While the early indications from the labor talks weren't especially encouraging with the owners raising fears of another lockout after opening the proceedings with a provocative set of draconian demands, the Bruins continued to put the finishing touches on the roster they hope will take the ice on time this fall.
Veteran defensemen Aaron Johnson and Garnet Exelby were added to the mix for the battle for the seventh spot on defense and Christian Hanson joined the list of players vying for one of the precious few openings up front.
There still could be more moves made, and those possibilities, as well as what we should expect from the pieces of the roster already in place, were among the subjects addressed in the latest edition of the Bruins Mailbag. As always, I'd like to thank all the readers who sent in questions and apologize in advance if I wasn't able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I'll answer as many of them as I can throughout the offseason, which hopefully will not last any longer than scheduled.
Do you think Shane Doan or Rick Nash would be a good fit for the Bruins?
– Donald Kelley, Woburn, Mass.
As players, I think both would fit in very well. Although I think Nash is a bit overrated for what the Blue Jackets are looking to get for him in a trade, there's no denying that he's still a very good offensive player who could help the Bruins. Doan also would be a perfect fit with the kind of leadership, experience and secondary scoring he could provide.
Unfortunately, where I don't see the fit is with what it would take to get either of those players in a Bruins uniform. The asking price for Nash has been astronomical and Columbus has shown no willingness to budge. Any package that's going to include Tyler Seguin or Dougie Hamilton is a complete non-starter. I also wouldn't want to see the Bruins make Milan Lucic the centerpiece of a trade for Nash, as the two have put up almost identical numbers the past two seasons (Lucic has 56-67-123 totals in 160 games, Nash has 62-63-125 totals in 157 games), but Lucic adds a lot more intangible value with his physical play. Nash has good size and will take the body, but can't intimidate an opponent or change the momentum of a game the way Lucic can with his hits and fights, although admittedly he has been more inconsistent with his use of those attributes the last couple years.
Add in the fact that Columbus will also be looking for additional players, prospects and high picks in a package for Nash, and that the Bruins will likely have to part with other key players in the coming years because of Nash's $7.8 million cap hit for the next six seasons and such a trade just is not worth it.
Doan is a free agent and would only cost the Bruins money, but quite a bit of it. It's been reported that he's already gotten a four-year, $30 million deal from an Eastern Conference team. That's a $7.5 million cap hit for a player who turns 36 on Oct. 10 and has averaged exactly 20 goals the past three seasons. It would also be an over-35 contract, so any team signing him will carry his cap hit over the full length of the contract, even if he retires or loses effectiveness and they want to cut ties with him. And that is assuming Doan even is truly available, as his preference remains staying in Phoenix as long as the Coyotes are going to stay there, and that, for better or worse, is looking more and more likely.
In short, I like both players and I think they each would fit in well in the Bruins system and locker room, but I don't think what they would add to the Bruins would justify the cost of acquiring either of them.
Hey @douglasflynn, any thoughts on the Bruins possibly trading for Bobby Ryan by moving [David] Krejci? I'd love to see a [Rich] Peverley-[Tyler] Seguin-Ryan line.
– Andrew Bucci via Twitter (@ABucci33)
Ryan is a more reasonable trade target than Nash. I actually like his upside more as he is three years younger than Nash, has put up similar numbers with 30-plus goals in each of his first four full seasons in the NHL and has a much more manageable cap hit ($5.1 million for the next three years). I do think some fans are seriously underrating Krejci's skills and contributions to the team, most notably in their Cup run in 2011 when he led the entire league in postseason scoring, but that is a deal I would probably do just because of Boston's depth down the middle and lack of pure finishers like Ryan.
I'm not sure Anaheim would make that deal though. While the value of Krejci and Ryan is pretty close, and a draft pick or prospect added by the Bruins would make it more than fair, part of the reason the Ducks are considering dealing Ryan is to free up money to keep Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, as they are both scheduled to hit free agency after the upcoming season. Krejci is about to begin his new deal with a cap hit of $5.25 million for the next three years, so Anaheim would actually be taking on money in this deal.
If the money issues could be worked out and a deal centered around Krejci and Ryan ever was consummated, I don't think I'd go with that lineup, however. Peverley is a valuable player for his versatility and ability to fill in on a scoring line, but I wouldn't put him on the top line if everyone is healthy. I think having Milan Lucic on a line with Seguin and Ryan would be more likely, or use Ryan on the left side with Nathan Horton flanking Seguin on the right.
So with the signing of [Aaron] Johnson, is this their seventh d-man or do you see them maybe getting someone like a [Steve] Staios or [Sean] O'Donnell maybe?
– Wes LeJan
I think the Bruins are probably done with adding veterans for that seventh defenseman role now that they've signed Johnson. He'll have to earn that spot and will have to fend off fellow veteran free agent addition Garnet Exelby and youngsters like Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski to do it, but Johnson would appear to have the inside track.
Johnson has 281 games of NHL experience, including 56 last year with Columbus where he put up 3-13-16 totals with 99 hits and 70 blocked shots. He's not necessarily a guy you'd want to depend on logging big minutes every night on a contending team, but he's well suited to the seventh defenseman role. At 29, he's beyond the point where his development could be hampered by sitting out the majority of games the way it could be for Krug or Bartkowski, while also being capable of filling in when called upon if injuries strike.
Staios and O'Donnell could have been good options as well and may have provided more leadership and a bit of a physical presence, but I think Johnson should be fine for the limited role he'll be asked to play in Boston.
Why do people insist that the Bruins can do anything with [Tuukka] Rask in goal?
– Tj Thibeault via Facebook
Maybe because Rask happens to be an excellent goalie who has already played very well in the past three seasons in the NHL. He's been a starter before, supplanting Tim Thomas in 2009-10 and did just fine. Actually, he did a heck of a lot better than fine as he led the NHL in both goals-against average (1.97) and save percentage (.931).
There's also the fact that he outplayed Thomas again last year. Thomas played the bulk of the games, but Rask had the better GAA (2.05 to 2.36) and save percentage (.929 to .920) before a groin/abdominal injury cut Rask's season short in March. Rask will be asked to take on a bigger role than he's had at this level before, but he's far from an unknown. He has played 102 games in the NHL and put up a solid 47-35-1 record with a 2.20 GAA, .926 save percentage and 11 shutouts.
His playoff experience is less extensive, going 7-6 with a 2.61 GAA and a .912 save percentage in 2010 when he was outstanding against Buffalo but ran out of steam like the rest of the club when Boston blew a 3-0 lead against the Flyers. Those numbers are a little worse than his regular season stats, but you know what they look an awful lot like? Thomas' first NHL postseason, when he went 3-4 with a 2.65 GAA and .914 save percentage in 2008. He did just fine in the postseasons that followed and I'm confident Rask will do fine next spring as well. Even more important, his teammates are confident in Rask's ability to do the job and that he has the full support of everyone in that locker room.
I've heard very recently that PJ Axelsson is interested in an NHL comeback. Do you think he could land on the Bruins?
– Sam Robinson via Facebook
Axelsson is indeed looking to return to the NHL after playing the last three years for Frolunda in his native Sweden. He still has one year remaining on the four-year deal he signed after leaving the Bruins in 2009, but presumably has an out clause to return to the NHL.
I'm not sure how realistic that return is. He is now 37 and three years removed from his last NHL shift, but Axelsson always kept himself in great shape and his hockey sense and ability to anticipate plays as they developed was always top notch. That might enable him to make up for any loss of speed he may have suffered over the years.
I don't know that Boston would be a good fit for him right now though. While it would be a nice story to see him come back to complete his NHL career with the same club he started with, the Bruins already have an abundance of bottom six forwards. Assuming Nathan Horton is good to go at the start of the season as expected, that leaves Rich Peverley on the third line with Chris Kelly and likely Jordan Caron, with the fourth line of Daniel Paille, Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton all returning. Add in guys like Chris Bourque, Lane MacDermid and Christian Hanson looking to move up from the AHL and prospects like Ryan Spooner and Jared Knight ready to challenge for NHL spots and I don't think Axelsson really fills a need for the Bruins at this point.
If they add anyone, it would have to be more of a true scorer to upgrade the offense and address the power-play struggles the club has had in the last couple years. That's never been Axelsson's forte, and judging from the 4-10-14 and 2-12-14 totals he's put up the last two years in Sweden, those limitations don't appear to have changed since he departed Boston.
Will Jordan Caron make a substantial contribution to the offense this year?
– Rick Smith
That will depend on how you define a "substantial contribution." Caron will likely open the season on the third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley, though that spot won't be handed to him with plenty of competition in camp looking to battle for what might be the only spot in the top 12 forwards that's really up for grabs. Kelly and Peverley are certainly capable of contributing offensively, with Kelly coming off his first 20-goal campaign and Peverley frequently filling in on the top two lines when needed. Playing with them will lead to offensive chances for Caron, but that line will be more of a checking line with its defensive responsibilities taking priority.
Even in such a role, Caron still has the ability to chip in some timely offensive production, especially if he plays as he did down the stretch last year. After managing just five points in his first 30 games (and seven points in 23 games in his first season in 2010-11), Caron had 10 points in his final 18 games. That's a 46-point pace over a full 82-game slate. That may be asking a bit much considering he had eight of those points in a six-game hot streak in early March, but that spurt does show that Caron is capable of such stretches and could be very productive if he can find some more consistency.
His success on the way to the NHL shows that as well. The 2009 first-round pick had 36-31-67 totals in 56 games and 26-27-53 totals in 43 games in his last two junior campaigns, along with 33 points in 33 QMJHL playoff games. He also had 13 points in 17 games in Providence last year and 28 points in 47 games in the AHL in his first pro season. The skill is there to contribute more offensively and he will be given the chance to play a bigger role this season. Now it's just up to him to apply that ability when given the opportunity.
Have questions for Douglas Flynn’s mailbag? Leave them in the comments section below, send them to him via Twitter @douglasflynn or send them here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week. Be sure to check back to see if your question was answered.