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McAvoy, other restricted free agents priority for Bruins

Expect to be active despite tight salary cap, GM Sweeney says

by Matt Kalman / Correspondent

BOSTON -- Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen, each about to become a restricted free agent, will determine the rest of the Boston Bruins' offseason, general manager Don Sweeney said Friday. 

Each received a qualifying offer from Boston. McAvoy is the only one ineligible to receive an offer sheet from another team because of his NHL service time.

"We're doing what the other teams are doing," Sweeney said. "Having conversations with representatives, gauging interest, trying to fill the holes that we feel that we need to fill and being cognizant that we have to deal with our RFA players.

"And as I've said all along, I don't have a timeline for that, but they'll be playing for Boston at some point in time this year prior to Dec. 1. That's the only real deadline we face. But we'll be at it, we've been at it for a while with those guys.

"There are areas you can try to improve your team within reason, but RFA has been a part of that plan, so I'm not going to overextend ourselves unless it was something that we felt was the perfect fit for our hockey club at this time."

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A restricted free agent who is not signed by Dec. 1 cannot play the remainder of the NHL season.

McAvoy, a 21-year-old defenseman, led the Bruins in ice time per game (22:10) and had 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 54 regular-season games this season, and had eight points (two goals, six assists) in 23 Stanley Cup Playoff games. 

Carlo, a 22-year-old defenseman, had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) and averaged 20:55 of ice time in 72 regular-season games, and had four points (two goals, two assists) in 24 playoff games.

Heinen, a 23-year-old forward, had 34 points (11 goals, 23 assists) in 77 regular-season games and eight points (two goals, six assists) in 24 playoff games.

Though there's no telling how close to the NHL salary cap the Bruins will be if and when they sign them, Sweeney said Boston has been participating in the unrestricted free agent interview period this week and expects to be active July 1, when players are able to sign.

Sweeney said the Bruins want to re-sign unrestricted free agent forwards Noel Acciari and Marcus Johansson and have made an offer to Acciari. Sweeney said talks with Johansson's representative haven't become specific.

"It's awfully difficult to have a conversation that would extend beyond our interest and be more definitive heading into July 1 given the landscape of what we have to deal with," Sweeney said. "So that's as forthright as I can be now. 

"As far as July, we'll be adding some players for sure come July 1. I would like to continue to see our hockey team improve in areas … I mean, there are several [younger] players … that would look at the potential exits of … I'm not saying Marcus is leaving or Noel is leaving, but there might be opportunity there. And there are several players that really should have their eyes wide open and be able to take the next step."

Johansson was acquired in a trade with the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 25 for a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. He had three points (one goal, two assists) in 10 regular-season games, and 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 22 Stanley Cup Playoff games for Boston, which lost the Cup Final to the St. Louis Blues in seven games.

Acciari had 14 points (six goals, eight assists) in 72 regular-season games and four points (two goals, two assists) in 19 playoff games.

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