By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
The build-up to the 2019-20 season began in earnest on Thursday as newly extended head coach Bruce Cassidy’s club opened camp at Warrior Arena on the progressively fall-like day in Brighton. Of course, as expected, restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo were not with their teammates when the formerly took to the ice together for the first time as a group at the posh practice facility due to their ongoing contract negotiations with the club.
While signs seem to be pointed towards something other than a protracted stalemate with either player, the nearly $7.3 million the B’s have remaining on the salary cap according to CapFriendly.com, will not be enough to satisfy the raises that the two who are seen as the backbone of the Boston blueline for the better part of the next decade will demand.
Nonetheless, it is widely believed that both will be back in the fold sooner rather than later, despite the fact that general manager Don Sweeney will likely have to swing some sort of deal to free up the cash necessary to keep the promising duo in the fold before the pens can hit the paper for the pair.
Meanwhile, talks between the Bruins and Charlie McAvoy have also picked up this week. There’s been progress there. Werenski’s deal has helped move things along. Still work to be done but it’s at least moving.
— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) September 12, 2019
An educated guess says that something gets done with McAvoy first – whether it be the type of bridge deal that the Columbus Blue Jackets reached with D-man Zach Werenski (3 years, $15M) or a longer-term/higher risk signing for the 21-year-old – before Carlo gets the cash he has coming to him as well.
And while the excitement and expectations that fans of the Black and Gold have coming off a Stanley Cup Finals appearance against the ultimate champion St. Louis Blues, the truth is the resiliency that has been the trademark of Cassidy’s teams since he took over for Claude Julien behind the Bruins bench in February of 2017 might face its toughest test when the season starts for real on October 3rd in Dallas against the Stars.
Let’s face it, it is hard to think that Boston’s aging core of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Tuukka Rask, and Zdeno Chara will be able to dial it up to the type of level they did last season when all the dominos fell in their favor once hockey’s second season began last April. Age (Chara), mileage (Bergeron), injury (Marchand) and lack of support (Krejci) ultimately cost them a second chance to have their names engraved on the Cup when the Blues pulled off the same stunt they did eight years earlier against a more skilled team that was the Vancouver Canucks in 2011.
Cassidy’s ability to find a way to manage minutes and conserve the energy over the most difficult physical schedule in North American professional sports that is the NHL’s 82-game season will be tested more than ever before. Whether or not the middling depth that Sweeney has stockpiled among his debatable draft history since he took over for the less than pedestrian prospect-picking Peter Chiarelli in 2015, will likely be the difference between competing for a division title in the top-heavy Atlantic, or looking at a bunch of potential Game 7’s on the road in the playoffs next spring.
Nevertheless, the Bruins – barring an avalanche of injuries to key players, that can be said about any of the Cup favorites entering the season – will almost certainly be looked at as among the league’s elite when the most exciting championship tournament in all of sports begins next spring.
And that is the ultimately all that Hub hockey fans can ask from their favorite team that calls the barn on Causeway Street home.