BOSTON - During his pre-free agency press conference Friday morning at Warrior Ice Arena, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney addressed the team's three unrestricted free agents, confirming he has already informed defenseman John-Michael Liles that he will not be returning next season.
"Liles, I had told earlier in the [process] that he wouldn't be coming back," Sweeney said of the blueliner, who notched 11 assists in 53 games with Boston after being acquired from Carolina at the 2016 Trade Deadline.
In regards to forwards Drew Stafford and Dominic Moore, Sweeney did not rule out entirely bringing back the veterans, but seemed to indicate re-signing either is unlikely.
"Haven't closed out with either player," said Sweeney. "Haven't had a lot of substantive talks with either player and their parties. We will probably move in a different direction with both, but I've certainly had communication in particular with Staff's group, and I'm going to continue to do that today and tomorrow, and see where it goes.
"I'm just trying to balance out if we're potentially adding somewhere else, whether or not we want to anywhere else."
Moore was one of the Bruins most dependable players last season, playing in all 82 regular season games and six playoff contests during his one campaign in Boston. The veteran center tallied 11 goals and 14 assists, while contributing as a vital piece of the Boston penalty kill.
Stafford, acquired from Winnipeg at the trade deadline, performed well in 18 regular season games, collecting four goals and four assists. He added two goals in Boston's first-round series against Ottawa.
Video: Sweeney provides updates on Pastrnak, B's free agents
Pastrnak, Spooner Talks Ongoing
Sweeney did not have much of an update on where negotiations stand with winger David Pastrnak, who is a restricted free agent.
"In a perfect world, yeah, we've buttoned that up, but it just hasn't happened to this point in time," said Sweeney. "I don't comment on where things are at, other than we're committed to the player and we'd like to find a long-term deal."
Sweeney also said talks continue with RFAs Ryan Spooner and Tim Schaller, both of whom have arbitration rights. The Bruins GM said Spooner could vie with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Riley Nash for Boston's third-line center position.
"Ryan Spooner can certainly play third line center," said Sweeney. "He has, and done well for two years. He's good on the power play, an important part of our power play. I think Forsbacka is going to come in and vie for that spot, I think Riley Nash would like to continue to play center…I think David Backes can move back to mid-ice depending on where some of the other wing prospects are.
"I think we have a lot of flexibility. Last year, it was sort of put forth that we had too many centers and I do not think you can have too many centers in the National Hockey League. I think centers can play wing. I don't really know too many wingers that can play center."
Hayes Bought Out
Sweeney also announced that the team has placed forward Jimmy Hayes on waivers for the purpose of a buyout. Hayes, who would have carried a $2.3 million salary cap hit in the final year of his contract in 2017-18, will now count $566,667 against the cap in 2017-18 and $866,667 against the cap in 2018-19.
Hayes, a Dorchester native, was acquired from the Florida Panthers for Reilly Smith in July 2015. He skated in 58 games with Boston in 2016-17, registering two goals and three assists for five points with 29 penalty minutes.
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound forward played in a career-high 75 games in his first season in Boston in 2015-16, recording 13 goals and 16 assists for 29 points with 60 penalty minutes.
Sweeney Talks Morrow
Earlier this week, the Bruins tendered qualifying offers to eight of its restricted free agents. Defenseman Joe Morrow was not part of that group.
"In Joe's case, did not get ample playing time, and we felt it was in our best interest and Joe's that he would go and explore other opportunities," said Sweeney.
Injuries on Track
Sweeney is not concerned about the recoveries of Patrice Bergeron, Peter Cehlarik, or Tuukka Rask from offseason surgeries affecting their readiness for training camp.
"Right now, everyone is doing well in their recovery process," said Sweeney. "The shoulder that Celharik had fixed [the issue] - he's really on track so I don't see any setbacks in his regard.
"Bergy and Tuukka are doing fine. We shouldn't early have any delays at all barring surprises."