While a couple seismic moves happened around the NHL on Friday, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney took care of a small bit of necessary business on Saturday morning.

The Bruins signed center Jack Studnicka to a two-year deal worth a cap hit of $762,000. The first year is a two-way deal (though he would need to go through waivers to be sent to Providence) and the second year is a one-way.

Boston Bruins’ Jack Studnicka plays against the New York Rangers during the first period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 13, 2021, in Boston. AP file photo

Studnicka is one of he more perplexing young players in the Bruins’ pipeline. A second-round draft pick (53rd overall) in 2017, Studnicka looked like he’d be everything the B’s hoped he would be in his first full season as a pro. He led a Providence team that went 38-18-6 in scoring with 23-26-49 totals in 60 games in 2019-20.

But then, just when his development was about kick into overdrive, the world essentially stopped when COVID hit in March 2020. The Calder Cup playoffs were canceled and following the season he was limited to just 31 games between Providence and Boston. Whenever he’s gotten the chance, he has not been able to produce at the NHL level. In 37 games with Boston he has just 1-6-7 totals, prompting Sweeney at the end of the season to say that his development had “flatlined.”

As alarming as that descriptor might be, the new deal is an obvious sign that Sweeney believes there is still something in Studnicka that has been untapped. One of the main reasons why he decided to fire former coach Bruce Cassidy, highly successful in his six-year tenure and winner of 51 games last season, is that he felt Cassidy wasn’t bringing along young players as well as he could have. Perhaps new coach Jim Montgomery will be able to get the best out of Studnicka, but now it will be up to Studnicka and some other young players to prove Sweeney right.

Whether there’s a spot for Studnicka, who has played some wing but is a natural center, remains to be seen. There remains hope that the B’s will be bringing back both Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, which would make them set at the top three pivots with Charlie Coyle.


Fourth-line center Tomas Nosek, who is entering the second year of a two-year deal that carries an AAV of $1.75 million, was a decent defensive-minded center last season but simply did not bring enough to the table offensively (three goals in 75 games). If Studnicka plays well in camp, he could force a move and help Boston save a little money under the cap.

And the Bruins are in need of some cap space. According to capfriendly.com, they have approximately $4.7 million to sign Bergeron, Krejci and newly acquired Pavel Zacha. The B’s could go with performance bonus-heavy deals for the two over-35 veterans to keep the cap hits down for this upcoming year (those bonuses would count against the cap next year), but Zacha could cost them close to $4 million himself. Darren Ferris, who represents both Zacha and Studnicka, texted to the Herald that a new deal for Zacha “should be done in short order. Lots going on.”

Teams can go over the cap by 10 percent in the offseason and, with Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy not expected back until late November, the Bruins can tap into long-term injured reserve to buy them some more time. But they’re going to have to move money at some point and it won’t be all that easy. Of the 32 teams in the league, 21 teams are either over the cap at the moment or within $5 million of it

Just how much of a premium cap space is right now was evidenced by one of Friday’s moves.

After signing Johnny Gaudreau to a mammoth deal that will pay the player $9.75 million for the next seven years, the Columbus Blue Jackets had to move money and it cost them dearly. They traded Oliver Bjorkstrand, a 27-year old forward coming off a 57-point season and due $5.4 million for the next four years, to the Seattle Kraken for just a third- and fourth-round pick. Ouch.

But that wasn’t the biggest deal of the day, nor the only one that could inform how the Bruins continue to do their business this summer. The Calgary Flames, essentially backed into a corner by Matthew Tkachuk after the RFA told them he wouldn’t be signing long-term, dealt the 100-point man to the Florida Panthers in exchange for fellow 100-pointer Jonathan Huberdeau, top-four defenseman Mackenzie Weegar and a lottery-protected first-round pick in 2025. Tkachuk promptly signed an eight-year deal worth $9.5 million. Even though Huberdeau and Weegar are both entering the final years of their respective contracts, that’s quite a haul for Calgary, considering the circumstances.

It’s a good bet that Tkachuk’s AAV of $9.5 million is close to the number the Bruins are looking at if they are to sign David Pastrnak, who is entering his last year before free agency. If they’re forced into the nuclear option, a trade, then the B’s can only hope they can get a similar return.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: