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So We Put Our Hands Up Like The (Cap) Ceiling Can't Hoooold Us...Oh Wait, It Can

An anatomy of how Peter Chiarelli completely screwed this entire offseason up. Pure, unadulterated rage coming right your way dears.

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Jarome Iginla is gone. There. I said it. You all should say it too. I mean, this apparently should come as no shock to anyone pledging loyalty to the Black and Gold. The Bruins were in salary cap "jail," salary cap "hell," salary cap "place that the CIA extreme-renditions people to and then tortures them for months on end while no one knows they are there."

Except I still can't believe it. What... in the living, Lord of Christ... was the General Manager of the Boston Bruins doing basically sitting on his ass and letting a 30 goal scorer (ass goals and ENGs included) walk out of here without any serious attempt to keep him. I emphasis serious because I don't believe the Bruins did make a serious effort offer Iginla a contract - or any effort for that matter. There were some extremely simple moves the Bruins could have made to free up more cap space, which I'm sure you are all familiar with by now.

But just in case you weren't, what were they?

  1. Use a buy-out of the compliance variety (1 of 2) on Gregory Campbell's contract, removing 1.6M from the Salary Cap Payroll. Campbell has very few friends on this site, and anyone who believes he is anything more than replaceable is due a serious dose of reality.
  2. As has been called for by many circles of fans, media (both msm and otherwise) and the physical embodiment of the Bruins 3rd line spirit (read: exaggeration), use the 2nd Compliance buy-out on Chris Kelly, removing his 3M salary from not only this year's payroll BUT ALSO next year's payroll as well. As I've stated in his report card, my opinion of Chris Kelly is that for what he provides the Bruins, he's actually not THAT overpaid. So while I am not indicting Chris Kelly's abilities as a hockey player, I am saying that given the choice between keeping Iginla versus keeping Kelly (and Campbell), I choose Iginla. And yes, I know Chris Kelly is recovering from back surgery. As I also mentioned in Kelly's report card, I also know that that is not the end of the buy-out discussion. Players can mutually agree to a buy-out with their Club, even when injured (as in the case of Chris Drury and the NY Rangers). Here's how a reasonable discussion about that might have sounded between Kelly's camp and our intrepid GM:
Chris (or respective agent), I'll keep this brief. We really appreciate your efforts as a player for us these last 3 years, but given our current cap situation, we can't afford to keep you. I'd like you to consider agreeing to a buy-out of your contract, which I believe offers you the opportunity to make more money than you would remaining here with the Bruins. If you agreed to a buy-out, you'd be paid $1M per year for the next 4 years, and instantly become a UFA. If you'd like to decline waivers prior to being bought-out, that's well within your rights as well.Given the UFA market landscape, I have no doubt that a Club would be willing to pay well within the range of your current contract for your services, and I'd be happy to speak to any GM on your behalf.
At that point, anyone with a shred of brain power would realize that their employer no longer wanted them. I'd like to think Kelly would be smart enough to agree to a buy-out. However, if Kelly still resisted, I'd get tough at that point. I'd make it clear that I would bury his contract in the AHL. Given the Wade Redden Rule, the Bruins could still get 975,000 (minimum salary +375K) of cap relief from such a move. It certainly wouldn't be ideal, but it's essentially playing a game of chicken, assuming Kelly would blink and agree to a buy-out instead of spending the next two years in the AHL. And if you're thinking to yourself, "Gee, the Bruins might come across as real assholes, or hurt Kelly's feelings," then I'd ask you what you think the Montreal Canadiens think about hurt feelings when making salary cap transactions.

That's right - they don't care. They just shoved a longtime Habs player out the door in order make room for P.K. Subban, Lars Eller, and a chance to be relevant in the UFA market.

I'm sure nothing of what I just wrote is news to Peter Chiarelli, given:

He certainly could be referring to trades as well, but I'd like to think PC considered all of his possibilities. I'd like to think I'm not smarter, or more intuitive, than Harvard graduate Peter. So I'm left to conclude that Chiarelli chose to keep Campbell and Kelly instead of retaining Iginla, who I've been led to believe wanted to stay in Boston above all else. And lest we forget:

So if he would have accepted a one year deal here, and I just detailed how the Bruins could have cleared more cap space to make a one-year deal more feasible (along with giving the Bruins room to possibly go after another FA), how exactly is Iginla not with the Bruins right now?

Oh that's right - the bullshit, nonsense excuse.

Per NESN, who stated in this article that it "really wasn't much of a surprise" Iginla didn't sign with the Bruins, while only a few days ago reporting with gusto that it "sure sounds like Iginla and his camp are open to signing [a one year deal]", Iginla is quoted as having said to Rogers SN:
"Even to work a one-year deal this year was very hard for (the Bruins), and I don’t know if that would have fully been an option...Even if it was, we wanted to keep playing — I feel great, I love hockey — I want to play for more than this year. Even if we were able to fit in this year, it would have likely been even harder next year with the guys that are up and the young stars that they have."

"I don't know if that would have fully been an option..." And also, "It would have likely been even harder next year with the guys that are up and the young stars that they have." So let me translate for you: I don't think the Bruins ever made a concrete offer to Jarome Iginla in the form of a 1-year contract, and I think the reason they gave Iginla for not re-signing him is that they couldn't afford it based on 2015-2016's cap situation (this is the bullshit, nonsense excuse I referenced, which I'll come back to in a minute). How sure am I about this? Pretty damn sure. 99.99999% sure.

Let's pause for a brief moment and say for the sake of argument that I'm wrong, and the Bruins did indeed offer Iginla a 1-year contract, which he rejected for a contract with longer term. Jarome Iginla is well within his right to accept any contract offer that comes his way, and I don't begrudge him for taking longer term and probably slightly more money AAV-wise than the Bruins would have offered. That being said - let me be clear in saying if Jarome Iginla never wins a Stanley Cup during his entire career, I'm not going to feel the least bit sorry for him. If he tops Marcel Dionne as the greatest player to never win a Stanley Cup, I'm going to chuckle inwardly at his misfortune. His chances at a Stanley Cup in Colorado are measurably diminished, and that's supposedly what he's searching for in the twilight of his career. We laud players who take hometown discounts to win championships, and we respectfully acknowledge an athlete's right to make as much money as possible as well. Given Iginla's choices, he'll get zero sympathy from me if he never hoists the Cup. And if the Bruins themselves win the Cup next season, I won't be chuckling. I'll be laughing.

That being said, I don't think anything I just wrote has a basis in reality. So I'll now address the "bullshit, nonsense excuse" that I believe Chiarelli supplied Iginla as to why he couldn't re-sign him - fear of 2015-2016's cap situation. I'm not interested in giving everyone a Popsicle-headache, so I'll just do some straightforward addition and subtraction. According to Capgeek, the Bruins currently have just over $22M in cap space for the 2015-2016 season.
  • If the Bruins followed my advice about buying-out Chris Kelly, they would have $25M in cap space.
  • If the Bruins exercised the Long-Term Injury Exception on Marc Savard's contract, they would have $29M in cap space.
  • If you believe in James Mirtle's estimate that the Upper Limit will easily rise to beyond $74M next year (which I do, given the TV money from the Rodgers deal wasn't fully included this year), the Bruins would have upwards of $34M in salary cap space. Let's say the Upper Limit rises to $75M. The Bruins would have $35M in cap space.
  • I won't make this post any longer by speculating about contract terms for Torey Krug, Reilly Smith and what the qualifying offers will cost for players like Justin Florek, Matt Bartkowski, and Jordan Caron. Let's say all of that, plus re-signing Iginla to a one year contract and calling up Ryan Spooner, would remove $12M of cap space from 2015-2016, bringing the Bruins back down to $23M in cap space for 2015-2016
Are you freakin telling me that $23M isn't enough money to re-sign Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk, David Krejci, Carl Soderberg and Iginla? What the hell kind of contracts do you plan on handing out next year, Chiarelli? Under ZERO circumstances should Krejci be making more than "Mr. Perfect" Patrice Bergeron (6.5M), so we'll call that $6M at a nice lengthy 7-8 years. A generous amount for Johnny Boychuk would be in the $4.5-5M range, as would tripling Soderberg's salary to $3M. Iginla should also command a $4.5-5M contract at his precious multi-year length, which leaves roughly $4M to re-sign Hamilton plus any other necessary players (like a backup goaltender or a replacement for Paille).

How difficult was that exactly?**

I'll close by saying that beyond not re-signing Iginla, it really concerns me that Chiarelli didn't feel it worthwhile to clear cap space in the form of buying-out Kelly and Campbell as moves unto themselves, regardless of the Iginla situation. When things like this happen:

You realize just how damning entering the UFA period the way the Bruins did can be. Anyone holding their breath for Radim Vrbata to land with the Bruins should recognize the Bruins will undoubtedly have to clear cap space for such a contract - which means a trade (one that would likely do more damage than good for the Bruins), as the buy-out period is now closed. For whatever reason, Chiarelli stubbornly clung to contracts and players who were far less than crucial, sacrificing the chance at quality players in an era where the Bruins chances at a Cup are slowly but surely shrinking.

For that, Chiarelli deserves an F - for "Fuck up the size of France."

**All contract estimates are happily open for discussion in the comment section.