Sweeney: Bruins’ core deserves chance to ‘win now’

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The Buffalo Sabres were going nowhere. They could afford to tear it down and endure the “suffering.”

The Toronto Maple Leafs were a disaster. The only way out was some “pain.”

But the Boston Bruins are a different, more complicated story. They may have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, and they may well miss them again in 2017. But they also have Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci and Tuukka Rask under club control for years to come — and they’re not about to tear that down.

“I’m not going to be shortsighted,” GM Don Sweeney assured reporters Tuesday after firing head coach Claude Julien. “I’m going to stick to the longer-term view.”

But at the same time, Sweeney believes his core players deserve “a chance to win now” — which is why he brought in a veteran like David Backes on July 1.

“Our core players are too good to not have that plan in place, in the short term and longer term,” he said.

So, it’s a balancing act, the present with the future. This past summer, Sweeney wasn’t willing to trade Pastrnak for defensive help, and Bruins fans are probably glad he didn’t.

Still, the Bruins need to improve their defense. Zdeno Chara is 39 years old. And while Brandon Carlo has been a pleasant surprise at only 20, there’s no telling when the likes of Charles McAvoy, Jakub Zboril, and Jeremy Lauzon will be NHL-ready.

In other words, don’t expect the Kevin Shattenkirk speculation to go away. The 28-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent. If he’s available this summer, the Bruins will surely be interested. They might even have interest before the trade deadline, as long as the price isn’t too steep, and as long as they know they can re-sign him.

Read more: Bruins management failed to improve roster as planned

For now, though, the focus will be on making the playoffs under interim coach Bruce Cassidy. The Bruins host San Jose Thursday, Vancouver Saturday, and Montreal Sunday. Then they get their bye week, before heading off to California for a tough road trip.

“These decisions are not easy, and Don has my full support,” said Bruins president Cam Neely in a statement. “I believe that we have a better team than our results to date show. I also recognize that there are areas that we as a group need to improve upon.”

That last part was Neely’s way of saying it wasn’t all on the coach. And to be sure, now that Julien has been fired, the focus will turn far more to management and what can be done to improve the roster.

Sweeney said he’s sticking to the plan.

The only hard part will be executing it.

Related: Sweeney defends timing of Julien firing

Flyers sign Michal Neuvirth to two-year, $5 million extension

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 12: Goalie Michal Neuvirth #30 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Florida Panthers at Wells Fargo Center on October 12, 2015 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The goaltending situation in Philadelphia has become a lot more clear today, as they’ve signed Michal Neuvirth to a contract extension.

According to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun, it’s a two-year deal worth a total of $5 million ($2.5 million cap hit).

Neuvirth was set to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season.

The 28-year-old has been between the pipes for nine of his team’s last 11 games, but he’s dropped four of his last five decisions. He has a 10-9-1 record with a 2.90 goals-against-average and a .887 save percentage in 24 games.

The duo of Neuvirth and Steve Mason hasn’t worked out too well in Philadelphia. Both players have struggled to find consistency in their game, which has been problematic for the Flyers.

Even though Neuvirth will be back, they can still shake things up by moving on from Mason, who is also scheduled to become a free agent on July 1st.

The Flyers also re-signed forward Pierre Edouard Bellemare earlier today.

Report: Flyers extend Bellemare — two years, $2.9 million

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 24: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare #78 of the Philadelphia Flyers looks on against the Washington Capitals during the third period in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on April 24, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Washington Capitals won, 1-0. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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Philadelphia has re-upped with checking forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on a two-year extension, per Sportsnet.

It’s believed to be a $2.9 million pact, one that carries a $1.45M average annual cap hit. That’s a nice raise for the 31-year-old, who’s in the last of a two-year pact at $712,500 per.

Bellemare joined the Flyers for the ’14-15 campaign, following a lengthy career in Europe that included stops in his native France, and a lengthy spell in Sweden. He’s emerged as a good energy guy in the bottom-six forward group, one that can kill penalties and chip in with a bit of offense.

Today’s news might come as a bit of a surprise for Flyers fans, however. Bellemare was a pending UFA and, given he’s on the wrong side of 30, there was speculation he’d be sold at the deadline in the hopes of recouping some assets.

Report: Jesper Fast out indefinitely after suffering shoulder injury

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 30:  Jesper Fast #19 of the New York Rangers skates against the Washington Capitals in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals during the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 30, 2015 in New York City.  Capitals defeated the Rangers 2-1.  (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
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Some tough news if you’re a fan of the New York Rangers.

According to Larry Brooks of the New York Post, Jesper Fast will miss some time with what’s believed to be a separated shoulder.

Fast suffered the injury after being flattened by Alex Ovechkin in last night’s 4-1 loss to the Washington Capitals.

The 25-year-old has been a key contributor for New York this season. He’s up to five goals and 15 assists in 59 games. He’s also second in shorthanded ice time and in hits among all Rangers forwards.

The Rangers went into last night’s game without Mika Zibanejad and they also lost Chris Kreider momentarily yesterday, but he was able to return.

Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault is expected to provide an update on Fast’s status after today’s practice, but don’t expect the news to be good.

Canadiens acquire Dwight King for draft pick

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 27:  Dwight King #74 of the Los Angeles Kings celebrates his goal to take a 3-2 lead over the Colorado Avalanche during the second period at Staples Center on January 27, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Montreal Canadiens are keeping busy.

Just one day after acquiring Steve Ott from the Detroit Red Wings and Brendan Davidson from the Edmonton Oilers in separate deals, general manager Marc Bergevin completed another trade before the deadline when he acquired forward Dwight King from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for a conditional 2018 fourth-round draft pick.

It will become a third-round pick if he re-signs with the Canadiens this summer when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.

In 63 games this season King has eight goals and seven assists.

He also adds to the Canadiens’ apparent season-long attempt to become a grittier and tougher team, now joining a roster that now has seen Ott, Shea Weber, and Andrew Shaw join it over the past eight months.

For the Kings, it is a move that clears out a bit of salary cap space, perhaps opening the door for them to complete a deal with Colorado for Jarome Iginla, something that seems to be a work in progress on Wednesday.

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Canadiens corner market on pests, add Steve Ott

Canadiens get Davidson for Desharnais