Few Boston athletes in recent history have been the target of what might politely be called animosity from the fanbase such as Danton Heinen has, with the notable exceptions being Tuukka Rask and David Backes (and his contract). I’m sure there’s a few in the Boston Celtics realm following the recent NBA free agency comings and goings; and the Red Sox bullpen might be included, but coming off a Championship season, they will likely get a pass, but I digress.
Show Me the Money?
Heading into Free Agency, the Bruins were severely hindered by limited cap space. With solid performances in a deep playoff run, and falling just 60 minutes short of Lord Stanley’s Cup, Restricted Free Agents Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, along with Heinen were all stated as priority signings by the Bruins Management, yet here’s the rub…there is only a tad more than $10 million to get it done. Heinen elected arbitration but came to a contract agreement prior to that happening: two years/$2.8 million Average Annual Value (AAV). Bruins fans either love this deal or, as a result, are bringing out the proverbial pitchforks to go hunting the monsters in the Bruins’ head office. If you have done the math, that leaves approximately $7.3 million to sign both McAvoy and Carlo.
Heinen by the Numbers
Heinen was drafted 116th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry draft out of the University of Denver, where he was known as a goal scorer. He hasn’t found the goalscoring touch in Big Boy Hockey…yet. That, however, does not diminish his value to the Bruins. Heinen has slotted in up and down the Bruins lineup. In the 2018-19 regular season, he played 77 games netting 11 goals and 23 assists for 34 points and a +13 rating. He was most successful playing on the Bergeron Line when David Pastrnak was sidelined by a freak thumb injury, but it would be hard to find a player that could play badly alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Comparatively, Michael Ferland (VAN) and Joonas Donskoi (COL) put up very similar stats in the 2018-19 NHL season. With Carolina, Ferland had 79 games played with 17 goals and 23 assists for 40 points and a +13. Ferland just signed a 4 year/$3.5 million AAV. Similarly, as a (San Jose) Shark, Donskoi played 80 games in the 2018-19 season, with 14 goals and 23 assists for 37 points and a +10. Donskoi signed a 4 year/$3.9 million AAV contract.
Heinen Primed for a Breakout Year
In today’s NHL the line between a good offensive D-man and a good defensive forward is beyond blurred. Heinen may not be producing as expected offensively but his growth as a defensive forward has been exponential. That +13 means that his defensive value cannot be denied. While he may not be finding the back of the net, neither is his opponent while Heinen is on the ice. Heinen, at times, appears physically slight compared to some of the big bodies playing in the NHL, but at 6’1” and 188 pounds Heinen can hit with the best of them. He is hard on the pucks, keeps his legs moving and never gives up on the play. His deceptive size gives him the benefit of opponents underestimating how dangerous he can be in front of the net.
Heinen Contract a Bargain
Believe it, or not, Heinen signed a bargain contract and the reason that many see it in a negative light is that pesky salary cap issue. Time will tell if McAvoy and Carlo’s desire to remain in Boston will outweigh the draw of more money elsewhere. It should be noted that even the Bruins’ biggest stars: Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak, ALL have contracts under $7 million AAV. This shows that it may not only be about the payday but that sometimes that the magic a team can create is worth more.
Betting on Himself
In conclusion, the Bruins have consistently shown a commitment to furthering the development of Heinen. Consequently, I foresee him having a breakout season in 2019-20. This contract is proof that both the Bruins, and Heinen himself, are betting on it. I don’t see it as much of a gamble.
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