Watching the Boston Bruins salary cap crisis
In a hockey news digest on Saturday, Matt Porter of the Boston Globe addressed, among other things, the Boston Bruins’ looming salary cap crisis and speculated on what the organization could do to improve its situation. In sum, Porter says that even with Brad Marchand set to run out of time after surgery on both of his hips, likely landing him on LTIR to start the season, and with Patrice Bergeron not returning or perhaps taking a heavy discount, Boston could still find itself hitting the salary cap next season, regardless of what steps the team needs to take to improve.
Right now, the Bruins are only expected to have $2.84 million in salary cap space next season, which doesn’t factor in moves or creating additional space, like putting Marchand on LTIR. . Although not above the cap, if Boston wants to improve or even bring the same quality team back on the ice, they will have to spend to do so, but will have to get creative with how they lose their paychecks. One Porter suggestion is to buy out forward Nick Foligno, who has one year left at $3.8 million on his contract. This would reduce the cap reached to just $1.933M next season and $930,000 after. Foligno has been a reliable point producer and an excellent leader throughout his career, but his production has dropped sharply this season with Boston, tallying just two goals and 11 assists in 64 games.
Always a formidable veteran presence for any team, his $3.8 million cap is hard to justify on a team as close to the cap as Boston. If the organization wants to eliminate his entire cap, they’ll likely find a market to trade him for, but the veteran will have a 16-team no-trade roster and dealing with him would likely force the Bruins to send a draft pick or prospect. . compensation with him. It might seem unlikely that Foligno would accept a trade from an eternal competitor to, predictably, a rebuilding team, but a team in the market to absorb Foligno’s salary would probably be able to give him the ice time and the role he might prefer, as well as a chance to be dealt to a competitive team at the trade deadline anyway.
Another Porter suggestion would be to make a convenient trade of a regular, albeit replaceable, player like forward Craig Smith or defenders Matt Grzelcyk or Mike Reilly. Smith, who is a year older at $3.1 million, has been a solid contributor for Boston since joining the Nashville Predators in free agency ahead of the 2020-21 season, registering 16 goals and 20 assists in 74 games. this season. . With his solid game and reasonable ceiling, Boston should be able to find a partner in a trade with Smith and even receive an asset in return. The Bruins could then replace Smith internally with young options like Fabian Lysell, Oskar Steen or Jack Studnicka, as Porter suggests.
As good as Reilly and Grzelcyk have been for the Bruins, Porter adds that they’re very similar players, making him a potential expendable in the right situation. Both players have two years left on their contracts, with Reilly capped at $3 million and Grzelcyk at just under $3.69 million. As well as having very similar styles of play, the two also had remarkably similar production, totaling 44 points in their previous two seasons, Grzelcyk doing so in 110 games, Reilly in 125. On the left side, the he team also has Derek Forbort under contract at $3 million for next season, although he doesn’t look as remarkably like Grzelcyk and Reilly as those two do to each other. Trading any of the three wouldn’t pose a danger to Boston’s depth either, as they also have recently acquired and extended Hampus Lindholm and 25-year-old Jakub Zboril, who is still awaiting his first job as a regular. the NHL. .
Finally, a seemingly obvious solution for Boston would be to trade forward Jake DeBrusk, who holds a cap of $4 million reached through 2023-24, and notably requested a trade earlier this season. After requesting the trade, DeBrusk continued to play hard, and well, for Boston, eventually finishing the season with 25 goals and 17 assists in 77 games. For his career, DeBrusk has continually produced similar numbers outside of a mediocre and outlier 2020-21 season and at 26 for most of next season, his contract represents solid value for the team that brought him in. . Trading DeBrusk might seem like a no-brainer, but if the winger changes his mind or is ready to play out the rest of his contract, keeping him may be a prudent move for Boston given his value. Although DeBrusk has the highest cap of any player discussed, at the end of the day when trying to build a competitive team below the salary cap, the salary cap is less important than the overall value the team receives on the agreement.