The Bruins are going to need to get profoundly creative with their accounting going into the 2014-15 season. When the NHL announced that the salary cap dipped from $71 million to $69 million, you knew there was a few groans and expletives muttered at the TD Garden. They’ve got players they still need to sign, and they have to reassemble their forward lines to make up for the departure of Shawn Thornton and Jarome Iginla. While the Bruins still have defensemen to spare, they’ve got to figure out how to prioritize who are the more important players, who they can get good trade value for, and who they don’t need to worry about anymore.
Thankfully, one of those problems has chosen to work itself out. Matt Bartkowski (and his agent) believe that he is deserving of a seven figure contract next year. Bartkowski doesn’t have much to lose here. He had earned the ire of many of the Black and Gold’s fans with inconsistent play and some rather bad judgment calls. His inability to put in a goal this season (although he had twenty assists in the regular season and the playoffs) further lowered his stock. His requesting salary arbitration burned a bridge with the fans (and likely the organization). If the arbiter believes he’s worthy of the big bucks, it’s likely the Bruins will wash their hands of him and allow him to become an unrestricted free agent. (From what I’ve been reading on social media, most of the fans wouldn’t mind his departure.)
While Bartkowski is burning bridges over Boston Harbor, several of his fellow players may not be getting the big paychecks they have earned from last year’s performance.
Torey Krug and Reilly Smith were the big positive surprises for the Bruins last season. Torey Krug gave the Bruins new life on their power play and proved he could be a two-way, three-zone hockey player. Reilly Smith started out on the third line in Boston, and earned his way up to play with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Both players were hard working play makers, and both players are deserving seven figure deals to stay in Boston. That might not happen for them next year, and here is why.
Torey Krug and Reilly Smith are entry level restricted free agents(due to them signing early out of college) Entry level restricted free agents don’t have the full rights of a restricted free agent. They can’t sign offer sheets with other NHL teams. They also have no arbitration rights under the current CBA. They have no leverage in contract negotiations, and only Jeremy Jacobs could appreciate the fact that they’re both essentially property of the Boston Bruins. Have no fear fans, we know they’ll both get raises. However, those raises will be modest ones at best. All sides know the Bruins are still in ‘cap hell’ over the whole Jarome Iginla affair and there is little salary cap space to spare.
The Bruins general manager understood the situation all too well. It’s one of the reasons why he can take his time on signing the two of them. They will likely be the last two players signed up before the start of training camp in September. Krug and Smith will have great seasons next year. The organization will remember their patience, diligence, and performance in the 2015-16 seasons with contracts commensurate with their abilities on the ice.