Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney didn’t make any big splashes on Monday’s opening day of NHL Free Agency. He extended Connor Clifton, signed goalie Maxime Lagace and signed Brett Ritchie. Noel Acciari departed for the Florida Panthers and Sweeney announced late Monday that the B’s haven’t given Marcus Johansson an offer to come back.
Not exactly the biggest day in Bruins history.
But what lies ahead for Sweeney will be one of his toughest challenges yet. Signing restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen won’t be an easy task. And with $10.1 million in cap space for next season, Sweeney must convince all three to take team-friendly deals.
Sweeney remains confident all three deals can be done despite little wiggle room.
“It depends on where those deals land and the terms, obviously,” said Sweeney. “We feel comfortable where we’re at, from our current cap space. We don’t foresee any problems reaching deals with players depending on the terms.”
As an elite, two-way threat, McAvoy is expected to net over $7 million on his next contract. If the B’s want to avoid having to hand him a raise in a few years, an eight-year deal would be best since it would cover the prime of his career.
Carlo isn’t expected to net as much, but he’ll still require a significant raise. Even though he’s slated to be the Bruins’ shutdown d-man of the future, he’s nowhere near the offensive threat that McAvoy poses. That alone will put Carlo at about $4 million per year.
And then there’s Heinen, whose value might be the toughest to gage. He’s been a steady presence on the third line and that’s all he really projects to be. There’s no need for the Bruins to give more than an AAV of $3 million for two years.
But even with Johansson likely gone, Sweeney predicts that Heinen will be the one to replace him.
“I think Danton Heinen,” said Sweeney on Monday afternoon when asked who would replace Johansson. “Depends on which side we play him on. If you think whether Karson [Kuhlman] or [Zach] Senyshyn, whoever, Brett Ritchie, obviously guys who are right shot if we play lefty/righty and move Danton over, I think fits into that same bill of player, creative-wise. Marcus wasn’t a shoot-first guy either, and Danton’s not. We’d like him to shoot a little more volume, if he can.”
Heinen had 34 points last year and 47 points the year before. Both totals are on par with the numbers Johansson’s put up during his nine-year career.
When it comes to signing McAvoy, Carlo and Heinen, the only advantage Sweeney has on his side is time. December 1 is the deadline when players have to decide whether to sign or sit out the season.
“It’s a constant dialogue,” he said. “There’s just no way to push anybody to the table or pull anybody to the table. It’s a matter of some of these things just take time. You’re never out of communication. It’s the wrong approach, in my opinion. There’s no line in the sand. You have to fork to find a deal, what works for both sides.”
The trio of RFAs have all expressed a desire to stay in Boston, which just might set the stage for Sweeney’s greatest feat yet.