It’s over. Since the Bruins got the preseason going in China back in mid-September, we’ve taken a long and unexpectedly twisty-turny trek through to the end of the season. You expect twists and turns in this sport, sure, but I think “team in last place while it was the new calendar year winning the Cup” officially takes the cake.
Now that it’s officially the offseason, we can both look into the how and why of the Cup Final, and look ahead to the long summer to come.
Nick asks: “Who was more important to the Blues this postseason: Pietrangelo or Parayko?”
Some (wrong) people will say Pietrangelo because he had more offense and all that kind of stuff but who do you think was taking all the hard matchups that allowed the captain to go freelance offensively? It was Parayko, who didn’t get a shutdown matchup he couldn’t dominate with ease, as the best defenseman on the team.
He wasn’t put in a position to produce offense, and so he didn’t, but this guy grounds opposing forwards into dust, and they were almost always the very best ones the other team had to offer. That’s incredibly difficult to do.
That’s not to say Pietrangelo wasn’t important and didn’t have a great playoff overall, but he did get run over in possession a little more frequently (perhaps because he was off looking for offense, and I can’t fault him for trying to do his job). Parayko was just routinely phenomenal. They don’t win a Cup without either one of them, but Parayko crushed the shutdown role that let Pietrangelo look so good. I was shocked he didn’t get more Conn Smythe consideration.
Brian asks: “How do the Bruins pay their defense? Should they?”
They have $40 million in cap space and need to re-sign a couple of middling UFA forwards (Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson being the most important); RFAs Danton Heinen, Charlie McAvoy, and Brandon Carlo; and a backup goaltender.
They have almost $14 million in cap space (before you account for Chara’s bonuses, and the likelihood of a Backes buyout). You’d expect McAvoy to cash in pretty big, maybe taking a little more than half of that money, and maybe Carlo gets another pretty good chunk of it. Coyle and Johansson, then, might be cap casualties, and call-ups will round out the roster.
I’ve heard people suggest the team should explore trade options for Torey Krug, because he’s up for a new deal after next season, but they currently have just $43 million and change in obligations for 2020-21, and who knows what happens with Chara. I think you gotta bring this blue line back in its entirety. I’m not sure taking out a Krug for, say, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins does for this team what people wish it would.
Joe asks: “Which team(s) will overreact this offseason?”
Right now it sure looks like the answer is Vancouver. They thought they were good when Elias Pettersson was filling the net and once that stopped they figured it was because they weren’t big or strong enough. They’re one of the teams being heavily discussed as a destination for Lucic AND Nikita Zaitsev, and I can see them throwing big money at Tyler Myers this summer.
Then next year, when they add two or three big guys who can’t skate, they will still be bad, and become a little more convinced they need to get smaller and faster. Repeat ad nauseum until Benning resigns as emperor-king/GM on his 110th birthday, since apparently no amount of failure is ever enough to get him canned.
Gordon asks: “What do you predict will be the stupidest trade made in the offseason?”
Someone’s gonna trade for Milan Lucic. Maybe Edmonton retains money, maybe they sweeten the pot with some prospects or picks, but someone’s gonna get a guy who’s absolutely cooked and can’t keep up with the modern game, and they’re gonna say, “it’s nice to add some size and toughness.”
I can’t wait.
Paul asks: “Which team thinks they are close but are actually really far from contending?”
I wonder how much the Islanders saw what they did to improve as sustainable, or how much getting smoked in the second round backs them off that idea.
I can basically say the same thing about Winnipeg, a team I think might be in real trouble. Maybe same for Dallas. Often, I think there’s a tendency to say, “well if we lost to the team that won the Cup and we have X, Y, and Z pieces to help us improve next season…” and I get it. Sometimes that even works out for you. But with those two teams in the West, I dunno.
Philip asks: “Does winning Game 7 have a significant impact on Binnington’s next contract?”
I don’t think there’s going to be too many illusions about how good he was or wasn’t in the run-up to that game. The getting-to-the-playoffs of it is probably what guaranteed he gets a pretty good extension this summer, but they also can’t spend a ton on him given what Jake Allen makes and all that.
My guess is you give him about a $3.5-million AAV and three years to get him to his late 20s and you see what you see when you get to the end of it. Ideally you get him to sign for one year because he’s probably not gonna go .930-whatever for three months again, but if term is a cost of the Cup, well, I guess you swallow that.
Jeremy asks: “Based on all the rumors you find plausible, which team improves enough to be the next dark horse playoff contender?”
Has to be Florida, right? They added arguably the best coach in the game and, if the rumors are true, will add an all-world winger and all-world goaltender. They were a real good team last year sunk by poor goaltending, and Quenneville or regression alone could have been enough to fix that. Instead, you add Panarin and Bobrovsky, and that goal difference gets real big real fast.
Of course, even if all that happens, they’re still probably only the third- or fourth-best team in their own division. So, y’know.
Bonsalvador asks: “Of all the teams who have yet to win a Cup, who will win it next?”
Am I allowed to say Vegas, or…?
Some questions in the mailbag are edited for clarity or to remove swear words, which are illegal to use.