It seems every other blog post at the start of the season, the run up to the trade deadline, and again around free agency is deploring the plight of some franchise who is being strangled by the cap ceiling. Without even looking you can imagine all the articles on who the Chicago Blackhawks could have gotten if only they didn’t have “cap trouble”. You could probably while a away the entire off-season reading the articles decrying how cap trouble is depriving the Pittsburgh Penguins of the ability to (finally) find the right wingers to propel Sidney Crosby to his clearly fated 250 point season. You have a better chance of driving four consecutive Boston rush hours without seeing a moving violation than you do of not finding on average one post per site detailing how awful it is that the Bruins are being handcuffed by this contract or that and it being the cause of all their cap trouble.

You could rinse and repeat for all the other top ten teams to the salary cap. And that’s exactly what you should do. Wash your mouth out with soap and keep doing so every time you use the cop out of cap trouble to describe where a team stands or its current woes. Cap Trouble doesn’t exist. Management trouble is what you are talking about. Every front office in the league is working under the same ceiling.

How do teams get into this mythical place? Poor decisions by its leadership. In some cases players selected by a previous regime are still in place and those contracts are an anchor. The current CBA addresses that as well, in addition to the traditional buyouts teams were granted two get out of jail free cards handily labelled compliance buyouts that are perfect for jettisoning dead weight. Barring ownership interference, there’s not really any excuse for any General Manager or President to have a single contract they don’t want on their roster if they’ve been in their position more than four years.

Some of the sub-prime choices come as part and parcel of an inability to draft and develop talent. Here’s a hint; if your fanbase can’t identify three players drafted, developed and promoted to a spot in the roster where they succeed for each five years you’re in office, you probably are doing a poor job with at least one of the drafting or developing. Three should be regarded as minimum figure, especially if your team was bad in the early years of your tenure.

If you’re drafting and or developing poorly, you’re paying for it elsewhere. You’re either holding on to players past their usefulness, overpaying pending free agents to retain them or throwing cash at the free agent market like Mardi Gras beads. One of the cash equivalents that most just don’t pay enough attention to is the quantity of no trade and no movement clauses. If cash, readily replaceable is the equivalent of Mardi Gras beads, NTC’s and NMC’s are like diamond engagement rings, or maybe having a kid together. When more than a quarter of your roster has them you’re probably doing something wrong. If you get to one third or one half your roster, dust off an update your resume and remember where the file is, you’re gonna need it.

Another management failure that leads to misspending is undervaluing a player who fits right and then having to replace them because they refused to play at a Wal-Mart wage. Are some of those players overvaluing themselves? Absolutely, and those should be parted with, via trade if possible. But most, can be gotten back into the fold for about the fair market value for their talent. Free agents that you have to bid against the free market on the other hand almost always cost more than whoever they are replacing. Likewise, when you have to trade from a position of weakness to address a hole in your roster you will overpay unless you’re dealing with someone completely unimpeded by clue.

One last time: There is no such thing as cap trouble, there is only management trouble which influences the whole organization and how it spends money. If you think this post was written specifically about your own team, well, they probably were considered. But no, this is one of those trends in the NHL that reminds me of cars sliding uncontrollably across an icy surface at each other, it rarely ends pretty or with lots of smiles.

For various reasons the players in this post are highly unlikely to be traded. Some would induce a rant from the average Boston Bruins fan that’d make a Mel Gibson diatribe look as meek and melodic as the local choirs rendition of Silent Night.

Mark Stuart. As one of his biggest fans I’d be displeased to see him go under nearly any circumstance. Given the stable of defensemen behind him, it’d be foolish to send him off without getting something similar in return. At this point only two of the defensemen outside the top six have the physical gifts to be a punishing, durable, aggressive defender in front of the Bruins crease at near the same scale as Stuart. Adam McQuaid is one of them, and he lacks polish and to a degree poise, and I doubt he’s got the same locker room presence, and he’s not quite as punishing a defender. The other is Ryan Donald, at 24 he’s  now a facing a long uphill climb to make it to a full time NHL position, and the jump from the AHL to top four minutes in the NHL is not one that most could expect to make in half a season.

Johnny Boychuck, with a full season left on his contract and his skating, hitting, power play time and blazing shot, it’s hard to imagine any team willingly parting with Boychuck. He’s developed into a top four defenseman after years of toiling in the AHL. While Boychuck’s attractive tradebait, he’s not going to clear much in the way of cap space, and it’s doubtful there’s much that could be brought back with a similar or greater value for less or equal money, the odds of a team being willing to part with that talent in the first place are even lower.

No list of unlikely trade candidates would be complete without he inclusion of Tuukka Rask. He’s young, he had a highly successful regular season last year, he’s got good health and a friendly contract. He’s part of the wave of Finnish goaltenders that have swept over the NHL in the last two or three years. By himself he could probably bring back a good piece of talent, as part of a package, the Bruins might be able to unload a salary or two that other teams might not normally be willing to take on.  Leaving aside Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix all who have various ownership issues there are still a dozen teams with more than three million in cap space. When you consider that we’re one quarter of the way through the season and contracts are prorated on a daily basis, that makes even a four million dollar salary doable. It is likely that a team like Florida who is not expected to resign Vokoun, or Edmonton who don’t have much between the pipes might be willing to part with a couple high picks or prospects and take on a salary or two, particularly if they are expiring, to nail down what some call the hardest position to draft for.

While I doubt that the Bruins have given up on Joe Colborne yet, I suspect he’s probably not overly pleased with playing on the fourth line in Providence. Jamie Arniel was among the last players cut before the Bruins departed for their European trip, and the 2008 pick fourth rounder currently leads the P-Bruins in both goals and points. Zach Hamill, was a high pick in the notably thin 2007 draft, and might just decide to seek greener pastures. With the additions of Seguin, and Spooner to this years horde of centers, it’s not entirely outside probability that he asks to be traded. At this point all three would essentially be afterthoughts in any cap clearing trade, in regards to this years cap. Next year though Colborne’s entry level deal could prove prohibitive with the hard cap taking affect.

With the guys who might not even move if hell freezes over taken care of, it’s time to tackle the players the Bruins might get some value from trading. While it’s unlikely all of them, or even most will be traded, and the thought of losing some of them is nearly as scary as Brittany Spears as a mother, they would do the club some good one way or another.

While the thought of losing David Krejci fills most Boston fans with the type of feeling you’d get just before you showed Mom & and Dad where the bad man touched you on a dolly, it’s both logical and leaning towards inevitable. He’ll still be an RFA when his current deal expires at the end of next season, he’s an NHL proven high end player who contributes in all three zones, his play making is his most remarked upon skill, but his contributions when he plays on the penalty kill can’t be overlooked and are nearly enough to make some teams drool alone. His $3.75 million cap hit is manageable, and he’s not the type of guy who’s going to get into trouble off the ice, and will play through any injuries he can. While the Bruins probably don’t want to trade him, he’s not (yet?) the playmaker Savard is, he’s not got the speed or shot (do I need to mention hype?) of Seguin, and he’s not got the size, physicality, puck protection or faceoff prowess of Bergeron. He’s also not got a contractual bar to movement.

Andrew Ference, when he first arrived in Boston in the Brad Stuart deal, I was surprised the scrappy little tree hugger was often the best defenseman on the ice. In the last season or two with various injuries, and certain dearly-departed defensive partners we’ve rarely seen his best play. This season, Ference has had two enormous advantages over the last couple seasons, one is the monster lining up on the opposite side of the blueline, the other is simple good health. While he only played 51 regular season games last year, he played the entire playoffs, preseason and the nineteen games so far this season. At a +11 he leads all Bruins in the category, and is undoubtedly enjoying the best play of his career.  His speed, tenacity, and grit make him desirable, his current deal at a cap friendly$2.25 million isn’t going to cause many teams to back away.

Had Marc Savard started the season healthy, it’s very likely Michael Ryder would have been assigned to Providence, or shipped out for a half stick of bubble gum and a roll of stick tape. Most of the Boston Bruins fans would have been willing to drive him to the airport. Today, he’s third in goals, fifth in scoring and has shown the most consistent effort he’s put forward in any stretch since the start of last season. He put in a strong effort no matter who he was lined up with, and had the loan goal in the Bruins recent loss to Tampa Bay.  His four million dollar deal expires at the end of the season, and teams lacking in scoring might be willing to give up a decent draft pick or prospect for the chance to tip them into the playoffs or from playoff team to contender.  He’s got a great shot, has a blazing release, and when he plays well along the boards can create a lot of turnovers.

Blake Wheeler, in this is third season out of college, the 2004 number 5 pick of the Phoenix Coyotes has been shuffled back and forth between wings, from line to line, and now from wing to center. He’s not scored all that much , but has shown some aptitude for playing center at the NHL level. If he stays and Krejci leaves he becomes the number three center by default, if he goes he has the potential to be playing like a number two center for most teams before years end.  With just a $2.2 mil cap hit, the Bruins would probably like to keep him, watch his development until the end of the season and then decide what to do with him. He went to arbitration this past off season, and landed a deal that’s fair. Even if he walks on July 1, 2011 the Bruins didn’t spend anything to get him and any deal where they bring back a pick or prospect is a win.

Dennis Siedenberg, while it’s unlikely that the shot blocking, hit-man who was acquired at the end of last season and signed over the summer will be traded, he’s a valuable player who has boosted his own stock with consistent, quality play and a solid learning curve over the last two or so seasons. His $3.25 cap number is manageable, and even desirable when compared to deals like Wayne Redden, Sheldon Souray and Brian Campbell.

Daniel Paille, who came to the Boston Bruins from the Buffalo Sabres last year has lost a lot of the cache he had when he was drafted. Back in 2002 when he was drafted by Very South Ontario’s team in the first round he was projected to be a top six forward. This season he’s been squeezed out of the lineup by younger players like Marshand and Caron. While he was an indispensable part of last years penalty kill, he’s played less than ten minutes on the penalty kill this year having been eclipsed by the arrival of the son of master of the NHL’s Wheel of Justice. There’s no question that the speedy winger can still play in the NHL, it’s just a matter of if it’s here in Boston, or elsewhere. As mentioned back in October, there are strong reasons to want Paille around, including his affordable cap hit.

Next up unlikely trade pieces and why they might be interesting one way or the other.

It’s as big a secret as Perez Hilton’s sexuality that the Boston Bruins are in a bad cap place. The sword of Damocles has been doing more dangling than Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Anze Kopitar combined. Before the season started, it was widely speculated who would be signed at all, who would be dealt, and who would stay. The return of Marc Savard’s post concussion syndrome, and Marco Sturm’s long recovery from a second knee injury provided a stay of execution for both the front office, and the players. With Savard recently cleared for contact, and Sturm skating urgency is the word of the day. The on ice play of some members of the Black and Gold has made what was expected to be a clear cut case of dumping salary far more murky.  Here’s a look at some of the players who are highly unlikely to be moved in the next week or two.

First on the list of players going no where is Tim Thomas, last season he battled a hip injury, a hand injury, a team that spent most of the season forgetting that they were supposed to play in front of him. This year he’s returned to his Vezina winning form, a form that includes acrobatics that might land him a job in Cirque du Soleil if he ever considers a career change, and a shutout collection that seems to grow weekly. To put things in perspective, in his Vezina season where he split duties with Manny Fernandez, he had five shutouts in fifty seven games. This season in thirteen he has four.  He currently leads the NHL in Sv%, GAA, and SO. He also has a NMC he’s unlikely to waive.

Next on the list is Olympic Gold Medalist, faceoff ace, best all around player and longest tenured skater, Patrice Bergeron. He’s a leader both on and off the ice, is an emotional catalyst for the team, can play center where he has been for the past several season, or wing where he was drafted. Bergeron plays in all situations, and is one of the guys who can be counted on to show up and play every shift of very game.  Even if one of the youngsters should emerge as a better option at center the not-quite greybeard can easily be slip back to right wing. He was resigned to a new three year deal back in October as well. As the organization has made it a goal to get bigger at forward losing the largest of the top three centers, who also outmasses Seguin, Spooner and Suave seems like a step backward.

Milan Lucic isn’t going any place. He’s probably not going anyplace even if he asks to be traded. Leaving aside the burgeoning power forward’s on ice contributions, he’s good for merchandise sales. Given the huge cheers that spring up from the Garden Crowd’s whenever he touches the puck or pummels someone, even if he did ask for a trade I don’t think I’d want to be the GM who traded the man who is currently the teams goal scoring leader, has turned in one of the best post season +/-‘s in the last several years, and has worked consistently at improving one aspect of his game every season since he got here. Just go look at footage of his skating from his rookie season, and then look at his skating now. Then, go look at his second season and pay attention to his shot release.  His release wasn’t quite slow enough to be clocked with a sun dial, but it’s no where near the speed it is today. Also, he’s leading Phil Kessel in goals, points, and plus-minus right now.

Zdeno Chara, it may seem strange that I have to list a six foot nine, two hundred sixty pound, Norris Trophy winning blueline monster who happens to be the team captain on this list, and I agree. However, there are certain chowderheads in the local media who don’t buy Chara as a number one defenseman, much less an elite defenseman who can’t be left any objective list of the top ten defensemen in the NHL, and will probably appear in most top five lists.  While his $7.5 million cap hit would erase the cap crunch in one move, the question becomes what sort of value are you getting back? None of the comparable defensemen (Keith, Weber, Doughty, Pronger, Lidstrom) are going to come cheap (if at all), and both Pronger and Lidstrom are older than Chara. I can’t see the front offices in Chicago, Columbus or LA doing anything but laugh hysterically at the thought of trading their studs. For the next tier down, (Suter, Seabrook, Markov, Jovanovski, Bouwmeester) you’re looking at players who are either not going to be available, one dimensional, or who have consistency issues.  While a blockbuster trade that sent Chara and Ryder to Atlanta for Byfuglien, Kane and a pick might work in a fantasy league, and would be exciting, I think I’ll fail to hold my breath on it happening.

Marc Savard, not only is he aging, not very athletic, and possibly subject to bias from high up the NHL pecking order, he’s now making a second comeback from at least his second concussion. He’s got a no trade clause he’s unlikely to waive, and on top of that he’s still a dynamic playmaker with sensational passing skills on a team that’s offense is shaky.  I don’t see him wanting to go anywhere else, even to a team where he’d have as good a shot at winning a cup as he does in Boston (or better) in the next year or two.

Marco Sturm. As the longest tenured German in NHL history, you might expect him to be older than his 32 years. Despite the injuries of the last two years he’s been a remarkably consistent and healthy player. In the last seven seasons that he’s played 64 or more games he’s never failed to score less than twenty goals.  With the depth up front he has a solid shot at breaking twenty goals again. There’s even a possibility he’s reunited with old running mate Patrice Bergeron. This is the last year of his contract, and he’s got to be playing not just for pride this year, but for his future employment. He’s another of the Boston players with solid three zone play.

Next Post:  players it may be most beneficial to trade.