Bob DeChiara/USA Today Sports

Don Sweeney rules out three Bruins free agents, having 'preliminary talks’ with others

Sara Civian
May 31, 2018 - 10:35 pm

Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney offered a glimpse into the beginning of the club’s offseason plans at the NHL Combine Thursday.

“(Paul) Postma, (Kenny) Agostino, and (Brian) Gionta will not be offered contracts,” he told reporters.

The decisive comment wasn't surprising.

Agostino and Postma are likely chasing more NHL ice time, and Gionta was largely regarded as a depth acquisition for the playoffs -- nothing more, nothing less. But so were trade deadline pickups Nick Holden, Tommy Wingels and Rick Nash, and Sweeney didn’t rule them out.

“Looking at both UFA and RFA numbers for players now, have had some preliminary talks with all the players,” he said. “All those players have indicated that they felt they fit in well with our hockey club. It’s unrealistic that everyone will be back.”

Here’s what I see happening, though an expected NHL salary cap increase of at least $3 million will give the Bruins some flexibility with on-the-fence signings like Tim Schaller and Riley Nash. That increase might be among the reasons Sweeney wasn’t ready to rule some of the playoff depth acquisitions out. I said before signing Tommy Wingels just seems like something he'd be open to, and I guess that held up:

"Haven’t decided on Tommy," he said. "In a depth role, in a situation – in the right situation – he could. Tim Schaller follows the same category in terms of what he may feel internally versus externally for opportunities for him."

How about Rick Nash, who was the only Bruins forward not on the first line to score in Round 2 of the playoffs?

"We’re going to have follow up conversations this week," Sweeney said. "Rick indicated when he came to Boston that he was excited about the opportunity. He wants to win...He felt badly, and certainly he’s not responsible for this, because he got injured (concussion). It took away a little juice from him. He missed time coming down the stretch and jumping right into the playoffs. He wasn’t able to play a game and neither was Riley. It had an effect – they had pockets of their game where they played really well, and we knew that – but it was a big part of what our team was in terms of the depth top to bottom. It may or may not have affected what the result was, but it’s not – they’re not really to be held at fault for that."

Sweeney also touched on the future of Austin Czarnik, a 25-year-old unrestricted free agent who’s as NHL ready as it gets for a player who spent majority of the season in Providence.

“I think Austin (Czarnik) is intrigued by what may exist elsewhere,” Sweeney said. “We certainly haven’t closed the door. We don’t think he has as well.”

You could've played connect the dots with that conclusion, but Sweeney’s openness discussing it is interesting. Maybe a public vote of confidence could help the Bruins keep Czarnik in Boston, but you can’t blame him if he takes his 69 points (25 g, 44 a) in 64 AHL games to a program that has a more urgent NHL role available for him.