By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Correspondent
With training camp only days away, the buzz – mostly coming from the team itself – surrounding the Bruins first round David Pastrnak continues to grow. Almost every local sports reporting outlet has had one version of the story or another, the latest coming from the Boston Globe’s Amalie Benjamin today, in which she got the general manager and assistant general manager to gush about the teenager’s upside.
The heart of the article centers around the Bruins expectations – which are obviously high – and what they have seen so far from his rookie camp appearance in the summer and what he has shown in the rookie games/practices taking place now in Tennessee.
By the frequency of the theme and the very optimistic tone, it is obvious the Bruins’ brass is trying to send a message to someone.
They wanted to see him go through the steps. Clearly, he passed the first.
“I think he brought a higher level of skill than other players we had identified, not just in our camp, but just overall,” Sweeney said. “I think he did things at a higher speed, made lots of plays, and did things with pace, so that was the progression piece that you’re hoping for — he’s not overwhelmed with any situation.”
But wait, there’s that caution again.
Said Chiarelli: “He’s obviously a skill and speed package. Take it slowly. We really don’t want to put him in a high-level spot quite yet. Let’s see how he does at rookie camp, the national rookie tournament. And if he lights it up, maybe he gets up into the upper lines to start.
From “take it slowly” to getting “into the upper lines to start” training camp is a pretty accelerated growth projection, is it not? And while those who have seen him practice and now play all say his talent level is approaching the NHL level, he still has yet to get hit by anyone who has skated a shift in the league, never mind someone the likes of a Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg or Zdeno Chara.
Is it possible that Peter Chiarelli and the rest of the Bruins front office are trying to send a message to the other 29 general managers in the league that they are not a desperate for help up front to fill the hole created by Jarome Iginla’s dash for the cash to Colorado as the season quickly approaches?
Look, Chiarelli is in a difficult spot and as much as he tries to talk up the fact that the Bruins have 9 defenseman capable of starting for NHL teams, he is also up against the cap so his leverage is limited. Teams know he has to make a deal – perhaps a deal to strengthen a position of weakness such as a right wing that can put the puck in the net – and what better way to help regain some of that leverage by telling anyone that will listen that you have a top line forward in your camp at the league minimum salary?
Any deal the Bruins are to make before the season starts will most likely consist of a salary dump to some extent so they can create the room they need to sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. But what if – as he stated at the unsuccessful trading deadline last year when he claimed he had laid the foundations for deals that could get done at a later date – Chiarelli is close to a deal that would bring a player the likes of an Evander Kane or Nail Yakupov to Boston and he is being asked to give more back because his fellow GMs know his salary cap situation and are exploiting it?
Is that not the perfect time for the organization to sing the praises of the puck prodigy the currently have in camp? If that is the case, Chiarelli would have to strike quickly because once Pastrnak starts playing with the big boys, he runs the risk of his stock taking a drastic drop if he struggles with the varsity.
Who knows, this could be a win-win situation for the Bruins. They could have a top 6 forward in the making and a cheap fix at right wing next to fellow countryman David Krejci. Maybe Pastrnak has enough speed and skill to thrive in the league at the tender age of 18 and at 170 lbs soaking wet.
More likely however, it is wishful thinking for a team that is lacking scoring and has cap issues that are preventing them from addressing it anywhere but from within.
Kevin Flanagan can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan