Here we are in mid-August — aka the Dog Days fo Summer — and the Bruins’ top two young and talented defensemen are still without a contract.
Charlie McAvoy, 21, and Brandon Carlo, 22, became restricted free agents on July 1. Don Sweeney sees both right shot defensemen as franchise cornerstones.
The way Sweeney has played out this offseason can only leave you scratching your head a little bit. The sixth-year Boston GM made a number of minor transactions in July after signing bottom-six cogs Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie while also re-signing veteran defenseman Steven Kampfer and Danton Heinen.
Those moves would be all well and good except the Bruins don’t have much cap space to begin with and they need every penny than can spare to re-sign Carlo and McAvoy.
The Bruins have a little over $7.2 million of projected salary cap space available according to Cap Friendly. That simply isn’t enough to sign both McAvoy and Carlo.
Sweeney pulled off some tremendous team-friendly deals during his tenure. Both David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand each signed contract extensions for under $7 million per season under his watch. But inking McAvoy and Carlo provides quite the conundrum.
So what are Boston’s options?
Simply put, Sweeney needs to get creative to get Carlo and McAvoy under contract.
One of the ways Sweeney can get it done is through a bridge deal, which would allow the Bruins to remain under the cap this season until they have more money to pay the duo down the road.
Yet, there are several things you have to take into account with a potential bridge deal. First off, McAvoy and Carlo might not accept that kind of situation. And secondly, other key cogs like Jake DeBrusk (RFA) and Torey Krug (UFA) are both entering the final year of their respective contracts in 2019-20.
The Bruins are stuck between a rock in a hard place. They might have to trade away some pieces to get Carlo and McAvoy under contract. David Backes, John Moore and Kevan Miller are likely candidates to go elsewhere if Sweeney goes down this route.
The ideal scenario is getting rid of Backes’ $6 million salary. While he still provides a steady veteran presence in the Bruins locker room, the 35-year-old, who has two years left on his deal, is no longer worth anywhere close to that salary. The Bruins paid him to sit up in the press box every third game or so as a healthy scratch last season.
Getting Backes’ contract off the books won’t be easy. First off, there aren’t many teams in the league looking to take on that kind of money, especially for an aging veteran on the backside of his career. He also has a modified no-trade clause for the next two seasons. Sweeney acknowledged earlier this offseason that he has received that list and I suspect that there aren’t many teams on it with the cap space available to take on Backes.
That leaves Miller and Moore as potential trade options and given Miller’s recent knee injury, Moore might have a foot out the door already.
Sweeny and the Bruins are in a tough predicament in a crowded RFA market that also includes prominent names like Mitch Marner and Zach Werenski. Getting McAvoy and Carlo signed to long-term deals — or at the very least bridge contracts — would at least stabilize Boston’s chances of another Stanley Cup run.
Training Camp is a month away. Having Carlo and McAvoy back by then would be ideal, but that’s easier said than done.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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