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What Compass You Readin' Boy? - Trying To Decipher Sweeney's Off-Season Path

East? West? WEAST?

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It's weird, but my feet always seem to smell like ham. I can wash them for twenty, hell even thirty minutes, but after the first ounce of sweat, you guessed it, a nice whiff of smoked ham. Maybe in a past life I was a pig, or someone who tortured pigs - who knows really. I sure as hell don't.

I also don't know what Don Sweeney is going to do this off-season. He needs to shed salary, incorporate a pipeline of budding youthful talent and, yet, leave enough wiggle room as to incorporate a handful of gritty, trash-humping veterans that Claude Julien will feel comfortable deploying on the penalty kill. You know, the important things in life and yada yada yada or whatever.

Sweeney needs to configure a way to alleviate the cap situation, firstly and most importantly. The trash-humper narratives all involve the shedding of a "core" contract. We know the names by now - Milan Lucic, Loui Eriksson, David Krejci, hell even Zdeno Chara. It's a fairly dramatic analysis of a situation that isn't nearly as devastating as everyone lining up along the Tobin thinks.

When push comes to shove, will Lucic's $6 million cap-hit be headed elsewhere? Probably not. Will David Krejci give the Bruins the okay to move him and his $7.25 million cap-hit? Again, probably not. (Although, like, that'd be really cool if he did.) Will Loui Eriksson be traded despite his perfectly apt salary and solid contributions over the past 12 months? Christ I hope not.

In an ideal, utpoic society, Dennis Seidenberg, the Bruins most beloved German-born player since Marco Sturm, will be packing his bags and heading to a team looking to reach the salary floor. The Arizona's of the world would make the most sense. Honestly, the B's and Sweeney shouldn't look, nor expect, much of a return for the soon-to-be 34-year-old defenseman. He's a year removed from ACL surgery and he showed significant regression in 2014-2015; he's not exactly a buyers dream at this point. But, still, there exists a chance he can be flipped at the deadline this year, or the next, or the one after that, to a contender - again, this is from the perspective of the team acquiring his cap-hit. Plus, if Tim Gleason can find a spot with a playoff team post-deadline, then so can Seidenberg. He's not a useless asset by any means, he's just simply not worth $4 million - especially on a team as cap-strapped as the Bruins. To open up cap space Sweeney's going to find himself with little leverage, so again, just dump the guy for mid-round pick. Or Christ, even a washing machine. The most important asset at this point is freeing up cap space. Really, if you take anything away from this, it's that the Bruins need some financial wiggle room.

Hypothetically Sweeney and the B's have now freed up $4 million by shipping Seidenberg out of town. Enough money to potentially resign restricted free-agents Ryan Spooner and Brett Connolly. Not nearly as proven nor lusted after by offer-sheet predators, the B's will likely be able to entice two of their more valuable RFA's to take bridge contracts - a situation similar to what occurred with Torey Krug and Reilly Smith this past off-season.

Sweeney and the B's might be dodging a bullet with Spooner, because I don't think people understand just how good the kid was down the stretch. He was the man, honestly, he was. I'm not kidding you - he was really, really good. Yet, there's little hype surrounding the 23-year-old Kanata, Ontario native. A larger sample size - as he played in just 29 games (18 points) - and Sweeney's likely in a new ballgame, one that sees him shelling out a good deal of money to keep the youngster in town. But that's just the humble opinion of a pizza delivery boy.

With Connolly, the Bruins have a potential top-six winger. Christ, he cost them two second-round picks, so I'd hope he's being looked at as more than a bottom-six plug. Similar to Spooner, there's some odd-luck playing to their favor here. Thanks to Seidenberg incidentally breaking Connolly's finger in practice, there's a bit of a lull around his value. Connolly only suited up five times with the Bruins, and his 12 goals in 50 games with Tampa Bay were a flash-in-the-pan for what's been a wait-and-see development for the 6th overall pick in 2010. A cheap, $2 million-ish bridge deal for him and the not-a-fork-kid will likely be enough to bring them back for next season.

Which brings us to Dougie Hamilton. When the future of your franchise's blueline is at risk of being stolen from beneath you, you wake up, call his agent and sign him. We're talking Drew Doughty money. [Joe Haggerty will read that last sentence and throw up, but I really don't care. We're talking about a man who likely chooses velcro straps over shoe laces due to the difficulty of tying knot. So, heave away ol' Joe.]

If the $4 million mentioned above is enough to engulf Connolly and Spooner, that leaves $11 million in cap space. Hey, what's less than $11 million? If you guessed $6.5 million, you're correct! $6.5 million also happens to be the amount Hamilton and his agent are seeking - a numeric value the young defenseman has both earned and deserves.

Pretty impressive when you carry a fellow teammate, one whose playing on one leg, against an oppositions best players at the tender age of 21. I might be a moron most of the time, but this much I know - that's no easy task.

Priority numero uno is bringing back the teams closest resemblance to beaker. Then they can deal with re-signing Spooner and Connolly. And then, finally, they can - and again, this is assuming Seidenberg goes bye-bye - look for a quality, veteran defenseman to slide-in under their $4.5-ish million left in salary cap. Joe Morrow and Zach Trotman will join the top-six, Kevan Miller is an ideal, cheap 7th d-man, and the only need they'll have to fill back there is a defensively-reliable veteran who can eat 15 to 18 possession-positive minutes a night. Those exist for under $4 million. (Please note, our very own Chris Abraham compiled a list of five dirt-cheap candidates who can fill the void. You can access his findings here.)

Does this off-season plan address their phantom need of finding a legitimate, 30-goal scoring threat? No. But to an optimistic mind, one has to assume Lucic's health won't be an early-season issue as it was last season, and that a healthy David Krejci won't be completely useless and serve to be more than a cap-hog.

Again, though, that's an optimistic perspective. They'd certainly be better off going with Bergeron-Spooner-Soderberg down-the-middle but that's pretty tough to make happen at this point, given Krejci's essentially immovable contract. Lucic would bring them a decent return, but every fanboy from Lewiston, Maine to Warwick, Rhode Island would have a heart attack and Sweeney probably isn't comfortable enough to deal with the ensuing public relations disaster.

We're most likely stuck with an off-season containing a handful of moves - nothing too major, at least as far as blockbusters are concerned. It's time for the kids from Providence to show they can hang in the NHL and the controversial holdovers from last season need to elevate their game back to what earned them their overpriced contracts in the first place. At this point, they don't even need to earn the money - just give us something close to it, really.

If a rough, unlucky, "jack-shit" season can land them with 96 points, then there's certainly hope that a slight restoration of health and good-bounces can find them back in the playoffs, maybe even playing into May.

Just get back into the god damn playoffs. Honestly.

Anything's possible at that point.