BOSTON - Bruins general manager Don Sweeney and coach Bruce Cassidy met with the media on Monday morning at TD Garden for the first time since the team's Game 7 loss in the Stanley Cup Final to recap the 2018-19 season and also look ahead to the summer, free agency, and beyond.
"These guys are competitive guys. They want to win," said Sweeney. "They put everything on the line to try and have an opportunity to win, and they should be proud of themselves for that. I think in a short period of time our younger players have absorbed a lot of that - and they certainly brought it with them, as well."
"We were one win away," added Cassidy. "These experiences now, Charlie [McAvoy's] had two of them, [Matt Grzelcyk] has had two of them, [Jake] DeBrusk, [David Pastrnak] I'll put in that category. Hopefully, it makes them better next year if we're fortunate enough to be in the same position, hardens them a little bit, educates them a little bit [to] what it takes."
Video: Cassidy looks back on 2018-19 season in final presser
Here's a rundown of some of the other topics they touched upon during their end-of-season press conference:
With Torey Krug one year away from free agency, Sweeney was asked if he has a decision to make when it comes to whether or not it might be best to move the prolific blue liner for assets ahead of next season. While Boston's GM did not rule out that idea, he added "it would take a pretty unique opportunity for us to part with Torey." Sweeney also noted that talks regarding an extension can begin on July 1.
"If somebody blew us away…every player has to be looked at in that way when you're an organization, you just have to. You're doing yourself a disservice if you don't," said Sweeney. "We think he's a big part of the fabric of our group. He's kind of that next wave of leadership that we talk about in behind some of the guys that have carried that mantle for a long time, but he's an important part of our club."
Krug, now part of two runs to the Stanley Cup Final, quarterbacked one of the best postseason power plays in NHL history, finishing third on the Bruins with 18 points (two goals, 16 assists) - 12 on the man advantage - in 24 games. He is under contract for next season at an AAV of $5.25 million.
"Torey's an important part of our hockey club," added Sweeney. "Really was proud of his effort, took to heart being in a top-four role this year, in the playoffs in particular where he was going to face matchups on the road, and he handled them really well. The power plays, the points, those things speak for themselves and have been throughout his time here.
"He's a big part of our club. We have opportunity starting July 1 to open up talks. Again, the RFA market and some of our internal things will dictate the timing of those conversations."
Sweeney was also asked about the future of David Backes, who like Krug remains under contract for next season - and 2020-21 at an AAV of $6 million. The 35-year-old did not play in the final two games of the Stanley Cup Final and seemed uncertain about his future during the team's Breakup Day on Friday. Overall, Backes had five points (two goals, three assists) while playing in 15 of Boston's 24 postseason games.
"[He] was a big part of our hockey club, on and off the ice," said Sweeney. "Where it fits going forward, he's a part of our hockey club. I have discussions on different players. He may or may not be a part of that, but for the most part, he's a part of our hockey club. His impact is again up to Bruce and up to David in terms of a production standpoint. From a leadership standpoint we know what he brings, and I think there's value there."
Cassidy believes that Backes - who played mostly with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk during the playoffs) - is a better fit in a bottom-six role.
"I thought he best fit in with [Sean] Kuraly, Acciari, Nordstrom, in that type of role," said Cassidy. "At the end of the day, when [Chris] Wagner, Acciari were all healthy, there was competition for those spots, so sometimes he was in there, sometimes he wasn't. That's where I see his best contribution to the team.
"At times he can move up in the lineup and give you some grit, a net-front presence, but in general, that's where he played his best hockey for us. So, we'll have to see how it all shakes out."
Editorial Note: A more in depth look at the Bruins' free agency plans is coming next week.
Video: Sweeney looks back on 2018-19 season in final presser
Under the Knife
In addition to his recovery from a broken jaw over the next five to six weeks, Zdeno Chara will also require a small procedure on his elbow to remove loose fragments, according to Sweeney.
"He's going to have that done this week and move forward and allow that to recover along with the obvious one in his jaw," said Sweeney.
John Moore (fractured humerus, 4 to 6 month recovery) is the only other player locked in for a procedure at the moment, but Noel Acciari (who was donning a walking boot on his right foot at Breakup Day) and Backes are also candidates for surgery.
"There's a couple guys that are still having some secondary tests being done," said Sweeney. "Noel Acciari with his heel [and] Backes has got something he's following up on."
Sweeney also revealed that Joakim Nordstrom had a fracture in his left foot, but will not need surgery.
"He had a small fracture in his navicular, so he has to let that heal," said Sweeney. "He'll be perfectly fine without surgery."
Video: Chara discusses jaw injury, playoffs
Anders Bjork played in just 20 games for Boston this season before his assignment to Providence in late November. The 22-year-old re-injured his shoulder while playing for the P-Bruins in December and needed season-ending surgery for the second straight year, but Bjork appears to be on the road to recovery and could once again be a candidate for a top-six role come September.
"Anders is doing really well from a recovery standpoint, had his shoulder, the same shoulder, done again, but has taken the necessary time," said Sweeney. "Saw him a couple weeks ago…he'll be full bore. He's missed a lot of hockey, so he has to reclaim his ability to play wherever in our lineup or work his way into our lineup at some point in time like he was doing last year from Prov. But he'll be fine, health-wise."
Last month, the Bruins announced that forward prospect Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson would be returning to his native Sweden next season to play in the Swedish Hockey League. Sweeney said on Monday that the team would retain the rights of the 22-year-old restricted free agent with a qualifying offer.
"He just sits as an RFA until he decides that he's ready to return," said Sweeney. "Again, that was a personal decision for him. We respected it, and it'll be good for him personally. And he's playing at a high level, so we're not concerned about that. It's just what was the right thing for him at this particular time in his own development, personally and professionally."
Sweeney said that it is unlikely center Jack Studnicka and goalie Kyle Keyser participate in much of the on-ice work at next week's Development Camp (June 26-28). Both were part of the Black Aces that accompanied the Bruins throughout the team's run to the Stanley Cup Final and are the only two play members of that group that will participate in any fashion.
"They are both going to be around," said Sweeney. "I think it's important for them to be part of a peer group, and they've certainly been around the organization now, so they can pass along the experience. Even the experience of being in the Stanley Cup Finals and being around it. I think that's what we want.
"We talk about Charlie McAvoy or talk about any young player, you have to breed it. You have to get it ingrained in them right away and realize what these guys sacrifice, and they can speak to it. They saw it every day, so I think it'll be good."
Sweeney, Shore Honored
Sweeney and Bruins legend Eddie Shore (posthumous) were inducted into the Massachusetts Hockey Hall of Fame over the weekend, along with Mass. Hockey volunteer Nick Demarco, former Norwich University coach Michael H. McShane, and retired University of New Hampshire coach Dick Umile.
Also inducted posthumously were George V. Brown, John P. Chase, Jim Fullerton, and Vic Heyliger.