By Matt Kalman
A couple national columnists wrote stories in the past week that caught my eye and should have been of interest to the Bruins.
First, there was SportsNet’s Luke Fox, who wrote “12 UFA Vegas should target in exclusive negotiating window” on June 1.
This column dealt with the exclusive negotiating period (except for the team in possession of the player’s rights) the Golden Knights will have from June 18-21. The Golden Knights will be able to talk to both restricted and unrestricted free agents who are eligible to be selected in the expansion draft, and if they sign a player, his former team doesn’t have to lose another player in the draft.
Fox suggests that the Bruins are hoping Vegas takes Matt Beleskey, but that the Golden Knights should zero in potential unrestricted free agent Drew Stafford, whom Fox describes as “a guy who can play up and down the lineup and one of the more underrated trade deadline rentals this season.” Fox then writes that if Stafford isn’t interested, Dominic Moore might be a solid addition to build the Golden Knights’ fourth line around.
My take: It always makes me laugh when people suggest Stafford was “underrated.” He wasn’t underrated or overrated. He was acquired for a sixth-round draft pick and he lived up to those expectations with four goals and four assists in 18 games and several nights when he was invisible. The Bruins should have no interest in re-signing him based on their hope for filling their top six with a more capable wing and also their desire to get more youth into their lineup.
At 31, Stafford should be open to listening to Vegas because he didn’t impress in his walk year (21 points total with Boston and Winnipeg), and could be caught between a July 1 signing or a guy scraping for work when the secondary free agent market opens. A two or three-year contract with Vegas is a chance to get playing time, resurrect one’s career and either get traded later on or be around when the Knights become competitive, which could be sooner rather than later with all the favorable rules and Gary Bettman’s parity.
Moore might also want to consider this because the Golden Knights might be willing to give him the security of a multi-year contract and he wouldn’t have to wait all summer for a new contract like he did last year.
Either way, Vegas would be doing the Bruins a favor by going this route because the Bruins would be able to retain all their defensemen, and Beleskey, who is still reasonably paid and has a chance to bounce back next season if healthy.
The other piece came from Kevin Allen over at USA Today, which posted “10 players who could be traded this offseason in the NHL.”
Allen’s list is peppered with guys you’ve heard about 1,000 times in Bruins trade rumors, including Minnesota defensemen Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba, and Edmonton forward Jordan Eberle. Allen suggests the Wild would be more willing to trade Brodin.
My take: The Bruins have to at least gauge the asking price for the 23-year-old left-handed-shot. The prospect pool is deep, and aside from the untouchable Charlie McAvoy, the Bruins should be willing to part with some prospects in order to acquire a young defenseman with NHL experience rather than waiting for their own guys to gain that experience. Brodin is signed for four more years at a cap hit of $4.167. According to Allen, the Wild would be less likely to part with the 22-year-old Dumba.
As for Eberle, the modern-day Tomas Kaberle in terms of years he’s been rumored to be coming to Boston (sorry the Bruins don’t have Chris Kelly or Matt Bartkowski to offer anymore wise guys), he has two more years left on his contract at a cap hit of $6 million. Edmonton general manager Peter Chiarelli isn’t going to take pennies on the dollar, especially if he’s trading with his old friends in Boston. So if you’re Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and you’ve created some salary-cap flexibility, you know you’re not going to have it for long and you watched any of Eberle’s disappearing act in the playoffs, you have to ignore the call when Chiarelli’s names pops up on the caller ID.