Don Sweeney spoke to the media during his end-of-season press conference today and provided some insight into his thought process heading into the offseason. You can check out most of his comments in the video below. You can also check out more of his comments in this article on NHL.com. Otherwise, here’s a look at the major things he talked about and my thoughts on them.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) September 9, 2020
Tuukka Expected to Return
The first question Sweeney was asked this morning was about the future of Tuukka Rask. “I haven’t had a conversation subsequent to when Tuukka left,” said Sweeney. “We checked up on him to make sure him and his family are doing well, and our reports are that they are indeed doing well. I have zero reservations about where Tuukka will be both on and off the ice for us. We feel we’ve had strong goaltending the last couple years, we’ve done a good job of mapping out the health of both players and preserving when they’re at their best. We continue to want to do that going forward and I think we’re in a really good spot with our goaltending.”
According to this article on NHL.com, he also continued on to say this: “If you look at Tuukka’s actual play – I do believe he’s a Vezina finalist this year. For me, that pretty much dictates everything. Obviously, his own personal life, we all have matters that at times we have to deal with, and he’s been given the opportunities in a couple instances to make sure he feels good on and off the ice. I think any player, any manager, any person involved in sport or in life would respect- has to respect – that people have to their to their own personal business. How he chooses to do that is his own decision and his alone… you have to respect his privacy and allow him the latitude to take care of it. And ultimately it hasn’t affected his play on the ice.”
I honestly don’t have a ton to say about this, as it’s what I’ve been saying all along. But, I will say this. I sincerely hope this finally silences the people who want to spread rumors saying Tuukka is done. He’s not. He’s made no indication that he is at any point. To assume he is just because he’s left the team twice to tend to family emergencies is grossly unfair. Rask will be back and ready to play more elite hockey next season. There should be no more questions asked or doubts raised about this.
Krug and Chara’s Future
In addition to Rask, Sweeney was also asked about the futures of Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara. Here’s what he had to say on each of them.
Starting with Krug, here’s what Sweeney had to say: “Well we haven’t found a landing spot. Listen I respect Torey coming in as a rookie free agent and making our hockey club. I only hope that we made the moves to accommodate what he and his family and agent feel he has earned. I would be the last person to begrudge any player trying to make the best decision for them and their family, and in a perfect world it’s with us, but we know that the world is anything but perfect right about now.”
Sweeney continued on to say that “So again, I don’t have an update on any individual contract level. Torey’s personal voice, he’s entitled to say whatever the hell he feels he wants to say. You guys know me well enough that I’m not going to comment publicly on any different contract negotiations other than hoping to find a landing spot when I have good players and people that I feel are important to our organization and Torey is such.”
Moving on to Chara, Sweeney had this to say: “I saw the reports. We are scheduling zoom meetings with all of our players in the coming weeks. We’ve taken a little bit of time to step away from being away as a group to allow people to catch their breath. We started pro meetings, meet with coaches this week, internal discussions organizationally, so I think we’re going to check some boxes that we need to and then we’re going to start to address on an individual player level.
Sweeney continued on to say this: “I respect Zdeno’s comments, he always been an iconic player for us, an important player for us, and we’re going to explore opportunities with he and other players that have either UFA or RFA status and hopefully check off the boxes like we have with several other players and continue to move forward and improve our hockey club and addressing Zdeno’s contractual situation is part of that process.”
This is nothing out of the ordinary for Sweeney. He never gives updates on contract negotiations until they’re complete. As for Krug, It’s a good sign that he said he hopes they’ve made the moves to accommodate him and that he hopes to find a landing spot with him. Obviously that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but it just makes it clear the door has not been closed yet.
Things are looking a lot dimmer now than they have in the past in terms of re-signing Krug, but the door is still open. This is particularly true given Sweeney later mentioned they hadn’t had talks with any free agents in an attempt to let them relax, and that those conversations would be starting again soon. So it’s not like he just hasn’t been talking to Krug. However, Sweeney isn’t going to jeopardize the long-term future fo the team to keep Krug. He’s a risk to sign to a long-term, expensive deal at 29 years old, which Sweeney will keep in mind. I have faith Sweeney will make the right decision for the team in the end, even if it’s the painful one.
As for Chara, I have no doubt they’ll get something done, they just haven’t started the process yet. Chara will most likely be willing to take whatever is available to him for money. So, the team should have no issue fitting him in under the cap, while making other necessary moves. Again, Sweeney doesn’t usually comment on contract negotiations until they’re done. So it’s no surprise he didn’t have much to say about the status of Chara’s. I would be completely shocked if a deal doesn’t get done.
Sweeney to Explore Ways to Improve Team
When asked about potential changes this offseason, Sweeney acknowledged that some were likely to come. “There are a lot of teams that are up against the cap in a flat cap environment. We actually have the space to do the things that are necessary to do internally. Whether or not we do those or execute those, that still remains to be seen. We’re going to explore ways to improve our club between now and that date you referenced and see what transpires. We’re looking to make some changes in our group.”
Sweeney continued on to say that he “feels very good about overall as an organization where we are and how competitive we are.” However, he acknowledged that his job is to look to improve the team every day. He said “I know our group needs to be pushed and have hopefully some internal growth with some players that are coming up on waives and they have to have an opportunity to make our hockey club. Otherwise, we make hard decisions. I do believe the free agency period will be dictated by whether we make any transactions prior to that.”
None of this comes as a surprise to me. The Bruins are a very good team as they stand now. But, there are ways for them to improve. The most glaring one to me that they will likely need to look externally for is secondary scoring help. They may also have to look elsewhere to fill the hole left by Krug if he leaves. So, there will be a lot for Sweeney to do this offseason besides just contract negotiations.
I also agree that what they do in a free agency depends on what trades they make (if any) beforehand. If they can, Krug stands a better chance of coming back. If they don’t, he’s most likely gone. Even if they make moves, it’s no guarantee Krug will return. But, it’ll still be good for them to make some trades, as it’ll give them a lot more spending money for free agency. Obviously, it could also potentially get them a better player from the trade than the one they lose, but that’s obviously not a guarantee, as we’ve seen in the past (*cough cough* Nick Ritchie for Danton Heinen *cough cough*).
Overall, Sweeney’s press conference went about how I expected it to today. I knew he’d be asked about Rask, Krug, and Chara, and the answers he gave about all there were about what I expected. Rask is certainly not done yet, while there’s nothing new to report on the other two, as expected. As for his comments on changes that may be coming, again, it’s about what I was thinking he’d say. The team as it stands now is very good. But they can be better, and his job is to find ways to make them better. It’s certainly going to be a busy and unusual offseason for Sweeney and Co. But, he’s proven himself to be a very good GM overall, despite some iffy moves. So, I’m confident that he’ll do what’s best for the team now and in the future.
-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)
Featured image courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
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