-rousing aggravator, but the Philly forward is also coming off a 37-goal, 67-point campaign that registers as his best NHL season.

Hartnell has averaged 25 goals a year over the last seven years in the NHL after originally being the No. 6 overall pick in the 2000 draft. He is also clearly one of the leaders in the Philadelphia dressing room.
Theres more of a long term body of work for Hartnell while Lucic is still growing into the vast potential within his 6-foot-3, 235-pound frame. But Lucic has also averaged 28 goals and 61.5 points over the last two seasons and is due for a healthy raise over the 4.083 million annual salary hes made over the last three seasons.

Its conceivable that a contract similar to Hartnells 28.5 million and 4.75 million cap hit would be in the cards for Lucic if he wanted to sign something that would assure hed be a member of the Bruins for the long haul. In all likelihood Lucic will agree to a short-term contract extension for two or three years as a restricted free agent and bank on a few more banner seasons before commanding a large extension for a higher average annual value.
But perhaps this is the perfect time for both the Bruins and Lucic to meet in the middle with something in the neighborhood of the six years and 28.5 million before this season is over.

An unrestricted Lucic on the free agent market would easily command upwards of 5 million per season in average annual value given his body of hard work, his solid reputation and the unique skills he brings to the table as he enters his prime years.

But somewhere along the line some of the current core of Bruins players as others like Patrice Bergeron and Johnny Boychuk have done before them will have to take a Black and Gold discount if they hope to keep their nucleus together.

A contract similar to Hartnells deal is a way Lucic could guarantee that his future remains in his second home city of Boston when it appears that change might be inevitable at the end of this upcoming year no matter what happens. Its a way that a Bruins team bumping up against the salary cap could keep the band together well beyond this upcoming season.

Its something to think about as anonymous NHL agents hammer Hartnell for doing what was best for him, and taking less money to remain in Philly presumably for the rest of his career in a spot he enjoys.

Thats something there really is no price tag for, after all.

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rangers in trouble?

Wednesday, Dec. 7: Rangers in trouble?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while ready for the Chris Sale era to begin with the Red Sox in a 1975 throwback uniform at Fenway’s opening day.

*Larry Brooks says that the New York Rangers are in “deep trouble” despite all of the goals that they’re scoring, and here’s why.

*The New York Islanders are playing with fire when it comes to John Tavares potentially leaving if they can’t find a running mate for him.

*Good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Marc Spector about Kris Russell defying the analytical critics with his work for the Edmonton Oilers.

*Scary scene with the New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks where Taylor Hall knocked out Philip Larsen with a hit, and then touched a brawl where the unconscious Larsen was kicked in the head a couple of times.

*Here’s some very good news about former B’s forward Craig Cunningham, who has begun communicating with his AHL teammates through Facetime calls and is alert, joking and sounding like somebody that’s starting to make a slow recovery from whatever mysterious thing caused him to collapse prior to a Roadrunners game.

*Flyers D-man Shayne Gostisbehere has made such a splash with the Broad Street Bullies that he’s got a “Ghost Bear” beer named after him.

*For something completely different: The first trailer for "Spider Man: Homecoming" is going to be shown during Jimmy Kimmel, and it’s looking pretty cool in this snippet.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.