The NHL in the coming months will return to business as usual, if such a thing ever exists again in a post-coronavirus world, leaving the Bruins and 29 other teams in the throes of preparing for the next expansion draft, on the books for June 2021.
The Seattle Whatchamacallits (official name, logo, and bobbleheads yet to be revealed) have been promised a talent-rich pool of prospective draftees, similar to the quality stock Vegas culled from in June 2017.
Billionaire David Bonderman and his Seattle Hockey Partners business buddies ponied up $650 million for the privilege to select 30 players, one from each franchise other than the Golden Knights, who have been granted a “newbie” exemption from the process. That works out to $21.667 million per Whatchamacallit, a 30 percent jump from the $16.667 million that Vegas forked over per Knight when it opened for business on the Strip.
Headed into the ’17 draft, the Bruins were fresh off a first-round playoff series loss to the Senators. Things change quickly, don’t they? General manager Don Sweeney, faced with the league-mandated choice of submitting an 11- or nine-man protected list, chose the former, a gaggle that included David Backes, Riley Nash, and Ryan Spooner among his seven forwards. Again, things change quickly.
Here in March 2020, some 15 months before the NHL’s next poke ’em and pick ’em, it’s impossible to project with certainty who’ll be on Sweeney’s list of protectees.
Three key factors to keep in mind, provided the draft’s ground rules remain the same for 2021: 1. Players with no-movement clauses in their contract (see: Backes in ’17) must be protected; 2. All unprotected players must have a minimum of one year remaining on their contracts; 3. Young players (first- and second-year pros, as well as unsigned draft picks) will be exempt.
Those parameters in 2017 led the Bruins to protect:
▪ Forwards (7): Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, Nash, David Pastrnak, and Spooner.
▪ Defensemen (3): Zdeno Chara, Torey Krug, and Kevan Miller.
▪ Goalie (1): Tuukka Rask.
By the way, the seven clubs that opted to submit a nine-man list were mandated to protect any eight skaters and one goaltender. Pittsburgh was one, and opted to keep Matt Murray, then age 23, as its tender. The Knights plucked Marc-Andre Fleury, 32, off the Penguins, made him the face of the franchise, and rode his paddle and blocker all the way to the Cup Final only 11 months later. Seattle should be so lucky.
Much will change on the Boston roster the next 15 months. Like most GMs with years on the job, Sweeney will have spent four years making roster moves influenced in varying degrees by what bodies he feels he can and cannot offer up to Seattle.
Assuming Sweeney were to go again with the 7-3-1 option, seven picks would be no-brainers, including his three defensemen: Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Charlie McAvoy.
Of that back-line bunch, it assumes Krug and Carlo each come to new contract terms. The two current back liners most vulnerable to go, each meeting the contract parameters: John Moore, who was protected by New Jersey in ’17, and Connor Clifton.
Bergeron, Pastrnak, Marchand, and Charlie Coyle would be four of the seven protected forwards. Krejci would stand just days from becoming an unrestricted free agent at age 35. No telling if he signs an extension in Boston prior to his UFA date. If so, he would be No. 5, Jake DeBrusk (to be extended this summer) No. 6, and then Sean Kuraly, Anders Bjork, or Karson Kuhlman at No. 7 (pending contract extensions). The most vulnerable forward currently meeting contract parameters: Chris Wagner.
Logically, the one goalie to protect would be Rask, but like Krejci, his deal also terms out in June ’21. On the day of the expansion draft, Rask would be 34, still prime age for an elite goalie, and just days away from a UFA spending frenzy.
No telling what “Tuuks” is thinking, given his recent hints that he might be ready to pack it in when this deal expires. If Rask is outta here, it could be that Kyle Keyser or Jeremy Swayman or Dan Vladar becomes the protectee. Currently, all three have logged a total of zero NHL minutes.
In ’17, the Bruins hoped the Knights would clip Adam McQuaid from their “availables,” but GM George McPhee opted instead for another back liner, Colin Miller, who soon earned a rich extension (four years/$15.5 million) before being wheeled off to Buffalo after two seasons.
The NHL, after decades of saddling franchises with bums and bust-outs in expansion drafts, finally got it right with the Vegas ’17 stockpot. Arguably, Fleury alone was worth the $500 million expansion fee. Goalies, they’re everything.
Of the 30 players Vegas selected that day, 19 suited up that first season, while 11 never wore the uniform. That latter number is a bit deceptive because McPhee orchestrated deals pre- and post-draft that rendered some picks dead on arrival.
McPhee’s best deal arguably was with the Wild, who were desperate not to lose defenseman Matt Dumba. To entice McPhee otherwise, they wheeled 2014 first-round pick Alex Tuch to the desert for a Round 3 draft pick, and McPhee instead clipped Minnesota center Erik Haula. Tuch, ex- of Boston College, joined Vegas the following season and remains a key among their top six forwards.
A total of 10 of the 30 players drafted that day, including Fleury, have been on the job for the Knights in their third season. The other nine:
▪ Forwards (5): William Carrier (from Buffalo), Cody Eakin (Dallas), William Karlsson (Columbus), Jonathan Marchessault (Florida), and Tomas Nosek (Detroit). Eakin was flipped to the Jets just prior to last month’s trade deadline.
▪ Defensemen (4): Deryk Engelland (Calgary), Brayden McNabb (Los Angeles), Jon Merrill (New Jersey), and Nate Schmidt (Washington).
Lots and lots of ground to cover here the next 15 months. At this juncture, the likely Bruin to slip on a Seattle sweater would come from the group that includes Moore, Clifton, and Wagner. But if we’ve learned anything amid the suspended 2019-20 season, end points can be near impossible to figure.
WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN
Dryden recalls his Boston beginnings
The NHL Draft, originally scheduled for June 26-27 in Montreal, was placed in abeyance by the league Wednesday, along with the scuttling of both the combine (June 1-6 in Buffalo) and the annual awards gala pegged for late June, again in Vegas.
The draft will be held eventually over the summer, and very possibly staged as a phone event, as it was for the better part of 10 years following its origination in 1963.
As mentioned here a week ago in a “Second Thought” column about Babe Ruth, the Bruins used their third pick in the ’64 draft to select Ken Dryden with what was that draft’s 14th pick overall.
Had the Bruins only known they had a future Hall of Famer, soon to be the NHL’s dominant tender of the ‘70s.
The ‘64 draft, held over the phone June 11 from the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, was absent any fanfare. Dryden, a 16-year-old playing junior B in Etobicoke, Ontario, didn’t find out immediately who owned his rights, word finally reaching him some time after the Bruins wheeled him to the Canadiens June 28.
Some 56 years later, Dryden just recently shared his recollection of the events via e-mail, forwarded here via nhl.com writer/historian Dave Stubbs.
“My father got a call from the manager of our Etobicoke Indians junior B team, Ray Picard,” recalled Dryden. “He told my dad that I had been drafted by the Canadiens.”
As a kid growing up in Ontario, Dryden was a Bruins fan, in their days well before the arrival of Bobby Orr. The great Orr, now 72, was born some seven months after Dryden, but was never subject to the NHL Draft. The draft in those days was only for players who had not been signed via the traditional sponsorship method, their rights belonging to the NHL clubs that offered financial support to their amateur team. Orr was Boston’s property once the Bruins sponsored his hometown team in Parry Sound, Ontario.
What the young Dryden later learned was that the Canadiens, at the behest of the Bruins, chose Guy Allen with the No. 12 pick, leaving the Red Wings at No. 13 to select defenseman Ralph Buchanan. The Bruins then grabbed Dryden at No. 14, and followed up a little more than two weeks later with a swap that sent Dryden and right winger Alex Campbell (the Bruins’ first selection on June 11) to the Habs for Allen and right winger Paul Reid.
Of the five players who factored into the mix, Dryden was the only one ever to play in the NHL.
Dryden went on to star at Cornell, then studied law at McGill while playing for the Montreal Voyageurs, the Habs’ AHL affiliate. To do so, he turned down his acceptance at Harvard Law School. He was intrigued enough by Harvard that he inquired about playing senior hockey in Framingham. The McGill-Voyageur option proved more appealing.
“I didn’t know I was drafted by the Bruins until more than 10 years later,” recalled Dryden. “Several of us were hanging around the Forum dressing room after practice one day. Ron Caron was there talking about a lot of things, and he said something that made me wonder. Then [I] ask him, who I was drafted by? And he said the Bruins.”
Caron, one of the game’s great characters, for years was a Habs scout and later became the Blues’ general manager.
Dryden went on to win the Stanley Cup six times in what proved the end stages of the Canadiens dynasty, and later became a member of Parliament.
“When I was an MP,” Dryden recalled via e-mail. “I was in Timmins [Ontario] campaigning for a local candidate and I asked about Guy Allen. After his minor pro years, he had returned home to Timmins and was either a fireman or a cop for the rest of his career. He had been an important person in my life, but we had never met. We met at the airport and had a good long talk that was probably significant for both of us.”
The Globe sports sections in the summer of 1964 made no mention of the trade.
Arenas comes into play for public good
With the coronavirus death toll spiking in Spain this past week, officials in Madrid began shipping corpses to Placio de Hielo, the city’s downtown hockey arena that houses an Olympic-sized (200-by-100 feet) sheet of ice.
Granted, it’s a gruesome use of arena ice, but storage options grew scarce in Madrid, where the morgues were unable to handle the surge in COVID-19-related casualties.
In Manhattan, the Javits Center was transformed into a 1,000-bed health facility to help handle the crisis. As the weekend approached, Madison Square Garden, approximately 1 mile away, still had its ice sheet in place, contrary to many arenas around the NHL.
As reported here during the week, TD Garden pulled the plug on its ice plant within a week of the league suspending its season March 12. Some estimates peg the price of keeping an ice sheet intact at $2,000 per day.
In California, one of the first states in invoke a stay-at-home order to deal with the pandemic, both the Staples Center in Los Angeles and the Honda Center in Anaheim this past week still had their ice sheets intact.
In Chicago, the Blackhawks announced Wednesday afternoon that the mammoth United Center, along with its surrounding campus, would act as a logistics hub during the crisis. Among its intended uses: front-line food distribution, first-responder staging area, and a collection center for medical supplies.
All but a certainty now that the NHL will not complete its regular season, which will leave David Pastrnak two drops short of 50 goals and 5 points short of 100. As things stand, “Pasta” would finish tied with Alex Ovechkin for the league lead in goals (48), although Ovie collected his in 68 games and Pastrnak in 70. The only player to reach the 100-point plateau: Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl (43-67—110), who also topped the league in assists . . . If the season goes by the boards without the Cup being awarded — potentially the third time in history — Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron will be the two Bruins whose NHL careers will have stretched over both the non-Cup seasons of 2004-05 and 2019-20. Big Z already had played 459 NHL games when the league went dark in the ’04-05 lockout. Bergeron had posted the 71 games of his rookie season . . . In the three years since the expansion draft, Matt Murray has gone 76-41-14 (.633) with the Penguins in the regular season and Marc-Andre Fleury 91-50-14 (.632) with the Knights. Playoffs: Murray, 6-10; Fleury, 16-11 . . . Along with Colin Miller, the Bruins also ended up losing goalie prospect Malcolm Subban to Vegas when the Knights claimed him off waivers on the eve of their inaugural season. Subban, by the way, was wheeled to the Blackhawks at this February’s trade deadline, with Vegas picking up Martins Dzierkals, a Latvian right wing prospect who was a Maple Leafs draft pick . . . Prior to Vegas going operational in 2017, there hadn’t been an expansion draft since 2000, the longest pause in the post-Original Six era. The Bruins lost right winger Steve Heinze, then 30, to the expansion Blue Jackets. He was wheeled to the Sabres the following March. Another Boston boy, Harvard’s Ted Drury, was selected off the Islanders’ roster by Columbus . . . This coming week will make it one year since defenseman Kevan Miller exited the Boston lineup because of his first knee fracture (the second break came in late May). It has been one tough, miserable grind for the 32-year-old back liner. The feeling here is that a healthy Miller would have meant the Bruins had themselves a Cup parade last June. Miller’s deal is now up and he’ll be an unrestricted free agent July 1 . . . A reader this past week asked me to pick my all-time Bruins team. So, here goes: Gerry Cheevers in net, behind Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque. Up front: John Bucyk-Milt Schmidt-Cam Neely. The room for discussion here would have to be at least as big as Ralph Kramden’s bus. Maybe Phil Esposito can beef about it to Eddie Shore. And Tiny Thompson can buy ’em all a beer.
Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.