Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - OCTOBER 30: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins looks on wearing his mask during the second period against the Florida Panthers at TD Garden on October 30, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

After complimenting my agent skills, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told me that in an ideal world, the Bruins would keep the Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark tandem together for 2024-25.

Monday night, among the other various atrocities throughout our time on this big ol’ space rock, proved that we do not live in an ideal world. Barreling towards both the 2024 NHL Draft and the start of free agency, the Bruins and Senators got down to business and finally completed the deal that split the Ullmark-Swayman one-two punch up, with Ullmark sent to Ottawa in exchange for a three-piece return.

  • In exchange for one year of Ullmark (he cannot sign an extension until July 1), the Bruins received a 2024 first-round pick (No. 25 overall), bottom-six forward Mark Kastelic, and veteran goaltender Joonas Korpisalo

    The pick sent Boston’s way is originally the Black and Gold’s original first-round pick, which was sent to Detroit in the 2023 trade for Tyler Bertuzzi and later moved to Ottawa in last year’s Alex DeBrincat trade. Kastelic, meanwhile, comes to the Bruins with one year remaining on his current contract, while the 30-year-old Korpisalo is moving to the Bruins after the first year of a five-year, $20 million contract, and with the Senators retaining 25 percent of his salary, dropping his cap hit down to $3 million per season through 2027-28. 

  • It quickly became ‘Ottawa or bust’ for Ullmark

    TEMPE, ARIZONA - JANUARY 09: Goaltender Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins during the NHL game at Mullett Arena on January 09, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Bruins 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    TEMPE, ARIZONA – JANUARY 09: Goaltender Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins during the NHL game at Mullett Arena on January 09, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Bruins 4-3 in overtime. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    When the offseason began, it felt like the Bruins were going to have tons of potential suitors for Ullmark. Those options were obviously going to be limited by Ullmark’s no-trade clause, but in the East alone, you had countless rumblings and stories linking Ullmark to the Hurricanes and Senators off the jump, while the Devils’ quest for a goalie appeared downright desperate and made them a definite contender in the mix. 

    But in a span of a few hours last week, both the Devils and Kings found their goalies, and with silence from some of the other teams we expected to be in the mix, it felt like it became Ottawa or bust. That, in theory, played to Ottawa’s advantage to a certain degree, and I think you saw that begin to play out with late-in-the-game reporting out of Ottawa that seemed to suggest that they were entering a ‘take it or leave it’ stage of their conversations. 

    What helped Ottawa here, too, was the fact that they were a team for whom Ullmark was willing to waive his no-trade (not a certainty, as we all learned and as Ullmark himself admitted), and that they had multiple first-round picks. Given Boston’s clear desire to nab a first-round pick in this trade, Ottawa was always the ideal — and perhaps only — legitimate trade partner to give the Bruins what they needed without massive concessions elsewhere. 

  • Korpisalo’s inclusion feels odd

    Apr 4, 2024; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Joonas Korpisalo (70) cools down prior to the start of the second period against the Florida Panthers at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 4, 2024; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators goalie Joonas Korpisalo (70) cools down prior to the start of the second period against the Florida Panthers at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports)

    But the Bruins did make a concession — and a major one, in my opinion — by willingly taking the Korpisalo contract off Ottawa’s hands. Even at 25 percent off, that’s a contract that looks downright gross in 2024. 

    In net for 55 games a season ago, Korpisalo won just 21 games for the Sens a year ago, and posted an .890 save percentage and 3.27 goals against average along the way. Both his .890 and 3.27 were the worst figures among a group of 20 NHL goalies with at least 50 games played in 2023-24, and his -16.1 goals saved above expected was the second-worst figure in the NHL, trailing only the Blackhawks’ Arvid Soderblom (-18.2). 

    One glaring issue with Korpisalo in 2023-24 was his rebound control, and the way he could crumble on what would seemingly be low-percentage chances. If you talked to people in Ottawa, they were legitimately weighing the pros and cons of buying him out after just the first year of his contract. The Senators also tried dangling Korpisalo (or backup Anton Forsberg) at the Bruins in their attempt to nab Ullmark at the 2024 trade deadline but were essentially turned down by the Bruins, according to reporting out of Ottawa. Why that interest suddenly changed in June is… odd. 

    For the Bruins, it felt like the point of dumping Ullmark was to gain financial flexibility with Swayman set to make $8 million or thereabouts on his next contract. Taking on Korpisalo at $3 million delivers a significant blow to that idea.

    If the Bruins were going to give big-time money to their No. 1 goaltender, their needs elsewhere (and their desire to address those needs ‘aggressively’ this summer) spoke to the idea of putting a younger, cheaper option with Swayman. Korpisalo is not younger nor is he cheaper than say Brandon Bussi, who is on the hook for a league-minimum $775,000 next season and officially out of minor-league options, meaning he’d have to hit waivers and be available to the rest of the NHL before he could be reassigned down to the minors next season. 

    There may be hope that moving to the Bruins and goalie coach Bob Essensa can be enough to repair Korpisalo and get him back to being the solid netminder he was for the Kings during their 2023 run to the postseason. But the idea that a move from Ottawa to Boston is all he needs to get right feels rooted more in reputation than reality. 

    A year ago, the Bruins had an expected goals against per 60 of 3.03 compared to Ottawa’s 2.95 per 60. The Bruins also surrendered more scoring chances and more high-danger scoring chances per 60 than the Senators. Sure, the Bruins’ high-end defensive talent may be a tad better than Ottawa, but it’s not as if Korpisalo is suddenly sliding behind a Boston roster that still features the likes of Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. 

    And just to hammer this point home, the Bruins are taking a division rival’s greatest weakness off their hands for just 25 percent off and a late-round first, and at the expense of what’s been their backbone for three seasons.

    If the Bruins were to bail out a team in their division — which, I’d argue they shouldn’t have even done at all considering how hot Ottawa was for Ullmark/adequate goaltending — to do it for Ottawa’s worse of their two first-round picks and for anything less than 50 percent off or additional assets coming the B’s way feels like a misstep for a veteran executive going toe-to-toe in talks with a rookie executive. 

  • Now we wait to see B’s plans with ‘Korpi’

    Mar 27, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA; Ottawa Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) during a stoppage in play against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 27, 2024; Buffalo, New York, USA; Ottawa Senators goaltender Joonas Korpisalo (70) during a stoppage in play against the Buffalo Sabres during the third period at KeyBank Center. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)

    Now, to be absolutely clear, I want to be careful not to get too worked up over the Korpisalo stuff in the now. If only because we still have no idea what it is that the Bruins plan on doing with him.

    It’s entirely possible that the Black and Gold give him the ol’ Martin Jones circa 2015 experience explore the market and try to flip him between now and the end of the 2024 NHL Draft or by the start of free agency. (What I would say to that is don’t you think the Sens tried that themselves? But it is an option.)

    It’s also worth mentioning that Korpisalo does have a modified no-trade that comes with a 10-team no-trade list throughout the life of the deal. So let’s say there’s no trade that materializes for the club, but that the Bruins aren’t enamored with Korpisalo and still want out of his contract between now and the start of next season.

    Should the Bruins decide that a buyout is their best route, ditching Korpisalo would create a savings of $2.75 million for the Bruins in 2024-25, $2.375 million the year after that, $1.625 million in 2026-27, and then $1.25 million in 2027-28. Then the Bruins would get dinged for a dead cap hit of $1 million from 2028 through 2032. It would be an eight-year buyout in total, and while it wouldn’t be the worst in terms of its impact on your salary cap, it doesn’t feel like something that the Bruins should’ve willingly signed up for given their big picture needs.

    If the Bruins keep Korpisalo but ultimately waive him down to Providence in favor of the younger Bussi or DiPietro, the Bruins would create $1.15 million in salary cap space, but be dinged with a $1.85 million dead cap charge with Korpisalo in the minors. That’s something the Bruins have dealt with before with players like Mike Reilly waived down to the AHL for almost an entire season, but again, that’s far from an ideal strategy when it comes to maximizing every dollar possible, especially with four years remaining on Korpisalo’s contract.

  • Kastelic fills fourth-line need for B’s

    Dec 3, 2022; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators center Mark Kastelic (47) fights with San Jose Sharks left wiing Jonah Gadjovich (42) in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 3, 2022; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Ottawa Senators center Mark Kastelic (47) fights with San Jose Sharks left wiing Jonah Gadjovich (42) in the second period at the Canadian Tire Centre. (Marc DesRosiers/USA TODAY Sports)

    If you asked Jim Montgomery to build out his ideal fourth line, it will feature a big-body forward with two speedsters. The expectation is that the bigger body will create space for the other two, and if we look at Boston’s current fourth line projections, it does feature some strong speed with Jakub Lauko and Johnny Beecher, as well as restricted free agent Jesper Boqvist currently expected to remain in the Bruins’ plans for next season. 

    Mark Kastelic, who will make just over $800,000 next season and be an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent at the end of the contract, addresses Boston’s desire to add some size there. And with some additional tools in his box.

    One thing that immediately stands out when you look at Kastelic is his ability to win draws. Over the last three seasons, the right-shooting forward has won an impressive 56.3 percent of his faceoffs. Among a group of 146 NHL players with at least 1,000 faceoffs over that span, that 56.3 percent success rate is tied with Aleksander Barkov for the 12th-best mark in the NHL. Kastelic’s defensive-zone faceoff win percentage (also 56.3 percent) is 13th-best, too. A year ago, Boston’s righties posted a combined faceoff percentage of 48.4 percent, and of that group, Charlie Coyle was the Black and Gold’s only righty to win over 50 percent of his faceoffs. 

    The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Kastelic has also shown a willingness to throw his body around, with 15.77 hits per 60 over the last two years, a stat that ranks 11th among a group of 303 forwards with at least 120 appearances over that span.  Kastelic has even been known to drop the gloves on occasion. This is a lot of what the Bruins hoped to bring to the table with their 2023 offseason signing of Milan Lucic and 2024 trade for Pat Maroon, but the hope has to be that Kastelic can do that but with more pace to his game, as he was in the 69th percentile for players with 100 speed bursts of over 20 miles per hour a season ago, according to NHL EDGE. 

    Kastelic is coming off a 2023-24 campaign that included five goals and 10 points in 63 games played. 

  • Bruins back in first round

    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 29: Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins attends the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 29, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE – JUNE 29: Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins attends the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 29, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    One thing that the Bruins have to be happy about is the fact that they’re now slated to make a first-round draft pick for the first time since 2021, and for just the fourth time since 2017. Word on the street was that the Bruins met with their share of first-round talents at the 2024 scouting combine, so they always saw themselves picking in the first round of this year’s draft, and they must feel like they can get a real player at No. 25 given the other parts of the trade.

    If we’re to assume that the Bruins are looking to address the center position, some early names to watch: Jett Luchanko and Cole Beaudoin. Luchanko, listed at 5-foot-11 and just over 170 pounds, the 17-year-old Luchanko put up 20 goals and 74 points in 68 games for OHL Guelph a season ago. The Bruins also have to like what the Guelph well has presented them in the past with Matt Poitras, and familiar pipelines have always been something to watch when it comes to the Black and Gold’s desire development paths for their prospects. Beaudoin, meanwhile, is a 6-foot-2 left-shot center who scored 28 goals and 62 points in 67 games for OHL Barrie last season. He has some size and skill, which may be what the Bruins need out of their next great center given the Atlantic’s center depth. 

    Another name to watch, in my opinion, would be Dean Letourneau. Drafting him at No. 25 may be a bit above his draft position, but he’s a 6-foot-7 center who’s drawn some early comparisons to Tage Thompson. Letourneau put up 61 goals and 127 points in 56 games for St. Andrew’s College (Canadian prep school) a year ago, and is committed to Boston College for 2024-25. The Bruins love having their top prospects in their backyard. 

    Given the fact that the Bruins may have very well ‘bought’ a draft pick with this trade, it’s a move that almost requires the Bruins to hit it out of the ballpark and go for some skill. 

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