It has been exactly one month since the Bruins named Don Sweeney their newest general manager — one month of calls to other GMs, one month of figuring out what to do about the No. 14 pick in next week’s draft, one month of starting negotiations on contracts for the restricted and unrestricted free agents, most notably RFA Dougie Hamilton.
“It has been busy,” Sweeney said Friday. “A lot of conversations with all the teams, everybody sort of trying to get a real good solid view of the landscape ahead of each and every one of us heading into the draft.”
The landscape ahead of the Bruins looks rather bleak — at least in terms of the salary cap. It will be difficult to fit Hamilton under that cap, considering the likely terms that it will take to sign the defenseman.
There is, too, the question of whether another team will swoop in with an offer sheet for Hamilton, a notion that has been burbling around the NHL.
While Sweeney declined to comment on contract negotiations with Hamilton, he did say about offer sheets, “Generally speaking, the possibility exists. You have to be aware of it.
“Over time, there’s been certain players that bells and whistles go off. We understand it, and we’re moving forward with how we want to get this done. So it definitely exists — they’re not taking that out of the CBA.”
To get a deal done with Hamilton, which could mean something north of $5 million-$6 million, the Bruins may need to shed salary. That could come in the form of a trade of a player with a large cap hit, like Milan Lucic or possibly Loui Eriksson.
Sweeney would say only that he has had some “good talks” and that “everybody’s doing the same thing in terms of seeing what player movement may or may not be available and what draft positions are up for grabs or jockeying may exist.”
The best-case scenario for the Bruins would be to lock up Hamilton to a long-term deal at a somewhat reasonable term. That would be preferable to the kind of bridge contract that P.K. Subban signed as an RFA with the Canadiens, a deal that later burned them when Subban won the Norris Trophy and commanded a cap-straining eight-year deal with a $9 million cap hit.
“Tremendous player,” Sweeney said of Hamilton. “Had a real good year, a real breakout year offensively, and continues to round out his game both on and off the ice as a foundational-type player.”
But, Sweeney said, the need to get Hamilton signed has not prevented him from talking about other player movement, or from beginning negotiations with some of the team’s other free agents.
“We’re not in free agency period at this time, so I don’t think it’s holding things up at all,” Sweeney said. “As I said, I won’t comment on the actual negotiations side of it, but I don’t think it’s holding things up in any regard.”
Sweeney reiterated what former GM Peter Chiarelli said on the team’s breakup day, that the Bruins would not extend contracts to UFAs Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. He also confirmed what Carl Soderberg’s agent, J.P. Barry, told the Globe this month, that it is “highly unlikely” the center will return, with the newly signed Joonas Kemppainen his possible replacement.
That leaves UFAs Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski.
McQuaid is the most likely candidate to return. The Bruins have talked with both McQuaid’s former agent, Paul Krepelka, who recently cashed out of the Orr Hockey Group, and his current primary agent, Richard Curran.
“I think it would be fair to say that they’ve expressed a definite interest to keep him there,” Curran said. “And Adam, of course, has expressed a mutual interest in wanting to stay. Having said that, the economics, the situation that the Bruins are in currently with the cap problems, will dictate to a large extent what’s going to happen.
“It’s unfortunate, in that Adam’s preference would be to stay in Boston, even though he also understands there are all those economic factors that really have not that much to do with him, as much as just what the numbers are. That will dictate whether that’s all going to be possible or not.”
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The Bruins have the No. 14 selection in the draft, which begins next Friday in Sunrise, Fla. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll stay there.
“I think we are comfortable [with the pick] because we feel very good about the list in general,” Sweeney said. “We know the type of player and the quality of player that will be there.
“We’ve had talks moving in both directions, to be honest with you, and I think every general manager is going to have talks to see what may or may not transpire.
“Again, there are players higher up on the list that maybe you’d really have your eye on, and there are players further down that you turn around and say, ‘Well, I have value — if I move this pick, there’s going to be a lot of value for people that want to move up.’
“I’m going to look at every option. I’m really not going to turn down anything. The situation I’m in now, I have to have my ears wide open.”
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The Bruins announced a seven-game preseason slate, including a game against the New Jersey Devils at Providence’s Dunkin’ Donuts Center Sept. 20. The Bruins will host three preseason games at TD Garden, starting Sept. 22 against the Capitals. They will also play the Rangers (Sept. 24) and Red Wings (Sept. 28) at the Garden. The Bruins will travel for three games: to Detroit Sept. 26, to New York Sept. 20, and to Washington Oct. 2 to end their preseason. All games are at 7 p.m.