As the 2013 season got underway, teams across the league could be seen scrambling to finalize their rosters and get the best product on the ice. Thanks to GM Peter Chiarelli’s foresight, the Bruins have been able to focus more on the games at hand, rather than who will be playing them. Looking into our crystal ball, the short season will give big hints into how Chiarelli will shape his team heading into next year. Guys like Dougie Hamilton and Tuukka Rask will be given their chance to shine, while Nathan Horton and Andrew Ference will be playing for contracts.
Because the new CBA drops the cap floor back to just over $64 million this summer, the B’s might not have room for everbody. Top priority for the B’s will be a hefty new contract for Rask(or his replacement) and a backup. Break out the abacus kids. Subtracting the injured Marc Savard’s contract, the B’s will go into the summer with about $11 million to play with. Expect $5mil to go to Rask in the form of an extension. Rask’s backup, whether it be Anton Khudobin or Niklas Svedberg will be sure to make about $1mil. That leaves $5mil to fill two roster spots. With Ference expected to seek at least $3mil of that, it doesn’t leave much space to adequately fill Nathan Horton’s skates. Also written into the CBA is a clause in which teams can dump up to two contracts. Without much room to spare, the B’s may look to take advantage in order to keep the core of their team together. A few guys immediately come to mind.
Milan Lucic just signed a 3 year, $24 million extension this summer. That’s a $6million cap hit every year for a guy who’s only scored 30 goals once and never broken the 70 point barrier. The fan favorite may still be just 24 years young, but a lack of passion in recent years has had some folks scratching their heads. So far this young season, Looch has brought the intensity, frequently banging bodies and making himself a presence around the net. Still, through a small six game sampling, he’s on pace for 27 goals and 54 points over a full 82 game schedule. Right in line with his career averages. Lucic is about to be paid like a big name producer, slipping into the same pay grade as Henrik Zetterberg, Jonathan Toews, and the Sedin Twins next year. Still think you’re getting your money’s worth? Jason Varitek introduced us to “captain intangibles”. The B’s need to decide whether the dollars are justified. His youth and upside still lands a decent haul in a trade.
Zdeno Chara may be the captain, may be nearly seven feet tall, and may play the bulk of the minutes on D… but he also earns a hefty $6.9 million cap hit. Say what you want about the guy, he’s a horse that puts up solid numbers on the back end. He’s also 35 years old. Praise Chara all you want for his “defensive prowess”, but closer inspection will show that he has trouble against the league’s speedsters, often getting knocked off the puck in corners or pinched into a tight spot by grinders half his size. While he maintains a legendary workout and is a pure physical specimen, one day when Z loses a step, it’s not going to be pretty. The B’s could conceivably fill the gap with two worthwhile $5million players and have a little left over. The perennial Norris Trophy candidate is coveted enough to land nearly any package the Bruins could ask for.
David Krejci’s name is no stranger in the rumor mill. This summer saw him mentioned in a few different deals. While he’s helping teammates out left and right this year with a pace of nearly 70 assists over a full 82, Krejci is more a victim of resources than anything. With a $5.25 million cap hit and at least 6 centers on the roster, the Czech becomes expendable. Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly are affordable, Patrice Bergeron is a force in the faceoff dot and the locker room, and Tyler Seguin just isn’t going anywhere. Krejci is young, talented, and reasonably priced. The B’s can expect a solid return should they decide to move him.
At the end of the day, the today’s NHL is a bit of a chess match. It’s all about having your pieces lined up for right now, and three moves down the line. The B’s have been successful thus far, and this season should determine the next trick up their sleeve.