It’s Boston Bruins day at PHT


The 2016-17 season was a mixed bag for the Boston Bruins.

After missing the playoffs for two straight seasons, the Bruins battled their way back in. Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron were dominant while David Pastrnak broke through in a big way. Young defensemen such as Brandon Carlo helped the B’s transition to a more attacking approach, while Charlie McAvoy made an immediate splash during the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It wasn’t all good, of course.

This last season cost Claude Julien his job, so 2017-18 will mark the first full season for Bruce Cassidy.

Tuukka Rask endured some struggles, while Zdeno Chara continued to show his age. The Ottawa Senators ended up dismissing the Bruins in six games during a first-round series.

With an aging core and a GM who might be on the hot seat, the Bruins stand as a team expected to battle for a lower playoff spot. It won’t be easy, and it can go either way, as the Bruins could either get more bounces this time around or slide badly if the more extreme scenarios come into play.

The B’s haven’t experienced too many big gains or losses during the off-season. Seeing the likes of Colin Miller leave (in his case via the expansion draft) isn’t ideal, but it also doesn’t dramatically change the complexion of this team.

Boston’s hopes rest on some coin flips going its way next season, so this should be a great way to kick off PHT’s Team of the Day series.

Bruins would be wise to go long-term with Pastrnak


Deadlines cause anxiety, but there are also times when they come in handy.

Perhaps the looming threat of a salary arbitration hearing would be a blessing in disguise for the Boston Bruins and rising star forward David Pastrnak?

Instead, the 21-year-old remains an RFA, and Bruins GM Don Sweeney told CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty that talks aren’t exactly moving along that quickly right now.

There are plenty of instances where RFA negotiations drag into the regular season itself, and that would be a pretty significant concern for the Bruins, who seem like they’re headed for a battle to make the playoffs again in 2017-18.

Pastrnak enjoyed an explosive 2016-17 campaign, scoring 34 goals and a resounding 70 points in 75 regular-season contests. There were flashes of brilliance as he averaged about 14 minutes per night in about a half season’s work in both 2014-15 and 2015-16, but he really took off when given a full chance.

Perhaps a “bridge” deal would be easier for both sides, yet the Bruins might be wise to try to lock him up long-term now, particularly if he’d do so at a reasonable price. (Viktor Arvidsson‘s deal would probably stand as the dream scenario.)

It should be a fascinating situation to watch, at least if it ever advances beyond what sounds like a snail-like pace at the moment.

Bruins appoint Jay Leach as AHL head coach


The Boston Bruins have appointed Jay Leach as head coach of the Providence Bruins.

Leach, 37, replaces Kevin Dean, who was promoted earlier this offseason to work alongside Bruce Cassidy in Boston.

Leach, a former NHL defenseman who spent most of his pro career in the AHL, was an assistant coach last season in Providence. He joined the B’s organization last summer after a year spent as an assistant for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.

The Bruins also announced that Spencer Carbery has been hired to assist Leach in Providence, and that Mike Dunham has been hired as Goaltender Development Coach.

Related: Fred Brathwaite joins Islanders as goalie coach

Should Bruins take run at Will Butcher?


Assuming he does not sign with the Colorado Avalanche — and it appears as if he will not — 2017 Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher will be a highly sought after target on the open market when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on August 15. His agent has already said he would listen to an offer from the back-to-back Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, while teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings figure to be interested.

Pretty much every team could use a young, puck-moving presence on its blue line.

On Saturday, CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty argued that the Bruins should not be one of the teams interested in making a play for the 22-year-old rearguard even though the team has a need for a left shot on its blue line.

Writes Haggerty:

What the Bruins don’t need is another undersized, unproven youngster on their back end while 21-year-old Brandon Carlo enters his second full NHL season, and 20-year-old McAvoy readies for his first full pro hockey season in Boston. Instead, they really could have used a battle-tested, grizzled veteran D-man on the left side capable of being an on-ice tutor as McAvoy’s D-partner this season, and that’s what they were unsuccessfully looking for via free agency or trade earlier this summer.

He also mentions the collection of prospects knocking on the door as leaving little room.

Even with all of that, the Bruins were one of the first teams I thought of when it came to potential landing spots for Butcher. Due to the exits of long-time veterans like Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg in recent years, the trade of Dougie Hamilton, and the fact that Zdeno Chara is closer to the end of his career than his peak their defense has taken a pretty significant fall in recent seasons and gone from being its greatest strength to, at times, its biggest weakness.

To be fair, the emergence of Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy as young players on that defense gives them a lot of hope for the future, and Torey Krug has become a tremendous point-producer on the back end. Adding a prospect like Butcher to that group would give them a pretty strong collection of young, cheap puck-movers, and that isn’t a bad way to try and win in today’s NHL. After all, the team that just won the past two Stanley Cups wasn’t exactly full of rugged, battle-tested veterans.

Basically, the Bruins shouldn’t let the fact they already have some prospects in the system and similar players on the roster prevent them from taking a shot at adding a player like Butcher. Not all of your prospects are going to pan out and you can never really have too much talent. And when you have a chance to add a talented young player for practically nothing it is a possibility that is always worth exploring.

Bruins avoid arbitration with Spooner


Heading into today’s arbitration hearing, Ryan Spooner was reportedly looking for a $3.85 million dollar deal. On the other side of this equation, the Bruins were only willing to offer $2 million.

With that kind of gap, it seemed almost certain that this dispute would be settled by an arbitrator, but the two sides have reportedly met somewhere in the middle, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman.

Friedman is reporting that the two sides have avoided arbitration by agreeing to a deal worth $2.825 million.

Update: The Bruins confirmed the signing and financial details.

Spooner finished last season with 11 goals and 39 points in 78 games. The 25-year-old scored two less goals and 10 less points in 2016-17 than he did the previous year.

There’s no doubt that he has plenty of offensively ability, but consistency in his own end has always been an issue (just ask former head coach Claude Julien).

If Spooner can put it all together this season, he’ll be able to earn a much bigger pay day next summer.