By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Zach Werenski has signed his deal with the Blue Jackets and Ivan Provorov has signed his deal with the Flyers. Hell, even Josh Morrissey, who still had a year left on his current deal, just signed a new, eight-year deal with the Jets.
Yet, Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy will begin early Saturday morning, the third day of training camp and the second day of on-ice training camp for the Bruins, still without a deal to bring him back to the Boston locker room.
Werenski's new deal with Columbus will give the 22-year-old a $5 million cap hit for the next three years, while Provorov will count for $6.75 million against the Flyers' books every year through 2024-25. Morrissey's deal in Winnipeg, meanwhile, will begin in 2020 and feature a $6.25 million cap hit for the next eight seasons. (Just what the Bruins surely want: The Flyers and Jets changing the market on potential contracts for their guys.)
It's a sliding scale that could leave the Bruins with $3 million and change to re-sign their other still-unsigned RFA defenseman (Brandon Carlo), or under $1.5 million. It's enough to give Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, who has remained in close contact with McAvoy's camp of late, an even worse headache than the one he's had all summer.
Werenski's contract with the Jackets, as you'd expect, is the closest, preferred comparable for the Bruins.
In search of long-term financial flexibility while also maintaining that coveted team control for the foreseeable future, the Bruins would like to go with a "bridge deal" with McAvoy, as any contract five years or longer would end up with McAvoy hitting the market as an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of that contract. And while the marriage between McAvoy and the Bruins seems fine (McAvoy has made it known again and again how much he loves playing in Boston and being part of this city's sports scene), that kind of deal would leave an awful lot to chance. Especially if McAvoy, Boston's top minute-eater in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, becomes what everybody thinks he will be.
The Bruins are absolutely cognizant of that.
Now, the Bruins took a similar risk with the six-year deal they signed David Pastrnak to back in 2017 -- and the results from No. 88 since that long-term commitment probably don't have the B's regretting it even a little bit -- but it's a little bit different when you're talking about face-of-the-franchise defensemen versus high-scoring wingers.
Again, the Bruins are cognizant of all of this, and want to cross every T and dot every I. Twice. Maybe even three times.
That's why the Jackets' approach with Werenski is likely so appealing to them.
But there's also this: Werenski and McAvoy have had comparable production to date.
Throw games played out the window (Werenski had a full year head start on his NHL career and McAvoy's battled a few injuries in his first two NHL seasons), which favors Werenski by 120 contests and you're talking about two similar talents. At five-on-five, Werenski has averaged 17:39 per night, while McAvoy has averaged 18:07. McAvoy has produced 1.22 points per 60 of five-on-five play, while Werenski has averaged 0.97 points per 60. Analytics per 60 of five-on-five also favor McAvoy, but not by staggering amounts; McAvoy's Bruins have controlled the puck at a 55.2 percent clip with No. 73 on the ice, while the Jackets have posted a 52.8 percent mark in this stat with Werenski on the ice. The Bruins' goal-for percentage is 57.84 with McAvoy on the ice, while Columbus is at 51.30 percent with Werenski out there. And the Bruins have allowed 9.88 high-danger chances every 60 minutes McAvoy is on the ice, while the Jackets have surrendered 10.88 high-danger chances every 60 with Werenski patrolling the defensive zone.
Assuming both sides have to give to get McAvoy back in Boston, the Werenski deal could provide a similar blueprint to the B's best bet at getting what they what in the now while also allowing McAvoy to feel like he has options.
With Werenski's contract structured with a $7 million salary in the third and final year, as explained by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman in his 31 thoughts blog earlier this week, his RFA status at the end of the third year means that Werenski could essentially sign a one-year, $7 million qualifying offer at the end of that deal, and then hit the market as an unrestricted free agent the following year. It essentially turns a three-year, $15 million deal into a potential four-year, $22 million deal. It keeps options open for everybody, and in more ways than one: The player gets paid and banks on himself (P.K. Subban killed it with the Canadiens doing just that), the teams maintain control for an extra year, and both parties can buy themselves more time to come up with a long-term deal by kicking the can down the road.
But now the Bruins seemingly now have to battle with the fact that Provorov and Morrissey -- two players that while good for their clubs, have been bested by McAvoy in these aforementioned statistical categories and do not project to be what McAvoy is quickly morphing into for the Bruins -- got money and term that could make the Bruins sweat.
That's not something we've said about Sweeney all that much throughout his tenure as B's general manager, as he's typically been ahead of the market, and successfully re-signed some of Boston's best to below-market deals, with the Torey Krug, Brad Marchand, and Pastrnak deals sticking out as obvious wins for the Bruins under Sweeney's watch.
But at least we can't say McAvoy remains without some comparable contracts.