By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Barring an unforeseen trade involving one of the high-priced contracts that the Bruins have signed to their current roster (David Krejci – 4 years at $7.25 million, David Backes – 4 years at $6 million, Brad Marchand – 5 years at $6.125, Patrice Bergeron – 5 years at $6.875 million, and Tuukka Rask – 4 years at $7 million), the only fireworks B’s fans will see this July will be on the Esplanade or at their hometown’s fair.
After keeping his first-round draft pick – number 18 overall – and using it to select 18-year-old Finnish defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, Bruins’ general manager Don Sweeney has chosen to plow on with his plan of rebuilding his team from within.
At least, that seems to be what team president Cam Neely’s first GM hire is looking to do.
Whether or not Sweeney chose not to pull the trigger on a deal at the draft or was just not able to close one, only he and his fellow GM’s know for sure. However, the fact that he didn’t panic and make a bad trade just for the sake of making a move, should pay dividends for his club down the road.
And the same goes with free agency. When the NHL’s annual feeding frenzy started on Saturday, the B’s GM shrewdly steered clear of high-priced names like defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk; and instead, seemingly fortified the back end of his roster with the likes of D-man Paul Postma, along with pretty much career AHL’ers forward Kenny Agostino and Jordan Szwarz.
While none of the players’ names whom Sweeney put ink to paper for will jump off the page at you, or elicit excitement from the fan base; neither will their one-year deals that collectively come to $2.225 million against the salary cap.
The Calgary Flames current president of hockey operation Brian Burke, once famously said that GMs “make more mistakes on July 1st, than they do the rest of the year.” Seeing that Sweeney kept Jeremy Jacobs’ purse strings tightly bound when most of the funny money was spent this weekend, that would seem to set him up to be able to evaluate what he has in his system at present this September.
According to CapFriendly.com, the Bruins currently have about $13.7 million in spending capital free for next season. That figure does not include Agostino and Szwarz’s hit of $875,000 and $650,000, respectively. Seeing that Agostino signed a one-way deal that would pay him the same to play in Providence as it would in Boston, it is likely that he will be with the big club unless he plays his way off of it by Christmas.
That would mean that Sweeney has about $12.8 million in his war chest, and probably more than half of that will go to David Pastrnak’s new deal this summer. With Ryan Spooner – who is likely to be dealt, after finishing the year in the press box during the playoffs – and Tim Schaller in possession of qualifying offers issued by Sweeney last week at the draft, even more of the dwindling cash the B’s GM has at his disposal will disappear.
Any deal involving Spooner would doubtlessly be far from a blockbuster – unless, as mentioned above, Sweeney looks to move one of the higher priced players; all of which have some form of a no-trade clause in their contracts – so the likelihood of the Bruins finding the top pairing, left shot defenseman they so covet, isn’t very good.
Nevertheless, the Bruins find themselves in a pretty good position with training camp more than two months away. As the eighth seed in the Western Conference, and the last of 16 teams to qualify for the playoffs last spring; the Nashville Predators showed just how unimportant the NHL’s regular season is, as they made it to game six of the Stanley Cup finals against the back to back championship Pittsburgh Penguins just weeks ago.
If Sweeney and his staff have done the job that many scouts say they have with their draft picks over the last three years, the Bruins could be set up for a sustained playoff run. The NHL’s hard cap system makes it crucial to develop young talent, and by the looks of things, the B’s brass is doing just that.
Much like the new deal they will likely reach with rising superstar David Pastrnak this summer, the trick is then to identify the talent you want to extend, and turn other pieces – like a Spooner – into picks or depth at the back end of your roster.
After tasting the playoffs for the first time in three years, Bruins’ fans are hankering for a hunk of more. The road that Sweeney and Neely have chosen to take – and assuming more picks than not pan out – that likely means that more will be in store for years to come.
Follow on Twitter @KevinMFlanagan. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.