The Boston Bruins are walking into a disaster of their own making when free agency frenzy kicks off tomorrow. The adjusted salary cap now stands at sixty nine million dollars (2.1 million less than originally anticipated by the NHL and the NHLPA). What was a rough situation for the Black and Gold has now become an outright nightmare. According to capgeek.com, the Boston Bruins have just 1.67 million to spend before they hit that ceiling. Adding in Marc Savard‘s numbers due to his status on long term injured reserve, that brings the B’s back up to 5.69 million to spend. There could be radical changes coming to the franchise, and most of the news will be bad. Here’s a quick look of how interesting (in the purely Chinese sense) things could end up going in Boston.
Jarome Iginla – At the moment, it’s impossible for the Bruins to keep him. The big bonuses they gave him last season may have inspired him enough to want to stay, but we can’t afford him. The three million plus in bonuses we gave him this season are the nails in the coffin for keeping him this season. We’ll miss his scoring, and we’ll miss his compete level and attitude. I’m sure Iginla will get one more shot at the Stanley Cup somewhere in the league, but it can’t be with the Bruins.
Forward Momentum – The top six forwards for Boston (sans Iginla) have no-trade clauses going into the season. The Bruins will not want to move them or give them up unless an amazing offer comes on the table. The situation for the other five forwards is far more fluid. Shawn Thornton‘s gone, and the Bruins will be looking to shop around their more expensive forwards so they can fill the lower ranks with AHL talent that may be ready to go in Boston. The top forwards that could be traded would be Chris Kelly (3 million), Gregory Campbell (1.6 million), and Daniel Paille (1.3 million).
The Bruins will very likely keep Paille. He’s too good for them on the fourth line. He’s arguably the fastest player on the team, and he does great for Boston on special teams. Gregory Campbell’s position isn’t as secure as his linemate. Campbell brings a physical presence and is a solid two way player. With so many AHL players that could be ready to play in Boston, it could relegate Campbell to the thirteenth forward, and the Bruins won’t keep a million and a half plus contract for that position. As for Kelly, it’s a crap shoot. There have been rumors about trading him for three seasons now. He’s been injury prone, and his three million dollar cap hit is more of a liability to the team right now. (He’s still a great leader and he had a better than expected season last year, but if it’s going to come down to the dollars, he’ll have to be moved.)
These decisions will have to be made quickly, and some may be harsh. Somewhere in all this mess, they have to find the money for Justin Florek and Reilly Smith. (It’s pretty safe to say the Bruins won’t try to keep Jordan Caron. They could, but the offer would be near league minimum, and I doubt Caron would take that.)
Blueline Bombshell – The only Bruins defensemen that are locked up with no-trade clauses are Dennis Seidenberg and Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. They’ve got Dougie Hamilton and Kevan Miller at sub-million contacts this year, so it’s unlikely we’ll see them move. (The price is too good to get rid of them.) This leaves Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid. They’re loved by the organization, the fan base, and the community. They are also nearly five million in cap space between the two of them.
Boychuk has a limited trade clause this year, and if the right team can take him the Bruins could move him (while I think that would be a mistake from the hockey side of the argument, it would make sense from the financial side). Adam McQuaid has had two rough seasons plagued by injuries and surgeries. He’s got grit and he’s not afraid to battle anywhere. With Thornton’s departure, he may be the closest thing the B’s have to a pure enforcer now. McQuaid is still cheap at 1.56 million, but if the Bruins need the extra coin to sign Torey Krug (who they really want to keep) and Matt Bartkowski (if they re-signed him, hew would be a cheaper version of McQuaid), we can expect McQuaid to be moved somewhere else.
The only place in the Bruins organization that looks stable from my perspective is for the goalies. The Bruins made the hard choice early not to re-sign Chad Johnson. It’s a bloody shame for the good work he did, but the Bruins were ready to give Niklas Svedberg his shot, and Johnson’s career numbers last year would have warranted a raise that the Bruins just can’t afford right now. Most of us love Tuukka, but that seven million cap hit will hurt this year and next year.
In the end, we’ll still see the core of the players we remember from last year. This is free agency frenzy though. If there is one general manager that can truly surprise their teams’ fan base, it is Peter Chiarelli. The fans are still grumbling over their anemic selections at the trade deadline last season. (It’s clear we won’t see Corey Potter or Andrej Meszaros again in a Bruins uniform.) The organization didn’t attempt more aggressive moves, and its one of the reasons the Bruins came up short again. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope the Bruins can figure out how to come out the frenzy with all their limbs intact.