We’ve all heard about the Chicago Blackhawks and their cap-induced fire sale. We all saw the Philadelphia Flyers trade their beloved, homegrown sniper for spare parts to Tampa Bay. We’ll hear rumors of the Canucks seemingly trying to trade Kevin Bieksa to Columbus, Anaheim, or any team in between. But those aren’t the only teams that need to deal with serious salary cap problems before next season begins.
As it stands today, the Bruins have 20 players signed, their payroll is a shade over $60 million (per Capgeek), they still have to sign RFA Blake Wheeler, and none of that takes into account Tyler Seguin and his potential salary. Needless to say, there are going to have to be a few deals that go down before the Bruins management can sit back and look forward to next year’s potential.
“Chiarelli has weeks, if necessary, to get cap compliant. He has start-of-season relief in that a rehabbing Marco Sturm (knee) won’t have his $3.5 million attached to the cap. When he is ready to return, based on how everything lines up at the moment (subject to change), it could mean booting Michael Ryder’s $4 million salary to Providence (AHL). According to Chiarelli, Sturm won’t return until mid- or late-November, which means we are some four months from the real D-day.” –Kevin Paul Dupont (Boston Globe)
So even though the Bruins might have a little more than just the off-season, they’ll still have to make some decisions. But before they can decide who they may move, they will need to know exactly how much salary they’ll have to shed. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the two biggest unknowns and see what that could mean for the B’s this year.
The first step in this process is going to be Blake Wheeler’s arbitration hearing. Even though both sides seem to think that they’ll get a contract worked out before an arbitrator makes a decision, the fact of the matter is that he still doesn’t have a contract. Keep in mind that even though Wheeler’s camp says they’re hopeful to get a deal worked out, this isn’t the first time he’s pushed the limits to get what he wants. In 2004 he was the 5th overall pick by Phoenix, but he never signed with the Coyotes because he wanted to pick where he lived and played. That’s right—a kid that had never taken a shift in the NHL (or AHL for that matter) was sticking to his guns because he wanted to pick where he played. Given that kind of history, I’ll wait to see an agreement before I believe it. But if it does go to arbitration, the Bruins might be forced to pay a little more than they had budgeted.
In the old NHL world, that wouldn’t be a huge deal. The Bruins ownership might have to dig a little deeper into their pockets, but it’s not like it would cause any huge roster problems. This year however—if Wheeler gets say, a million more than the Bruins expect, it will cause problems big enough that another player might have to pack his Samsonite.
The problem is, he’s probably going to get a hefty raise if it goes to an independent ruling. Last season he made $2.8 million and his game translates well to paper for the purpose of negotiations. If Clarke MacArthur can be awarded a $2.4 million contract, then who knows what Blake Wheeler is worth. It’s probably safe to say it would be somewhere north of last season’s contract. Regardless, the Bruins GM is optimistic:
“We’re tight at the cap, and we’ll be able to put Blake in the mix… then we’ve got to sever cap space, and we’ll see where we’ll go from there as it applies to the start of the year.” –Peter Chiarelli (via NESN.com)
The other big unknown contract the Bruins are dealing with right now is for #2 overall pick Tyler Seguin. Looking back on some of the past entry-level deals over the last few years, it’s safe to assume that with bonuses, his cap hit is going to be in the vicinity of $3.75 million. That’s not the cheapest salary the Bruins will have on the books—but it also might not be a problem.
People have forgotten recently that the general consensus for Tyler Seguin before the draft was that he’d be a prime candidate to head back to Plymouth in the OHL for another year in juniors. He burst onto the scene this year and could probably use another year to help fine-tune the skills that made him one of the best prospects of his draft year. It’s interesting that since the Bruins drafted him, there’s more and more talk that he’ll be with the big club all season. What’s changed?
Let’s take a step back and look at what’s going on. Seguin is joining a team that was one bad period away from making the Eastern Conference Finals last year. The strength of their team is at center—ironically the very same position he plays. They have cap problems and he’ll have a reasonably high cap number. The draft pick wasn’t theirs to begin with and they aren’t in desperate need of a marquee name or leader. So what has changed and why is it assumed that Seguin will be an NHLer all year? If anything, it seems like there’s a cloud of reasons gathering to keep him in Juniors!
There could be worse things in the world than Seguin playing a final year in Juniors. He could learn to deal with expectations, continue to fine-tune the rest of his game, and even play a big role with Hockey Canada at the World Junior Championships. On the other hand, if he were able to make the NHL next season, he doesn’t necessarily have to make the jump at center. If he was so impressive in training camp that it was obvious that he’s destined for stardom, it might be in the Bruins best interests to protect their investment and develop him at a reasonable pace. He wouldn’t be the first young prospect to learn the game at wing with the expectation that he’ll move to center in time. And it wouldn’t be the first time the young Seguin would play on the wing.
“My rookie year (in juniors) I played left and right wing so I would be confident at either side,” said Seguin. With Seguin on the wing, the Bruins have a lot more flexibility on the roster. If a center did go down like Krejci did in the playoffs, they can easily slide Seguin over to play that position.” –Richard Murray (Eagle Tribune)
Everyone and their mother around the Bruins seems to be throwing out their best Tim Thomas or Marc Savard trade proposal. Sure, they both have no-trade clauses and both were leaders in the locker room—but don’t let that slow you down from making up trade proposals for cap relief. If you’re looking for a short term guy, Patrice Bergeron and Michael Ryder are both unrestricted free agents at the end of the year and neither one of them have a no-trade clause to dance around. No matter how you cut it though, trading forwards from a team that needs more scoring is less than ideal.
“We need some more offense for sure. We were one of the lowest scoring teams in the league and it hurts when you’re trying to win hockey games… its difficult, it puts a lot of pressure on you defensively if you’re not scoring goals. Even though we’re a very strong defensive hockey club and our penalty killing has done a great job, I think offensively that’s an area where we can improve.” –Cam Neely
The truth is that nobody knows which names might be on the move for the B’s. Anyone who says they do is most likely just throwing ideas at the wall in hopes that they will stick. I doubt even Peter Chiarelli has a clear idea of what he’s going to do until Wheeler and Seguin’s contracts are finalized and he knows exactly what numbers he’ll be dealing with. Once he knows, he can join the Bruins fans in their best versions of “Let’s Make a Deal.”
Funny, I never knew there were that many people named Monty Hall that lived in New England.