By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
It’s pretty hard to think of any general manager across the NHL that has had a better week than the Bruins Don Sweeney. The reigning GM of the year has found a way to bring both Charlie McAvoy (3 years, $14.7 million) and Brandon Carlo (2 years, $5.7 million) back into the fold before training camp began in earnest this week.
And while at first blush these seem like team friendly deals for the duo that is seen as the future of the Boston defense, both players will play the final year of their deals at a contract number – McAvoy at $7.3M and Carlo at $3.5M – that will ensure they will be inline for a considerable bump in pay when the bridge deals expire.
Given that fact, it is hard to argue that both the club and the players are winners for the time being, something that rarely happens in professional sports today.
Just as the soon to be drowning in top-heavy debt Toronto Maple Leafs who no doubt will suffer the same fate as the Chicago Blackhawks did when they sold their salary cap souls to Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews prior to the 2015-16 season.
Of course, the Hawks have three Stanley Cup Championships to reminisce about when they swallow hard at the $84 million that is owed to the over 30 fading stars over the next four seasons. Whereas the Leafs likely only have this daily reminder of their futility continuing to grow from the days when black and white broadcasts were still considered high tech.
— Since Leafs Last Cup (@LeafsIastCup) September 18, 2019
Nevertheless, as Sweeney himself acknowledged earlier this week regarding his first draft in June of 2015, the “steep learning curve” that he and his staff faced during his maiden voyage at the helm of the Black and Gold when it came to trying to repopulate a farm system that was in utter decay because of the lack of attention it was paid to by his predecessor, Peter Chiarelli.
Yet, despite the optimism of the organization and perhaps so more the fanbase, the fact is the prospects that haven’t found a way onto the Bruins roster over the last few years, aren’t looked upon with much regard by those who don’t call New England home.
In a piece that ran on Wednesday on ESPN’s NHL Insider, the website’s Chris Peters ranked the top 100 prospects as seen by the 4-letter network that treats the league as a 4-letter word with its coverage of the most exciting professional sport currently being played in North America.
And – spoiler alert – he didn’t take a particularly positive view when it comes to the potential players who might pull on a Spoked-B sweater in the next couple of years.
Only 20 year-old Jack Studnicka – who most prognosticators envision as a bottom six forward in the NHL – in on the list at the underwhelming spot of 61st overall.
That’s not exactly exciting stuff for a team that lost in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals at home against a huge underdog in the St. Louis Blues largely due to the lack of scoring from a first line that was fried at the end, and is still seeking a top six forward to play along side David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk.
The over-hyped Jacob Forsbacka-Carlsson who played with McAvoy at Boston University who is currently plying his trade in his native Sweden and the equally overvalued Anders Bjork – who is seemingly just a sneeze away from another year long DL stint – is now a pipedream when it comes to the impact player the Bruins enticed to turn pro instead of attending Notre Dame for his senior year at the spring of 2017.
There is no arguing that Sweeney has outperformed expectations since he was seemingly pantsed at the ’15 draft. But the heaviest lifting as an NHL executive may come this season. The delicate balance between aging veterans, upcoming talent and the fillers in between may be the most difficult challenge that faces him with the ’19-20 campaign fast approaching.
And although he likely won’t admit it publicly, he knows that the Stanley Cup Championship window that he somehow shoehorned open last season is likely to come crashing down unless an unlikely prospect is his pretty much mediocre system, steps up to become a player than no one has seen coming.