Boston Bruins

Chara has strong case for Norris Trophy


Chara has strong case for Norris Trophy

By JoeHaggerty

BOSTON -- The compassion and earnest sentiment in Zdeno Charas eyes was undoubtedly genuine when he talked about it.

Chara knew that he had hurt Ryan Callahan badly during a typical hockey play that transpires numerous times each and every week in the NHL, but this time things didnt turn out harmlessly.

The Bruins defenseman had cocked his devastating 105.9 mph slap shot and connected on a one-time blast amid a scrambling comeback attempt against the New York Rangers in a game that was important at the time.

The puck screamed off Callahans leg in the high ankle area, and Chara knew immediately the gritty Rangers forward was in trouble given the awkward way Callahan blocked the shot at the last minute.

Callahan gamely attempted to skate it off, but it was learned the next day that a key cog in New Yorks spirited playoff crew was going to be lost with a broken bone in his leg.

Chara said he was aware of the injury following the game after talking with fellow Slovak Marian Gaborik at Madison Square Garden, and he wondered aloud what he could have possibly done to avoid harming a player he held in such high regard.

"Callahan is a top-six guy, yet he still plays with so much heart and grit, said Chara. You don't see many guys that throw their bodies around to block shots like that. He plays the game so hard. You have to respect a guy like that. I just hope that he's okay long term.

The Bs defenseman, who led all NHL blueliners with a resounding plus-33 this season and paced the Bruins with eight power-play goals courtesy of that booming slapper, wondered whether he should even let up on his heavier-than-Joba Chamberlain slap shot to avoid such injuries in the future.

That should tell everyone something about the turmoil Chara was feeling inside after the Max Pacioretty situation unfolded in Montreal.

Chara is a hulking intimidator, a force of hockey nature, and hes a natural villain straight out of central casting based on his long 6-foot-9 frame, the long, lethal hockey stick used to break up offensive plays all over the ice, and the I Must Break You Ivan Drago accent still thick despite the numerous languages hes learned over the years.

But Chara's never had it in his heart to be the hockey hit man he appears to be.

Thats why so many of his teammates current and former players who have shared ice with the Bs captain don't think the collision with Pacioretty into the Bell Centre stanchion was purposeful. The big defenseman plays a punishing physical game, but he also plays with a sense of fairness when it comes to easing up on vulnerable opponents . . . and hes played so well hes put himself in position for a second Norris Trophy.

It would also be the second trophy in the last three years amid a monstrous season for the Black Gold, and its easy to see why.

Its like half the game that hes on the ice. When they do get it in our zone against him the puck doesnt stay in there for very long, said Johnny Boychuk. Hes so big and strong and hes got that reach, and guys cant keep the puck away from him at all. It makes it a lot easier when hes on the ice.

When hes playing well everybody just follows him. Thats why hes the team leader here. What is he like plus-33 or something ridiculous like that? Thats something special and it tells you how much hes been taking care of things out there 5-on-5.

Chara put up three goals, nine assists and a plus-12 in the 15 games to close out the regular season following the Pacioretty hit, and managed to ignore threats of criminal investigations, CNN news crew interrogations and the normal monsters ball greeting that accompanies him at almost every Eastern Conference rink.

I was really impressed with the way he handled the Pacioretty situation and the way that he played said general manager Peter Chiarelli. His play didnt falter. Zee gets booed pretty much everywhere in the Northeast anyway, so I dont think thats obviously much of a change for him.

"This guy should be a strong Norris candidate. I think hes been very good this year and this incident may overshadow the fact that hes deserving of a candidacy for the Norris.

I think hes had a real strong year and his game is not sexy, but his game is really, really effective. Hes shown this year that he can play at that level and continues to play at that level. But Im really impressed with the way he finished off after that incident.

Thats why it would be a shame if the 9-1-1 shenanigans and an Air Canada flap centered around the CharaPacioretty brouhaha could take anything away from his candidacy, and that the New YorkNew Jersey boycott of award voting a byproduct of the Chris Botta credential issue with the Islanders could affect a worthy Eastern Conference player.

The offensive numbers werent eye-popping with 14 goals and 30 assists in 81 games for Chara, but they were certainly upper echelon among defensemen while setting the standard for a two-way defender capable of doing everything on the ice.

Offensive blueliners like Lubomir Visnovsky and Keith Yandle posted big offensive numbers this season and will get some consideration, but there is also the sense those particular players are never on the ice against the other teams biggest offensive weapons.

That bears out in the penalty kill ice time for each potential Norris trophy candidate as both Chara (2:48 of PK ice time per game), Nik Lidstrom (2:40 of PK ice time per game) and Shea Weber (2:08 of PK ice time per game) were anywhere near the top of penalty-killing defensemen. Those three defensemen live up to the positions true name, and provide the kind of team value that makes blueliners the most valuable commodity on a teams roster.

People dont realize that he plays against top lines, or maybe they do realize. But when you look at his stats and you look at his plusminus, how can you not say that he should be recognized, said Claude Julien of Charas Norris candidacy. Hes not just an offensive defenseman that plays and gets points on the power play and goes up against third and fourth lines all night long. He plays against top players all night long, and his numbers show you that hes winning a lot of those battles.

Perhaps hell win another one of those battles with the Norris Trophy race, but he embarks on perhaps the biggest campaign of his career when his Bruins open up against the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs Thursday night.

Great pressure makes for great players, and everyone will find out if thats true over the next two weeks.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bean: Bruins putting themselves at risk of Pastrnak offer sheet

Bean: Bruins putting themselves at risk of Pastrnak offer sheet

I hate articles about offer sheets. Most of them are idiotic. This puts me in a pickle, as I am an idiot. 

Yet here we are, nearly two months into David Pastrnak’s restricted free agency. Don Sweeney and J.P. Barry are in their latest blinking contest (Barry represents Dougie Hamilton and Loui Eriksson, among other Bruins to depart in recent years) and one of the best young right wings in the world doesn’t have his second contract. As of late Sunday evening, the sides were still not close to an agreement. 


Despite my hatred of offer sheet chatter, the Bruins, who traded Hamilton out of fear of an offer sheet before he could even be offer-sheeted, are actually vulnerable in this case. It isn't likely because it never is, but if I were another team, I’d be thinking about it. 

First, an explanation of why I hate talk of offer sheets: 

Because. Offer sheets. Don’t. Freaking. Happen. 

Why don’t they happen? Because they’re harmful to both the team that loses the player and to the team that does the poaching. And to the other 29 teams, for that matter. 

Teams don’t offer-sheet a player unless they’re nearly positive their offer won’t be matched. If they sign a player to an above-market deal, it creates inflation regardless of who gets the player, as that player’s contract becomes a comp for similar players across the league. In other words, if you sign an 18-goal scorer for $6 million a year because you really want him, have fun trying to sign anybody who matches or exceeds that production in future seasons.

There’s also the stuff about GMs not wanting to piss each other off, but it’s mainly the inflation thing because, as in life, everything comes down to money. 

There hasn’t been an offer sheet since the Flames’ idiotic attempt at signing (and then immediately losing because they didn’t understand the CBA) Ryan O’Reilly in 2013. The Flyers signed Shea Weber to a 14-year offer sheet in 2012, but that was matched by Nashville.

Another reason why I hate articles about offer sheets: Because its authors (definitely myself included once upon a time) often don’t understand RFA compensation. The draft picks awarded to victimized teams are done based not on the actual cap hit/average annual value of the deal, but of the deal’s total money divided by years or five, whichever is smallest. 

So when you see charts such as this one … 

… it doesn’t mean that you can sign a player to a seven-year, $7.8 million deal and only have to surrender a first, a second and a third. That contract would contain $54.6 million in total dollars, and since five is fewer than seven, the total money would be divided by five. That would make the number $10.9 million, which would cost a team four first-round picks. 

If you understood all that, I offer both congratulations and my apologies, but here’s where the part about the Bruins being vulnerable comes in: A longer deal would carry a higher cap hit because it buys out years of free agency; a shorter deal would carry a lower cap hit because it gets Pastrnak to his next big raise even sooner. If a team signs Pastrnak to an offer sheet that splits the difference, the Bruins get the worst of both worlds. 

One potential offer sheet that would likely frustrate the hell out of the B’s: A five-year deal at $7.8 million per. 

That contract would screw the Bruins whether they match or not. If they walk away, they get just a first, second and third-round pick for a goal-scorer who drives goalies to drink but is barely old enough to legally drink himself. 

Matching would stink as well, as that cap hit would not suit the term well. The Oilers gave Leon Draisaitl $8.5 million a year on his recently signed contract, but they did so because they were able to lock him up for eight years. That means that the Oilers will have their star forward signed through his age 30 season, buying out years of unrestricted free agency without having to give him another raise during his prime. 

A five-year deal would mean Pastrnak would be an unrestricted free agent at his deal’s conclusion. The Bruins would have paid the high cap hit that comes with a seven-or-eight-year deal, only to have to give him a raise again -- or lose him for nothing -- when he’s 26. If Pastrnak improves upon (or even maintains) what he was last season and the cap keeps going up, the AAV on his third contract in such a scenario could surpass $10 million. Plus, a seven or eight-year deal at that point would mean signing him into his mid-30s and risking diminishing returns. A five-year, $39 million contract right now would carry all the bad of the Draisaitl deal (the AAV) without enough of the good (the years). 

So is there actually a team that could put Sweeney and Co. in such a tight spot? The answer is an emphatic “yeah, kind of.”

Teams that have the picks required to sign Pastrnak to such a contract and the cap space to fit such a deal this coming season are the Blue Jackets, Hurricanes, Canadiens, Jets, Avalanche and Devils. You need your original picks in order to sign a player to an offer sheet.

The NHL allows teams to go over the salary cap by 10 percent of the upper limit in the offseason (so $7.5 million this summer), meaning a number of additional teams could theoretically sign Pastrnak to that deal and figure out their cap situation later. Those teams are the Islanders, Rangers, Lightning, Penguins, Ducks, Flyers, Predators, Kings and Canucks. 

Where the Bruins are fortunate is the fact that teams that would figure to be logical suitors for Pastrnak -- ones like the Sabres and the Flames -- don’t have the draft picks. In the Flames’ case, they’d need to reacquire their first and second-round picks from the Islanders to even send the papers Pastrnak’s way. 

Clearly, the fear of an offer sheet hasn’t scared the Bruins with Pastrnak the way it did with Hamilton. If it had, he’d either be signed or traded by now. With teams mostly done with their offseasons, the Bruins may not be likely to see their 21-year-old scorer offer-sheeted, but they’re certainly leaving themselves exposed. With over $10 million in cap space, the Bruins could afford to match any offer to Pastrnak, but they shouldn't want another team dictating what kind of contract they give to one of their best players. 


Morning Skate: Plenty of capable players on free agent market


Morning Skate: Plenty of capable players on free agent market

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while spending some time in the great state of Maine. 


*You wanted to see the video and here it is: Dandy Don Cherry singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” at Wrigley Field in a time-honored tradition. 


*There are still some very notable names available on the free agent market looking for jobs very late into the summertime. I predict PTO’s for a lot of these players, who will then have to sing for their supper if they want NHL jobs this season. It’s amazing how the salary cap has begun squeezing out veteran players that still have game. 


*An interesting look at the “stick to sports” phenomenon on social media, and a plea that athletes continue to stay vocal on the issues. For people to ignorantly think anybody in sports doesn’t deserve to have an opinion is downright un-American. Everybody has a say in this country. 


*Best of luck to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Dave Goucher as he heads to Vegas to do TV play-by-play for the Golden Knights. What a team he will make with former Bruins D-man Shane Hnidy in an announcing tandem with some very strong Boston connections. Big shoes to fill on the radio in replacing Goucher's play-by-play call for B's broadcasts, so here's hoping guys that have paid their dues around here like Ryan Johnston and Adam Kaufman get some strong consideration. 


*Injuries could be thrusting No. 1 overall pick Nico Hischier into a very important role for the New Jersey Devils this season. 


*For something completely different: Who would have ever thought that Andrew Dice Clay would continue to be somewhat relevant all these years later.