It's that age old dilemma. How do the Stanley Cup winners find ways to adapt and extend thier championship window?
First, find a way to extend Torey Krug
Any contract would kick in for the 2020-21 season which is a good thing. The hope would be that the salary cap approaches or even exceeds $85 million. That extra $3 million or so could make the difference between an extension and seeking a trade.
Krug will turn 29 next summer and an eight-year deal sounds unlikely for both sides. The feeling is that the Torey Krug side is looking for something in the four to five-year range. Now, the AAV is where things become interesting.
If Boston can find a way to come in somewhere between $7-$7.5 million, that would be a considerable victory. More than likely, the AAV creeps north of $8 million.
Boston needs Krug more than Krug needs Boston. The Stanley Cup Playoffs told us that lesson as the defenseman time and time again showed the world just how much talent he has. Keep in mind, this will not be easy with contracts still needing to be handed out to Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy. Speaking of McAvoy…
Second, keep any McAvoy deal reasonable…
This is an important contract given McAvoy is a restricted free agent. Keep in mind, the blueliner is just 21-years old. There is a good bit of youth on the Bruins. Securing the defenseman to something longer than a bridge deal is ideal.
Any contract longer than three years gets Boston closer to those UFA years. So, if the Bruins could secure a six year or even seven-year deal, that would be something. It seems an eight-year contract is off the table.
What might an AAV look like for McAvoy? Projected numbers suggest a six-year, $43 million deal or somewhere in that range. If Boston can get those dollars down even a bit, that would be great. Boston must secure its top-notch defense along with allowing a little extra space just in case.
It is not impossible that Boston could extend most, if not almost all their pending free agents. This would require tougher decisions later. However, keeping this core as together as possible is more paramount.
Third, then there is the focus on goaltending
Right now, things are just fine with both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask both in the mix for 2019-20. Halak has one more year left on his deal, but Rask has two years – at $7 million per season. Halak only get paid $2.75 million.
The 2020-21 season begins to present problems at any additional Halak deal would be a 35+ contract. Boston would like to keep the tandem going. Both were very successful with the 2/3-1/3 playing time split.
Part of the reason why Boston’s defense can be so stingy is that goaltending. This is one of the best tandems in the league. Even though Krug will be approaching 35 himself by the start of his next “deal”, he has managed to maintain his form and played immensely well in the playoffs. He showed a lot of people just how good Rask could be.
If Rask’s next contract is not too far off from the current deal, that is great for Boston.
Fourth, find a team to take David Backes off their hands…
No one wants to admit the reality but the backend of the Backes deal was going to be painful. A modified NTC kicked in on July 1st where Backes would submit an eight-team list of where he would want to go. For 2020-21, that number jumps up to 15.
Next year is more advantageous to Boston but this season has its perks too. Any acquiring team would only have to pay out $4 million per season despite the $6 million cap hit. Would a deal require some sweetening? Perhaps. Backes can be serviceable in a bottom-six role and there are a few teams who made need some help in hitting the cap floor.
Moving Backes frees up spots for other talent to rise through the system. Plus, Jake DeBrisk will be a RFA next year as well. The more cap space Boston frees up now, the more they benefit later.
Finally, play better at home in the playoffs
Yes, this seems like a departure compared to the other constructs. However, Boston did have some persistent issues winning at home. Even in the Columbus and Carolina series, the Bruins had too many games where they lost or nearly lost because of sluggish play.
Toronto won twice in Boston and St. Louis won three times – including a decisive Game 7. That should not happen and cannot occur in future playoff runs. This Boston team has one of the best special teams’ percentages in the league, has very good goaltending, but must find ways to take advantage of the home cooking.
Deep playoff runs will lengthen their Cup window while one misstep may thwart all of that. This margin of error is quite thin. Bruce Cassidy, Cam Neely, and company must be mindful of putting a team together that can win and keep winning.
By Chris Wassel