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McAvoy’s three-year, $14.7-million bridge deal gives Bruins opportunity to keep their foot on the gas

The $4.9-million cap hit and three-year term mimics that signed by Zach Werenski earlier this week, but it comes with bigger implications for the Bruins, who now have a chance to keep their group together and chase another Stanley Cup while their window is wide open.

Maybe we won’t ever know what kind of term and dollars the Boston Bruins and defenseman Charlie McAvoy were discussing before the Columbus Blue Jackets signed restricted free agent rearguard Zach Werenski to a three-year, $15-million bridge deal. And maybe, just maybe, a three-year bridge contract for McAvoy that paid him somewhere in the $5-million per season range was the plan all along. But if it wasn’t, Bruins GM Don Sweeney might want to mail Werenski a thank-you card or shake his hand the next time the Blue Jackets roll through Boston, because it sure seems as though that deal set the stage for a three-year, $14.7-million pact between McAvoy and the Bruins that is music to the ears of the Boston faithful.

Of course, that's not to say McAvoy got taken to the cleaners. Not at all. Matter of fact, much of what was said about Werenski’s contract rings true for McAvoy.

On a three-year term, he gets a significant raise from the roughly $925,000 he was earning per season on his entry-level deal, his average salary now some $4 million clear of what he earned annually on the since-expired contract. McAvoy also gets an opportunity to play out the next three years of his career as a top-pairing defender with the possibility of a major, major pay day at the conclusion of his bridge deal. And much like Werenski is banking on potentially taking advantage of an inflated salary cap and a potential influx of cap dollars by way of a new U.S. television contract for the NHL, McAvoy is doing the same. The term on his deal means his contract is up for renewal following the 2021-22 season, the same time as the league’s rights deal with NBC.

McAvoy arguably has a better chance at really cashing in than Werenski, too. While the two have similar career rates of offensive production, there’s no question that McAvoy is the future No. 1 on the Boston blueline, whereas Werenski is likely to continue to play second fiddle to Blue Jackets blueline partner Seth Jones. McAvoy has been groomed to take over the top job, has averaged upwards of 22:10 per outing across his 117 games in the NHL and is fresh off of a spring in which he anchored the Bruins’ defense throughout a playoff run that ended one win short of a Stanley Cup victory. Add in the right-handed shot factor, and, yeah, chances are McAvoy is going to want to paint fresh lines on his driveway to guide the Brinks truck that will inevitably be backing its way up to his front door.

What to pay McAvoy in three seasons’ time is a future concern that’s going to take an obvious back seat to the present, though, which is what makes the bridge term and its corresponding cap hit a victory for the Bruins. His $4.9 million AAV for the next three seasons means Boston now has their entire core locked in for not one, not two, but at least three more seasons, giving the Bruins not one, not two, but at least three more serious shots at capitalizing during the current championship window. It also means there’s still enough money to go around that integral pieces likely won’t have to be shed.

Will someone have to leave? Almost assuredly, particularly as Boston still has one unsigned RFA, Brandon Carlo, and a hair less than $2.4 million in cap space. But the players who are most likely to be shed are by no means the big names. Heck, moving rookie Pavel Shen and defenseman Connor Clifton, both of whom are waiver exempt, to the AHL would open up roughly $1.5 million. And if the cost cutting has to come elsewhere, surely the Bruins wouldn’t be too crestfallen if they had to move along the (presently injured) Kevan Miller or John Moore or another role-playing rearguard or forward.

But it’s who won’t become a cap casualty as a result of McAvoy’s bridge deal – we’re looking at you, Torey Krug – that’s worth noting.

An unrestricted free agent-to-be, Krug had his third consecutive 50-point campaign last season and one concern surrounding a potential big-money McAvoy extension is what it would mean for Krug, whether the money would be available to bring him back. McAvoy’s bridge deal all but alleviates that concern. As of McAvoy’s signing, the Bruins have a projected $26 million with which to play next summer. That number will be trimmed by Carlo’s contract, to be sure, and maybe even by as much as $5 million-plus depending on the term on the RFA rearguard’s next deal. Even if that is the case, however, and Boston has roughly $21 million to spend, that’s more than enough to get a Krug deal done and also reach new pacts with pending UFA Charlie Coyle and pending RFA Jake DeBrusk.

And there’s no reason for Boston not to take the opportunity presented to them, no reason not to sign Krug and retain other talent, particularly not when this is so clearly the Bruins’ window. Patrice Bergeron is in his mid-30s, Brad Marchand will be 32 before the campaign is up, Tuukka Rask has two years left on his contract and who knows how many more one-year deals Zdeno Chara has in him. The time to win is now, and McAvoy’s deal gives them the opportunity to do that. Take it.

(All salary cap information via CapFriendly)

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