A month ago I said that acquiring a top pair or top four defenseman could mean that one of Marchand, Pastrnak, or Spooner would be moved - either in the trade, or as a cap casualty. Digging deeper, that hand could be forced even if there is no trade. Brad Marchand’s cap hit starts with a six, not a seven, which is huge considering how much leverage he had over the Bruins. Although one or two less years would have been optimal, making him an UFA at 35 instead of at 37. The lower AAV makes the Bruins cap situation more bearable, but still leaves the Bruins in a tough spot money wise if they plan on bringing everyone back.
One factor that I cannot effectively account for is the expansion draft, and who the Las Vegas Knights will select, but it could save the Bruins up to $2.75 million if McQuaid is selected, or $2.3 million if Jimmy Hayes is selected, assuming Don Sweeney sticks with the usual suspects to protect.
Looking at the Bruins changes in cap hits after the current season, Zdeno Chara’s is the only contract that has a reduced cap hit while he is still under contract, based on the Kovalchuk clause added to the CBA to prevent back diving mega-deals. Dennis Seidenberg’s buyout cost increases by one million based on the structure of his contract.
Looking just at signed players for the 2017-18 season, and using a salary cap that includes a modest 2% escalator, roughly the same as last year’s increase of 2.19% (each 1% increase would add $730k to the salary cap), here is what the Bruins need to sign to fill out their roster, pre expansion draft.
The estimated cost to fill those positions are just that: Estimates. I fully anticipate that some spots will be filled for cheaper than the listed cost. The deals for second line right wing (Pastrnak) and third line center (Spooner) or their replacements could go either way - cheaper bridge deals, or a higher cap hit buying more years, making those tough to forecast, and could depend on the money the Bruins have left, like the Reilly Smith and Torey Krug one year deals from the 2014-15 season. Here is the projected roster I used to fill in what was missing:
With a defense that will not change much for the better, hoping that a younger player like Carlo, Zboril, O’Gara, or Jeremy Lauzon will be able to step in and play top four minutes, and play them well is their only hope. Without sending money out the door, the Bruins will not have enough cap space to add another good defenseman, and could be hard pressed to re sign their current big name RFAs.
Something has to give, and luckily it won’t be Marchand.