A look at next year's Bruins squad

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A look at next year's Bruins squad

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON Boston has come to adore the 2011 edition of their Bruins hockey club, and why not?

They made Game 7 their personal jungle gym, and ended their hockey season by scarfing down chicken wings and chugging beer out of the Stanley Cup on the Boston waterfront after dusting off the Canucks in seven games.

Its no wonder why after the team electrified an old hockey town and it made some feel like theyd hopped into the DeLorean with Doc Brown and traveled back to 1972 in Boston.

But the Stanley Cup win was real for the Bruins, it was legit and it was hard-earned by a team thats passed through the fire of devastating playoff losses in previous years.

Those soul-crushing defeats made the Bruins a battle hardened bunch, and leave an extremely young nucleus set up to have a productive little run over the next five plus years.

The five-year window of competitiveness is predicated on health and good management, of course, but those continue to trend onward and upward.

Michael Ryder, Tomas Kaberle, Shane Hnidy and Mark Recchi stand as the only unrestricted free agents for the Bruins headed into Julys free agency period, and the 43-year-old Recchi has already announced his retirement.

Hnidy could possibly be back in a bit role of some kind at 36 years old after participating in only a handful of games at the end of the season after shoulder surgery, but the big questions surround both Ryder and Kaberle.

Either one could be back or neither could return to Boston next season and beyond.
Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli freely admitted the Bs wont be big players in free agency given a mature young roster and a farm system bursting with young, affordable talent ready to replace the older models.

Match that with the possibility of having close to 10 million in salary cap space if Ryder and Kaberle walk and the cap goes up by the 5 million its rumored to be rising to, and there is unprecedented flexibility in the future for the Bruins.

With young, cheaper alternatives like Jordan Caron and Steve Kampfer waiting in the wings, there is every chance both Ryder and Kaberle and their combined 8 million salary cap hit will be leaving Boston unless either veteran is willing to take super duper hometown discounts.

Ryder should be on one-year contracts going forward to keep the fire burning in the Newfoundland native, but he has proven he can elevate when Boston needs him in the playoffs. That is certainly worth something along with his tight relationship with Claude Julien.

But its not worth a long term commitment at anything more than 2-2.5 million when there are other young wingers pushing in the Bs system, and plenty of solid alternatives looking for employment.

Thats life in the salary cap world of the NHL, and its something Chiarelli has freely embraced.

Whats perhaps more troubling headed into next year is that not a single one of the last 11 Stanley Cup champs have gone on to repeat the following year, and a staggering six out of those 11 talented Cup teams couldnt make it out of the first round of the playoffs.

One of those teams, the Carolina Hurricanes, actually didnt even qualifying for the postseason the following year.

Weve got a pretty good group still intact thats at a very manageable age, said Chiarelli. I dont think were going to run into that risk of a Stanley Cup hangover, but you know...Im not the most objective on that since Im making the roster. But Im going to try and be.

Were going to continue to tweak the roster. Were not going to be huge players in free agency, but you know were going to look at it. Weve got areas where we want to look at, but youre not going to see us hitting a few homerunsor whats perceived as home runs this summer. Were just going to go into it with our eyes wide open and see where we end up. Were certainly not going to be big players.

One issue at the top of Chiarelli and Juliens summer punch list: making sure everybody is healthy and well-rested with only a couple of months to go before training camp starts all over again in September.

Nathan Horton has a shoulder injury and severe concussion that both need to heal fully, and there could be other bumps and bruises announced this weekend that will need rest, rehab and perhaps even surgery.

Marc Savard looms as the biggest question both in terms of the on-ice plan and the salary cap ramifications.

Savards 4 million plus salary cap hit would eat away some of the money gained by losing RyderKaberle if No. 91 does indeed attempt to play next year but there is every indication the concussed centers career might be done while still battling with memory loss and other debilitating effects of post-concussion syndrome.

With Savard potentially gone, it could very easily be a 1-2-3 center set of David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin that is young, fast, and bound to continue improving as they hit their late 20s with the experience of dozens of playoff games under their collective belts.

The Bruins have already envisioned sliding Rich Peverley into the right wing spot alongside Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the second line, and granting that duo another speedy, two-way option capable of scoring some goals and creating offense. Recchi brought an experienced, steady hand and a huge helping of toughness around the net, but that trio could really fly with Peverley and Marchand burning it up on the wings.

Speaking of flying, thats something the third line could have starting next year with Seguin and Kelly shifting between wing and center, and Caron potentially getting first crack next year on the left wing after serving as a Black Ace during the Cup run.

That leaves one very big question for Bostons smallest player this summer: how much is it going to cost to resign restricted free agent Brad Marchand after he potted 20 goals during the regular season and exploded for 11 more in the playoffs.

The Bs obviously arent going to let Bostons favorite troublemaking imp get away from their grip, but its not going to be cheap for a player that exceeded everyones expectations. Marchand could command something in the 2-3 million range, though it should be noted that the Bruins still hold leverage over the 23-year given his restricted free agency distinction.

Above and beyond Marchand, the Bruins should be looking for a quality defenseman that could step into the mix and given them the puck-moving blueliner with a little bit of toughness that Kaberle clearly was not. The former Leafs defenseman settled down in the Cup Final and even managed a few points for the Bruins, but he was also never trusted for more than 12-14 minutes per game in the postseason.

There is a ton of quality on the restricted free agency market when it comes to forward and defensemen, but there are a couple of problems. The premier players at both spots Shea Weber and Zach Parise both announced on Friday that theyd entered into salary arbitration with the Predators and Devils respectively. So no team can shanghai them with an offer sheet, and the Bruins wouldnt have been able to do that anyway.

With their conditional 2012 second round pick now gone to Toronto with the Bruins getting to the Cup Final, the Bs cant offer more than 4.7 million to a restricted free agent without recollecting their second rounder.

Still RFA names like Drew Doughty, Zach Bogosian and Keith Yandle are sitting out there as candidates for a creative offer sheet, but it would have to between 3.1-4.7 million for Boston to make an offer. Not out of the realm of possibility, and sources indicated that the Bruins had discussions with the Thrashers about Bogosian around the NHL trade deadline.

So thats a possibility to revisit as is Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa as he enters unrestricted free agency and was similarly bandied about by the Bruins during the Savard trade talks last summer. But its also entirely possible the Bruins pick up minor additions at wing and defenseman once the bargains hit at the end of the summer, and they see what their young players can do before hitting the trade market in earnest next spring.

It all depends on how well the Bruins can fight the Stanley Cup hangover, and how lucky they are with injuries and personnel this season. Chiarelli knows one thing: his group will have boat loads of character and resolve.

You just continue to pick away at it with the same thing: the performances we got from guys. Tim Thomas performance is historic, said Chiarelli reflecting on the group hes put together. You know the common theme in the team-building plan was character. I remember talking about being hard to play against and closing gaps.

Its character and at the end of the daythats what I wanted for us. My father was at Games Three and Four in Boston and after Game Four I said to him were going to win the cup. He said I think you will too, but why? and I said because theres too much resolve in the locker room. You could just feel it and at the end of the day thats what happened.

Luckily for the Bruins both the familiar faces and the character-based resolve will once again return to Boston next season along with the chance to be defending champs for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference. 

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

CHICAGO – With the 2017 NHL Draft officially wrapped up and the proverbial eve of NHL free agency upon us, there wasn’t anything to get particularly alarmed or excited about when it comes to the Bruins actions over the last few days.

The Bruins lost a potential-filled defenseman that might never actually realize any of it in Colin Miller, and they followed up the expansion draft subtraction with an average draft class where they addressed defense, goaltending and their depth up front. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the Bruins got anybody in the draft that they were particularly bowled over by, and the B’s lost a potential trade chip once they’d used their 18th overall pick in the first round to select smooth-skating defenseman Urho Vaakenainen.

MORE: NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

The sense at this address, though not confirmed by anybody inside either organization, is that the Bruins weren’t willing to trade a first-round pick as part of a package for Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, and would have preferred Jonas Brodin if they were going to give up that kind of asset. Don Sweeney confirmed that Boston’s first-round pick was in play, but stressed it was for “target specific” players that the Bruins coveted.

A deal was never worked out for one of those “target specific” players, so the Bruins continue to move on and hope that something breaks over the next few weeks.

“I was on record saying we’d be offering our first-round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to do it, so we went ahead with our own pick. I was target specific on a few players and there were other considerations being discussed.

“It’s an area we’d like to address and help our team currently. I’m not going to stop exploring areas where we can improve our club. It’s hard to tell [which way trade talks will go]. Maybe people will feel that picks from next year’s draft will be even better, or they like that pool of prospects a little bit better. It’s hard to tell [where trade discussions will go], to be perfectly honest.”

At least the Bruins were right on time with picking a Finnish player in the first round as a record six players from Finland were nabbed in the first round of the draft, and one would hope that means all will benefit from the hockey talent streaming out of that Scandinavian country right now. It will take years to determine how Vaakenainen, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and the other members of the 2017 draft class ultimately pan out, but it sure doesn’t feel like the same outpouring of talent as in 2015 when Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jake DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins draft picks officially entered the Black and Gold system.

B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted as much when discussing the entire draft class on Saturday afternoon at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins got good value, addressed organizational needs and felt good about the players they picked in each and every spot, but there isn’t going to be a Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak coming out of a really “meh” group of draft-eligible hockey players.

“Our first rounder is somebody we’re excited about. His skating is close to what we call a ‘5’ in our system. He’s a left-shot. You compare his skating to [Paul] Coffey at times, really mobile and transition defenseman,” said Bradley, who hadn’t run a draft board for the Bruins in roughly ten years while Wayne Smith and Keith Gretzky had been in charge of the Black and Gold’s scouting operations. “I think we addressed a lot of our needs. It wasn’t sexy, but I think we did well in addressing a lot of the organization’s needs.”  

So with the amateur draft and the expansion draft both in the rearview mirror, the Bruins must move on in the roster-building process while still facing a pair of big needs in top-6 left wing and top-4 left side defenseman. They may be able to nail down one of those needs by swinging a trade with their list of available assets including Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes, Jakub Zboril, Adam McQuaid and next year’s first-round pick.

A deal that would send a Spooner-led package elsewhere might be enough to land the big, skilled, young winger that the Bruins are currently in the market for, and provide top-6 insurance in case DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork all aren’t quite ready for full-time duty skating, passing and finishing off plays with David Krejci.

It might be that the Bruins have to begin thinking about free agency as a viable place if they want to land a solid, top-4 D-man for the next handful of years to pair with Charlie McAvoy. Karl Alzner headlines a list of players that would be a good fit for the Black and Gold, but they would absolutely have to overpay for a 28-year-old UFA that’s averaged 20:13 of ice time per game over the course of his 591 career games with the Washington Capitals. More affordable would be a young, free agent defenseman like Dmitry Kulikov, who is still extremely young as he comes off a rough year with the Buffalo Sabres after getting traded there from Florida. Or other potentially available left-shot free agent defenseman like Brendan Smith or Ron Hainsey could be stop-gap answers for the Bruins until the next crop of D-men in Jakob Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Vaakenainen, and others, are ready to step up just like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season.

The bottom line is that the Bruins did perfectly fine over draft weekend with no true idea until a few years have passed for these teenage prospects, but they need to aim higher than “perfectly fine” with their offseason if they want to be any better at the NHL level next season. A big move or two will be needed from the Bruins front office if the B’s are going to make the jump that everybody wants to see from them over the next couple of seasons.