Hagg Bag: Plenty of Boston Bruins Questions Remain This Summer (2022)

It’s been a while, so time to pull out the Hagg Bag mailbag and answer a few questions from Boston Bruins fans during an offseason that’s been notable for question marks and a general lack of activity following the head coaching change.

Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci remain unsigned, though the fact they haven’t signed with another team indicates it’s the Boston Bruins or bust. So the Black and Gold have that going for them, which is nice. But there’s also a matter of very little cap space to sign Bergeron, Krejci and newly acquired Pavel Zacha prior to his Aug. 11 arbitration hearing date as the Boston Bruins prepare for captain’s practices in about a month, and then rookie camp and NHL training camp shortly after that.

Until the Boston Bruins can do something about their salary cap situation, it also precludes them from potentially being in on the curious case of Nazem Kadi, who remains unsigned to this point in the summer despite his standing along with Johnny Gaudreau as one of the premium unrestricted free agents on the market this summer.

Anyway, on to the cracking open of the Hagg Bag and, as always, please send all questions to my HackswithHaggs twitter account using the #HaggBag hash tag or as messages to my Facebook fan page if you’d like to be included in the bag:

Joe,

Question for the mailbag – It’s a sad state of affairs for your prospect pool when your fanbase has to do daily check-ins on whether 2 mid-35 YO’s (albeit great players) re-signed. If they do, it’s probably for a year. THEN what?! You either sign FA’s (which takes up more cap space) or you trade your better players to acquire younger talent. Neither situation is ideal, but wouldn’t you have to at least look into unloading Pasta?

No one wants to, but with no top-6 scoring prospects outside of maybe Lysell, whether they want to or not, the B’s are heading for a rebuild in a year or two. I understand the return on Alex DeBrincat wasn’t great, but if you’re Don Sweeney (and could probably do a better job), what’s your ask in return? For me, it’s two 1sts (or a conditional 2nd that becomes a 1st if he re-signs), a current top-6 F and a solid prospect. And what teams do you think would match up well?

–Anders Johnson (via Facebook fan page)

JH: First of all, no team is going to give that kind of ransom up for a player with just one year left on his contract ahead of unrestricted free agency unless there’s already a tacit agreement in place for a contract extension. So it would have to be the perfect scenario of a team willing to give up a king’s ransom for David Pastrnak and a team where No. 88 is willing to sign an extension to potentially play there for the rest of his career.

The Boston Bruins have also semi-addressed the Bergeron/Krejci “aging center” situation with the deal for Zacha, right? Obviously, he’s going to need to sign a reasonable extension and show on the ice that he’s got top-6 potential, but he’s a 24-year-old big-bodied center that had enough talent to be a top-10 pick that could really take a step forward now that he’s out of New Jersey.

The bottom line for me is this: You don’t solve your lack of scoring ability by trading away one of the best scorers in the NHL while he’s still in his 20’s and the Boston Bruins don’t even have the answer of how competitive they’re going to be with guys like Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy and Jeremy Swayman still around to keep them in the playoff mix.

If I’m Don Sweeney (who I think gets pretty unfairly maligned by some Boston Bruins fans, by the way) I don’t trade Pastrnak unless he makes it very clear that he’s no longer willing to sign with the B’s and sends signals that he wants to dip into free agency next summer. If that’s the case, then the Bruins would need to get something back for them, so they’re not left holding the bag like Calgary was with Johnny Gaudreau.

To my knowledge, Pastrnak has given no such indications that he’s unhappy or that he wants to be somewhere else. That’s the only way I trade him this coming season.

How are the @NHLBruins going to shed cap space in order to bring back Bergeron and possibly Krejci? And I was very disappointed with Thor “Love and Thunder”

–Steve Dziemian (@SfDz11_07_14)

JH: Disappointed with “Thor: Love and Thunder?” I did not like it as much as “Thor: Ragnarok” and certainly I thought there were times that it went too far overboard with silly, stupid humor that didn’t have a point. And there was far too much Korg that obviously goes hand-in-hand with having Taika Waititi as your director/writer.

Of course, everybody’s opinions may vary on this.

Korg was one of the best parts of Thor: Love & Thunder pic.twitter.com/4HQO6j1glR

— 🌊 🌷 Panda Mom 🌷 🌊 (@justannpandamom) July 24, 2022

But I liked the action, I liked the Gorr storyline and having Natalie Portman back were all things I really enjoyed along with Thor being Thor. It’s certainly a rewatchable movie, which is usually my measuring stick for an MCU movie. For example, I saw Eternals and Black Widow and said, “yeah, I don’t think I ever need to watch that one again.” I didn’t feel that way after “Thor: Love and Thunder” even if it was a little annoying in parts.

Anyway, how are the Boston Bruins going to shed cap space? They have too many defensemen with NHL spots for next season, so I could very easily see Mike Reilly being moved once he gets healthy. I also wonder if the Boston Bruins are going to explore trading Charlie Coyle as well, and if that is linked in with Bergeron and Krejci coming back and potentially having Zacha as the third line center for next season before moving into the top-6 spot moving forward.

Certainly, there’s also possibilities of burying Nick Foligno or Tomas Nosek in the minors, or trading Craig Smith going into the final year of his contract coming off a down year with 16 goals and 36 points last season.

Joe

Will they sign both or one of either 37 or 46? And if Don makes a trade who might be involved

–Eugene Mannarino (@steelmann58)

JH: Yes, I believe that Patrice Bergeron is a locked and loaded done deal. He’s contacting new Boston Bruins players when they come into the fold and still acting like the captain, and he’s the type of guy that wouldn’t be doing that at this point if he was moving on next season.

I think Krejci is also likely a formality at this point given that he hasn’t signed anywhere else, but he does have that option of again playing in the Czech Republic if things didn’t work out for whatever reason with the Black and Gold. As for who might be traded, I don’t think there’s a very long list of Boston Bruins players on an untouchable list. At this point, I’d put Brad Marchand, Pastrnak, McAvoy, Swayman, and Bergeron on the untouchable list and anybody else could be available in the right deal for the franchise.

I have a question. What is Don Sweeney doing?

–Joseph Macconell (@JosephMaccone3)

JH: Right now? Probably somewhere getting some exercise and a sensible, healthy meal. He’s also got some work to do to replace a lot of organizational people that are moving on whether it’s Skating and Skills coach Kim Brandvold going to Boston University for an assistant coaching post or longtime scout Scott Fitzgerald leaving for a new post with the San Jose Sharks.

Everybody wants to look at the unsigned free agents still sitting out in limbo or trades that Boston Bruins fans want to happen, and demand that Don Sweeney start making moves left, right and center. But there’s a lot on Sweeney’s plate right now with a Boston Bruins organization that’s clearly turning over in a lot of different areas right now.

For The Love of Thor and Thunder WTF are Bruins Doing

–Robert Donovan (@Bostonguy65)

JH: Not much right now. But it’s pretty clear at this point that they are going for it next season and keeping the nucleus of the team together. I still anticipate there could be a decent-sized move still to be made this summer, or during NHL training camp, to free up cap space and address a roster that seems to have a lot of people earmarked for the NHL roster right now.

But I think people looking for a massive roster restructuring right now are barking up the wrong tree. That might happen in a year or two when Bergeron and Krejci are gone, or it might not happen at all as the Jacobs Family made clear when they spoke to the Boston Bruins media during the introduction of new head coach Jim Montgomery.

But it’s not happening this season and it’s probably time for Boston Bruins to embrace that and just enjoy one more year of Bergeron, who probably isn’t going to be around as a player anymore after the upcoming hockey season.

Do the Jacobs have a history of liking hockey, or do they ever watch/attend the games? (I’m serious) Also what’s the reason for not disclosing the terms of Don Sweeney’s extension? Negative public reaction or common practice? Starting roster prediction next season? #Haggbag

–Big Bad Bruin (@Bruins_Fan4324)

JH: It’s a fairly common practice to not publicly reveal the contract terms for management or coaches in the NHL, and in most professional sports. Starting Boston Bruins roster prediction for next season with Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy rehabbing to start the regular season:

Hall-Bergeron-DeBrusk

Zacha-Krejci-Pastrnak

Frederic-Coyle-Smith

Greer-Nosek-Steen

Lindholm-Carlo

Reilly-Ahcan

Zboril-Clifton

Swayman

The Bruins failed to score first in their last 5 road playoff games. For such a veteran group, what is the issue? #HaggBag

–PM4523 (@PaulM8712)

JH: The issue was the Carolina Hurricanes. They had Boston’s number all season and they had a very good defensive team. I think it’s also clear at this point that the Boston Bruins were extremely banged up in the playoffs last year based on all the surgeries this offseason.

All that being said, I also think Cam Neely had a valid point about the Boston Bruins not being good enough when it comes to creating offense below the dots and getting the puck to the net. The forward group could use some size with skill, and they definitely need a little more determination when it comes to fighting their way to the front of the net for tips, deflections, rebounds and good, old-fashioned offense around the net.

The Boston Bruins are still in search mode for that classic power forward-type to help in that regard and getting more dangerous shots from the point to create action in front of the opposing net, and that isn’t going to be an easy problem to solve.

Hey Joe,

Pasta will probably get 10-11 mil./ season. Question is will it be in Boston? $82mil. Team budget, will he stay? Or will he go? Judging Sweeney’s past, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him walk for free! Dark days ahead!

–Bob Boisclair (via Facebook fan page)

JH: There are most certainly challenging days ahead. And I’ve already said I do think dark days directly ahead with the rehabbing players, an NHL roster in transition and players like Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci eventually aging out of the league.

What do I think David Pastrnak is going to get? After watching the contracts that have been handed out this summer, I think Pastrnak actually slots right into the $9.5-10 million per season on a max eight-year deal if/when he signs with Boston. Certainly, I think Pastrnak is in the same class as players like Jack Eichel ($10 million per season), Jack Eichel ($9.85 million), Johnny Gaudreau ($9.75 million) and Mark Stone ($9.5 million) as comparable contracts when it comes to negotiating a new deal.

It will be interesting to see if the Boston Bruins balk on making Pastrnak the highest-salaried player on the roster over Charlie McAvoy currently at $9.5 million per season, but I think they’re going to have to do that, even if it’s just slightly, if they want to keep him around for the long run. Pastrnak left money on the table with his last contract with the Boston Bruins and there’s no reason for him to do that this time around.

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