BOSTON - Now that the 2016-17 season has come to an end and the post-mortems are in the books, the Bruins can begin to look forward. The building of the next version of the Black & Gold starts in earnest over the next several weeks.
Offseason staples like the NHL Scouting Combine, NHL Entry Draft, and free agency will require the full attention of Boston's brass. But this year, the NHL Expansion Draft will throws an unfamiliar wrinkle into each team's summer plans.
The addition of the Vegas Golden Knights as the league's 31st franchise means every club must prepare to lose one of player on June 21, when the expansion draft is held at the NHL Awards.
There are two formats for shielding players from the draft, and last week Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said he was leaning towards protecting seven forwards, three defensemen, and a goalie.
On Tuesday, during an end-of-season press conference with Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs and CEO Charlie Jacobs, team president Cam Neely said there had not been much debate over which players to protect.
"There hasn't really been," said Neely. "Some of it is forced, some of it is the lesser of two evils. Over the course of the year, it probably changed a little bit. But at the end of the year, we landed on where we liked to be."
With only 11 players protected, the Bruins know they could lose a player they don't want to lose. (First- and second-year pros, as well as unsigned draft picks, are exempt and do not count towards that total).
"There's going to be a lot of conversations I know that Don is going to have with, whether it's other GMs or [Vegas GM] George McPhee, for that matter, on seeing what his appetite is and what his interest is," said Neely. "But there's always a fear that you're going to lose a player that you may want to hang on to."
Here are some other notes from Tuesday's end-of-season press conference:
Pastrnak Heads to RFA
David Pastrnak is a restricted free agent this offseason, and both he and the team would like to come to terms on a new contract, according to Neely.
"Don's had talks with his camp during the course of the season," said Neely. "At one point, I think they felt it was probably best just to stop talking and let him focus on playing.
"We want David and David certainly reiterated a number of times that he wants to play here and stay here. He loves it here. I feel confident we can get something done with him."
Pastrnak tallied 34 goals and 36 assists for 70 points in 75 games, during his first full NHL season. The 20-year-old added two goals and two assists during his first career playoff series.
Bjork Decision Upcoming
Neely said forward prospect Anders Bjork has told Sweeney he will make a decision on whether to return to Notre Dame for his senior season or turn pro following the upcoming 2017 IIHF Men's World Championship, where he will play for the United States.
The 2014 fifth-round pick of the B's led the Fighting Irish with 52 points (21 goals, 31 assists) this season and was one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player.
"He had a very difficult decision right after his season was over. I think it was overwhelming for him," said Neely. "Our hopes are that he sees where we're at as a team and some of the young players we're putting in our lineup and we hope that he understands that he's a player that we think very highly of that can step in and contribute here."
Neely Talks Buyouts, Free Agency
Neely was not sure the team would use any buyouts this offseason. Last spring, the Bruins bought out the final two years of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's contract.
"It's something that we always know is there as a tool," said Neely. "But I don't know if there is anything for us to do in that regard right now. We've already got one on the books in Seidenberg, so I don't know if it makes sense to add another one."
Sweeney said last week he had yet to make a firm decision on if he would use the buyout tool. "It went right down to the wire in that decision making last year," he said. "I'll take all the time necessary to make the right [decision]."
When it comes to free agency, Neely said, as of now, he was not anticipating a frenzy come July 1.
"Right now, I don't really anticipate a busy free agency period," said Neely. "But we'll see what transpires throughout the course of the offseason, but right now I don't envision that. We'll get through the expansion draft and evaluate."
Hub on Causeway Progressing
The construction of the Hub on Causeway in front of TD Garden continues to make headway. The project, spearheaded by Delaware North and Boston Properties, broke ground in January 2015 and will transform the area around TD Garden by developing 1.5 million square feet across the 2.5-acre site, including an expansion of the arena and a new entrance into the building.
Charlie Jacobs said the hope is that part of the construction is finished in time for the 2018-19 season.
"The Hub on Causeway continues to be a work in progress. We are, I want to say, roughly 100 percent done with the digging, and as you know, as you continue to go further down, the longer it takes to get out," said Jacobs.
"There are small, small elements that are beginning to emerge from the hole in the ground, for a lack of better term....I hope by the time the 18-19 season begins we'll have a new core and shell and a new entrance to North Station."