Are the Boston Bruins trying to pave the way for a one-year bridge deal for restricted free agent defenseman Charlie McAvoy?
Over the last week, there has been some considerable chatter amongst NHL player agents, management and even players on the large contingent of restricted free agents that remain unsigned and when the dam may break and see one or more sign. Of course, everyone has focused on Toronto Maple Leafs RFA forward Mitch Marner and the belief is once Marner signs, others will follow. One of those other marquee RFA’s Bruins fans are hoping will put pen to paper is McAvoy.
If Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is unable to gain salary cap space via a trade in the next few weeks, the Bruins may not have any choice but to offer a bridge contract to McAvoy rather than the long term deal both parties would like. There is a growing sentiment that the Bruins have begun a spin campaign to pave the way for such a deal for the 21-year-old McAvoy. The feel is that given the team’s cap situation and the desire of both parties to find a resolution before training camp begins a month from now, a bridge contract is becoming more likely, at least in the eyes of Bruins management and they’re already trying to get ahead of what will likely be some harsh criticism from fans and media alike.
On August 1, Bruins team President Cam Neely dropped some interesting nuggets in a one-on-one interview with Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston.
“You look at a player that’s had some health issues two years in a row at a young age,” Neely pointed out to Haggerty about McAvoy. “You look at that and say ‘Okay, is that going to stay the same or is it just bad luck?’ We all can see what Charlie is capable of doing. You’d like to see a bigger sample size, obviously. Since the cap has come into effect we’ve all seen deals that have been signed where three years down the road you say it’s not as good as you anticipated it would be.”
One NHL agent who wished to remain anonymous, believes that’s Neely and the team starting to go into a spin mode in an effort to ease the public relations hit the team will surely take should the Bruins insist on and sign McAvoy to a bridge deal.
“I’m pretty sure that’s the first time Neely or anyone from the team has publicly cited his injury past and usually when that starts, the team is going for less money and/or term,” the agent told Boston Hockey Now. “Considering he specifically cites term there, that would tell me that given their cap issues, they’re now aiming for a short-term, I’m thinking bridge contract.”
McAvoy has missed 47 regular season games in his first two NHL seasons with a variety of injuries including a concussion and an abnormal heart rhythm. The 14th overall pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and former Boston University star has 46 assists 60 points in 117 regular season games. After scoring twice and notching six assists in 23 playoff games this past spring, he has three goals and 13 assists in 41 playoff games.
In an exclusive interview with Boston Hockey Now this past Monday, McAvoy kept it close to the vest when asked if he’d like to get a contract signed soon.
“It would be nice,” said McAvoy, who along with fellow Bruins defenseman and former BU teammate Matt Grzelcyk has been working out at Agganis Arena this summer. “Once it gets done, you can carry on with what you’re doing.”
Should McAvoy and the Bruins not find common ground by the time camp rolls around, Neely told Haggerty that a contingency plan was about to be put into motion.
“We do have to plan and prepare for these players to not be at camp opening day,” Neely said of McAvoy and fellow RFA blueliner and teammate Brandon Carlo.
“But we have five, six weeks hopefully to get something done. We feel like we should be able to get something done with both of these guys at numbers that make sense for us, and hopefully makes sense for them. I think we’ve done a really good job of kind of managing the cap and making sure that we’re OK to get these guys done.”
Three days later, as reported by our own Alex Thomas, the Bruins offered unrestricted free agent defenseman Alex Petrovic a professional tryout contract, which to this point, Petrovic has not accepted. However, it’s clear that the Bruins are preparing themselves if the impasses with McAvoy and Carlo continue into camp and if the last week is any indication, they’re eyeing a bridge contract with McAvoy.