BOSTON - Bruins president Cam Neely did not hesitate.
When asked what his feelings were heading into the 2021-22 campaign, the Hockey Hall of Famer was confident in saying that "expectations are certainly high and there's no need to change that."
Despite the departure of longtime centerman David Krejci and the uncertainty surrounding the return of Boston's all-time winningest goalie, Tuukka Rask, the Bruins brass does not believe there is any reason to alter the team's outlook as perennial Stanley Cup contenders.
While both Neely and general manager Don Sweeney acknowledged that there remains plenty to evaluate with a bevy of new faces - among them forwards Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek, defenseman Derek Forbort, and goalie Linus Ullmark - still assimilating into the lineup, they are confident heading into Opening Night.
"Overall, we're pretty pleased," Sweeney said when asked to look back on the Bruins' preseason. "Knock on wood, we're relatively healthy and happy with the depth and where guys are slotted in. We have to play games to see where guys are all going to come together and generate chemistry one way or the other."
Here are some other notes from Wednesday's media sessions:
McAvoy Negotiations Ongoing
Charlie McAvoy is entering the final season of a three-year contract that he signed ahead of the 2019-20 campaign. The B's ace defenseman is set to make $7.3 million this season and become a restricted free agent next summer, though Neely said during his Wednesday media availability that the hope is something gets done in the near future.
"Don and [assistant general manager Evan Gold] have been working with Charlie's camp the last couple of days, so my hopes are we'll see something here in short order," said Neely. "But you never know until it's signed on the dotted line."
Neely went on to say that McAvoy has expressed a desire to remain in Boston for the long term and the club would like nothing more than to make that a reality.
"I haven't heard any indication that Charlie wouldn't want to play here for his whole career," said Neely. "So, that's what we're looking towards and hopefully we can get something done that that gives him an opportunity to do just that. We'll see where it goes.
"I think Charlie, he's embraced Boston. He went to college here. I think he likes the city, loves the sports environment, loves our fan base…it's certainly special when you actually step on the rink and on the ice there and you see a packed house.
"I haven't seen or heard anything from Charlie that gives me any reason why he wouldn't want to play here as long as possible."
Sweeney, while saying that "there's nothing imminent" in terms of a contract extension for McAvoy, echoed Neely's sentiments that the Bruins' goal is to keep the blue liner in the Spoked-B for as long as possible.
"We're hopeful," said Sweeney. "We continue to have talks periodically with different players…we would dearly like to have Charlie as part of the organization for a long period of time. And hopefully it's mutual. That's generally when deals come together. We think highly of him both as a player and a person.
"He's growing into a leadership role. He's been included in that leadership group and hopefully that's an indication that Charlie's growing into the person both as a player and a person that we all hope he would."
Video: Sweeney addresses the media on Wednesday from WIA
The Door Is Open
Neely reiterated that the "door is open" for the returns of Krejci and Rask should they be interested in coming back to the Bruins at some point this season.
"We'll see what happens," said Neely. "Tuukka is going through his rehab process [from offseason hip surgery] and we'll see where that takes him. We told them both that the door is open if they do decide to try and come back, and we'll see where it goes from there. That remains to be seen for both of them.
"It really depends on where they're at, both mentally and physically. And from David Krejci's perspective…I know the family situation was very important for him and rightfully so."
Wait, There's More
- Curtis Lazar remains week-to-week with an upper-body injury. Per Sweeney, the team is awaiting the results of a secondary MRI now that swelling has subsided to determine exactly how long the forward will be sidelined.
- Jack Studnicka was among the final cuts from the B's training camp roster - along with veteran forward Chris Wagner - but it was hardly a decision based on solely on performance as the 22-year-old center impressed during the exhibition slate. "Jack had a strong preseason for us," said Neely. "We have high expectations for him moving forward, whether it's at some point during this year or later in the year or next year, for that matter. It is something the organization has looked at and said, 'OK, where are we going to be in a few years time?' So, we've got time to address it, but not a lot of time…we will certainly focus on [the center] position."
- Neely said he did not have any major concerns coming out of camp but noted that the club would like to see more reps from Linus Ullmark between the pipes and Charlie Coyle as the second-line center. "I still think we need to flush out what maybe the bottom part of the lineup looks like, is Charlie Coyle going to be able to mesh well with Taylor [Hall] and Craig [Smith]? There's only one game there, so we want to see a little bit more of that," said Neely. "But nothing really negative jumped out to speak of. Obviously, Ullmark, we kind of knew that that he'd have a slower camp than most…his last game was early April last year…I know that goalie [coach Bob Essensa is] working with him getting more reps in practice."
Video: Neely talks on Wednesday morning from WIA