Boston Bruins

Haggerty: Bruins' only choice is signing Pastrnak rather than trading him

Haggerty: Bruins' only choice is signing Pastrnak rather than trading him

At this point in the negotiations between David Pastrnak and the Bruins, it should be painstakingly clear that there will be no easy option for the Black and Gold. 

Months ago, the Bruins and Pastrnak’s camp discussed a deal in the neighborhood of six years and $36 million, as first reported by CSN New England, but that ship sailed when Connor McDavid, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Ryan Johansen and Leon Draisaitl all signed massive contracts as young, restricted free agents in a summer where elite young players saw their market go way, way up.

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So, the Bruins will need to step up and find some sort of middle ground on a long-term deal between $6 million per season and the $8.5 million per season that Draisaitl received, or they’ll need to somehow get Pastrnak’s camp to agree on a shorter bridge deal that comes with all kinds of risk down the line. Either option could include a Pastrnak holdout into training camp as both sides brace for the best deal possible. That’s something that would begin to impact this year’s team in a negative way.

The other, almost unthinkable, option: A trade of another talented young player. Don Sweeney and the Bruins have already stated they don’t want to trade the 21-year-old right winger, who is coming off a 34-goal, 70-points point season, and that goes in line with everything Sweeney and Cam Neely have said since Dougie Hamilton essentially forced them to trade him away to the Calgary Flames.

Neely and Sweeney have been consistent in their message of saying the Bruins are done “sprinkling their talent around the rest of the league”, and everyone is on the same page evaluating Pastrnak as a massive talent. So a trade involving Pastrnak doesn’t appear on the horizon and it really shouldn’t as long as the Black and Gold think the game-breaking, young right winger wants to remain in Boston.

What would a trade of Pastrnak look like if Sweeney and the Bruins did get to the point where the nuclear option was necessary?

Felger and Mazz earlier this week floated the scenario of a Pastrnak-for-Noah Hanifin trade with the Carolina Hurricanes making a lot of practical sense for the Bruins. Certainly, the Bruins are looking for a young left-shot defenseman who could be an heir apparent to 40-year-old Zdeno Chara and the jury is way out as to whether young prospect Jakub Zboril will ever be that guy. There’s also the fact that acquiring Hanifin would allow Sweeney to go full circle after he tried to trade up to nab the former Boston College D-man in the 2015 draft, in which the Bruins made three consecutive selections in the middle of the first round.

But let’s be honest here. The 20-year-old Hanifin hasn’t quite developed in Carolina as many projected when he was a lottery pick for the Hurricanes. He wasn’t even a top-four defenseman for most of the year in Carolina while falling short of 18 minutes of ice time per game, and he was a team-worst minus-19 in 81 games for the Hurricanes.

If the Bruins ever actually did trade Pastrnak, they’d need to get the same kind of elite, young player in return. It’s clear Hanifin isn’t anywhere close to the level of a player who busted out for 34 goals and 70 points last season. A deal that would make more sense for the Bruins would be another member of the 2015 draft class in Columbus, D-man Zach Werenski, but there’s no way the Blue Jackets would deal a player that looks like a Norris Trophy contender for the next 10 plus years. That’s the rub with potentially dealing Pastrnak and what puts the Black and Gold into such a difficult spot.

If the Bruins did indeed trade a young, star player for another team’s top young player, they are going to have to show the player they bring in the money just like they’re eventually going to have to pay Pastrnak. And another team isn’t going to trade away their young star if they’ve already got him locked up in a reasonable long-term contract.

The bottom line with No. 88 is that he’s the perfect fit for the speedier, skilled philosophy that the Bruins are emphasizing these days and that the B’s don’t have anything else in their organization that’s even close to his game-breaking, electric ability. 

The best possible solution for Sweeney remains figuring out a way to close a deal with Pastrnak on a contract that will keep him happy and productive in Boston, and in doing so avoiding another futile repeat of the Original Six organization’s handling of Phil Kessel, Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton over the past 10 years. 

Bjork faces 'good test' in first real audition with Bergeron and Marchand

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Bjork faces 'good test' in first real audition with Bergeron and Marchand

BRIGHTON, Mass – After a week of wondering what exactly 21-year-old Anders Bjork would look like skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, the former Notre Dame standout will get his chance in a prime forward spot tonight against a stacked Flyers lineup.

With Claude Giroux, Wayne Simmonds, Ivan Provorov, Radko Gudas and Jakub Voracek among others expected to play for the Flyers, it will be a good NHL-style test for Bjork when the Bruins and Flyers suit up for the exhibition game at TD Garden. 

The first-year pro already has a goal while playing in more of a third-line spot with Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey on Monday night, but tonight’s audition with two of the world’s best players is exactly the kind of thing any young hockey player dreams about.

“I’ve been learning a lot from their example, and a lot from them just talking to us young guys,” said Bjork, who had 21 goals and 52 points in 39 dominant games for the Fighting Irish last season. 

“One of the biggest things is just consistency, and bringing your best in every drill and every shift in a game. You see how intense they are and how much they want to win every puck battle.

“It was definitely helpful to play in a preseason game [already], and get that confidence going. I hope to build on that. It’s crazy being able to play with players of that caliber [of Bergeron and Marchand]. Obviously, they’re some of the best players in the world. I’m just trying to do my best and keep up with them. I try to help them in practice any way I can.”

On Thursday night, Bjork will officially go from the title of practice helper to showing how his skating speed, high-level offensive instincts and hockey smarts can assist Bergeron and Marchand in a game.

“You can see that he’s a dynamic player who is willing to attack,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, in an apt description of exactly what he’s looking for in his system on the ice.

On paper and in camp practices, it has looked like a comfortable fit between with one of the NHL’s best tandems and much more of a Tyler Seguin/Reilly Smith-type fit than a Brett Connolly third-wheel kind of winger.

It got to a point with Connolly on their wing that Bergeron and Marchand were basically playing two-man hockey. That’s perfectly understandable when you’ve got the kind of chemistry that those two have built while scoring hundreds of goals in six years together, but it’s undoubtedly preferable to get a right wing who can bury some of the prime scoring chances he’s sure to enjoy playing with two All-World forwards.

Bergeron doesn’t anticipate the need for much hand-holding with Bjork and that should absolutely be the case if he wants to be one of those B’s prospects who makes an immediate impact.

“It’s been going well in practices, but obviously you want to translate that over to games on the ice against real opponents,” said Bergeron. “It’s going to be a good test for us. Hopefully, we’re out there talking a lot and we see some things that we can build off of.

“I like it. It’s nice to be able to help as much as possible. Most of the time the guys that are on our wing don’t need that much help. But you’re always there if need be, and it’s always nice to share your experiences and what you see on the ice.”

Thus far in camp, the young forward prospects have been a dominant factor while scoring and looking like they belong. The degree of difficulty rises with each passing preseason game and it will be a great gauge for Bjork’s readiness in a premium spot when he takes the ice with Boston’s dynamic duo. 


 

Morning Skate: Kurz takes Sharks' coverage to The Athletic

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Morning Skate: Kurz takes Sharks' coverage to The Athletic

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while appreciating Jimmy Kimmel more with each passing day.

*Congrats to FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz on his move to The Athletic. Here he details why he’ll now be covering the Sharks for them.

*Joffrey Lupul has apologized for intimating that the Toronto Maple Leafs are “cheating” when it comes to player injuries.

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Loui Eriksson looking to bounce back with the Vancouver Canucks after a tough first year there. He’ll probably be better than he was last season, but one thing I learned about Eriksson during his time in Boston is that you’re not going to see his best unless there’s a reason for him to be at his best. Sitting in Vancouver in the middle of a comfortable, big money contract on a mediocre-to-bad hockey team isn’t exactly going to ratchet up the urgency.

*Tampa Bay defenseman prospect Mikhail Sergachev has “NHL written all over him” after a strong start to training camp with the Lightning. That’s music to management’s ears down there after they gave up Jonathan Drouin for him in the offseason.

*Nick Cotsonika chronicles the “big first step” that the NHL has made into China with an exhibition game there between the Kings and Canucks.

*This blog post pokes fun at Don LaGreca for a rant about geometry, but I agree with his overall point that the vast majority of people choose to like sports exactly because it doesn’t include these complex mathematical formulas that the fancy stats brigade is trying to introduce into the sports world with more and more force.