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Will David Pastrnak be traded? Why is Don Sweeney still here? Bruins mailbag

The Bruins’ offseason is a week old, and already there has been much ground to cover:

What questions remain? The Athletic’s subscribers posed nearly 100 in our latest call for mail.

(Note: Some questions have been edited for length and clarity.)

Does the CBA allow for a player to be signed and not used until the playoffs? For example, can the Bruins sign David Krejci to a contract and permit him to continue playing in Czechia with his club and ask him to report for the playoffs? — Edouard C.

Yes. David would have to clear waivers before reporting to the Bruins, though.

If Bergeron retires, I agree with Brad Marchand that there is no way to actually replace what he means to this team. What would be the best move the Bruins could make to realistically replace his production either via free agency or trade? I think we all can agree that neither Charlie Coyle nor Erik Haula is a No. 1 center in this league — at least for a contender they are not. — Michael P. 

There is no way to replace Patrice’s production via trade or free agency. The best they could do is trade for a second- or third-line center, perhaps using one of their left-shot defensemen. Meanwhile, they have to hope that one of their younger centers develops into a consistent NHL player.

You have mentioned the idea that the Bruins keep Jake DeBrusk regardless of his trade request. I understand he has no power to force a trade. But wouldn’t that be a terrible look for the organization in regards to enticing free agents? — Wes H.

No. It is money first and foremost when pursuing free agents.

It feels clear the B’s offseason hinges on Bergeron. If he re-signs, then you continue to nibble around the edges and contend. If he retires, then you rebuild around the younger core of Charlie McAvoy, Jeremy Swayman, Brandon Carlo, Fabian Lysell, Mason Lohrei and (hopefully) David Pastrnak. My question is in the rebuilding scenario. How far is Sweeney willing to go? Obviously all the mid-tier guys (Craig Smith, Matt Grzelcyk, Tomas Nosek, Mike Reilly, etc.) are on the table, but do you consider dealing Marchand? I know he’s the presumptive captain, but his timetable doesn’t really match that of the rest of the younger guys, and he’s on a very team-friendly contract, so you’d get (presumably) quite the haul for him. — Ben T.

No. Brad has no-move protection. He does not want to leave.

With Lysell and Lohrei as the top prospects, what do you see with Lysell next year for his season? If Lohrei has another solid college year, do you think at the end of the year he could go pro? — Robert C.

Fabian will be given an NHL opportunity in training camp. If he’s not ready, he’ll go to Providence. Difficult to say at this time which scenario ends up happening. Mason could join Providence at the end of his sophomore season, assuming he plays well.

If Sweeney gets fired, like I think a majority of us want, who could be his replacement? I wanted Jeff Gorton, but they waited too long. Also, what type of return are we looking at for DeBrusk? Possibly back in the first round this year or multiple picks? Or are they looking for a player? Personally, I’d take the pick and cap space as long as Sweeney isn’t allowed to draft. — James R.

Current assistant GM Evan Gold would be under consideration. Other assistant GMs leaguewide who could be good candidates include Eric Tulsky (Carolina), Paul Krepelka (Florida), Craig Billington (Colorado) and Jeff Kealty (Nashville). The Bruins cannot afford to trade DeBrusk for futures if he still wants out. He was the third-leading goal scorer on a team that has identified five-on-five offense as its primary weakness.

If Bergeron retires and Pastrnak doesn’t want to re-sign, what are the chances the Bruins go full rebuild? Is the roster too good to even attempt that? — Jared R.

They would still have the goaltending and defense to be competitive. A full teardown, then, would be unlikely.


Charlie McAvoy and Jeremy Swayman (Bob DeChiara / USA Today)

Who is the best person/organization at building in the last 10 years? Sweeney has drafted poorly, traded and signed worse, yet continues to have a job. The organization is at the brink of a long downturn given the lack of depth. — Paul W.

Cannot argue against Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois and Tampa Bay for what they’ve built.

Is there a chance the B’s dip into the upper echelon of UFA forwards regardless of 37’s decision? — Brad J.

Not without moving salary first. They do not have the cap space.

In the event of Bergeron’s retirement, looking at UFA centers, what do you think of Nazem Kadri? Setting aside that signing a lengthy UFA deal to a player on the wrong side of 30 is probably a bad idea, would the history between Kadri and the Bruins mean the Bruins would not be interested? — Patrick H.

The Bruins currently do not have the space to sign Kadri.

What centers could the Bruins target via trade or free agency, regardless of Bergeron’s decision? — Steven B.

Mark Scheifele’s time in Winnipeg may be over. J.T. Miller has one year left on his deal. Maybe the Islanders want to go younger and cheaper by trading Jean-Gabriel Pageau. In free agency, Max Domi, Vladislav Namestnikov and Noel Acciari are examples of centers who could be in the Bruins’ price range, assuming no cap clearance.

Would Andre Burakovsky be a likely option for the Bruins to go after? Would complement Taylor Hall nicely. — The Hockey S.

The Bruins would have to clear cap space first.

The Bruins desperately need to free up some cash in order to re-sign Bergeron (hopefully) or find another center. What do you think a realistic return for Grzelcyk is? For Reilly? Would the Bruins prioritize picks to maximize the cap clearing of the trade? I think a trade of one of them and a Nick Foligno buyout would add about $5 million, which at least gives you some room to explore options and is the best route forward. — Gordon T.

Grzelcyk could bring back a second-rounder, Reilly a third-rounder.

If this is it for Bergeron, how would you assess his place among the Bruins’ best players post-lockout (Zdeno Chara, David Krejci, Marchand, Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask) and the Bruins’ best players all-time (Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Phil Esposito, Eddie Shore, Milt Schmidt, Cam Neely, Chara, Johnny Bucyk)? — Rory S.

Best post-lockout player, simply because we saw nearly the entire career arc. Fifth all-time after Orr, Bourque, Esposito and Bucyk.

You stated the coach and the GM weren’t the cause of the team’s results. Most of the fan reaction is it’s on the GM. What is the problem and how would you fix it? — Philip S.

The problem is they do not have enough good players. Trade one of the left-shot defensemen. Hope Lysell can make an impact. Trade Smith. Give Trent Frederic, Jack Studnicka, Oskar Steen and Marc McLaughlin room to breathe. Trade for a third-line center. Hope the goaltending, defense, system adjustments and younger players can carry the team.

What are the chances that Pastrnak wants to test free agency? Should we be worried about that outcome? — Shane B.

That is David’s call. He could get more money on the free market. Maybe there’s a city he likes. Maybe he wonders about the direction of the organization. He’s shown nothing but affinity for the Bruins and Boston to this point. But you never know.

Any chance for Chris Wagner being back with Bruins next season? I thought he showed a lot of zip on the fourth line in two games he played in the series. — David C.

Maybe as an extra forward. Hard to see him as a regular.

Whether or not there is a rebuild starting this offseason, what do you think it would cost to get a first-rounder in this year’s draft? Who (or at least which position) might the Bruins go after if they had one? — Nicholas G.

The usual price is the first- and second-round picks from the following year. The Bruins do not have a 2023 second-rounder. If they could get back into the first round, it would be best player available, with a leaning toward skill at forward.

If the team ends up needing to go locate a top-line center, what’s the percentage chance it ends up being Evgeni Malkin or one of the other top free agents? Obviously they’d need to open up some cap space somehow to do so. — Cole H.

I’m sure they wouldn’t mind a few years of Malkin. You’re looking at moving at least Grzelcyk and Carlo to create cap space. 


Evgeni Malkin and Charlie McAvoy (Charles LeClaire / USA Today)

What is the Bruins’ plan if Bergeron retires and they don’t want to completely tear it down? Sweeney has absolutely screwed this team in seven drafts, not picking one center who can play, so obviously that’s not going to change. Do they go after it in a trade? Or do they do what they should have done after the 2015 draft and fire Sweeney, who has no contract, then bring in someone who can draft and develop the next centers. — Ryan M.

Don is not going anywhere. His extension is imminent. The Bruins’ plan is to ride the goaltending and defense, acquire temporary help at center and hope some of their young players pop.

In the scenario where Bergeron retires, I think most would agree that for this core, it’s over. We need to reload. Not a total blow-it-up deal necessarily, but at the very least a healthy reload. What about trading Jeremy Swayman? I know he has a bright future, but consider we aren’t winning anything for the next three years no matter what, Ullmark is signed for three more years, we have no idea how good Swayman will be in three years, our draft pick pool and prospect pool are currently horrific and we need futures. This could potentially be a sell-high opportunity. I’m not saying trade him for whatever the market bears, but if we could get a good first-rounder for him, we’d have to consider that right? — Thomas K.

Absolutely not. Jeremy could develop into a long-term No. 1. He could steal results in the playoffs. You would not get equal value in a trade for him now.

It’s apparent that strengthening down the middle will be the biggest objective this offseason, but will the B’s be able to move enough salary out to make a real play for some of the bigger fish available, like Kadri or Vincent Trocheck? Or, for that matter, even right wing Filip Forsberg, who they’ve already been linked to this offseason? Seems likely they’ll move out one of their LD, which would free up about $3 million in space. But to make a serious play, they’ll need to offload others. Obviously we all want Bergeron back. Has David Krejci shown any interest whatsoever in returning, or is that a pipe dream? — Scott L.

I get the sense that clearing cap space to sign a center like Kadri or Trocheck would not be their preferred path. It would be creating holes in the lineup, then overpaying for a center whose performance will fall off toward the end of the contract. I do not know what Krejci’s intentions are. Banking on a 36-year-old who has not been playing NHL hockey is not a path to success.

Do you think the B’s go after UFAs like Johnny Gaudreau or Ryan Strome? Maybe look at Justin Braun for D and adding Jimmy Vesey to the bottom six? Re-sign Curtis Lazar? Everything the team does hinges on what Bergy does. He comes back, need to add D and players that can add to the current group. — Michael N.

The Bruins will not have the cap space to pursue Gaudreau. They’d have to move out one or two salaries to accommodate Strome. Braun and Vesey would be less-expensive depth additions. Unless the Bruins commit to making Lazar a third-line player and paying him as such, he will get a better opportunity on the market.

I wonder if the time is now for the Bruins to do another retool like in 2015 and trade Marchand and Pastrnak to stock up on prospects, players and picks to supply the future if Bergeron retires. Marchand to Colorado for Alex Newhook, 2022 third-rounder, 2023 first-rounder and Logan O’Connor. Pastrnak and Studnicka to the Islanders for Anthony Beauvillier, a 2022 first-rounder, Oliver Wahlstrom and Aatu Raty. — Mike O.

Brad has no-move protection. As much as he’d like to win another Cup and play with his friend Nathan MacKinnon, I don’t see him waiving his NMC and relocating his family. A Pastrnak trade is guaranteed if he shows any hesitation about re-signing. Your package would be in the ballpark.

It’s quite clear the B’s championship window has slammed shut, regardless of whether Bergeron continues or retires. The late-round draft picks haven’t been able to produce. The center position is barren. At what point does a full teardown occur? I’d hate to see the Bruins become the Red Wings of the late 2010s, where they have a team good enough to fight for a playoff position but nothing more. As a fan base, I think we’d all agree that we’ve been blessed with 15 years of a quality, Cup-contending squad, but understand the tough times are right now. — Cameron W.

Do not see an imminent teardown. The building is full. TV ratings are fine. Business will be a factor in initiating a rebuild if fans don’t fill their seats.

Since the Bruins will be in the running, is there a consensus No. 1 in the 2023 draft? — Dave G.

Connor Bedard. Right-shot center coming off a 51-goal, 100-point season with Regina of the WHL as a 16-year-old.

Lindholm was a great pickup. But the Bruins gave the Ducks an extra second to take John Moore and retain money, presumably to add a forward. Which they never did. For a prospect-starved organization, isn’t this gross mismanagement of assets? — Jonathan H.

It is absolutely a swing and a miss to clear cap space for a forward at the deadline, then not get one. The asking price, in retrospect, was too high for whatever forward the Bruins identified. But that indicates the GM misread the market. They could have used a forward against Carolina.

What kind of market is there for a No. 2 center to be brought in? Would a package of Grzelcyk (if he’s healthy), DeBrusk and the rights to Studnicka get something done? — Robby H.

It looks like Mark Scheifele’s time in Winnipeg may be up. Winnipeg is strong on the left side of the defense, though, with Josh Morrissey, Nate Schmidt and Brenden Dillon. Adding Grzelcyk would not be a priority. You also have to wonder about character with Scheifele if he’s on the outs.

Why does this team continually make such poor decisions in free agency? They’re fine at re-signing their own players. But there are so many examples of very poor free-agent decisions. It happens every year. Is it a result of not having system depth to fill out the bottom six? — Michael P.

In retrospect, four of their five signings last year were good: Ullmark, Forbort, Haula and Nosek. They all met the need. Foligno was a bust. But to your last point, those signings absolutely were indications of their internal scarcity. The Bruins had to overpay on the market to fill needs that should have been met with their own prospects. It catches up when you trade away picks and don’t hit on enough of the ones you retain.

What is fair market value for Pastrnak? — Rob M.

A first-round pick, proven young NHL player and two high-end prospects.

Following up on your piece about McAvoy and the Norris Trophy, if you were going to rank the top Bruins defensemen of all time, where does he slot in? Considering Brad Park only for his time with the B’s. As of right now? After it’s all said and done? — Neil S.

For now, around 10 to 12. By the end, No. 5.

Could we see a change with the coaching? Cassidy is great in wins and losses. But it seems like he gets outcoached in the playoffs. Also, he tends to ride the young players pretty hard and overlook the shortcomings of certain veterans (yes, I mean Foligno). — Phil G.

Possible but unlikely. Perhaps an assistant gets fired for the sake of making a change. 

Why would Smith decline to disclose any injuries? He seemed to be a shadow of his former self in the second half of the season. You’d think he’d take the chance to explain. I like Smith. A scoring threat on the third line is never a bad thing. — Douglas S.

That one was curious. Maybe he doesn’t want to make excuses.

What would a Marchand captaincy mean for the Bruins? In the room, on the ice, around the league, in the community? — Andrew S.

Brad will be a fine captain. It will be a continuation of what Zdeno and Patrice installed. His teammates like and respect him. Nobody competes harder. Opponents hate him but fear him. He is great with fans, especially children. Brad will have to keep his discipline to stay in uniform.

What is the rationale for not giving Pastrnak the maximum offer and keeping him as a cornerstone? Like even eight years, $80 million. With the way the cap will increase, you have to pay someone if you’re committed to winning and spending to the cap, and finding another Hart-level player like him, especially without top-five picks, is basically impossible. Wouldn’t it just be a complete rebuild not to do this, and then why lock up our first D pair to so much money to then tear things down? — Karen L.

Absolutely correct. David will receive a max-term offer. He is a foundational player. If that’s not good enough for him, he will be traded.

With his disastrous 2015 draft, one of the weakest farm systems in hockey, no first-round pick in 2022 and no second-round picks in 2023 and 2024, how does Sweeney still have a job? He will have set this once-great franchise back years when Cam Neely finally gets off his butt and fires him. I would have fired him after the 2015 draft. Nobody in my franchise drafts would have been stupid enough to take three longshots instead of Mathew Barzal, Kyle Connor and Thomas Chabot. Those were my three picks that draft day. And I am not an NHL GM. — Kevin H.

The Bruins have made the playoffs for six straight years. They were a game away from winning the Cup in 2019. They have foundational players in McAvoy and Pastrnak. If that gets a GM fired, there would not be many of them left in the league. Now, the future is a different story. They are absolutely short on picks, and prospects are limited. Remains to be seen whether Don can execute the next wave of the rebuild.

I think the Bruins do a terrible job developing their draft picks. When you look at the Providence roster, the youngest player is 22 (not including late signings Johnny Beecher and Georgii Merkulov), and they have plenty of 23-, 24-, 25-year-olds they drafted. None of them have cracked the NHL lineup. If they are not going to get a chance to play, then why does Sweeney treat these kids like they’re studs and not trade them when younger to acquire talent? Maybe instead of giving away first-rounders? I think Cassidy shares some of this blame. If they projected to be NHL players, then someone deserves to be fired.  — John M.

The answer, as always, is somewhere in the middle. Perhaps some of these players shouldn’t have been drafted so high. Maybe they could have been developed more efficiently. Other teams aren’t going to trade for prospects they don’t believe in either. All of this reflects on how many high-round picks they’ve traded.

Is Sweeney’s job reliant on his ability to get a commitment from Bergeron and Krejci? If neither is back, is there a plan? — Mike S.

No. Don’s extension is coming regardless of Bergeron and Krejci. The plan is noted above: goaltending, defense, system adjustments, acquiring center help, letting some young players play more freely and hoping some of the prospects hit.

How do you see the goalie rotation going next season? Is Bruce committed to a 50-50 split? Or will we see Swayman get No. 1 reps in 2022-23? — Chris Z.

I see Jeremy getting 55 starts.

If Pierre-Luc Dubois decides he’s not going to sign in Winnipeg, would the Bruins go after him as the No. 1 center of the future? What’s a reasonable price and contract extension for Dubois? — Leo K.

Dubois would be a welcome addition. There would be multiple teams the Bruins would have to outbid. If I’m Winnipeg, I’m asking for their 2023 first-round pick, DeBrusk and one of Lysell/Lohrei. Dubois’ contract ask would be north of $6 million.

I read Grzelcyk’s agent’s remarks in one of your recent stories, and Gryzelcyk deciding he was too valuable to the team to get the surgery done is confusing. Is his agent saying the team wanted him to have the surgery, but he refused? And now he has basically handcuffed the team into having to keep him, and most likely forced them to move Reilly? I know you prefer Grzelcyk over Reilly, but this is a bad look on the team’s side and on the player’s side. — Art B.

The team gave Grzelcyk the option to undergo surgery immediately. He declined because he wanted to play through it. The team accepted.

Who is responsible for the lack of young talent in the Bruins organization? — Donald C.

Management.

(Top photo of David Pastrnak: Steve Babineau / NHLI via Getty Images)

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