Haggerty: Hartnell deal could provide blueprint for Lucic

747879.jpg

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.

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a week away, with plenty of movement expected despite the perpetual lack of sellers, and an expansion draft perhaps preventing some teams from taking on players they will then need to protect. 

The Bruins shouldn’t be much of a seller as long as they can continue their current good stretch for three more games before the March 1 deadline. The expansion draft shouldn’t be much of a scare either based on the players {Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Malcolm Subban) they might be in danger of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

With the Bruins currently outside of a playoff spot by virtue of the one game in hand held by the Florida Panthers (both teams have 66 points vying for the final wild-card spot), it would be no surprise if GM Don Sweeney wanted to be a buyer at the deadline for a Boston roster that could use a big top-six winger with finishing ability, a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and a backup goaltender should Anton Khudobin have any more struggles this season.

The Bruins and Avalanche had been talking steadily in recent weeks about a possible deal for 24-year-old left wing Gabriel Landeskog, but those discussions have hit a standstill with Sweeney refusing to part with either Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in the trade package. That's the 100 percent right move for a Bruins team that shouldn't start trading away blue chip D-man prospects. 

Landeskog has made sense for the Black and Gold because he’s signed long term with a reasonable $5.7 million cap hit, and because he’d theoretically be a good, power forward fit alongside David Krejci.

It’s that type of trade Sweeney and the Bruins are looking to make for a young player with term that will be part of the long-term solution in Boston. They aren’t looking for a repeat of last season where they shipped off good future assets in exchange for pedestrian rental players Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles and missed the playoffs anyway after dipping into the trade market.

In other words, Sweeney doesn’t sound all that keen in dipping heavily into the rental market, for a Patrick Eaves or a Dmitry Kulikov for instance, as he did a year ago.  

“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” said Sweeney at the time of the Claude Julien firing, prior to the current four-game winning streak. 

“But I think it dovetails with the fact that I’m not going to be short-sighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term. Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Some of that may change after a current four-game winning streak with a Bruins team that looks much more playoff-worthy than the aimless group that struggled through the first 55 games. But it would have to be the perfect rental at the right price for it to make sense for the Bruins this time around and chances are that might not materialize for a team just looking to hang in there until McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn are ready to contribute a couple of years down the road.

So, would people be okay if Sweeney and the Bruins stand pat at the trade deadline if they can’t swing a big hockey deal for a young player like Landeskog who would be part of the long-term plan? Is it acceptable to just let it ride with the current group that has suddenly shown a different gear under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and bet on the core group rising to the occasion like they didn’t the last couple of years under Julien?

The answer from this humble hockey writer is that Sweeney should pass on anything less than a home run deal for the Black and Gold. The worst thing the Bruins GM could do is get in the way of the momentum that’s naturally starting to roll with his team, or make another severe misstep with his NHL talent evaluation. Right now, draft and development seem to be his strengths, and he should lean into those and away from being a wheeler dealer with wiser, more experienced managers around the NHL looking to once again rob the Black and Gold blind.

So, there’s a chance the Bruins do very little at the deadline and, after thinking about it, the fickle fans should be perfectly okay with that as they watch a newly transformed hockey club. 

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready for the February heat wave headed our way.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a podcast I did on Tuesday talking Bruins with former Hartford Whalers great and current outstanding TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, who is also a great FOH (Friend of Haggs).

*Good piece on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster that has already gained plenty of internet plaudits for his great, and now legendary, Nick Bonino goal call in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

*It’s never too early to look at this summer’s crop of NHL draft-eligible players. Right, Kevin Allen?

*Apparently Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has his own rap song, so he’s got that going for him…which is nice.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has James Wisniewski trying to revive his NHL career after a short stint in the KHL.

*There’s a call for Nashville backup Juuse Saros to get more playing time between the pipes for the Predators.

*Larry Brooks brings his always interesting take to the Bruins situation in allowing Claude Julien to take the head gig in Montreal, and said it all came down to money. Big surprise there. I think there was also a concern from the B’s about having another PR nightmare on their hands if it was perceived that they stepped in and didn’t allow Julien to gain employment someplace else, regardless of what waited for him in the offseason. It also tells me that the Bruins aren’t afraid of Julien coaching their arch-rivals, which makes perfect sense since they just fired him.

*For something completely different: the image of Woody Harrelson in the Falcon cockpit is both jarring and super awesome.