LAS VEGAS — Less than a week after the Bruins season ended in heartbreaking fashion, general manager Don Sweeney already has a lot on his plate.
With a quick turnaround to focus on the offseason and the moves he needs to make for the Bruins for the next season, Sweeney also is in Las Vegas preparing as a finalist for the league’s General Manager of the Year Award.
It’s a lot more bitter than sweet.
“It’s a privilege to be acknowledged by your peer group,” Sweeney said. “A lot of work goes in. Obviously, we share the reflection of the organization overall, the support you get. It’s a little bit hard for us as the Boston Bruins to be fully on board and celebrating and such, but like I said, it’s a testament to the organization overall to be here.”
The offseason certainly didn’t wait for the Bruins to get going. There already have been a couple of key trades, and some teams have retained free agents — see, Erik Karlsson — to shape the market before it gets going.
That’s one of the challenges of playing so deep into the season, but Sweeney already is working on reshaping the roster.
“It’s immediate,” he said. “We’ve had organizational meetings, draft related, pro meeting. You have to temper discussions, you’re not talking to other general managers around the league while you’re going through the Stanley Cup playoffs. But you come out of it and realize you’re making calls and other people are making calls and you have to make plans accordingly. Decisions to make, and the clock is not stopping for you, so you have to flip the switch.”
The Bruins offseason already is loaded with the need to retain restricted free agents such as Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen. With Marcus Johansson possibly headed to the open market plus obvious improvements needed at right wing and potentially up the middle, it isn’t going to be any easier for the Bruins with reports of the salary cap barely budging at $82 million.
It’s all part of balancing the roster in a hallmark offseason.
“We all forecast, and within a range of what you think it will be, act accordingly,” Sweeney said. “Players have to make adjustments to what their expectations are, as do individual teams. You see player movement now, and I think that will amp up for the draft, free agency, player interview periods and throughout the course of the summer. We all have challenges with signing our RFA players along with our UFA guys, but you have to do your planning accordingly. There’ll be adjustments made.”
Sweeney mentioned at his end-of-the-season presser that winger Anders Bjork is progressing after he injured his shoulder in Providence.
As the Bruins make their offseason plans, they can’t discount Bjork as a contender to make the team again, but there are things they would like to see him prove while healthy.
“Anders has missed a lot of time,” Sweeney said. “Certainly health is paramount to him to re-establish himself. We like what Anders brings to the table when he’s healthy. The speed, the ability to drive offense through the neutral zone. Would like him to score a little more regularly and that’s more from a selfish standpoint of shooting the puck. But he’s missed a lot of time so we’re going to need to have him come back fully healthy and confident to be the player we expect him to be.”
The Bruins will hit the ice again just under three months from now with their first preseason contest Sept. 16 in Newark, N.J., against the Devils. They will be on the road to face Philadelphia and Chicago before returning home to play each of those teams, starting Sept. 23 against the Flyers.