June 3, 2018 | 11:03am ET
By Shawn Hutcheon, The Fourth Period

SWEENEY TALKS NHL DRAFT AND FREE AGENCY

 
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Don Sweeney, GM

 
 

BOSTON, MA -- While the 2018 Stanley Cup Final moved from Las Vegas to Washington for Games 3 and 4, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was in Buffalo for the NHL Scouting Combine where he touched upon the upcoming draft and free agency period and how both could affect his team for the 2018-19 season.

Boston holds five selections (rounds 2, 3, 4, 6, 7) in this summer’s seven-round NHL Draft in Dallas. 

With no selection in the first round, Sweeney acknowledged that he has held talks with other League GMs in an effort to acquire one.

“Well, I think, as everybody approaches the draft itself and going through the (player) interviews (at the Combine), it gets hard,” Sweeney said. “I’d had previous discussions and whether or not those change between now and after the interviews and such, we’ll have to find out in the next couple weeks. I do think it will be difficult but there are teams with multiple picks. You never know what some team may want to do.

“There’s a sense that there will be some activity. I think in around the draft, there’s several teams with multiple picks, say in the top 50, so I think there will be some jockeying.”

Whither the Nashes

The all-important free agency period will begin on July 1 and enquiring minds want to know will Rick Nash be in black and gold next season.

“We’re going to have follow up conversations this week,” the GM said. “I plan to talk to them (Nash and his agent) again and, hopefully, have a clear understanding of where that necessarily lands and Rick indicated when he came to Boston that he was excited about the opportunity. He wants to win. He wants an opportunity to win. He felt badly because he got injured. It took away a little juice from him. He missed time coming down the stretch and jumping right into the playoffs. He wasn’t able to play a game and neither was Riley. It had an effect. They had pockets of their game where they played really well, and we knew that, but it was a big part of what our team was in terms of the depth top to bottom. It may or may not have affected what the result was, they’re not really to be held at fault for that. They were injured. Coming back, it’s a tough thing to do.” 

Sweeney added that three players, defenseman Paul Postma along with forwards Kenny Agostino and veteran Brian Gionta, have been told they will not return to the fold next season leaving the Bruins with six unrestricted free agents (Rick Nash, Riley Nash, Tommy Wingels, Tim Schaller, Nick Holden, Anton Khudobin) and two restricted free agents (Matt Grzelcyk and Sean Kuraly). 

Sweeney has spoken with all of the players concerning their futures with the Bruins and expects some to explore their options.

“Looking at both UFA and RFA numbers for players now and had some preliminary talks with all of the players, just trying to sift through the term aspect of some of those conversations, and again, you get closer to July 1 and players start to wonder what may or may not exist elsewhere, obviously,” Sweeney explained. “All of those players have indicated that they felt they fit in well with our hockey club and I think they did as well. It’s unrealistic that everybody will be back.” 

Decisions on whether to bring Wingels and Schaller back are still in the making.

“Haven’t decided on Tommy,” Sweeney admitted. “We’re trying to figure out – that’s another right shot, so where they all fit together. But again, in a depth role, in a situation – in the right situation – he could (return). Tim Schaller follows the same category in terms of what he may feel internally versus externally for opportunities for him.”

Grzelcyk and Kuraly will receive qualifying offers later this month.

Getting Healthy

Two days after the Bruins were eliminated from the postseason by the Tampa Bay Lightning, we learned of the ailments the players endured. Twenty-five days later, Sweeney issued an update.  

“The only injury update is Tim Schaller did go in for a hand procedure,” the GM noted. “It was on the radar to have it followed up and he did have something fixed there, so he’s got a recovery period, I think, full return to play of three months. That’s the only newest updated. Noel Acciari had his surgery, went well. Everybody else is avoiding it at this point in time, so that’s good news. Brandon (Carlo) is doing well back in Colorado, and our guys have followed up there. Anders (Bjork) shoulder from his surgery is really well on course for a normal timeline there. Bergy (Patrice Bergeron) doesn’t have to have anything, so we’re in good shape. Zee’s (Zdeno Chara) was just a matter of you have to calm down, shoulder and the finger there.” 

Sweeney went on to say that the club is continuing to monitor David Backes’ upper-body injury along with Noel Acciari, who had surgery for a sports hernia and an adductor release procedure for a similar ailment suffered by Bergeron in 2016-17.

And there you have it. 

While you are enjoying the highly entertaining 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Sweeney, his scouting staff and the Bruins organization are preparing for next season with the goal of having you watch the Boston Bruins in the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.

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Shawn Hutcheon is the Boston Correspondent for The Fourth Period.
Follow him on Twitter.