By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
One of the worst kept secrets in the hockey world is the fact that the Bruins need to upgrade their blue line in a bad way. Another poorly hidden fact is that the B’s brass has pined for the former St. Louis Blues and current Washington Capitals – for at least another game, anyway – defenseman, Kevin Shattenkirk.
Rumors of a deal involving the puck moving D-man has seemingly been around since shortly after man invented the wheel, and now that it looks like he is destined for free agency as of July 1st; it is natural that his name should be attached to the Bruins.
Both general manager Don Sweeney, and team president Cam Neely – who, for some reason, hold end of season press conferences a week apart – acknowledged that the team will be giving a good hard look at the free-agent market; not only to fill the holes on their back end, but to find scoring from people not named Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, or Patrice Bergeron.
Given the emergence of Brandon Carlo, and the dramatic debut of Charlie McAvoy in the B’s first-round playoff loss to the Ottawa Senators – during which he posted Zdeno Chara like minutes and rarely looked out of place – I’d be hesitant, if I were Sweeney, to throw big money and big term after a glorified power play specialist.
According to The Hockey News, “A $7-million cap hit shouldn’t be hard to find, maybe even with a seven-year term,” is likely what awaits Shattenkirk this summer. Seeing as Sweeney has rolled snake-eyes in his first two forays into free agency – five years and $19 million for Matt Beleskey, and five years and $30 million for an over-the-hill David Backes – the Bruins’ GM might just want to channel Harry Sinden; and tightly tie owner Jeremy Jacobs’ purse strings, with regards to the offense-first defenseman.
In Torey Krug – who the B’s signed to a four year, $21 million extension last summer – Sweeney already has a quarterback for the man advantage; and also, a guy that can be a bit of a liability defensively. A comparison of the scouting report of the two blue-liners on the above-mentioned THN website, reads rather repetitive.
Shattenkirk’s assets are listed as, “Has excellent offensive capability and all-round acumen. Good in transition, his quickness, talent and poise with the puck are assets. Can make an impact on the power play. Not big, he is stronger than he looks and will use the body effectively in the NHL.”
His flaws as, “Can struggle against bigger forwards in front of his own net, as he isn’t the biggest or strongest defenseman in the league. When he is not on top of his overall game, he goes into defensive slumps and can be somewhat of a liability in his own zone. And when it comes to his career potential, the site says this, “Quality, veteran offensive defenseman.”
As for Krug, it seems the song remains the same. THN lists his strengths as, “Displays good puck-moving skills and loads of offensive ability from the back end. Gets by with a lot of smarts and very good positioning. Can quarterback a power play effectively.”
His weaknesses as, “Can struggle when trying to handle big National Hockey League forwards, as he is quite undersized for a blueliner and lacks some strength. Also struggles defensively, at times.” And his potential as, “Excellent offensive defenseman.”
Now, correct me if I am wrong, but that sounds pretty much like the same player; minus a couple of inches in height, and several millions of dollars in salary, no?
The future of the Bruins defense should be found in its youth. Carlo, while he had his struggles at times – as you would expect a 20-year-old rookie to do – has shown he can play at the NHL level. McAvoy’s brief six game stint in the post-season, showed why everyone thinks this guy can be a top D-man in the league in a very short period. And Colin Miller will likely get a much longer look under new head coach Bruce Cassidy, then he ever did under the veteran-centric Claude Julien.
What the B’s have in terms of the next wave of kids either in their system, or as draft picks yet to be signed; is hopeful, yet undermined. Whether or not Ryan Lindgren, Jakub Zboril, or Jeremy Lauzon will be in Boston over the next couple of seasons will be determined by their development.
Nevertheless, if the coaches and scouts who see them every day are to be believed, it is likely that at least one of them will be wearing a Bruins jersey in the not so distant future.
The Bruins will have to pay their young talent in the coming years. Pastrnak will likely get his this summer. And if Carlo continues his assent, and McAvoy turns out to be the stud he appeared to be this spring; they both – to varying degrees – will get theirs in two years as well.
The last thing Sweeney needs to do this off-season, is to bow to the pressure he no doubt will receive, to make a splash. If there is a move to be made in free agency this summer, it should be at forward; not at defense.
The B’s brass needs to stick with the youth movement, and not sign a guy who will be likely useless at the end of his deal. The rebuild that began when former general manager Peter Chiarelli was given his walking papers two years ago, has begun to gain traction. It would be silly to knock it off the rails for an overpay for a player you already have on your roster.