As we inch towards the end of August and the beginning of training camp, two key restricted free agents remain unsigned. Two big parts of the Bruins success last season, and two big parts of their future.
Brandon Carlo nor Charlie McAvoy have yet to sign new contracts with the Bruins, and a deal for either of the two does not appear to be immanent.
In a sit down earlier this month
with Joe Haggerty of NBC Sports Boston, Bruins president Cam Neely discussed the situation with the two defensemen.
“Unfortunately, it’s still status quo. The history since Don [Sweeney] has been here is that when we negotiate, we do it from a position of fairness” Neely told Haggerty. “We do a lot of work at comps around the league and try to get a deal done that’s fair. We start with initial offers that are fair and that’s been no different with Brandon and Charlie.”
Not quite the news anyone wanted to hear, but this has become the trend with RFA’s of late.
You may remember last summer’s long standoff between William Nylander and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Unable to come to terms on a deal with the Leafs during the summer, the standoff lasted until December 1, the last possible day Nylander could sign and be eligible to play in the 2018-19 season.
When you take a look at the list of remaining unsigned RFA’s, the list is no joke. Names like Kyle Connor, Patrick Laine, Brayden Point and Mitch Marner remain without new contracts as August drags on.
Certainly the Bruins would love to avoid any type of hold out between Carlo and McAvoy, but the Bruins are no strangers to having a top player holdout as a pending RFA.
Albeit a “20-30 minute” holdout as David Backes joked back in September of 2017, it wasn’t until the day the Bruins 2017 training camp opened that David Pastrnak and the Bruins agreed to a six-year $40 million contract.
“We do have to plan and prepare for these players to not be at camp opening day. But we have five, six weeks to hopefully get something done,” Neely added in his conversation with Haggerty. "We feel like we should be able to get something done with both of those guys at numbers that makes sense for us and hopefully makes sense for them.
There are several things factoring into why the two top-four defensemen remain free agents. The Bruins having just over $7 million in cap space according to cap friendly,
being one of the bigger ones.
However, even with the Bruins lack of cap space, there’s not much panic on Causeway Street in regards to losing either Carlo or McAvoy.
With an expected cap hit of $3-$4 million, any potential offer sheet signed by Carlo would be an easy match for the Bruins.
An offer sheet is not a concern with McAvoy thanks to rule 10.2 (c). Because McAvoy burned the first year of his entry level contract with the Bruins by debuting in the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, he has technically only played in two of his three ELC seasons and therefore, can’t be offer sheeted.
But as much as the ball is in the Bruins’ court on this one, a deal with McAvoy seemingly is more difficult to finalize than Carlo’s should be.
McAvoy has undoubtedly grown in his development in each of his two full seasons with the Bruins and the sky is the limit for the 21-year old. But, with that being said, McAvoy still has a lot to prove. Remaining healthy being one of those area of improvements.
Between different hockey related injuries and a few health scares, McAvoy has missed 50 games over the course of the last two seasons.
It sounds like this is something that is on the Bruins radar.
“You look at a player that’s had some health issues two years in a row at a young age. You look at that and say ‘okay, is that going to stay the same or is it just bad luck?’ Neely said to Haggerty. “Charlie has had three playoff years and two full seasons where he hasn’t been healthy. A lot of times obviously that’s not his fault, but it’s nice to have a better sample size of where a player is going to go.”
When it comes to putting ink to paper and agreeing upon a new contract, each side is going to have to give a little in order to get something done.
It’s an interesting position for both the Bruins and McAvoy. Bridge deal? Long term deal? There are obviously pros and cons for both parties with each option.
A bridge deal around $7-$8 million for three-four years would relieve some of the Bruins stress knowing that McAvoy is locked up for the next few seasons, and would also give them the peace of mind knowing McAvoy would still be a RFA when the contract expired. For McAvoy, he would get himself a nice little raise, put himself in position for a monster contract at the end of this, all while not burning any of his unrestricted free agent years.
A long-term deal may be one that makes more sense for McAvoy’s camp, but I think McAvoy’s ability to stay on the ice is deterring the Bruins from that.
The contract thrown out there as the biggest comparable has been that of Florida’s Aaron Ekblad who signed an 8-year, $60 million contract in the summer of 2016. Ekblad was coming off the final year of his entry level contract where he appeared in 227 games, and had 96 points in his three years under his entry level contract.
Jaccob Slavin 7y/$37.1M/2017, Matt Dumba 5y/$30M in 2018 and Jacob Trouba 7y/$56M in 2019 are just a few of the bigger contracts signed by defensemen in the last three seasons.
Even if the Bruins get new contracts done with Carlo and McAvoy on team-friendly terms, the Bruins are going to need to clear out some cap space for the two.