NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Boston Bruins.
[Bruins 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]
1. Will Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo sign before training camp?
The Bruins intended to complete contracts with restricted free agents McAvoy, 21, and Carlo, 22, by the time camp opens in September to avoid starting the season without them (they have to sign by Dec. 1 to play in the NHL this season).
But Boston president Cam Neely told NBC Sports Boston that talks are status quo and compared negotiations around the NHL to "sweeping mud."
"We do have to plan and prepare for these players to not be at camp opening day," Neely said.
McAvoy had 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 54 games with Boston last season; Carlo had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 72 games.
Video: BOS@TOR, Gm4: McAvoy pots PPG off pretty passing play
2. Will there be changes to the forward lines?
The Bruins tend to develop players in pairs, like left wing Brad Marchand and center Patrice Bergeron on the top line, and left wing Jake DeBrusk and center David Krejci on the second line. David Pastrnak skated to the right of Marchand and Bergeron to form the potent "Perfection Line," but they had trouble against the St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup Final last season, which they lost in seven games. Potential options could include DeBrusk with Danton Heinen or Pastrnak with Krejci.
"For us, it's about finding a balance and [coach Bruce Cassidy] is not averse to tinkering, whether that's in-game or game to game," Boston general manager Don Sweeney said. "He goes back and forth depending a little bit on terms of the matchups, depending on the situations (where) he can get players offensively titled. That's something that we work awfully long and hard at, what are the situations we can put our players in?"
Video: 31 in 31: Boston Bruins 2019-20 season preview
3. Can Brett Ritchie make the best of a new opportunity?
Ritchie was one of seven players signed by Boston on July 1 and is among a mix of veterans and prospects who will be evaluated to replace free agent forwards Marcus Johansson and Noel Acciari.
The Bruins gave 26-year-old Ritchie a one-year contract after he played the past seven seasons in the Dallas Stars organization, including the past five in the NHL. Ritchie had 24 points (16 goals, eight assists) in 78 games in 2016-17 but followed that with 20 points (11 goals, nine assists) in 124 games the next two seasons combined.
"Ritchie's a kid we felt kind of plateaued a little bit, needed maybe a change a scenery and a new environment, maybe a different opportunity will hopefully get him back to the level …," Sweeney said. "He's a bigger body (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) that can get into the interior ice, but it will be incumbent upon him to take advantage of the situations [we] put him in."