If the Bruins are still a part of the John Tavares sweepstakes, Don Sweeney won’t say. Sweeney himself may not know where the Bruins stand.
The Boston general manager, speaking at Warrior Ice Arena Friday, after the Bruins finished a four-day prospect development camp, was far more eager to discuss players who may not make the roster for several years, if at all, than this year’s top free agent prize.
“I’ll have ample opportunity to answer all those questions,” Sweeney said. “I’ll take all the time in the world.”
Time is ticking in the Tavares sweepstakes. As of Sunday, the Islanders captain could sign a deal worth more than $80 million for at least seven years. He and his agent, Pat Brisson, granted six teams the opportunity to pitch them in Los Angeles this week: the Sharks, Stars, Lightning, Maple Leafs, Islanders, and Bruins.
TSN reported that Tavares was still deciding as of Friday afternoon, and that teams may begin hearing later in the day whether they were in or out.
The Athletic reported that Tavares would target either the Sharks or Maple Leafs if he left Long Island.
Sweeney, who wooed the 27-year-old All-Star Tuesday in Los Angeles with coach Bruce Cassidy and president Cam Neely, wouldn’t say how talks went.
“Lots of time to follow up on that at the right time,” he said. “We were there. You are right.”
Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, a Team Canada teammate of Tavares (gold in Sochi 2014, and World Cup 2016), was a little more forthcoming. He told TVA Sports in Quebec Friday that he contacted Tavares about a potential reunion.
“I talked to him to answer all the questions he has about Boston,” Bergeron said in French. “I’ve been playing here for 18 years and it’s like my home away from home. I told him about the city, the organization and our teammates.
“Now the ball is in his camp. We know it must have been an eventful week for him.”
Bergeron added that he hopes his initiative “had an impact. He’s a good person. I have only positive things to say about him. On and off the ice.”
To land Tavares (37-47—84 last year), Sweeney would have to move salary, most likely that of second-line center David Krejci (three years left at $7.25 million). Sweeney said he was confident he’d be able to make the numbers work if need be.
If Tavares lands elsewhere and Krejci remains in the fold, Sweeney wants a second-line scorer to fill the hole left by Rick Nash (uncertain about his future). One rumored option: New Jersey free agent Michael Grabner (27 goals last year), a better fit in a third-line/penalty-kill role, but a competent middle-sixer.
“We’ve talked to other players to continue to add depth to our group,” Sweeney said.
“I think we feel pretty comfortable that some of our players have emerged to be able to handle some of those things. You remember Anders [Bjork] started up there.”
Until prospects reach full bloom in the NHL, Sweeney said, “you always sort of have your eye on an element that is known.”
Few forwards are surer commodities than Tavares, who would join veterans Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Brad Marchand to solidify the Bruins core.
On Sunday, Sweeney will discuss what did or did not happen.
The quiet wait continues.