On Friday, Don Sweeney admitted to having a patient approach with this year’s free agency class. If a deal could be made at the right price, Sweeney for sure would be a little more active in pursuing a top target to fill the Bruins biggest holes – a top-four left shot defenseman, a top-six left winger and a backup goaltender.
Two potential targets fit the bill on D. Trevor Daley, 32, hit the market after back-to-back Cups with the Penguins. Karl Alzner, 28, a 2007 first round pick, was looking for a change of scene after spending his entire career with the Capitals. Both chose to go to Detroit and Montreal, respectively.
Alzner, along with another former Capital in Kevin Shattenkirk, were expected to cash in. They both did with Shattenkirk getting four years and over $6.6 million with the Rangers and Alzner nabbing five years from the Canadiens at over $4.6 million. Daley was hoping for a stable contract in term and length. He got exactly that with the Red Wings – three years at over $3 million per year.
Unless the price was right, none of the aforementioned defensemen would have been a good investment for Sweeney. Instead, he opted to make a couple of minor signings in Paul Postma and reigning AHL MVP Kenny Agostino. Both signed one-year, one-way deals at under $1 million.
Compared to his last two free agency encounters on Canada Day, Sweeney could afford to stay the course thanks in part to the Bruins pool of prospects. He had a hunch that Saturday was going to be a slow day in comparison to signing Matt Beleskey ($3.9 million per year) and David Backes ($6 million per) to five-year deals in consecutive years.
“I don’t know how you define close,” Sweeney said in response to a reporter during Saturday’s press conference at Warrior Ice Arena. “Did we made offers [to players] we explored? Yeah we had, on both sides be it through trade or putting out offers. But as I said [on Friday], I didn’t think it was necessarily going to happen, and it didn’t.”
While July 1 is one of the marquee events on the annual NHL calendar, it is not the end all be all of the off-season. The same could have been said last week after the Bruins wound up staying pat in the aftermath of the Expansion Draft and NHL Entry Draft.
“Everyone wants to improve their team. Do you pick your team on July 1? No, I don’t think you want to be doing that, but I think a lot of that happens on July 1 and it has an impact going forward,” Sweeney stated.
“We’ve been cognizant that we have several players that are 19 or 20 that will arrive and will collide together and I think we have to understand that, and that is included in the players in the past two years that we’ve added. Because those players are a part of our team for the forseeable future and I think they’ll all arrive and you have to see the big picture of it.”
The patient Sweeney still has a number of things on his to-do list in July. Whether it’s re-signing David Pastrnak to a long-term extension, deciding on the future of their RFA’s, including Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, or evaluating prospects at next week’s Development Camp, Sweeney will still have his hands full in the weeks and days ahead.
Sweeney will still pursue the trade market – and whatever is left in this year’s free agency class – in hopes of filling one of his roster holes. But he has his internal priorities too, including Pastrnak’s new contract. With over $13 million in current cap space, Sweeney is in a good position to match any potential offer sheet that other teams may give to Pastrnak.
“We’re in really good position that way,” Sweeney said about matching any Pastrnak offersheet. “We’ve had really good dialogue [in our negotiations], but we haven’t found the landing spot yet.”
Not having Pastrnak signed to an extension yet might be a little worrisome to Bruins fans. Not adding a top-four left shot defenseman yet is also a reason for concern.
In the instance of free agency, however, Sweeney was wise to take a back seat and let the other 30 GM’s overbid on term and money – or both.