Murph: Is Sweeney Trying To Clear Cap Space For Tavares?

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Are the Boston Bruins suddenly trying to get a seat at the table in the John Tavares sweepstakes? According to one NHL source, that could be the case and Boston should not be ruled out when it comes to Tavares or any other big name available via free agency and/or trades.

“The Bruins really are in a great position right now,” the source said Tuesday. “I’m not saying they’re a frontrunner for Tavares right now and who knows if he even reaches free agency with the Isles signing Barry Trotz? But don’t count Don Sweeney out on anything! He’s proven already he can pull off some big deals and he’s built a solid enough foundation of young talent that he can use some them or his veteran core to land a big fish.”

Hockey 24/7 – who I can vouch for as a reliable source of info – tweeted June 17 that the Isles had made a substantial offer to Tavares.

Then on Thursday afternoon after the Islanders announced the signing of Trotz, Newsday hockey reporter Andrew Gross reported a Tavares extension was getting close but stressed nothing was done yet.

However, could this explain the recent trade buzz surrounding Bruins veteran forwards David Krejci and David Backes? Sweeney and any other NHL GM would be crazy not to at least try and position themselves to land what – should Tavares reach the free agency interview period next week – would be the most prized free agent in the history of the salary cap era! If Hockey 24/7’s numbers are correct, unloading Krejci (three years, $7.2 million cap hit) and Backes (three years, $6 million cap hit) would give them enough to match the Isles’ offer and then some.

Both Krejci and Backes would need to waive their no-movement clauses for any trades involving them, but if they, what does Sweeney have to lose exploring any options he has to free up that money. Of course, if Tavares doesn’t reach free agency or if the B’s don’t get invited to a table of suitors – that many in and around the NHL believe will have five seats that is believed to already include the Vegas Golden Knights and Toronto Maple Leafs – then he will need to replace Krejci’s scoring in the second line center slot, but at least he will have money to do so right?

One thing I’ve learned since Sweeney took over as Bruins GM in 2015 is to never count him out or doubt him. Has he missed on some trades and signings? Sure he has; but so does every GM. He has however quickly replenished the depth of prospects and built a team that with 104 points in 2017-18, had the most points for a B’s team in 40 years.

Are Bruins Now Focused More On Size Up Front Rather Than On D?

In a media scrum at the NHL Awards in Las Vegas Wednesday, Bruins President Cam Neely took a complete 180 from what he told reporters at the end of the season, when he said that more size on the left side of the Bruins’ blue line had been and would be the team’s focus this offseason.

“From our back end perspective, even with Torey (Krug) and Matt (Grzelcyk), we have some good size and physicality back there,” Neely told reporters in Sin City. “In the forward group, we have (David) Backes who gets in there and plays physical. But other than that, we’ve got guys who’ll compete hard, but if we could find someone with a little more meat on the bones. . . . But you need guys who can skate. If you can’t skate, it’s difficult to get in on the contact.”

As I reported two days ago, Sweeney has been talking to Hurricanes GM Don Waddell regarding what it would take for the Bruins to acquire defenseman and Norwood, MA native Noah Hanifin, whom he has coveted since the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. Maybe the asking price was too high and he and Neely have shifted their focus elsewhere? I still wouldn’t give up on Hanifin though, as he in my opinion satisfies the team’s biggest need, to fill that left side on the top D pairing and fits more in the mold of the type of team Sweeney and Cassidy would like to have going forward with speed, skill and a crisp outlet pass to create offense.

As we also reported, Sweeney was talking to former colleague and Vancouver GM Jim Benning regarding the seventh overall pick. Could it be that maybe his plan was to acquire that pick and then flip it to Carolina in a package for Hanifin? One has to wonder if Neely’s comments mean that plan fell through? One things for sure, the trade chatter is reaching a crescendo as we approach the draft in Dallas and my phone will now play this Timex Social Club one hit wonder until early July!


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