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  • With holes to fill, Don Sweeney remains patient

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    With holes to fill, Don Sweeney remains patient

    Tim Rosenthal June 30, 2017

    In his first two encounters with free agency, Don Sweeney attempted to sway some marquee names in the UFA class. In 2015, he signed Matt Beleskey to a five-year deal worth $3.9 million per year and a limited no-trade clause. The next year, former Blues captain David Backes to his own five-year contract at $6 million per year.

    Neither Beleskey or Backes have been exactly the big ticket additions that Sweeney was hoping for. Presumably, that is partly why the third-year Bruins GM is opting to be a little more patient as the UFA free agent signing period begins Saturday at noon.

    Patience may not be the July 1 approach that some Bruins fans are hoping for from Sweeney. With holes to fill in a top-four left shot defenseman, a top-six winger to play alongside David Krejci and a stable backup goaltender, the B’s are still a little ways away from taking the next step a year after returning to the postseason for the first time since 2014.

    The plethora of young talent in the pipeline, however, may help fill one of the holes. Given the prospect pool that includes the likes of Anders Bjork, Jake DeBrusk and Danton Heinen combined with the development of Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, Sweeney has a reason to be optimistic about the future.

    The pipeline gives Sweeney another reason to be patient, as does the cap space that he has to work with. Following the Jimmy Hayes buyout, the Bruins have a little over $14 million of cap space according to Cap Friendly.

    “Supply and demand often times dictates that,” Sweeney said about his approach to the 2017 UFA class. “We’ve been in this market for the last couple of years and [now] I’m in a patient mode. I think we’ve positioned ourselves with the strengths of our prospects and [a] committment to our prospects where we feel excited about that.”

    At this time last year, the Bruins were in a tough spot. Fresh off a second straight late regular season collapse, Sweeney and company needed to restock his prospect pool while also finding a replacement for Loui Eriksson, who wound up in Vancouver last July 1. The Bruins couldn’t add a veteran left-shot defenseman and enter the market looking for that piece for the second straight year.

    Entering this off-season, the UFA blue-line names outside of Kevin Shattenkirk – a right shot D – aren’t exactly the most appealing. The left-shot options include Trevor Daley and Karl Alzner. Neither are exactly worthy of breaking the bank, especially with David Pastrnak likely to make somewhere towards $6 million on his next contract.

    That would leave the Bruins with roughly $7-8 million in cap space to fill the remaining needs, with the left shot top-four defenseman being a priority. Internal candidates like Bjork, DeBrusk or Heinen could be looked upon to fill the top-six wing spot next to David Krejci. They could also opt to keep Anton Khudobin to battle Zane McIntyre for the backup goaltending spot in the fall. In addition, the status of Ryan Spooner, who enters the RFA market, is unknown, while Sweeney will likely move on from Dominic Moore and Drew Stafford, both UFA’s. John-Michael Liles, another UFA, will be seeking employment elsewhere.

    Sweeney is still dedicated to his plan entering his third go-around with free agency. This time, he sees himself operating at a position of strength.

    “Yeah, there’s no question it’s a factor. It speaks to your question earlier about the dynamic moving forward and where we currently sit. We’d like to maintain our flexibility with the mindset that our younger players we’ve always committed to through the draft and whole process will bear forward,” Sweeney said about negotiating with free agents while balancing his approach of keeping a good nucleus of prospects together.

    “There’s some – I wouldn’t call it anxiety, but there’s a bit of an unknown there versus a player that has done it. But, the league has gone in that direction. We wanted to be in a stronger position. I said all along that we need to be a deeper, more talented team and I remain committed to it.”

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    Tim Rosenthal

    Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.


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