The Chicago Blackhawks officially ended the 2014-15 NHL season this past Monday night by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games to win their third Stanley Cup in six years.
For the record, they ARE indeed a dynasty.
Anyway, let’s get back on track. Now that business has concluded on the season, the rest of the league can get to work on preparing for next season. Believe it or not, that actually happens in less than two weeks with the NHL Entry Draft down in Florida.
The draft will be very predictable for the first few picks or so, but this year has also been reported to be quite a deep class of young guns ready to be selected. The Boston Bruins and Don Sweeney will need to begin their reign properly by working their magic throughout draft weekend, both selecting and potentially trading.
Speaking of the latter, the B’s have been in the news lately. In case anyone has missed it, Boston is one of four destinations that All-Star forward Phil Kessel will accept a trade to.
Huh? Really? Kessel dawning the Black and Gold one more time?
It is widely reported that the Toronto Maple Leafs are actively seeking to trade the 27-year-old. The Bruins, the same team that drafted him in 2006 before he bolted for a lucrative deal north of the border, should take a moment and think over this situation.
They need a top-line right winger. Plain and simple.
The B’s need to sever off some contracts in order to make a big splash or two this offseason. Putting together a package that will include the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft, Malcolm Subban, Reilly Smith, Loui Eriksson, and/or future draft picks should be contemplated.
However, Kessel-and his somewhat lackluster work ethic will be accompanied by an $8 million cap hit. He is also coming off his lowest goal output (25) in a full season since his second year with the Bruins, and was a mind-boggling minus-34 for a Toronto team that mailed it in way too soon.
Still, his 25 goals would have led last year’s underwhelming Bruins offense. He’s a true, top-line right winger in a way that David Pastrnak and Brett Connolly aren’t likely to be in the immediate future. Kessel would give David Krejci a true trigger man on his right side, and could be the sniping goal-scorer that Boston yearned for since losing Jarome Iginla.
Most of that sounds enticing, right? Maybe at first glance. The bigger picture does not call for the Bruins to make a deal for a headache of a player like Kessel, especially a guy who left this city rather unceremoniously. Oh, how we all forget.
What the Bruins should be concerned about is figuring out a way to lock up Dougie Hamilton.
The 21-year-old, blue-chip defenseman is coming off his best season as a pro. He posted 10 goals and 32 assists to go along with averaging 21:20 of ice time per game (third on the team). The body of work that he put forth this past season with Zdeno Chara sidelined really stood out. However, the sample size that we have seen from Hamilton over the course of his first three seasons in the NHL have left some to contemplate if it is too soon to pay Hamilton top-defenseman money.
Since he is a restricted free agent, other teams around the league could send an offer sheet. That will force the B’s hand in trying to make them match the offer.
If that were to happen, the question then becomes whether or not to give him the contract extension?
A bridge deal will only cost the Bruins more, in the long run, …just look at what happened with the case involving P.K. Subban and the Montreal Canadiens. He is now making $9 million per year. By no means is Hamilton worth that kind of money, but he should demand somewhere in the range of $5 million per year.
If the B’s take the time to look around the soon-to-be free agency class, they will not find a lot of options for defensemen. The best option for the Bruins is to do whatever it takes to sign Hamilton to a long-term deal. It may be risky at this point in time, but this kid is a future number-one blue liner and will be the face of the franchise in the near future.
There are a plethora of options at the disposal for the folks in management. It just depends on what they deem the right one. Only time will tell.