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Sweeney: Tuukka Rask "Absolutely" Not on the Market

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BostonBruins.com - General Manager Don Sweeney held a conference call for reporters on Tuesday morning, prior to the start of NHL Free Agency on July 1.

The call happens annually prior to free agency. Sweeney is also slated to address reporters on Wednesday (July 1), following the start of free agency (another annual occurrence).

Sweeney fielded several questions in regards to the club’s moves since NHL Draft weekend in Sunrise, Fla., their plan heading into free agency and the heat that has been put on him and the organization in the ensuing days.

“Well, ‘heat’ is the appropriate term, I would say,” Sweeney told reporters on the call. “I knew going in that the chair would be warm, accepted that challenge, and knew there would be some hard decisions to make.”

“You know, our staff went about trying to make the best ones and as I’ve said, referencing the fact that we’ve been in cap purgatory for quite some time and wanted to extradite ourselves from that going forward to improve our club hopefully from this point forward and in the future.”

“I think we’ve accumulated a tremendous amount of high quality prospects and we’re going to do nothing than other to continue to improve our club and maybe in the short term, it looks like we took a step back, but we’ve also got five of our six defensemen back and returning and our core group of forwards and some young assets who I think will pay dividends for the Boston Bruins and our future.”

As for heading into free agency, these next few days are just another phase in the process for Sweeney and his staff.

“A lot has transpired over the last little while and we’re now entering free agency with the intent to try and improve our hockey club,” said the GM. “It’s never an easy process in the free agent market, but we’re going to look at every different opportunity to try and do that. We set ourselves back in a position now where we have a little bit of cap flexibility, which was paramount in the whole exercise.”

“We’re exploring every trade opportunity,” Sweeney said, when asked if the Bruins were in a position to explore the trade market.

While you are likely well versed by now, below is a list of the transactions that have transpired, starting with the most recent:

- June 30: UPDATE at 1:00 p.m. ET - Since this blog was posted, the Bruins acquired a first round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft and forward Sean Kuraly (pronounced ker-AL-ee) from the San Jose Sharks in exchange for goaltender Martin Jones, who had been acquired in the Lucic trade.

- June 30: The Bruins signed Adam McQuaid to a four-year contract extension through the 2018-19 season at an annual cap figure of 2.75 million.

- June 29: The Bruins acquired forward Zac Rinaldo from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for the Bruins natural third round draft pick in 2017.

- June 27: The Bruins select the following prospects in the 2015 draft: defenseman Brandon Carlo (second round, 37th overall), forward Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson (second round, 45th overall), defenseman Jeremy Lauzon (second round, 52nd overall), goaltender Daniel Vladar (third round, 75th overall), forward Jesse Gabrielle (fourth round, 105th overall), forward Cameron Hughes (sixth round, 165th overall) and forward Jack Becker (seventh round, 195th overall). The Bruins also traded their 5th round pick (135th overall) to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Minnesota’s natural 5th round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft.

- June 26: The Bruins select defenseman Jakub Zboril (13th overall, acquired from LA), forward Jake DeBrusk (14th overall) and forward Zachary Senyshyn (15th overall, acquired from Calgary) in the first round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

- June 26: The Bruins acquired the 13th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, defenseman Colin Miller and goaltender Martin Jones from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for Milan Lucic.

- June 26: The Bruins acquired the 15th, 45th and 52nd overall picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft from the Calgary Flames in exchange for Dougie Hamilton.

- June 25: The Bruins acquired a sixth round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft from the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for the rights to Carl Soderberg. The pick originally belonged to the Bruins - they dealt it to Colorado at the trade deadline on March 2, 2015 when they acquired Max Talbot and Paul Carey in exchange for that pick and Jordan Caron. Soderberg would have walked as an unrestricted free agent come July 1.

Here’s a rundown of Sweeney’s conference call…

Bruins’ Restricted Free Agents Qualified

Sweeney said the the Bruins qualified restricted free agents Ryan Spooner, Brett Connolly and Martin Jones (acquired from LA). They did not qualify forwards Matt Lindblad and Rob Flick, or goalie Adam Morrison.

“Doesn’t mean that we won’t revisit, but we were looking at a bunch of different things to explore and that was the direction we went,” said Sweeney.

Savard In Play, Rask “Absolutely” is Not

When the Philadelphia Flyers made a trade with the Arizona Coyotes involving Chris Pronger during the draft. The Coyotes inherited Pronger’s contract with a salary cap hit of $4.9 million (though his actual salary is $575,000).

It was speculated that the Bruins had almost executed a similar deal involving the contract of Marc Savard (still on the books through 2016-17 and carrying an annual cap hit of about $4 million with a salary of $575,000).

“I’ve discussed Savard with a lot of teams, yes,” said Sweeney, who said that it’s still an option to trade Savard.

As for rumors floating around about shopping the Bruins’ No. 1 goalie Tuukka Rask, Sweeney quickly shot that notion down.

“Absolutely, Tuukka Rask, not on the market,” stated Sweeney. “Not sure where those necessarily come from ,but I appreciate you asking me so I can deliver emphatically that did not happen.”

Exploring UFA Market

Defenseman Matt Bartkowski, set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, looks headed for the UFA market.

Defenseman David Warsofsky and center Paul Carey, who both ended the 2014-15 season with the Providence Bruins, also look to be headed for UFA status.

“I have had conversations with their representatives and again, they’ve been testing the landscape and we may have to revisit with both those players,” said Sweeney. “Like them both as people and as hockey players.”

As for the Bruins delving into the free agency pool, Sweeney assessed this year’s market.

“Well, the supply and demand a lot of times dictates, in terms of a ratings scale - top to bottom, it might not have the complete depth,” said Sweeney. “But again, these are players that can help your lineup, depending on what your needs are. So the price and the rating could climb on a player that fits really well on one team versus not so well on another, and that’s what you have to look at.”

“Every team is looking at players that fit into what they’re trying to do, and as I referenced earlier, we’re trying to get — likely we’re trying to find some players that have the ability to score goals for us.”

The Bruins haven’t had any impending UFAs visit Boston, but Sweeney said they have spoken with players’ representatives.

Any area of need for the Bruins is on the wing.

“I think that’s something we’re exploring,” said Sweeney. “Clearly, strength up the middle of the ice has been a real asset for the organization from the top two centers that you’ve referenced [David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron], and [Ryan] Spooner — we saw him emerging a little bit last year — and [Alex] Khokhlachev in behind him.”

Chris Kelly, who has played both center and wing. We signed [Joonas] Kemppainen out of Finland, who’s a big, strong player that is 27, and well-suited to come over and make the transition. Based on his World Championships in the last few seasons that he’s had in the Finnish Elite League, he’ll push for an opportunity.”

“Obviously, we have five or our six D returning, and including Tuukka in net. So our strength up the middle of the ice, as you referenced, is a strong point for us, and we’re going to hope that we can look at the wing position, and see what we can explore and find to continue to improve our club.”

“I would definitely look at players that have the ability to score some goals, that maybe are sort of jumping into that next level of scoring — they might not have had a full body, or maybe they have had a full body. There’s a lot of players, both in the UFA and in the trade market, that can be explored.”

Sweeney reiterated that the club would do whatever they have to do to continue to explore improving the club, both internal and externally.

David Pastrnak, Reilly Smith and Ryan Spooner should all improve and provide help around the Bruins’ score.

“All of the internal pieces have to sort of come together while you’re looking at the UFA market and the trade market,” said Sweeney. “And there’s no guarantees in terms of — even if you’re talking to a free agent — that they won’t turn around and get a better offer somewhere else.”

Adding Energy with Rinaldo

The Bruins added winger Zac Rinaldo to the mix on Monday, sending a third round pick to the Flyers.

“We pushed the pick out to 2017, and felt he was a player that, you know, we wanted a little more energy, I talked about playing with a little more energy in our lineup, and it’s ready-made in that regard,” said Sweeney. “He’s a player that’s still young and he plays with a tremendous amount of courage. We need to get him to make sure he finds that line because he’s crossed over it a few times.”

“But he’s got a tremendous enthusiasm for the game, and speaking with him [Monday] was very, very excited about being a member of the Boston Bruins and doing whatever he could to help us win. So you guys are evaluating the prices paid and such, and the rest of us our evaluating the conversations we’re having and what those prices are going to be, so when you find a deal that you feel helps your hockey club, that’s what you’re trying to do.”

“We’re certainly hoping that he can continue to move forward in his career,” Sweeney added. “I mean, the skating piece, the courage piece, maybe there’s a penalty killing component to it, but that remains to be seen…there’s more to give from this player than the crash and bang style that he’s accustomed to playing and we’re going to go to work on that.”

Overages; Getting Out of “Cap Purgatory”

Sweeney revealed that the Bruins will deal with $969,000 in bonus overages for the 2015-16 season (from Dougie Hamilton and a couple of other players). The upper limit of the salary cap is set for $71.4 million.

Getting cap flexibility has been a priority for Sweeney and his staff.

“We’ve been in an LTI situation for a number of years [with Savard], and you can continue to live in it,” Sweeney started. “It’s punitive when the performances bonuses hit, as it did a couple of years ago, and a little bit this year — so you have overages and situations you have to deal with, and it further reduces your cap - so you’ve got to explore all those things.”

“And you have to have the projection piece. So where these players are going to be in a year from now relative to where your cap’s going to be in a year from now. So those are things that we have to factor in, and they certainly were a factor in some of the decisions we made.”

Free agency kicks off on Wednesday, July 1 at noon ET. We’ll watch to see see what unfolds.

Stay tuned for offseason and free agency coverage on BostonBruins.com, the Bruins Mobile App and via live updates on Twitter @NHLBruins.

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