Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo each remains an unsigned restricted free agent, and Boston Bruins president Cam Neely told NBC Sports Boston they could open training camp without the defensemen.
"We do have to plan and prepare for these players to not be at camp opening day," Neely said in remarks published Friday. "But we have five, six weeks hopefully to get something done. We feel like we should be able to get something done with both of those guys at numbers that make sense for us, and hopefully makes sense for them. I think we've done a really good job of kind of managing the [NHL salary cap] and making sure that we're OK to get these guys done."
Boston has not added a defenseman this offseason after losing the Stanley Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues. McAvoy had 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) last season, following 32 points (seven goals, 25 assists) in his rookie season. The 21-year-old has played 117 of a possible 164 regular-season games.
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"You look at a player that's had some health issues two years in a row at a young age," Neely said. "You look at that and say, 'OK, is that going to stay the same or is it just bad luck?' We all can see what Charlie is capable of doing. You'd like to see a bigger sample size, obviously. Since the cap has come into effect, we've all seen deals that have been signed where three years down the road you say it's not as good as you anticipated it would be.
"Charlie has had three playoff years and two full seasons where he hasn't been healthy. A lot of times obviously that's not his fault, but it's nice to have a better sample size of where a player is going to go. You see the skill set that [McAvoy] has. We want both Charlie and Brandon to be Bruins for their whole career, but we also have to do what's right for the organization."
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Carlo had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in 72 games last season. The 22-year-old is plus-41 in 230 NHL games.
Matt Grzelcyk (66 games), Torey Krug (64), Zdeno Chara (62) and John Moore (61) are the other Bruins defensemen who played more than 40 games last season.
"Across the League, [negotiating with restricted free agents] has been like sweeping mud. Unfortunately, it's still status quo [with Carlo and McAvoy]," Neely said. "The history since [general manager Don Sweeney] has been here is that when we negotiate, we do it from a position of fairness. We do a lot of work at comps around the League and try to get a deal done that's fair. We start with initial offers that are fair, and that's been no different with Brandon and Charlie."