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Bruins still exploring defense options as Cody Franson remains available 07.29.15 at 4:14 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

FOXBORO — Don Sweeney remains active in trying to find the Bruins help on defense. Whether that means signing top remaining free agent Cody Franson, seeking other free agent options or making a trade remains to be seen.

“I’€™m not shutting the doors in terms of picking your team in July,” Boston’€™s general manager told WEEI.com at Wednesday’€™s Winter Classic press event. “We’€™ll continue to look and talk and have those types of conversations, not just in the free agent market, but around the league.”

The Bruins and Franson’€™s camp have had discussions, as Franson revealed last week. The 27-year-old 6-foot-5 right shot would figure to be a plug-and-play option to anchor Boston’€™s second pairing, which would at least move the B’€™s closer to what they had prior to trading Dougie Hamilton.

Asked whether he felt the team was close to signing Franson, who said there were four or five other teams in on him, Sweeney replied, “I don’€™t know whether or not anybody can say ‘€˜close’€™ because you don’€™t know what other conversations are happening.”

This has been something of an odd offseason throughout the league, but Sweeney acknowledged that the traditional waves of movement (the draft and free agency) have been as expected. A third wave may be presenting itself now, however, with at least one big name still unsigned in Franson and Tuesday’s trade of Brandon Sutter to the Canucks.

“There’€™s less chatter, but there’€™s some seeds being planted they we may want to revisit as well with our staff, and sort of going over all these – after I have one conversation, sending it out to our group and sort of seeing where we’€™re at. Coaches have some input in that as well. Now that we’€™ve had a little bit of time to see where our group is, we’€™ve got to forecast from here on out.”

Sweeney acknowledged the potential need to shed cap space if they do sign a higher-priced free agent. The B’€™s currently sit about $4.42 million below the salary cap’€™s upper-limit with 21 players on their roster. They have seven defenseman on one-way contracts as is (Zdeno Chara, Zach Trotman, Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid, Torey Krug, Matt Irwin and Kevan Miller), so a trade of a defenseman could be one way to clear space. Boston could also trade one of its veteran forwards, such as Chris Kelly.

Sweeney expressed a desire to shed cap space before making a signing, should such a situation present itself, as he did when he traded Reilly Smith and Marc Savard minutes before signing Matt Beleskey on the opening day of free agency. He also noted that if he feels the team would have space-saving options that could be executed at a later date if they were to pull the trigger on a signing beforehand.

“I think when you’€™re up against it, it presents pressure on the other side. Theoretically, you’€™d like to plan to be under and have some flexibility, but in the same vein, if you’€™ve had conversations that you think could foster something down the road, and you want to improve your club, then you may take that risk,” Sweeney said. “There will always be an assessment in that period of time.”

Should the Bruins not add outside help, a defense that figures to miss Hamilton dearly will be in for an uphill climb. It’€™s expected that Trotman will have a full-time job, but opportunities will be given to other young players such as former Penguins‘€™ first-round pick Joe Morrow and trade acquisition Colin Miller.

“We’€™ve got five of six guys returning,” Sweeney said in reference to Chara, McQuaid, Seidenberg, Krug, Miller and Trotman. “I think it’€™s been lost a little bit that Kevan Miller is coming back to our group because he’€™s been our for so long, and we’€™ve got young players that at some point in time have to recognize that a situation presents itself and take advantage of it.”

Added Sweeney: “We have institutional knowledge as to how much they’€™ve developed and where we think they can get to. Are they plug-and-play? No, [not] like you would describe some of the other guys that have had the the level of success that they’€™ve had. We have to balance that. There’€™s definitely a bit of forecasting involved in both of those decisions.”

Read More: Cody Franson, Don Sweeney,
Don Sweeney didn’t say the thing that everyone thinks Don Sweeney said 07.15.15 at 7:43 pm ET
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Don Sweeney deserves a lot of the criticism he’s received this offseason. He traded Dougie Hamilton for a relatively minuscule package, overpaid for Adam McQuaid and, for some reason, traded a third-round pick for Zac Rinaldo. There’s plenty to criticize without adding in quotes he didn’t say.

On Tuesday morning, a couple of tweets referring to a quote from Sweeney made the rounds. The tweets suggested the Bruins felt they adequately replaced Milan Lucic, Hamilton and Reilly Smith with Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes. Believing it to be true, folks rightfully pointed out how silly that logic was.

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 7.37.06 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-15 at 7.37.29 PM

 

Being busy with development camp, the whole thing was overlooked on this end. After finally listening to the appearance (which came on WAAF), Sweeney did not say that. Essentially, he said the Bruins lost guys who scored and they need the ones who came in to score. Here’s his answer to Lyndon Byers’ question about replacing Hamilton:

“Well, LB, we did a goal exercise prior to going into the draft and free agency, and clearly between Milan, Reilly and Dougie, it was about 41 goals in the course of [last] year. Now, Matt Beleskey and Jimmy Hayes had, you know, good offensive years and accounted for 41 goals between them, so we certainly had to be cognizant of goals going out and goals coming in. Clearly, those guys are going to have to come in and score.”

Much like Sweeney shouldn’t be let off the hook when he screws up, he shouldn’t be criticized for things he didn’t say.

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Taking a look at Bruins roster after busy start to offseason 07.02.15 at 12:15 pm ET
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If you’ve forgotten what exactly the Bruins roster looks like after all these moves, it’s understandable.

In a nutshell, the Bruins have moved things around offensively while taking a step back defensively this offseason. The team has multiple candidates to take jobs on both offense and defense, though the team’s top-nine looks more or less set at this point.

Including goaltender Jeremy Smith ($600,000 on a two-way deal), the Bruins have approximately $63,085,667 against the cap committed to 18 players for next season.

Here’s our attempt at a forward/defense depth chart after Don Sweeney’s flurry of moves. (Read it vertically rather than horizontally, as these are not projected lines.)

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.10.34 PM

Read More: Don Sweeney, Matt Beleskey,
Offer sheet an unlikely tactic for Bruins 06.30.15 at 9:24 pm ET
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RFA COMPENSATIONWhen noon hits on Wednesday, teams will officially be able to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets.

Well, some will. The Bruins probably won’€™t.

In order to sign a player to an offer sheet, a team must have the proper draft picks to surrender should the rights-holding team opt not to match. The picks must be that team’€™s natural picks and not selections acquired from other clubs.

So, while the Bruins have a pair of first-rounders next year (their own and the Sharks’€™) as well as the Islanders’€™ second-rounder, they do not have their own second-round pick. That selection was sent to Tampa in the Brett Connolly trade.

That means they would not be able to sign a player to a contract with an RFA compensation number in the following ranges:

– $1,826,3280-$3,652,659 (second round pick)
– $5,478,986-$7,305,316 (first, second and third-round picks)
– $7,305,316-$9,131,645 (two firsts, one second and one third-round pick)

Just a reminder: RFA compensation is not calculated like cap hits (total money before before 40 divided by years of contract before 40, not that the 40 thing is relevant to an RFA anyway), but rather by total money divided by years or five, whichever is smaller.

As such, the team could in theory offer a player a seven-year deal worth $6.63 million a year, which would bring that number to $9.28 million. In that case, the Bruins wouldn’€™t need to give up a second-rounder, but rather four first-round picks. Given the murky waters the Bruins appear set to navigate, gambling future first-round picks would not be a wise move.

In Tuesday’€™s pre-free-agency conference call, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was asked about the possibility of offer-sheeting a player.

‘€œWell, I think every club has that club in their bag, so to speak,’€ Sweeney said. ‘€œIf you’€™ve got the space to be able to do it, and certainly teams that are pushed up against it, you feel that pressure. So yeah, there’€™s not a general manager, I don’€™t think, that wouldn’€™t look at every opportunity to improve their club. An offer sheet is definitely a possibility from every angle, for every team.’€

Unless the Bruins are planning on spending a whole lot (or very little), don’€™t expect them to use the tactic unless they can first re-acquire that pick from Tampa. Furthermore, it isn’t like the Bruins have a whole lot of money to spend. Including the estimated $969,000 in overages from last season and the $2.75 million retained in the Milan Lucic trade, the Bruins have $61,160,667 committed to 16 players for the 2015-16 season, not counting Marc Savard. The salary cap’s upper limit is $71.4 million.

The trade market remains Sweeney’€™s best shot at improving the team.

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Don Sweeney says he isn’t rebuilding Bruins or trading Tuukka Rask at 12:29 pm ET
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Don Sweeney is adamant that the Bruins are not going through a rebuild.

To some degree, his actions reflect that he doesn’€™t think the Bruins will bottom out. For example, no team planning on rebuilding would send a third-round pick in two years away in exchange for bottom-of-the-roster player, as the B’€™s did this week by acquiring Zac Rinaldo for a 2017 third-round pick.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Sweeney’€™s stance on his team’€™s direction remained unchanged from the weekend.

“I don’€™t think it’€™s a rebuild,” Sweeney said. “We didn’€™t strip this down.”

The Bruins have made a number of moves of late, which have left fans believing the Bruins are indeed undergoing an overhaul. The trades of Dougie Hamilton and Milan Lucic have made the current roster considerably worse, while the re-signing of Adam McQuaid and the trade for Rinaldo have been met with confusion.

The Bruins still have a core of Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron in place, which could still allow them to contend for the playoffs. Further moves figure to better indicate the team’€™s direction.

Sweeney insisted that one piece of the team’€™s core will remain in Boston. Tuukka Rask was rumored to be discussed at some length, however small, during the draft in Florida over the weekend, but Sweeney rejected the notion that he would trade his goaltender.

Tuukka Rask not on the market,” Sweeney said. “I’€™m not sure where those necessarily come from. I can deliver emphatically that did not happen.”

Rask has six years remaining on an eight-year deal with an annual cap hit of $7 million.

Read More: Don Sweeney, Tuukka Rask,
Bruins qualify select RFAs, face nearly $1 million in cap overages next season at 11:39 am ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney shared in Tuesday’€™s pre-free agency conference call with reporters that the Bruins sent qualifying offers to restricted free agents Ryan Spooner, Brett Connolly and Martin Jones. The team declined to qualify Matt Lindblad, Rob Flick and Adam Morrison.

Sweeney said that the door has not been closed on Lindblad, Flick or Morrison potentially returning to the B’€™s.

He also noted that the Bruins are facing nearly a million dollars in cap overages from last season.

Sweeney said that bonuses to Dougie Hamilton and a couple of other players from last season leave the Bruins facing approximately $969,000 in overages that will go against this season’€™s salary cap.

As such, the Bruins will have nearly $3.7 million in dead money against the cap in the coming season. The Bruins dealt with a similar issue last season, when they had nearly $5 million in cap overages, due largely to the bonus-laden contract given to Jarome Iginla a season earlier.

With Sweeney’€™s estimate and the newly acquired Zac Rinaldo factored into our running count of Boston’€™s cap space, the B’€™s now have $61,160,667 committed to 16 players (not counting Marc Savard). Many young players on two-way contracts could also push for spots, such as Joe Morrow, Brian Ferlin and Colin Miller. Sweeney said that the Bruins remain in talks with teams about trading Savard, whose $4.017 is put on long-term injured reserve each season but could help a team trying to get to the cap floor. The Flyers made a similar move over the weekend by trading Chris Pronger‘s contract to Arizona.

The salary cap’€™s upper limit for next season is $71.4 million. Free agency begins Wednesday, but even by trading Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins will not be in a position to be a major spender unless they trade more players.

That might not be such a bad predicament, as this summer’s free agency class is extremely thin. The forward group is led by 27-year-old left wing Matt Beleskey, who had the first 20-goal season of his career last season with the Ducks and figures to command big money.

Andrej Sekera headlines the group of potentially available defensemen, though the Kings could still re-up him before free agency opens.

Read More: Don Sweeney,
Pierre McGuire on MFB: ‘I do think [the Bruins] have a plan’ 06.29.15 at 12:26 pm ET
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Pierre McGuire

Pierre McGuire

NBC Sports analyst Pierre McGuire joined Middays with MFB on Monday to discuss the Bruins’ rebuilding strategy and the direction they will go after surprise moves prior to the NHL draft last week. To hear the full interview, visit the Middays with MFB audio on demand page.

Amidst highly controversial moves, McGuire does not expect the Bruins to hold a fire sale and rid themselves of other veterans like Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask.

“I can’t see that happening,” McGuire said. “They’re a proud franchise. I can’t see that alienation of their fan base. They’ve been down this road before back in the [mid-1990s]. It was painful. … They’ve still got a very solid infrastructure of players. But again, they’re going to have to pass the torch here because some of their better guys are getting older.

“I can’t see them trading Patrice Bergeron. You put his name out there and every team in the league’s going to want him. … This is my one word of caution on this: I would be really careful pre-judging this thing if I were a Bruins fan, because I do think they have a plan. Doesn’t mean they have to share it with everybody only because you don’t want to show your cards too often in this league. In this league, they throw you anchors, not life jackets.”

According to McGuire, the recent moves made by the Bruins are part of a trend that began last offseason with the departure of Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla, among others.

“[My reaction was] that Don Sweeney wanted to put his stamp on the team early on along with Cam Neely that this was clearly something that was approved by ownership, that they felt that maybe something had gone a little bit astray in their building plan and they wanted to try to get it straightened out as soon as possible,” McGuire said. “I remember being in Boston last year when Johnny Boychuk got traded away … and I remember the reaction of the players and it was really negative. They were not happy at all.

Shawn Thornton moves on to Florida, Jarome Iginla moves on to Colorado, Johnny Boychuk moves on to the New York Islanders and then you see what happens this year — Chiarelli gets fired, Gregory Campbell‘s not coming back, Danny Paille’s not coming back, Milan Lucic isn’t coming back and obviously Dougie Hamilton’s not coming back. Start doing the math. That’s a huge part of your infrastructure, so clearly they knew that they wanted to go in a younger, different direction and they’ve started that process.”

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Read More: Don Sweeney, Dougie Hamilton, Martin Jones, Milan Lucic
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