Three things Don Sweeney has to do for Bruins at 2019 NHL Draft

Matt Kalman
June 20, 2019 - 8:11 pm

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney admitted Thursday that Boston’s run to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, where the St. Louis Blues prevailed, did more than cause him heartache.

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The lengthy run may have also made him play catchup to most of the other GMs in the NHL.

“Well I’m probably a little behind the trade chatter given the length of run we had playoff-wise,” he told the media in Vancouver, where the 2019 NHL Draft will be held Friday and Saturday. “So I’ve been catching up and you know it’s picking up some steam. We’ve obviously been focused a little more on the draft itself right now, but yeah, there’s enough trade chatter to think there’s going to be some movement either pre- or post-draft.”

The Bruins' only pick on Friday is scheduled to come at No. 30. As always, Sweeney’s contemplating moves that will allow the Bruins to pick lower or higher, and of course if the Bruins stay at 30 they’ll make that pick as well.

“We’re well-prepared that we’ll make our selection and find hopefully another good player for us,” he said.

But this weekend means more than just selecting amateur players, it means getting other business done with the free-agent interview period coming up this week and then free agency opening a week from Monday on July 1.

Here are Sweeney’s top three priorities this weekend:

1. Make up some ground on his restricted free agents.

Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen have been eligible for contract extensions since last July 1. For obvious reasons related to injuries, experience, performance and the Bruins’ salary cap situation, all three are one week from becoming RFAs.

Although he and the rest of his fellow GMs don’t yet know the salary cap ceiling for 2019-20 (the NHL hopes to announce it Saturday), the $1 million or so difference in early projections and what might be the actual number shouldn’t have too much of an effect on Sweeney’s pursuit of three key young players.

Especially when it comes to McAvoy and Carlo, Sweeney has to turn up the heat on what have probably been casual negotiations to this point. Both defensemen are cornerstones of an organization that has always been built around high-end defensemen and should be compensated as such. It’s difficult to find players of their caliber. No reason to beat around the bush or risk a negotiation that carries into the season.

"Those guys will be playing for the Boston Bruins at some point in time next year, it's just a matter of when we find common ground,” Sweeney said.

Well that doesn’t sound promising, but one has to expect Sweeney knows the Bruins can’t afford anything contentious with his two defensive stars both because you don’t want to sour a relationship that should last well into the next decade and you don’t want to see how this Bruins team plays without either of them come October.

2. Gauge the UFA market.

Sweeney has been transparent about prioritizing his RFAs over his UFAs. He has also sounded amenable to keeping Marcus Johansson, and maybe Noel Acciari. But Sweeney can’t become fixated on those two. Acciari, for one, is replaceable within the organization. The Bruins have plenty of bottom-six depth coming up.

Johansson was an excellent fit once he got healthy in the postseason, but he might not be the perfect fit for the long term. The UFA market could price him out of Boston’s range. His lack of comfort playing the right side might make him less valuable to the Bruins. Sweeney should plan to still test the interest of similar players that Boston target before last year’s trade deadline, including Mats Zuccarello and Gustav Nyquist, to see if maybe there’s a better match. He can’t talk directly about the UFAs until Sunday, but we all know an informal chat with an agent here or there could go a long way toward having the inside track on the right move.

3. Add a goalie

Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak are set as the top tandem in the NHL for next season, but Zane McIntyre is a Group 6 unrestricted free agent and might be gone. After that Boston has Daniel Vladar, coming off his first full AHL season, first-year pro Kyle Keyser and UMaine’s Jeremy Swayman. They have to add another goalie in this year’s draft. It’s unlikely USNTDP prospect Spencer Knight will make it to pick 30, and one wouldn’t blame the Bruins for avoiding a goalie in the first round if he did, considering the track record first-round goalies have in the past decade or more.

But there will be goalies on the board when the Bruins pick in the third and fifth rounds and they should continue to restock that position because of its volatility and the fact that Rask is 32 and has already become a goalie that needs to share the net almost evenly with a partner.

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