Bruins' Cassidy expecting full participation for NHL restart

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By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com

If there's a player opting out of this summer's season restart, likely in Toronto and Vegas, it will be news to Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy.

“I think we’re all prepared to go back to work," Cassidy said in a Monday conference with reporters. "Right now, with our group, everyone is healthy -- coaching staff, equipment staff, players -- so you feel pretty confident, but that could change."

Such is life when trying to restart a professional sports league in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic that's taken the NHL off the ice since the season's suspension on Mar. 12 and is back to causing havoc in certain pockets of the United States.

"You've got to be careful," Cassidy, whose Presidents' Trophy-winning team was hit a positive test this month, admitted. "It's certainly an unknown time. The older you get the more at risk you are so coaches certainly factor into that equation. I get it.

"I do believe the NHL will do their absolute best to make sure we're as safe as possible. I mean, these are their assets going forward. And they want to make sure they get it right and put a real good product on the ice and get us back to doing what we do best."

Calling Phase 2 a 'delicate' process, Cassidy noted that the plan is to go with a ramp-up sooner rather than later, and the league has targeted July 10 as their start for Phase 3 training camps.

And that expected full-roster arrival for the Bruins could include up to 34 players in all, according to Cassidy.

"Looks like it’ll be 30 skaters," Cassidy, who oversaw a 24-man roster at the time of the league's pause, offered. "I don’t know if that’s been confirmed yet. We have a list of 28 and 30 [skaters] because I knew those were the two numbers, plus four goaltenders. I think you’re unlimited with your goaltenders, but we’re looking at four."

Assuming that it's 30, you're probably looking at 18 or 19 forwards and 12 or 11 defensemen. If it's 28, it's probably 17-18 forwards and 10-11 defensemen. The goalies behind Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak, per Cassidy, will likely be the Providence tandem of Daniel Vladar and Max Lagace. That crowded Phase 3 camp will eventually have to see the Bruins settle on something closer to the group they believe as their best fit for the bubble city, too.

"I know at some point we'll want to get to our group that we feel we're gonna play with," said Cassidy. "That would be more like your typical 24-man roster. And then have a second group.

"I don't know if they would be all together as a group of eight plus two goalies or if we would bring into our group."

There's still some questions to be answered among that first group.

Up front, the Black and Gold are still trying to find the optimal lineup fits for deadline pickups Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, and there's still some questions about the ideal third-pairing on the Boston backend. And with the B's set to skate in a three-game round-robin for seeding within the Eastern Conference playoff structure to begin Phase 4, Cassidy knows that there's not a ton of game-time to wait for a player to find their footing before things get real.

But in the event of a player deciding not to rejoin the team (this is something that we've already seen in both the NBA and MLB), Cassidy seemed understanding of their potential concerns.

"I’d try to get to the root of what it is. Is it simply a health issue or is there something deeper in there?" Cassidy began. "Obviously we’d have to pull in management and have a discussion with that player. And if that’s the way he felt, I don’t know how we’d stop him.

"To me, it’d be that simple: I think it’s the player’s right to work in a safe environment. And that’s why I think the NHL is doing everything they can. Because they don’t want that to happen."

The good news for Cassidy -- right now, anyway -- is that it doesn't sound like it's going to happen on his crowded roster.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.