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Top-heavy Bruins won’t have Bergeron, Backes in opener

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The Boston Bruins have a chance to improve in 2017-18 if they get some of the bounces they didn’t get last year.

To clarify, those bounces revolve around shooting and save percentages, as “PDO” wasn’t particularly kind to the Bruins in 2016-17. Their puck-hogging didn’t always pay off.

On the other hand, there’s the concern that the Bruins might be a little dependent on a handful of top guys to get the job done. Their season-opening game against the Nashville Predators already stood as a challenge, and now it could also be a litmus test, as both Patrice Bergeron and David Backes are ruled out of the game.

At least they’re only considered “day-to-day,” though?

Hmm.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty also notes that Torey Krug is still determining his own injury situation, with the good news being that he might be able to play on Monday. It’s another variable that tests the Bruins’ depth, and possibly provides an intriguing opportunity for much-touted young defenseman Charlie McAvoy.

Still, Bergeron (53 points) and Krug (51) were two of Boston’s top-five scorers last season, and that doesn’t tell the full story of how important each player is. It’s plausible that Brad Marchand will need to work harder to create chances without his Selke-caliber center around, as just one example.

Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said that there may be tinkering, but this is how things looked in the morning:

Looks like David Pastrnak‘s going to need to earn that spiffy new contract.

Catch up on Bruins, Sabres, Red Wings, more (PHT’s Atlantic Division preview)

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Between August’s “Team of the Day” series and all the other articles that gets published, Pro Hockey Talk generates a ton of material to get you hyped for the 2017-18 season.

With that in mind, it’s understandable if you missed some great stuff. While these collections aren’t comprehensive, consider these divisional previews to be a good way to get hyped for the rapidly approaching season.

For the PHT’s staff picks, click here.

Boston Bruins

Poll/looking to make the leap/

In more immediate Bruins news, Bergeron and Backes seem a little banged-up.

Buffalo Sabres

Poll/looking to make the leap

Detroit Red Wings

Poll/looking to make the leap/

Florida Panthers

Poll/looking to make the leap

Montreal Canadiens

Poll/looking to make the leap

In more immediate news, the Habs made a minor trade.

… And another one:

Ottawa Senators

Poll/looking to make the leap

Tampa Bay Lightning

Poll/looking to make the leap

Toronto Maple Leafs

Poll/looking to make the leap

Report: Bruins place Malcolm Subban on waivers

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It appears the Boston Bruins have decided to stick with Anton Khudobin as their back-up goalie to begin the 2017-18 season.

According to reports on Monday, the Bruins put former first-round pick Malcolm Subban on waivers following a training camp battle for the back-up role behind starter Tuukka Rask.

Subban entered camp with the belief that he could make the jump to the NHL this season, and appeared to put together some solid performances during the preseason. Putting the 23 years old puck stopper on waivers was a risk Bruins general manager Don Sweeney had been aware of well before this decision was made.

From the Boston Herald on Friday:

At the top of the list is what to do with goalie Malcolm Subban, who played well in nailing down the victory over the Blackhawks on Tuesday. But Subban is still a developing talent and would probably best be served by going back to Providence. The only hitch is that he requires waivers, and there’s a fear he’ll get scooped up.

Khudobin, 31, played 16 games for the Bruins last season, with a .904 save percentage. It’s likely, though, that he solidified the back-up job with an impressive 35-save performance against the Chicago Blackhawks in preseason action Saturday.

The Bruins open their regular season schedule at home versus the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

Khudobin’s impressive preseason performance ‘bodes well’ for Bruins

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Anton Khudobin wasn’t perfect for the Boston Bruins on Saturday. But he was close, turning aside 35 of 36 shots faced against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Only Patrick Sharp was able to solve the Bruins’ netminder, scoring late in the third period as Chicago recorded a 1-0 win.

Still, that’s two very good performances in the preseason for Khudobin, who also stopped 20 of 22 shots against Detroit, and they come at a time when the Bruins are facing a logjam in net with Malcolm Subban also looking to earn a spot as the back-up behind Tuukka Rask.

“Dobby was very good. The shot that beat him was an excellent shot by Sharp – he scores from there a lot,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “He was very good and I’m sure he’d be happy with his game for the most part. There’s always things you can clean up, but two solid efforts in the preseason for Dobby. That bodes well for our season. If his game’s on, that’s gonna help us a lot.”

A first-round pick of the Bruins in 2012, Subban entered training camp with the belief that he could play at the NHL level. He has two games experience with Boston, but has spent the vast majority of his professional career developing his game in the American Hockey League. That said, he has also been sharp when he’s had his opportunity during this preseason.

Now 23 years old, Subban does, according to reports, require waivers if the Bruins decide to send him down to Providence, which adds to the difficulty of any impending decision, as the Bruins look to improve at the back-up position for this season.

“Look, he requires waivers,” general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Herald. “We’re trying to manage it, as other teams are at this point, and we have other players that require waivers and we’re just trying to field the best team we possibly can and asset management is a part of it.”

Khudobin, now 31 years old, played 16 times for Boston last season, posting a .904 save percentage.

Big, bad contracts? Bruins’ salary cap situation after Pastrnak signing

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With a $6,666,666 cap hit, David Pastrnak‘s six-year contract might seem like a deal with the devil for the Boston Bruins. All things considered, it’s actually pretty reasonable, though.

Pastrnak is 21, and he only reached the legal drinking age in the U.S. on May 25. His youthful potential makes him stick out like a sore thumb on a Bruins roster that is, well, a little … veteran-heavy.

(It’s really experienced; yeah, that’s the way to put it.)

This Pastrnak contract seems like a solid excuse to examine the Bruins’ salary cap structure, continuing what’s become a running series at PHT.

Expensive old guys (and David Pastrnak)

Let’s begin with aging players whose contracts aren’t so scary … at least not right now.

Patrice Bergeron – 32 years old, $6.875M cap hit expires after 2021-22

Here’s a quick summation of my opinion regarding Bergeron: I once argued on Rotoworld’s Podcast that he probably belonged on the NHL’s list of the 100 greatest players of all-time. Bergeron can do it all, and figures to remain a serious difference-maker for some time.

Even so, Bergeron’s dealt with some troubling concussion issues, and has a lot of NHL mileage on his body. He’s been a fixture since 2003-4, after all.

There’s some concern that he’ll regress sharply, but here’s the thing: Bergeron is a steal right now, so the Bruins might just have to pay more in the future for getting a huge bargain in the past.

Pastrnak – 21, Mark of the Beast cap hit runs through 2022-23

It’s a near-certainty that Pastrnak’s numbers were inflated by his time with Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but such logic didn’t hurt Leon Draisaitl‘s wallet (i.e. the Connor McDavid bump), now did it? Injuries and other bad bounces can change things fast, but as it stands, this seems like a nice value.

Marchand – 29, $6.125M through 2024-25

The Bruins must have breathed a sigh of relief that they were able to re-sign Marchand at a reasonable cap hit, even as he was erupting from “really good and really annoying” to “really, really, REALLY good and really annoying.”

It’s easy to forget how frequently Marchand’s name landed in trade rumors when his points-to-agitation ratio wasn’t quite as helpful to the Bruins’ cause.

Right now, Marchand is a steal, probably an extreme one. He’s dangerously close to 30, and that’s a long contract, so that deal could be a problem in the future (especially considering how he likes to mix it up).

Tuukka Rask – 30, $7M through 2020-21

As the Bruins have declined from a contender to a team scraping to make the playoffs, the hype has fizzled for Rask to an extent. That’s just a nature of hype, though, because Rask remains one of the best workhorses in the game.

The problem remains similar: he’s getting up there in age. The term is both good news (not agonizingly long if he really slips) and bad news (four years, so if he does slip, the Bruins must find answers in net).

Old, expensive guys: part yikes

Matt Beleskey might not qualify as “old” at 29, but his contract is aging like reverse-wine with three years left at $3.8M. David Backes is 33 and costs $6M for four more years. Yeah, not good.

David Krejci straddles the line between those two groups. He quietly had a solid season in 2016-17, but at 31 and with a $7.25M cap hit, his contract might be something the Bruins regret. Especially if he really starts to hit a wall with four years remaining.

Decisions on defense

Reports indicate that the Bruins have at least discussed an extension with 40-year-old, bedrock defenseman Zdeno Chara. His $4M cap hit for next season is very nice, yet you wonder if Boston would be dancing around mines if they pull the trigger on a deal without being confident about his long-term viability.

(It would also provide cruel comedy if they’re proactive in re-signing a 40-year-old man after waiting until training camp to sign a 21-year-old rising star.)

Boston’s defensive future is fuzzy, as they only have two blueliners (Torey Krug and Kevan Miller) locked down for three years. Everyone else is on one or two-year pacts.

There are other young players to assess, from prospects to Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano.

(Opinion: Vatrano could be in for at least a moderate breakthrough in 2017-18, so the Bruins might be wise to at least explore a cheap extension sooner rather than later. Or, you know, they could pay a lot of money for another rare, precious young scorer. That seems to be going well for them.)

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So … yeah, the Bruins seem like a mess, at least when you take a view beyond the next season or two.

On the bright side, their best players are locked up at good-to-great rates, at least as of 2017. It’s not all bad, but you still have to wonder if management has the right vision for the future of this franchise.