The worst kept secret in the NHL became reality Monday afternoon when the Boston Bruins announced that they signed general manager Don Sweeney to a multi-year contract extension. While the move had been rumored for some time, it became reality as his current contract he was working under was set to expire on June 30. Team president Cam Neely made it clear at his end-of-the-season media availability in May that bringing back Boston’s GM was only a matter of time.
“I started talking with Charlie and Mr. Jacobs after the deadline about extending Don, so that’s my plan is to do that,” said Neely. “To be honest, I really wanted to see how the year went. We had a lot of changes in the last offseason. So, I just really wanted to see how that played out.
“Obviously, you get January, February, March – really good months for us. The team really came together. I thought we had a lot of depth and I was happy with what he did at the deadline.”
Now that Sweeney is officially locked up with the backing of Neely, he will oversee the biggest offseason in his tenure as GM. There is a lot on the 55-year-old’s plate as he looks ahead to the 2022-23 season for the Black and Gold with many questions that need to answered.
Bruins Need a New Coach
In one of the more stunning decisions so far this offseason for the Bruins was when they fired former coach Bruce Cassidy on June 6. Cassidy had one-year remaining on his contract, but was given the boot by Sweeney in a meeting in Cassidy’s Boston home.
Who will replace Cassidy is the biggest question. Joe McDonald of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that former New York Rangers and Boston University coach David Quinn has reportedly been interviewed, as has former Providence Bruins coach and current Seattle Kraken assistant coach Jay Leach. Jim Montgomery, Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Spencer Carbery, and current Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco are also rumored to interviewing.
Whoever Sweeney decides to go with will reportedly have captain Patrice Bergeron back for one year, as the two are expected to meet this week. If that does indeed become official, then expect Sweeney and the Bruins to be active with the construction of their roster for the 2022-23 season instead of looking to begin a rebuild.
NHL Draft in July
The NHL Draft has not been one of Sweeney’s strong suits as GM. No need to look further than the 2015 Entry Draft and the three consecutive first-round picks the Black and Gold had. Jakub Zboril, kicked 13th overall, just signed a contract extension, Jake DeBrusk, selected 14th overall is coming off a 25-goal 2021-22 season, but has requested a trade, while Zach Senyshyn, selected 15th, also requested a trade and was dealt to the Ottawa Senators in March.
Other than Brandon Carlo, picked 37th overall in 2015, Charlie McAvoy, picked 14th overall in 2016, and Jeremy Swayman, picked 111th overall in 2017, there is not much homegrown talent that has made an impact in Boston under Sweeney. There is 2021 first-round pick Fabian Lysell who could be on the way to Causeway St. soon, but other highly touted picks like Jack Studnicka have yet to develop into a nightly NHL player. Sweeney does not currently have a first-round pick in July’s Draft in Montreal after they used it in a trade package with the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline for Hampus Lindholm, so it’s vital that he connect on some of his picks later in the draft.
Rebuild or Contend?
That’s the question, but if Bergeron does return, the Bruins will be looking to put together a roster that contends for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. It won’t be easy with Brad Marchand, McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk all missing the beginning of the regular season following surgeries after the Bruins’ first-round elimination at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
The Bruins will have a lot of money on Long Term Injury Reverse (LTIR) with Marchand, McAvoy, and Grzelcyk, which will force Sweeney to get creative with the roster. There are moves that can be made to free up some cap space, which would allow Boston to be active in adding in free agency. Player-for-player trades are also possible to improve the roster, or the Black and Gold get lucky with some prospects being ready to fill in some open roster spots to hold down the fort until reinforcements are cleared to be back. It appears Bruins CEO Charlie Jacobs has confidence in Sweeney building a contender with the Bruins once again.
“We are proud to extend Don Sweeney. Under his management, the Boston Bruins have been one of the winningest franchises in the league and a perennial playoff contender year in and year out. While we recognize there is work to be done to achieve the ultimate goal of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Boston, I’m confident that Don’s commitment to being best-in-class on and off the ice will help us climb that mountain once again.”
If the Bruins end up going the rebuild route, they are handing the keys to Sweeney to oversee the rebuild with limited assets and it will most likely will have to be done through the draft. Not the position that the Bruins really want to be in.
Signing Pastrnak to an Extension
David Pastrnak enters the 2022-23 season on the final year of his current contract and Sweeney is expected to sit down with Pastrnak and his agent to discuss an extension. Signing stars to extensions is a strength of Sweeney’s after he locked up McAvoy in October of 2021 and Lindholm following his trade to Boston. Now he needs to work his magic again, this time with Pastrnak.
The Bruins can’t let Pastrnak get to free agency next summer as they would stand a high chance of losing him for nothing. Getting him to sign an extension this summer is key or Sweeney could very well be forced to look to trade him. If it comes to that, then things could get real hairy around the TD Garden. Sweeney addressed the situation in May and knows the importance in keeping Pastrnak wearing the Spoked-B.
“He knows that there’s mutual respect from David, me and his camp. And we’ll dive right into it at the earliest possible time that we’re allowed to and get that indication. There’s never been an indication otherwise that this is where he wants to play. He wants to win. He’s obviously a great player and an important player for us. And we’ll attack it like we have done with all the other players that we feel the same way.”
There has been no indication from Pastrnak that he does not want to play in Boston beyond the 2022-23 season, but if an extension can’t be reached, then there will be plenty of suitors for his services and the package returned to the Bruins could be big.
The 2022 offseason is the biggest one during Sweeney’s watch as GM. There are a lot of decisions that are going to be made in terms of the present as well as the future. The one thing we know for sure is that the person making those decisions is Sweeney after getting his extension Monday afternoon.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.