|Don Sweeney wants to get feel for Milan Lucic’s contract demands before making decision||05.20.15 at 8:59 pm ET|
How the Bruins proceed with Milan Lucic will be high on the list of things that define the early going of Don Sweeney’s tenure as Bruins general manager. Sweeney is well aware.
Lucic, who turns 27 next month, has been a dominant player in seasons past. His numbers have been in decline for years, however, and he carries a $6 million cap hit entering the final year of a contract that allows him to pick 15 teams to which he’d accept a trade.
Speaking to WEEI.com Wednesday evening, Sweeney called Lucic a “foundational type player” but noted that the B’s will get a feel for Lucic’s future contract demands before proceeding. Trading Lucic would shed cap space, but the team might not get the return they’d have gotten for him in years past given that he is coming off a season in which he scored just 18 goals.
“The CBA at this point in time, you can’t argue with what’s in front of us and the challenges it may present,” Sweeney said. “[Lucic] is going into a contract year and free agency’s on the other side of it. We’re going to have to be out in front and have some early discussions and certainly get a temperature read as to how much he wants to be a part of the Boston Bruins‘ future going forward.
“We have to convey a similar thing and make a [decision]. Some of these decisions and conversations aren’t going to be easy. They’re not, but it was part of me as a player that I appreciated when coaches and people had conversations with you. You may not like all the stuff being said, but you can process it and move past it and understand that it’s part of it.”
With the exception of his improvement from a disastrous 2013 season, Lucic’s goals per 60 and points per 60 have dropped in each year since a career year in 2010-11 in which he scored 30 goals. Sweeney said he feels Lucic can still be the impact player that he’s been in the past.
“He has a presence about him,” Sweeney said. “It might not have been his finest year, but there are moments where you realize, ‘Wow. This guy is a unique player.’ We’re going to have to have discussions along those lines.”
After the Bruins introduced Don Sweeney as the team’s next general manager, Neely stressed the importance of communication in the front office, prompting a question as to whether he felt he and Chiarelli communicated as well as they would have liked.
“The communication could have been better,” Neely answered.
Chiarelli was the GM before Neely was president, but Chiarelli’s success prevented Neely from picking his own guy until the Bruins missed the playoffs this season.
Given that Sweeney is both a former teammate of Neely’s and the general manager of Neely’s choosing, the working relationship between he and Neely figures to be better. He claimed that his friendship with Sweeney did not take priority over the qualifications of other candidates.
“I’ve been president of the Bruins since 2010,” Neely said. “I have not hired a friend.”
Neely repeatedly deflected questions about who gets final say on player personnel, but noted he doesn’t want to do his general manager’s job.
“I’ve made it very clear: I’m not a GM. I don’t want to be a GM,” Neely said. “I want the GM to do the job, but I want to know what’s going on. I don’t know how much more clear I can be with that. If the GM wants to push and fight and say ‘This is the right thing,’ then I’ll sit down and listen. I want to have conversations. My door is always open.”
Neely was then asked who’s responsible for the moves the team makes, whether good or bad. He said that the president should take responsibility, but still avoided whether he makes the final decision. Asked who makes the call when the hockey operations department is split on a decision, he responded “tie goes to the runner.”
“Then who’s the runner?” multiple media members asked.
“Ultimately, if Don feels strongly about something, I’ve got to allow him to do his job,” Neely said, “but if I feel strongly about something then I’ll let him know. But this total autonomy thing, since I became president in 2010, it’s been [considered] a big deal, and I don’t get it. I really don’t.”
The Bruins fired Chiarelli on April 15. He has since taken over the Oilers as team president and GM. Because he had term on his contract that the Bruins would pay had he not found work elsewhere, the Bruins can seek draft pick compensation from the Oilers. Neely confirmed the Bruins are seeking a pick from the Oilers, which would be a second-round pick in one of the next three drafts. The Oilers get to pick which year they give up the pick, making it unlikely that they’ll part with the third pick of the second round in this June’s draft.
|Claude Julien’s fate with Bruins still undecided||at 3:01 pm ET|
While the Bruins now officially have a general manager, the situation with their head coach remains unclear.
Speaking at his introductory press conference, Boston GM Don Sweeney would not confirm whether he intends to retain or fire Claude Julien. The Bruins gave their final two general manager candidates the opportunity to meet with Julien, something Sweeney did earlier this month. Sweeney also spoke to Julien upon being promoted on Wednesday.
Both Sweeney and Julien were at a number of Providence Bruins games down the stretch as well.
“I have some things that I want to sit down with Claude and go through in a very orderly fashion,” Sweeney said. “As to where I think things need to change and to what direction we need to change as a group, and also acknowledged to Claude during this whole process that I think tremendously as a coach and as a person. It’s just about lining up philosophical approaches that I believe in, that he believes in and that we can move the group forward.
“Some of that will involve personnel decisions. Some of that will involve staff member decisions and/or changes. That’s to be determined. He’s the coach of the Boston Bruins as of today. That’s for sure.”
Speaking after the press conference, B’s president Cam Neely spoke highly of Julien and downplayed the belief that he has wanted to fire Julien at multiple points during his time as team president.
“Let me be clear. I think we have a good coach,” Neely said. “I know it’s been reported that we have a problem with our coach. I think over the years I would have liked to see some adjustments, but it wasn’t about [seeing] certain coaches available. For me, it was about making sure we were making the right decision with our GM first and then we’ll go from there.
Asked whether he felt Julien could change with the organization as it tweaks its approach to winning, Neely was noncommittal.
“He’s another smart hockey guy. He knows the game extremely well,” Neely said. “He’s had a lot of success. This is where Don is going to make those decisions with Claude as far as the adjustments that he thinks we need to make.
“This comment that I made in 2010 about [how] we can’t win games, 0-0, keeps getting played. Claude and I flushed that out in 2010. It’s 2015 now.”
Julien has been Boston’s head coach for eight seasons, reaching the postseason for seven consecutive years prior to this season. His 351 wins with the B’s put him 10 wins away from tying Art Ross for the most wins in Bruins history.
The pool of top coaching candidates has thinned, most recently with Mike Babcock‘s decision to coach the Leafs on Wednesday.
|Milan Lucic says Don Sweeney a ‘great’ hire for Bruins||at 1:18 pm ET|
Milan Lucic‘s future is now in Don Sweeney’s hands. Reached for comment upon the team’s hire of Sweeney, Lucic expressed excitement for the new GM.
“I think it’s great,” Lucic said of the hire. “He’s been around the organization for a while and [I] think he’ll do a great job.”
Lucic is entering the final year of a three-year, $18 million contract. Sweeney and the B’s could either try to extend the player, trade him or go into the season with him unsigned, a rare practice in the days of former GM Peter Chiarelli.
Lucic has a partial no-trade clause that allows him to submit a list of 15 teams to which he would accept a deal.
Speaking to WEEI.com on Monday, Lucic declined to share whether he would take a hometown discount to remain with the Bruins.
“We’ll see what happens,” Lucic said Monday. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”
For more Bruins news, visit weei.com/bruins.
|What will Don Sweeney do with Bruins’ current contracts?||at 1:10 pm ET|
Don Sweeney’s first big decision will regard the fate of coach Claude Julien. After that, he must take Boston’s current roster and turn it into the contender it was just a season ago.
Between the team’s current contracts and the one that Dougie Hamilton figures to command, the B’s won’t have much cap space to play with this offseason unless they unload some. Here’s a refresher of Boston’s current contracts and restricted free agents expected to return. Both Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille will play elsewhere next season, while fellow unrestricted free agents Carl Soderberg and Adam McQuaid seem less than likely to return. Marc Savard, who will remain on long-term injured reserve so the Bruins can use his $4.017 million cap hit elsewhere, is also left out here:
Youngsters Joe Morrow, Seth Griffith, Alexander Khokhlachev and Brian Ferlin could all push for playing time next season. The team could also give Malcolm Subban the job as Tuukka Rask‘s backup, but he might be better served as Providence’s starter. Jeremy Smith should be among the options to replace the departed Niklas Svedberg.
|Bruins name Don Sweeney general manager||at 9:16 am ET|
The Bruins announced Wednesday that Don Sweeney has been named the team’s general manager.
replaces Peter Chiarelli, who was fired last month after nine seasons with the team. In the time between Chiarelli’s dismissal and Wednesday’s announcement, Sweeney had been handling general manager responsibilities.
A press release sent out by the B’s noted that Sweeney would be “in charge of every aspect of the team’s hockey operations.” Team President Cam Neely said upon firing Chiarelli that the next GM would decide coach Claude Julien‘s fate, so Sweeney’s first big decision as GM will be whether to keep Boston’s coach of eight years or pick his own guy.
Sweeney joined the Bruins’ hockey operations department in 2006 and was named one of Chiarelli’s assistant general managers prior to their Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 season. Prior to this season, Sweeney was also named the GM of the Providence Bruins. His responsibilities involved finding and helping develop prospects, with the team’s annual development camp during the summer serving as his brain child.
As a player, Sweeney enjoyed a lengthy NHL career in which he played 1,052 regular-season games and 103 playoff games for the Bruins. He played his final season with the Stars in 2003-04.
This season marked the first time in eight years that the Bruins missed the playoffs. Neely decided during the season that the team would not be trading major assets at the trade deadline, but the biggest reasons for the team’s unsuccessful season were a team-wide dropoff in scoring, injuries on defense and a collapse during the team’s final three-game road trip.
“I am fully aware of everyone’s expectations to move the organization forward,” Sweeney said in the team’s press release. “The challenges ahead rests with the players, the coaches and the management group to work hard to make the necessary changes to bring the Bruins back to the forefront of contending for the Stanley Cup.”
|Don Sweeney has been Bruins’ acting GM this offseason||05.09.15 at 1:52 pm ET|
The Bruins don’t have a general manager yet, but the signs continue to point toward Don Sweeney eventually getting the gig.
In fact, indications are that Sweeney is doing the heavy lifting in the Bruins’ front office as they begin the offseason. Sweeney has been the team’s acting GM recently, a source familiar with the situation told WEEI.com Saturday.
That’s not an official title, nor is it a certainty that it will become one, but it does indicate who is making the calls for the B’s as they look to improve their team from this season’s disappointing finish.
The Bruins have been without an official GM since firing Peter Chiarelli on April 15. Sweeney has picked up Chiarelli’s responsibilities for now, though everything funnels through team president Cam Neely.
This comes following a Boston Herald report that Sweeney had a lengthy meeting with Claude Julien on Friday. The Herald’s Stephen Harris deduced from that development that Sweeney could plan on keeping Julien around as head coach if and when Sweeney gets the GM job.
It is unknown where the Bruins are in the interview process as they seek Chiarelli’s replacement. ESPN’s Joe McDonald reported on May 3 that the team was entering its second round of interviews and that Sweeney remained in the mix. Jeff Gorton, a potential candidate, has not yet been allowed to interview with the Bruins, as Rangers GM Glen Sather won’t let teams talk to his assistant GM until New York is eliminated from the playoffs. The Capitals hold a 3-2 series lead over the Rangers in the second round, but Sather hinted to the New York Post earlier in the week that he still might not let teams talk to Gorton this offseason at all.
Sweeney has been in the Bruins’ hockey operations department since 2006 and was named one of Chiarelli’s assistant general managers prior to their Stanley Cup-winning 2010-11 season. Prior to his time in Boston’s front office, Sweeney enjoyed a lengthy NHL career in which he played 1,052 regular-season games and 103 playoff games for the Bruins before playing his final season with the Stars.
The fact that he’s acting as the team’s GM for now shouldn’t come as a major surprise. Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe wrote the day that Chiarelli was fired that Sweeney would get the job. Furthermore, Sweeney is one of two Bruins assistant GMs and is longer-tenured in that role than Scott Bradley, who was named one of Chiarelli’s assistants last offseason.
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