The Patriots are going to be without Aaron Hernandez for a while and replacing his production will be both a challenge and a necessity.
Perhaps the most difficult challenge will come Sunday night in Baltimore against a Ravens team that has become a recent rival, and a team that always gives the Patriots all they can handle.
Beyond finding a Hernandez replacement, the Patriots will need to run the ball effectively to keep the aggressive Baltimore defense at bay and give players like Brandon Lloyd an opportunity to get down the field.
Things didn’t look good for right winger Brett Connolly returning to the Bruins after they opted not to tender him a qualifying offer a couple of days ago. Now it appears the former No. 6 overall pick will be headed toward unrestricted free agency.
A league source told CSNNE.com on Friday morning that “it was fairly certain” Connolly wouldn’t be re-signing with Boston leading up to July 1 and that the right wing would be getting a fresh start someplace else next season.
The B’s had maintained some level of public interest in keeping Connolly, 24, after relinquishing his RFA rights, but there hasn’t been much in the way of substantive communication between the two sides over the last few days.
Connolly scored nine goals and 25 points with a minus-1 in 71 games for the Black and Gold last season in a disappointing offensive season playing on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
He went long stretches without scoring goals or posting points last season and never played like the 6-foot-2, 193-pound power forward-type he was projected to be coming out of junior hockey.
It was a step back from a decent season as a Tampa Bay Lightning third liner in 2014-15, and a clear bummer after they’d shipped a pair of second round picks to the Bolts in exchange for the former lottery pick.
With Connolly now headed for free agency with zero assets coming back to the Bruins in exchange for him, chalk this up as another total loss for the Bruins at a trade deadline where they’ve really damaged their long term organizational prospects over the past couple of years.
It apparently hasn't taken long for the Bruins to replace Loui Eriksson.
Moments after word trickled out that Ericksson signed with the Canucks for a deal believed to be worth $36 million over six years, Bob McKenzie of TSN reported the Bruins signed ex-Blue center David Backes to a five-year contract. In addition, McKenzie also reported that Boston has re-signed defenseman John-Michael Liles.
More to come . . .