The Boston Bruins are as far into salary cap jail as any contending team since the Chicago Blackhawks ended their four decades long drought. They quite literally have to trade someone, and probably more than one person in order to be able to put a team on the ice in October. If they aren’t cap complaint they can’t play.
With just 18 players signed, CapGeek.com lists them as having less than $350,000 available per player to sign a minimum of 3 additional players, and experience has shown us the Boston Bruins like to carry an extra forward and defenseman each. With their available space roughly half of league minimum and the need for a top line right wing, even allowing for all of Marc Savard’s money being put off onto the long term injured reserve, there still isn’t much room to bring in a right wing for the first line, resign Smith, Krug, allow for injuries, and possibly acquiring an expiring deal later in the season. And one has to remember that Hamilton’s deal expires this season, as does Soderberg’s. Eriksson and Lucic only have one more season beyond the current one as well.
Any shift in a team’s composition has to start with who can’t be traded. While I’m of the belief that if Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky and Ray Bourque can be traded anyone can be, for some players and teams it would be hugely impractical to move someone for on and off reasons. It’s in no way controversial to say that Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara are not players the team should consider moving for anything less than a kings ransom. Why this is doesn’t need to be discussed further.
The next tier would be players it would be foolish to trade either because of a mix of remaining RFA time and pure upside, unique combination of skills, or because they are expected to perform at a given level and they currently have a contract commiserate with that level. That list is pretty short as well, three players long, Tuukka Rask, Milan Lucic, and Dougie Hamilton are on that list, and you can make a very strong case to put Brad Marchand here as well.
That’s two to six player that moving would damage the team more than any conceivable benefit. The next thing you have to look at is depth in a given position. The Bruins have several young prospects at goaltender, Svedberg, Subban, Gothberg, Morrison but none who are ready to be the #1 goaltender for a team with this style, and who expect to contend now. At left wing, they have arguably their second best forward position with Lucic and Marchand as full time top two line wingers on any team in the NHL Eriksson able to flip between the wings, and Paile able to slide up and down the chart.
Defense is the backbone of the team, at this point its a given Chara and Hamilton will return, Krug is likely, and Seidenberg’s trade value is essentially zero at this point so he’ll be back unless he specifically asks out. McQuaid has about the same trade value as his German counterpart. Miller is cheap, and the return on him wouldn’t be enough to justify the time it took to trade him.
The Bruins are desperately lacking at the right wing position. No further evidence of this is needed than them having acquired the ancient Jagr and Recchi in the past few years to play there. The team, and any sensible portion of the fan base are still hoping to resign Iginla. There are a host of prospects in the AHL, junior hockey and fresh out of the draft who might fill in adequately but no known quantities.
Center is hands down the Boston Bruins deepest position. After Bergeron the team finished the season with Campbell, Kelly, Krejci, Soderberg, with their resumes endorsed with NHL playoff time. Ryan Spooner earned some regular season time, as did Lindblad and Khokhlachev. Spooner still projects as a 1/2 center, Soderberg held down the 3C spot admirably in Kelly’s absence and, Khokhlachev has KHL experience in addition to his AHL and OHL time.
When you look at who’s contracts are up soon, where the depth in the system is, and who has the least unique skill set in the system and the most potential return the Bruins will likely end up trading David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk. Both have been good soldiers, but Krejci has a big cap hit and didn’t really justify it last season. He played between two guys who have scored 30 or more goals in a season and ended up 11th on the team in playoff scoring (Iginla 3rd Lucic 4th), and barely outpointed Bergeron who played notably fewer minutes with more of them on the penalty kill, and lesser offensive linemates.
For Boychuk, he’s a more than serviceable 2nd pairing defenseman, he’d be great to keep if the team has room to do so. He’s reliable, largely healthy, but his offense is meager and he’s not as defensively adept as Seidenberg and he’s not going to put up the offensive numbers of Krug, Hamilton, or likely Morrow whenever he cracks the lineup.
If you’re interested in seeing what a post Krejci-Boychuk roster might look like if most roster positions are filled with in system talent, here is one possibility which allows for a great deal of bonus overage from last season.