Boston Bruins

By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

(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 weekly column that will run every Saturday in addition to our complete coverage of the Boston Bruins, with or without ice available.)

By now, with Hurricane-turned-Sabre forward Jeff Skinner becoming the latest potential addition to land anywhere besides Boston, it’s become beyond apparent that what you have is what you’re going to get with the Boston Bruins.

When the Bruins failed to spend the $18 million plus over three years it would have taken to land Ilya Kovalchuk, you understood it; Kovalchuk was half a decade removed from the National Hockey League, and the Bruins were too infatuated with their long-term flexibility to commit three years to that. And when John Tavares elected not to sign with the Bruins and instead head home to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs, you understood it; No offer will beat a homecoming.

But when you’re losing out on the highly-talented Skinner to an offer of prospect Cliff Pu and three draft picks (none of which are future first-round selections) — and to a team within your own division (another team that has taken dramatic steps to improve this offseason), no less — that sinking feeling of one of the worst offseasons in recent memory returns.

And feels as real as ever.

Start by asking yourself a sobering question: Where have the Bruins made an upgrade on their roster?

Defenseman John Moore is a nice piece to add to the puzzle, but the Bruins had one of their left-side defenders put up 59 points (the most by any Boston defenseman since Ray Bourque put up 82 in 1995-96) in Torey Krug, and the player behind Krug on the Boston depth chart (Matt Grzelcyk) was part of a pairing that had the eighth-best even-strength goal differential among all NHL pairings last season. Despite the fact that they signed him to a five-year deal, I don’t think Moore should be considered a lock to bump someone out.

In net, Jaroslav Halak may be an upgrade over Anton Khudobin, but it will absolutely be tougher to get something better than what Khudobin gave the Bruins under Bruce Cassidy (22-7-7 record with a .915 save percentage). And at the bottom of their roster, the B’s replaced Riley Nash and Tim Schaller with Joakim Nordstrom and Chris Wagner. Consider me shocked if Nordstrom and Wagner combine to score as many goals as either Nash (15) or Schaller (12) did last year.

At the very, very best, the Bruins remained even.

Given the upgrades everybody else of any semblance of importance in the Atlantic seemed to make — the Panthers added Mike Hoffman, the Maple Leafs added John Tavares, and even the Sabres are out here adding players now — and considering the way the Lightning pasted the Bruins in the second round, that’s… not enough.

Which brings us back to Skinner.

And the fact that there’s no doubt that the Bruins should have been in on Skinner.

This is a player that’s scored the 12th-most goals in the National Hockey League over the last three seasons, and did that while playing at least 200 five-on-five minutes with four different forward combinations on his line. He fit their bill as somebody that plays with speed and shoots from all over (only six players have fired more pucks on net over the last three seasons than Skinner), and he fit their bill as a player that could play both the left and right side, which is something they loved about Rick Nash. Listen, you couldn’t even fall over yourself to slap Skinner with the ‘injury prone’ label as a potential red flag, as he’s missed just eight total games over the last four seasons.

The Bruins were also not going to be locked into anything long-term with the 5-foot-11 wing, either, as he was entering the final year of a six-year deal that came with a $5.75 million cap hit.

If the Bruins were as serious as they should be about competing for a Stanley Cup in 2019, Skinner should have been at the top of their list. Especially when you see that he went to the Sabres for less than what the Bruins paid for 23 games of Rick Nash.

Perhaps it’s not as black and white. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell subtly acknowledged that it was difficult to move Skinner, who possesses a full no-movement clause, and that they had talked to every other NHL teams before they were able to strike a deal with the Sabres. One of the things Waddell liked about the second-round pick from the Sabres was the likelihood that it would be an extremely high second-round pick, at least based on the Sabres’ recent results (they’ve finished in last place in an eight-team Atlantic Division in four of the last five seasons).

“The market was very slim as to places he could actually go, with the [salary] cap and everything else,” Waddell said.

(Waddell, for the record, said that Skinner never straight-up shot down a proposed deal, but noted that he and agent Don Meehan gave the Hurricanes ‘an extremely limited’ list of places he would accept a move to.)

But no matter the reason Skinner is not a Bruin, the fact that he’s not a Bruin is something we’ve acknowledged too many times with too many players this offseason. And all while a need for something — something established, viable, and enough to keep you a step above the superstar-infused Maple Leafs, at the very least — has remained unfulfilled for the Bruins.

And while yet another in-division foe made a move to drastically improve their 2018-19 squad.

It’s perhaps the worst constant this summer could have dealt to the Black and Gold.

Loose pucks: Rick Middleton’s retirement has me wondering who’s the next Boston Bruin to get their number retired. It almost has to be somebody from this current era, and based on where he’s at in his career compared to the rest, it has to be Zdeno Chara. I would include Patrice Bergeron and make a slight push for Tim Thomas here, too… 2018 Bruins draft pick Jakub Lauko is in the Czech Republic working with former Bruin Vladimir Ruzicka this offseason… Given the amount of kids the Bruins have vying for major roles this fall, don’t be surprised if there’s an NHL vet or two invited to camp on a PTO.

Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com, but maintains the belief that the 2005 Bruins offseason was actually the worst of his life. 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? Yell at him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.