Boston Bruins

Mar 13, 2018; Raleigh, NC, USA; Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak (88) celebrates his third period goal with forward Brad Marchand (63) against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The Boston Bruins defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 6-4. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

By Ty Anderson,

(Welcome to 98.5 The Sports Hub’s The Weekend Wraparound — or just The Wraparound, WW, Wrap, or whatever you care to call it. I’m not big on names, but here’s what you should know about it: It’s a new weekly column that will run every Saturday in addition to our complete coverage of the Boston Bruins, with or without ice available.)

You’re lying if you weren’t downright terrified during Bruins general manager Don Sweeney’s first real flurry on the job.

While you didn’t know the circumstances behind his moves, this is what you witnessed over that span: The Bruins traded pending restricted free agent and Zdeno Chara heir apparent Dougie Hamilton to Calgary for three draft picks, moved top-line winger Milan Lucic to Los Angeles for a first-round pick, backup goaltender, and defensive prospect. Tuukka Rask’s name even made it down to the draft floor, with the Bruins allegedly fielding calls on the goaltender. Sweeney also failed a significant trade-up on the draft floor, and was instead stuck with back-to-back-to-back first-round picks. Oh, and he also traded a third-round pick for a player with as many suspensions as goals during his 52-game run in Boston in Zac Rinaldo.

It was almost enough to make you crave the days of Peter Chiarelli and trading draft picks for draft busts and old Senators.

But all of that feels like a distant memory in 2018 thanks to Sweeney’s undeniable improvement across the board.

This starts with the reason why Sweeney replaced Chiarelli in the first place: Cap management.

Although Sweeney has made his mistakes with outside talents — the Matt Beleskey contract (five years, $19 million) blew up in Boston’s face after a strong first season and David Backes’ deal (five years, $30 million) is only going to get worse if No. 42’s health continues to deteriorate — Sweeney has absolutely nailed his in-house re-signings and negotiations.

Defenseman Torey Krug was signed to a four-year, $21 million extension in 2016. Over that two-year stretch, the 5-foot-9 Krug has totaled 22 goals and 110 points in 157 games, making him the league’s fifth-highest scoring defender. The only d-men with better production than Krug since 2016 are John Klingberg, Erik Karlsson, Victor Hedman, and Brent Burns. Take the four players above Krug and the four players below Krug in terms of production and you’re talking about an average cap hit of over $6 million. Krug has also posted the fourth-best Corsi-For percentage at five-on-five over that span, too, and has more five-on-five first points (goals and primary assists) than names such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mark Giordano, and Duncan Keith.

While the undersized Krug is never going to be the perfect defenseman in terms of his three-zone play, the Bruins are absolutely paying below market value for this sort of production. It’s been even better under B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy, too, with 59 points in the regular season and 12 points in 11 playoff games (which led all defensemen in the playoffs at the time of his season-ending ankle injury) this past season. That’s not even a debate. It’s just a statement of fact.

But where Sweeney has truly saved — or extended, at the very least — the Black and Gold’s Cup window has been with his handling of new contracts to Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

Boston’s top two wingers, Sweeney somehow found a way to keep Marchand and Pastrnak under contract at a combined $12.791 million through 2022-23 season. And here’s your friendly reminder that the Blackhawks pay Patrick Kane $10.5 million per year ($21 million in all if you include Jonathan Toews’ contract), the Stars pay Jamie Benn $9.5 million a year, and same for Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, while Corey Perry makes over $8.5 million per year in Anaheim.

The Bruins wisely took care of Marchand’s contract before he could even entertain the thought of testing the open market. Since then, he’s become one of the league’s top scorers, with 39 goals and 85 points (fifth-most in the NHL) in 2016-17, and 34 goals and 85 points (both ranking him in the top 20 among all NHL scorers) this past season. Look at some of the contracts that compare to Marchand’s new contract and the value the Bruins are getting on the Marchand contract is simply absurd.

Pastrnak’s contract was a true work of art for Sweeney, though, as he somehow secured the prime years of Pastrnak’s career in at $6.66 million per year. It’s even more impressive that they were able to get him in at that figure a month after the Oilers signed Leon Draisaitl to an $8.5 million per year deal. (Pastrnak and Draisaitl had practically identical production through their first three years in the league, and with Pastrnak having more of an ability to bend the B’s over a barrel for his pay.)

Pastrnak made good on his first year of this deal, too, with career-highs in goals (35), assists (45), and points (80). He then built on that regular season with 20 points in 12 playoff games. Those 20 points saw Pastrnak break a Wayne Gretzky record, and rank as the sixth-most in the 2018 postseason still, and with the Bruins having not played in close to a month now.

These are contracts that have only gotten better over time, too. I mean, the Sharks just gave $49 million over seven years to Evander Kane after he scored 13 goals and totaled 19 points in 26 post-deadline games with San Jose. Kane, for what it’s worth, has never hit the 60-point mark in his NHL career, and this past season was his first 50-point year since 2012.

And those deals are only getting better as the NHL’s salary cap continues to climb.

It also helps keep the long-term financial situation of the Black and Gold in a straight-up fantastic position, especially as a 2019 restricted free agent class featuring Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, and Charlie McAvoy looms over the franchise. These kind of team-friendly contracts are what’s shaped the Lightning up to a dominant force in the Eastern Conference for years to come, and why Steve Yzerman has routinely been lauded as one of the league’s top executives.

Sweeney has done his part to replicate what Yzerman has done with the Lightning, too, with a 2018 trade deadline swing that saw him part with assets that the Bruins could actually afford to lose in search of that missing piece. The Bruins continue to find themselves in that territory heading into this offseason, with Sweeney’s treasure trove of assets at the NHL level and down below — and with cap space not an issue — allowing the Bruins to make another big splash this summer if they so choose.

Definitely didn’t think we’d be even considering giving that kind of credit to Sweeney and the Bruins this time three years ago.

Loose Pucks: The Bruins will not be buying out a contract this summer. That’s expected, but also comes with a gigantic sigh of relief, as the Bruins already have $3.93 million in dead money on their books for next season between salary retained in a Matt Beleskey trade and buyouts of Jimmy Hayes and Dennis Seidenberg… The Bruins and Rick Nash will be having conversations this week. The Bruins will have some significant cap space this summer before next year’s restricted free agent class eats into their space. The easiest solution for both sides? A one-year deal worth anywhere from $4.5 to 6 million. That allows the Bruins to remain competitive and also keep their long-term financial situation stable while letting Nash make some coin and make a sacrifice to prove that he truly wants to win. But, the Bruins aren’t the only team that could win in 2019… It’s been fun to flip from the Stanley Cup Final to the NBA Finals, if only because this Golden Knights-Capitals series features two teams I wouldn’t mind seeing win a title, while I have genuine disdain for both the Cavaliers and Warriors. What a time.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.