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Breaking Down the Bruins’ Cap Situation

When Don Sweeney traded for Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie, he was looking to better the team for the 2020 season. He was also saving cap space. By switching out David Backes and Danton Heinen for Ritchie and Kase, the Bruins saved a little more than $3.2 million in cap space heading into this offseason (whenever that may be).

And for good reason. Sweeney has a lot of work to do.

Not necessarily in a bad way. The Bruins have lots of good and very little bad on their books as of now. The bad is the $2.75 million owed to John Moore for each of the next 3 seasons to be a spare defenseman and the $1.5 million of David Backes’ dead money retained in the trade with Anaheim. The top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak are all locked for at least 2 more seasons at hilarious bargains. However the rest of the roster all need contracts, or needed a contract and signed an extension, either this year or next. Every single one of them.

2020 offseason expiring contracts: Torey Krug, Zdeno Chara, Charlie Coyle (signed), Matt Grzelcyk, Jake DeBrusk, Jaro Halak, Anders Bjork, Chris Wagner (signed), Joakim Nordstrom, Kevan Miller, Jeremy Lauzon (signed), Connor Clifton (signed), Karson Kuhlman.

2021 offseason expiring contracts: David Krejci, Tuukka Rask, Ondrej Kase, Nick Ritchie, Sean Kuraly, Brandon Carlo, Par Lindholm, Anton Blidh.

That’s the entire team except for 4 players, the top line, and Charlie McAvoy, who they’re going to want to give an 8 year extension during the 2021 offseason as soon as he’s eligible. 

Heading into the 2020 offseason, assuming the cap stays flat, the Bruins will have slightly more than $20 million in cap space to work with. That could increase if Sweeney is able to make a move to dump John Moore’s contract. The Torey Krug decision is going to take up most of that. Krug has repeatedly stated his desire to stay in Boston, and it’s hard to imagine the Bruins not wanting him back. In fact, I think the deadline moves to clear cap space had a direct correlation to the Bruins’ desire to resign Krug. It feels like something would have to really go wrong for Krug to walk, though it’s possible. 29 year old Jared Spurgeon just resigned in Minnesota for 7 years at a $7.6 million AAV. In the summer of 2018, John Carlson resigned in Washington for 8 years at a $8 million AAV. Taking those two as comparables, a realistic number for Krug is around $7.5 million, give or take. So can the Bruins offer him that?

DeBrusk, you’d have to think, would be the easiest to sign. A precedent was set for him by Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo this past summer, signing bridge deals at slightly less than their actual value. I’d put DeBrusk in the $3-3.5 million range. Grzelcyk is the tough one. He already got his 2 year bridge deal after the 2018 season, and is one year from free agency. This is his time to sign a long term deal, and I can’t imagine the Bruins not wanting to do it. Comparables are much tougher to find here. For one, there aren’t many players who are true “transition defensemen” like Grzelcyk in the league. Secondly, at 26, most defensemen worth signing long term have already been locked up. Grzelcyk, 26, made $1.4 on his last deal, so there should be a substantial pay raise from there. 24 year old Will Butcher signed a 3 year deal at a $3.73 million AAV, which isn’t a terrible player comp. Former Bruin Colin Miller signed a 4 year contract at $3.75 per year as a 25 year old, and 27 year old Calvin de Haan signed a 4 year deal worth $4.55 annually, though as a UFA. Taking these as comparables, I’d estimate that puts Grzelcyk at about $4-$4.5 million annually, maybe slightly less if he takes a discount. 

So with DeBrusk and Grzelcyk signed, that leaves the Bruins with ~$12-13 million in cap space to sign Krug, Chara, Bjork and a backup goalie. That seems doable. 

We’ll give Krug his $7.5, Chara the same $2 million plus bonuses that he made this season, Bjork $1.2 million, and Kuhlman $1 million. That gets the Bruins in under the cap with essentially the same team and just under $2 million to work with for a backup goalie, assuming Jaro Halak has priced himself out of Boston.

Long story short, they’re in a good spot. Much better than their Atlantic division competitors, the Leafs and Lightning, who are going to be killed by the flat cap. 

Looking ahead to 2021, Rask and Krejci are wild cards. They’ll be 34 and 35 respectively and it’s tough to predict at that age. Krejci has expressed the desire to continue playing, while Rask has said he would contemplate his future and that he wouldn’t completely rule out retirement. It’s impossible to envision either in a different uniform, but it seems more likely to happen with Krejci than Rask. Daniel Vladar, who could conceivably backup Rask next season, Kyle Keyser, and Jeremy Swayman are all good goaltending prospects, but expecting any of them to step into Rask’s shoes in just two years time seems like a stretch, so giving Rask his money and bringing him back would be the logical move. The Bruins will still be deep down the middle with Bergeron, who will be in the last year of his contract, Coyle, and Jack Studnicka who will likely make the jump to the NHL next season. Where will that leave Krejci? If he wants another $7 million dollar contract, it’s likely elsewhere. If he’ll take a cheaper deal, the Bruins would welcome him back if it works, but that’s a big if. Krejci has also expressed how much it would be to him to be a Bruin for life. It’s going to be time to give Brandon Carlo his big contract. They also have to decide if they want to commit long term to Kase and Ritchie, which could be pricey, as well as giving McAvoy his big contract that would kick in the following year.

With the season’s pause causing uncertainty around the cap, and it potentially staying flat for the next two seasons, time will tell if the Bruins will need shed cap space, but as of now, they’re in a really good spot for the future, and may even be able to add pieces instead of shedding pieces to get under the cap like rivals Toronto and Tampa.

Top Image of Bergeron, Marchand, and Krug: Kim Klement – USA Today

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