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Don Sweeney: Nobody blocking young defensemen from making Bruins 09.15.16 at 3:14 pm ET
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Brandon Carlo

Brandon Carlo

BRIGHTON — The Bruins’ top two priorities this offseason were “IMPROVE THE DEFENSE” and “DON’T FORGET TO IMPROVE THE DEFENSE.” They went 0-for-2.

So what do you get when you don’t fix a blue line that was the worst it’s been in years? A room full of prospects smiling ear-to-ear on the first day of rookie camp because they think they’ve got a shot at playing in the NHL this season.

Boston has seven defensemen signed to one-way contracts, but the team will be better off if younger players show they have more to offer than one (or more) of those seven. It helps that there’s maybe only two top-four defensemen on the roster right now (Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug), so the opportunity is there to push someone out.

“I told them today, the best players will play,” Don Sweeney said. “If they [outperform] the guys that are here, the incumbents that are here, then they’ll have that opportunity [to make the team]. There’s no blockers from this standpoint. We’re in a situation where we need to get better. I’m adamant in saying that, and if that player’s better, he’ll play.”

The Bruins’ rookies will spend the coming days playing in a prospect tournament against the Sabres and Devils in Buffalo. While Boston’s rookies include some high-ceiling defenders such as Jeremy Lauzon, players like he and Jakub Zboril might need more junior seasoning before legitimately pushing for an NHL job.

One player who could be pushed out is Adam McQuaid. The Bruins opting to sign Kevan Miller (a similar player making less money) made that a possibility anyway, and the Bruins are high enough on Brandon Carlo that it wouldn’t come as a major shock to anyone if the 2015 second-round pick ended up going straight to the NHL in his first NHL season. Plus, being that McQuaid is a legitimate NHL defenseman whom other teams would conceivably want, the B’s could probably get something for him.

While the 6-foot-5, right-shooting Carlo might have the best chance of Boston’s current rookie camp players to make the NHL out of main camp, the rest of the defenders are taking the possibility just as seriously.

“There’s an opportunity and the guys realize that,” first-year pro Rob O’Gara said. “Everyone’s working their tails off to make the most of it and see if they can make an impact because they need guys to make an impact. From the top to the bottom, everyone has that pressure on them to perform. It’s very exciting and you can feel it in there. The guys are ready to go.”

Read More: Adam McQuaid, Brandon Carlo, Don Sweeney,
Don Sweeney latest to not say much about Brad Marchand’s contract 09.12.16 at 4:29 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

BOLTON — Since we last heard from Brad Marchand, the only way he’s gotten richer is by making a $104.4 million friend in World Cup of Hockey linemate Sidney Crosby. The high-scoring Bruins winger is still waiting on his own payday, however.

Speaking at the Bruins’ golf tournament Monday, general manager Don Sweeney gave the latest in what’s been a series of vague comments regarding the free-agent-to-be. Marchand, 28, is the Bruins’ best scorer and is due for a sizable raise from his team-friendly $4.5 million cap hit.

“We’re working on it,” Sweeney said. “As I’ve said, we’re never going to comment publicly, but we look forward to hopefully finding traction and getting something done.”

Marchand said prior to leaving for the World Cup of Hockey that he would like to sign a new contract with the Bruins. His deal would figure to be a longterm pact in excess of $7 million annually given that his 37 goals last season made him one of just eight players in the NHL to score at least 35.

“This is an incredible organization and one that I think we’re all very fortunate to be part of,” Marchand said earlier this month. “It would be great to be able to be here my whole career, and you see how rare that is nowadays. It doesn’t happen often, so it would be an incredible thing, but a lot of things have to line up for that to happen, not only now but down the road, so we’ll play it year-by-year.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, Don Sweeney,
Bruins have begun negotiations with Brad Marchand on extension 07.15.16 at 1:27 pm ET
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Brad Marchand scored a career-high 37 goals last season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Brad Marchand scored a career-high 37 goals last season. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

WILMINGTON — Following the Bruins’ July 1 signings, general manager Don Sweeney said he would take a bit for the organization to catch its breath before proceeding on another key front: signing Brad Marchand to a contract extension.

Speaking at the end of the team’s annual development camp at Ristuccia Arena, Sweeney confirmed that he has indeed began negotiations with Marchand’s agent. Marchand, who is entering the final year of a contract that pays him an average of $4.5 million annually, will be 29 when his next contract starts in the 2017-18.

He won’t come cheap, as the 2006 third-round pick has established himself as an elite two-way player. Last season, Marchand finished sixth in the NHL with a career-high 37 goals. For an estimation of what Marchand might command, click here.

While former general manager Peter Chiarelli believed in signing players before they entered their walk years (with Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and David Krejci serving as examples), Sweeney’s first year as GM saw him negotiate with free-agent-to-be Loui Eriksson throughout the season before the team ultimately opted to let him walk in free agency.

Asked whether he was inclined to get something done quickly with Marchand (which would mean signing him at the highest point of his career) or waiting, Sweeney was noncommittal but stressed his intentions to keep the player, who would be an unrestricted free agent next July without a new deal.

“I think I’ve been pretty up front that I’d like to be aggressive in trying to identify from what we have, I’ve identified March as a core guy and we want to continue down that path,” Sweeney said. “It always takes two sides to make a deal, and I would envision that he’d like to be part of this organization for what could be arguably his whole career, but Brad has a say in this as well.”

Marchand said in November that his hope would be to stay with the team that drafted him for his whole career.

“When someone has played in one place as long as I have — and I know there’s guys that have been here longer than I have — it would be a dream come true to play here my whole career,” he said. “I understand the game and the business of things, but I think as long as I continue to work hard and hold up my end of the bargain, hopefully I can be here for a while. It is something that crosses my mind. I know that I have a year and a half left on my deal, but it is something I think about and I would obviously love to be here for a long time.”

Read More: Brad Marchand, Don Sweeney,
Former Lightning general manager lists Bruins among favorites to sign Steven Stamkos 06.27.16 at 3:28 pm ET
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Steven Stamkos could be made the highest-paid player in the NHL on Friday. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Steven Stamkos could be made the highest-paid player in the NHL on Friday. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Former Lightning general manager Brian Lawton said on Toronto’s TSN 1050 radio that he considers the Bruins a favorite to sign top unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos. To watch/hear Lawton’s interview with Naylor & Landsberg, click here.

Stamkos, 26, could very well be made the highest-paid player in the NHL when he inks his next contract, presumably when free agency opens on Friday.

“Right now the top three for me — I still think there’s a very, very big chance that he could end up back in Tampa,” Lawton noted, “but I would say Toronto, Tampa, Boston would be the top three.”

Asked about pursuing Stamkos following the NHL draft on Sunday, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney intimated that he would reach out Stamkos’ agent during the NHL’s current interview period for free agents.

“We will take the temperature of whoever will help our hockey club,” Sweeney said. “If it lines up, that’s what we’d like to do. We obviously have flexibility for any particular player that we would like to go after. There’s a lot of coveted ones in the market, so we’ll make all the calls. Absolutely all the calls.”

Potentially working in the Bruins’ favor could be his relationship with coach Claude Julien, whom the B’s retained after missing the playoffs for a second straight year. Stamkos and Julien think very highly of one another, with Julien notably visiting Stamkos in the hospital when the player suffered a broken tibia in a game against the Bruins in 2013.

“I had him at the Olympic Camp and I got to know Steve the person,” Julien said after visiting Stamkos. “When you look at what he is in the league and what he’€™s accomplished, to have that happen to him I thought it was just important to go by and see how he was doing. It was as simple as that.

“He’€™s one of those players that people from all the different cities come up to watch and play and he’€™s one of the reasons we fill buildings and you hate to see that, from anybody’€™s point of view, to see a guy like that get injured that way,” Julien added.

Lawton said that the Maple Leafs would present an attractive destination for the Markham, Ontario native and that Stamkos would be able to handle the attention that would come with playing in such a market.

Tampa’s reported offer for its captain carried a cap hit of $8.5 million, a far cry from the $10.5 million annually that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews make in Chicago.

“I don’t think that it’s just about money at all for Steven Stamkos,” Lawton said. “I think it’s important — I think that offering him, if it were in fact true, $8.5 million [per year] is — like I said, it’s not about money — but I think in some ways that’s probably a little insulting to Steven.”

The No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft, Stamkos has had three seasons of at least 90 points and has scored 40 goals three times in his NHL career. Since 2009-10 — his second season in the league — Stamkos’ 516 points rank fourth in the NHL behind Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Kane.

Read More: Claude Julien, Don Sweeney, Steven Stamkos,
Teams wanted both first-round picks, David Pastrnak from Bruins for defensemen 06.24.16 at 11:50 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

BUFFALO — Don Sweeney established a year ago that he feels a good young defenseman is worth a mid-first-round pick and a couple of seconds. A year later, teams told him his read on the market was wrong.

With a number of defensemen potentially on the trade market (Kevin Shattenkirk and Cam Fowler among them), Sweeney said that teams demanded the Bruins give up all of their draft capital in Friday’s first round and then some.

“In all honesty, it would have taken both first rounders and then some in order to move [for a defenseman],” he said. “The acquisition cost was high. I’ve said all along that we want to continue to improve our hockey club in whatever we have to do, but those [situations] are not unlike last year, where it would have taken all three first-rounders. There’s a balancing act there.”

When asked about the ask of the 14th and 29th picks, Sweeney added that teams’ demands “didn’t stop there.”

“I wasn’t trading David Pastnrak,” Sweeney said. “We’ve been criticized, and rightfully so at times, for being impatient with some of our younger and skilled players. This represents a good opportunity for us to establish that we don’t want to do that.”

Instead of trading the picks, Sweeney selected Boston University defenseman Charlie McAvoy at 14 and reached for Wisconsin center Trent Frederic at 29.

Read More: David Pastrnak, Don Sweeney,
Don Sweeney lists center as an area Bruins might look to upgrade 05.25.16 at 12:06 pm ET
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This is just a picture of Steven Stamkos. Relax. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

This is just a picture of Steven Stamkos. Relax. (Kim Klement/USA Today Sports)

Here’s an interesting tidbit from Wednesday’s conference call with Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and coach Claude Julien: When asked what he wanted to fix, Sweeney listed center as a position he’d like to address via free agency or trade.

At least at the NHL level, center is the one position where the Bruins seem completely set. The team has Patrice Bergeron signed through 2021-22, David Krejci signed through 2020-21, Ryan Spooner signed for another year and Noel Acciari still on his entry level contract.

“We’ve got areas that we want to address in the depth of our organization, more likely in the forward position, either on the right wing or the center and again on the back end,” Sweeney said. “But we’re exploring a bunch of different things trade-wise. It’s difficult in this league, but I think that we’re in a position with two first-round picks to either be selecting really good players or to be in the marketplace.”

In terms of organizational depth, the B’s probably could use bodies in the middle, as Providence first-liner Alexander Khokhlachev is expected to leave North America to play in the KHL. Or, if Bruins fans want, they can take Sweeney’s answer as a “saying there’s a chance” quote to attach to pipe dreams of Steven Stamkos coming to Boston. Whichever.

Some other quick takeaways from the conference call:

– Sweeney said the Bruins still hope to sign Loui Eriksson.

– New assistant coaches Bruce Cassidy and Jay Pandolfo will have specific roles. Cassidy will be on the bench, running the defense. Pandolfo, who will officially be a coach for the first time after spending the last two seasons in player development, will be the team’s “eye in the sky,” meaning he’ll work from the press level.

– The Bruins have had discussions with restricted free agent Torey Krug and intend to sign him. That shouldn’t come as breaking news, but then again the Dougie Hamilton fiasco told us that good RFA defensemen and this team are no sure thing.

– On the impact of Kevan Miller’s new contract, Sweeney answered a question about possibly trading Adam McQuaid or Dennis Seidenberg by saying that he will explore anything and everything. A non-committal answer, yes, but he certainly doesn’t sound married to the idea of keeping the defensemen he has under contract.

– Providence assistant Kevin Dean will be among the candidates Sweeney will interview for the AHL head coaching gig.

– Sweeney has not told any of the Bruins’ free agents — restricted or unrestricted — that they won’t be back yet. The GM said he might have those discussions this week.

Read More: Don Sweeney, Loui Eriksson, Steven Stamkos,
Don Sweeney: ‘I don’t believe we need a major overhaul’ 04.14.16 at 2:01 pm ET
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Don Sweeney

Don Sweeney

Speaking at Thursday’s press conference, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said he did not intend to make drastic changes to the Bruins’ roster.

Sweeney, who will enter his second offseason as Bruins general manager, said his priority is to add to what the Bruins have rather than rapidly shipping players out. The Bruins currently have 11 NHL players under contract for next season.

“I don’t believe we need a major overhaul,” Sweeney said. “I believe we need to continue to forge depth in the organization. When you go through these times where you have injuries and you have players that have to be able to step in, you have to have a plan that allows players to develop at the right time that they’re supposed rather than force a player. At times, when you don’t have the depth overall, you can expose a younger player. We’d like to have the patience in that regard.

“People talk about young player integration. David Pastrnak’s a great example of a player that we’re going to have a tremendous amount of patience with and Claude has patience with. [He’s] a very exciting player, a big part of our organization going forward and we need to make sure that we’re developing him in the right manner.”

Sweeney did not say whether he intended to part with any of the Bruins’ free agents. The GM said he discussed each of their futures in the team’s recent exit meetings, but declined to reveal whether he’d told them anything definitive. He did reiterate his preference to sign Loui Eriksson and said he did not regret keeping the player at the trade deadline.

On the subject of buyouts, Sweeney said he would be willing to use them. Jimmy Hayes, for whom the Bruins traded Reilly Smith last offseason, could be a candidate to be bought out of his contract.

“From a buyout perspective, I think everything in the CBA up and down will be at our disposal,” Sweeney said. “The ownership has been very supportive of what we need to do [and] continue to do going forward, and if that’s part of it, that’s part of it. We just need to continue to get better.”

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