By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Half a decade after trading him to the Dallas Stars, the Boston Bruins could have the chance to atone for one of the greatest blunders in franchise history next summer and bring superstar forward Tyler Seguin back to Boston.
Entering the final year of an absurdly team-friendly contract signed in Boston but thoroughly enjoyed in Dallas at $5.75 million per year, Seguin’s extension talks with the Stars have gone nowhere. In fact, the sides haven’t even had a real discussion of sorts since June. It’s been enough for Seguin to have a downright discouraging tone when talking about the situation.
“It’s been a little disappointing,” Seguin, who dropped the ‘disappointed’ bomb four times in all, candidly told reporters on Tuesday. “I thought I’d have some exciting news to talk about at BioSteel Camp, especially this late in the summer. It’s been disappointing. But at the end of the day, I obviously have one year left [in Dallas]. I’m just going to focus on that.”
The 26-year-old forward also seems to be on the fence about negotiating an extension in-season, too.
That kind of uncertainty means that the league could be in for another John Tavares-esque sweepstakes with Seguin in 2019. And if Boston’s interest in a player of J.T.’s caliber was enough for the Boston braintrust to fly out and get behind closed doors with Tavares in Los Angeles, there’s little to suggest that they would not do the same with a player like Seguin.
On the surface, this all sounds completely crazy, I know.
But with an itch left unscratched after an empty offseason in terms of a tangible upgrade at any forward spot — and with five years of change (six by the time Seguin would become a free agent) in Boston — Seguin more than fits the bill for the Bruins.
Remember: When the Bruins went as close to all in as one can on both Ilya Kovalchuk and Tavares this summer, it was with the intention of bolstering a top six forward grouping that the organization believed was a little too top-heavy to succeed in the playoffs. Their secondary scoring woes in their five-game beatdown at the hands of the Lightning, which included a 253:17 stretch without a five-on-five goal from a Boston forward, spoke to this concern.
Sweeney’s summertime want was clear: He wanted another high-end, dynamic scoring threat.
When Sweeney’s hope for such an additional slipped through his fingers, though, he settled for low-risk, low-money signings that maintained the club’s long-term flexibility. That want has since become a need, though, with Tampa Bay being Tampa Bay (that’s not changing anytime soon, either) and Tavares locked into Toronto’s plans for the next seven years.
So, again, if the Bruins are looking to do more than keep pace as the Atlantic’s second or third-best team, Seguin fits the bill.
Since 2013, Seguin’s 173 goals are tied with Sidney Crosby for the second-most in hockey, his 384 points rank as the sixth-most, and his .99 points per game is the fifth-best among players with at least 300 games played. Seguin is also coming off a career-best 40 goals with the Stars in 2017-18. And skating under Ken Hitchcock last season, Seguin was a noticeably more complete center, and even held his own in a head-to-head with Patrice Bergeron’s line (when Bergeron was white-hot, too).
“I think [Seguin] has made himself to be a very good player, and he’s accountable in every situation,” Hitchcock said after that January 2018 visit to TD Garden. “He’s really matured. I think he’s a guy that we don’t even worry about anymore.
“Everyone talked about, ‘Can you make him a one?’ Well, quite frankly, he’s a one, and he’s playing like a one… He’s killing penalties, he’s out there taking key faceoffs, he’s quarterbacking the power play, and he’s playing against the other team’s best player. To me, that’s what a one does, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.”
This is the on-ice growth that the Bruins were not willing to go through with Seguin at that aforementioned price point.
As for the off-ice growth, perhaps playing in the shadows of JerryWorld has allowed Seguin to still be the Seguin of old — with concerns and stories of his Boston days that were somehow both true and heavily exaggerated — without anybody knowing. But as a player approaching his late-20s and one that’s experienced just seven postseason games in his five years in Dallas, you’d have to think there’s been a change in what Seguin wants out of the next extended stretch of his NHL career.
Hell, there’s been a change (and then some) in Boston.
General manager Peter Chiarelli, whose frustrations with Seguin’s lack of growth ultimately boiled over, is now ruining the Oilers. Claude Julien, the player that always wanted more of Seguin in the corners and along the walls, is waiting to get fired in Montreal again. Bergeron and Brad Marchand, meanwhile, are two of just eight player remaining from Seguin’s final season in town. Now, the Bruins have a front office that realizes the need for speed and skill in today’s game, and an up-tempo, skill-endorsing coach that’s shown that his system thrives with such talents on his roster. (Even imagining Seguin playing a full season at his natural center position under Bruce Cassidy’s system should be enough to make you giddy.)
For Seguin, this would essentially be like starting over and picking up where you left off all at the same time.
Above all else, the B’s are in a much better position to add Seguin in 2019 than they would have been adding Tavares in 2018.
When the Bruins were willing to add Tavares for over $10 million per season this summer, it was with the understanding that they would need to shed salary. Beginning with David Backes and maybe with David Krejci as well, depending on what else they had to swallow — some money or another piece of their organization — to shed Backes. Moving either gets infinitely easier in 2019, as Backes moves from a full no-movement clause to an eight-team trade list, while Krejci shifts from a no-movement clause to a modified no-trade clause that would allow the B’s to trade Krejci to anybody on a player-submitted, 15-team list.
And even with their interest in Tavares, Boston’s loaded restricted free agent 2019 class — Brandon Carlo, Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, and Charlie McAvoy will all need new deals — was always in the back of their mind. They always knew that they needed to save money for McAvoy (no chance he’s making less than $6.5 million on his next deal) and beyond, and that wouldn’t change moving from Tavares to Seguin. That plan is still very much intact. Shedding an aforementioned contract would make things more than manageable to retain these pieces, too, with over $16 million in available 2019-20 cap space as of today.
Speaking from the purely financial aspect of it all, a return seems doable.
Seguin, meanwhile, has always been quick to talk about the positives of his experiences in Boston.
It’s in Boston that he won a Stanley Cup (there’s still an ongoing group text with all the members of the 2011 Stanley Cup team), and Seguin himself still has a considerably emotional connection to Boston, even five years after the trade out of town. It seems that the only negative memories Seguin has with his Boston experience seemingly came back to what he felt was unfair coverage of his off-ice behaviors in town. That has little to do with the team’s current leadership structure, really.
In other words, a return seems more than possible.
Now given the moving parts of it all, perhaps it’s not the most likely road traveled in 2019.
But it’s not a door I would consider slammed shut by either party given their wants and needs moving forward.
In fact, it’s a door that will remain open so long as the B’s remain a club still in need of that elite, top-six boost (and barring another year of young gun breakthroughs, they do) and so long as Seguin remains in ‘disappointing’ limbo with the Stars.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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.