Whelp. That sucked. But we're going to have to move on eventually, and this year eventually is basically right now. The lockout pushed everything back, so we're jumping directly into the offseason. The buyout period starts in 48 hours; the draft is on the 30th; free agency begins July 5th. We just got knocked down, but we have to hit the ground running. With that in mind, I've been writing a little offseason preview, looking at what the Bruins need to do in the coming months.
The offseason is always my favorite time of year, in any sport. I can't explain it. I guess I'm just enraptured by general managers competing to put together the best team, pre-determining so much of the coming season before the first game even begins. Before the playoffs even started I was looking towards the offseason, trying to determine what the Bruins would do, what they could do. I should make clear that this is just my perspective, and that I'm not the definitive master of all things in the offseason. This is just what I think the Bruins should do, considering the state of their roster.
- Forwards: 12 (Including Marc Savard)
- Defensemen: 7
- Goaltenders: 0
- Cap Space: $5.1M
- Departing Free Agents: Tuukka Rask, Nathan Horton, Jaromir Jagr, Andrew Ference, Anton Khudobin, Kaspars Daugavins, Wade Redden, Jay Pandolfo, Aaron Johnson.
Obviously, dealing with Tuukka Rask's expiring contract is the first order of business. He's a restricted free agent, making it unlikely he'd go elsewhere, but all it takes is for Paul Holmgren to snap and all of a sudden Rask is signing a $20M/year offer sheet. An extension for Rask will eat up the remaining cap space the Bruins have, if not put them over it. For a comparison of where Rask's contract numbers will likely end up, after last year's cup win Jonathan Quick signed a ten year extension with an average cap hit of $5.8M. Ultimately, anything between five and six million dollars wouldn't surprise me.
Whatever Rask's contract ends up being, it's going to have a ripple effect on the rest of the Bruins roster. Since it will eat up the rest of the Bruins cap space, the Bruins will have to be frugal in the rest of their offseason moves. What this means is the Bruins will likely not be able to retain any of their other departing free agents, especially the unrestricted free agents. Here's a breakdown of these free agents:
- Nathan Horton: Horton made $4M last year and his recent performance, especially in the playoffs, means he's likely in line for a raise. To stay in Boston he'd have to take a "hometown discount" of such an absurd magnitude as to make the entire concept entirely laughable.
- Jaromir Jagr: I'll admit I have no idea what Jagr will do next year, except that it probably won't be to play for the Bruins. If he decides he wants to retire then he's gone and if he wants to stay in the NHL he'll likely be too expensive for the Bruins budget.
- Andrew Ference: Ference wouldn't be as expensive as Horton to retain. The biggest roadblock to Ference's return is the Bruins having more NHL-caliber defensemen than roster spots available, and re-signing him would only compound that.
- Anton Khudobin: There's certainly the possibility that Khudobin could return, but if his price tag goes above $1M the Bruins would be better served by calling up Niklas Svedberg from Providence.
- Kaspars Daugavins: Daugavins is the most likely of the Bruins other free agents to return based solely on his status as a restricted free agent. If he is re-signed in Boston, however, it's likely that he'll spend most of his time in Providence as the Bruins don't have a roster slot available for him.
- Wade Redden, Jay Pandolfo, Aaron Johnson: To round this list out, I would be literally shocked if any of Wade Redden, Jay Pandolfo, or Aaron Johnson are re-signed.
This doesn't include the players in the AHL whose contracts are up, and I don't know enough about them to make any predictions. Best guess: all the restricted free agents are re-signed, for the UFAs it's a toss-up.
Assuming none of the big-name free agents other than Rask are resigned, the Bruins will need to add a second-line right-winger and a backup goaltender. To do this the Bruins are going to need to clear some cap space, and to do that either something needs to happen with regards to Marc Savard or someone else is going to be moved, either via trade or compliance buyout.
Oh, Marc Savard. It's near-impossible to not feel sad while discussing this. Obviously, the simplest solution (and the one I think we all would prefer) would be to have Savard playing again, as with Savard in playing condition the Bruins have a full complement of forwards. In that case, all the Bruins would need to do is make a little cap space for a back-up goalie. Unfortunately, it appears very unlikely that Savard will ever play again, and this makes the situation very complex. Because of his injury, the Bruins cannot use one of their Compliance Buyouts on him. A regular buyout would grant cap relief this offseason, but the cap hit would jump to $3M next year and would actually exceed the original cap hit slightly in the following two years.
Further complicating things is the "Recapture Penalty" added in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which Savard's contract is subject to. What the Recapture Penalty means is, if Savard retires before the end of his contract (the 2016-2017 season), the Bruins will be subjected to a cap penalty for each year remaining on the original contract, even if he is no longer officially on the roster (either by way of a buyout or by trade). If he retires this offseason, the penalty is approximately $2M, and it jumps to $3M+ in each of the next three years. So, if the Bruins decide to buy Savard out this offseason and then next offseason he retires, the Bruins could be stuck with a $6M or $7M cap hit for a player no longer on the roster. (Here's Capgeek's Recapture Calculator if you want to see what I mean.)
The ideal situation, assuming Savard can't play, in terms of lowest potential cap penalty would be to simply have him retire this offseason. It would cut his cap hit roughly in half, freeing up enough space for Svedberg to be called up and for the team to add a cheap right winger on the second line. However, it's questionable that Savard would agree to this, and whether or not the team would ask him to do so in the first place.
Assuming no movement on the Savard front, someone on the team will have to be movedin order to clear cap space. Finding possible moves is complicated by Chiarelli's propensity for handing out No-Trade Clauses like they're candy. With that in mind, here's a breakdown of the players currently under contract with the big club, and some possible scenarios:
- Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara: These two have full, absolute No Movement Clauses, meaning the Bruins can't send them anywhere they don't want to go. The only option the Bruins have with these guys is to use a buyout on them, but somehow I don't think this is likely. (Call it intuition, or common sense.)
- Milan Lucic, Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand: These three have modified NTCs, opening the possibility that they could be moved. However, they're all too valuable to be traded for cap relief, and it would take a sweetheart package that benefitted the Bruins greatly to win them away.
- Carl Soderberg, Matt Bartkowski, Merlot Line: These five are all on such cheap contracts that to find someone to fill their spot would absorb just about all of the cap savings generated by moving them.
- Dougie Hamilton: He's the future on the blueline; it would take an absolutely fantastic package to win him away from the Bruins.
- Marc Savard: This probably goes without saying, but it's unlikely that anyone would be willing to trade for Marc. Even if the Bruins could find a suitor, it's in their best interest to not trade him, as doing so compounds the penalties the Bruins would receive under the Recapture program.
- Torey Krug, Adam McQuaid: Either of these two could be moved to clear some space for Bartkowski, as well as a little extra cap space for another position. McQuaid is infinitely more likely to be moved for a myriad of reasons, including Krug's puck abilities and the fact that trading McQuaid generates much more in the way of cap space (about $1M compared to about $200,000 for trading Krug). Ultimately, however, their contracts are cheap enough that better options exist for the Bruins to move.
- Chris Kelly: While Kelly does have a no trade clause, the Bruins could use one of their Compliance buyouts on him to remove his cap hit. Additionally, when presented with the possibility of a buyout Kelly would likely decide to wave his NTC, as his current contract pays him an average of $3.2M a year over the next three years and that might be more than he could get himself in a free agency period under a recently-lowered cap.
- David Krejci, Rich Peverley, Johnny Boychuk, Dennis Seidenberg: Ultimately, these four are the most likely to be moved. First, they can be moved because they all have limited NTCs, which, while offering them some protection from being dealt, doesn't guarantee their place in Boston. Second, their contracts are sufficiently big enough that removing them will provide the cap relief the Bruins need. Finally, they're all talented and desirable enough (with the possible exception of Peverley, and that's less an indictment of his skills and more on the size of his contract in proportion to those skills) that they'll likely fetch a nice package in addition to dumping salary.
This is where I'm going to cut things off for now; I was going to break down the possibilities for the open second-line right-wing, but this post is long enough as is. Capgeek was an invaluable resource for me in writing this post, so if you want to explore what I wrote and come up with your own scenarios I recommend starting there. Again, this is all just my opinion, so if you want to refute me on any of this go ahead, I appreciate the feedback.
(Also, this is my first time writing anything like this (the closest comparison I have is research papers on academic topics), so any complaints about or advice on my writing would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!)