Bruins Have Options to Clear Cap Space During 2022 Offseason

On June 23, Joe McDonald of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette reported that Patrice Bergeron was going to return to the Boston Bruins for the 2022-23 season on a one-year. While nothing if official yet, but Boston has only $2.3 million in cap space according to cap-friendly, so there is no doubt moves have to be made by general manager (GM) Don Sweeney to free up some cap space.

Not only freeing up cap space is needed for Bergeron, but also to make upgrades to the roster for the upcoming season. Additions are needed from outside the organization as running it back with basically the same roster would not be the move to make. It was announced earlier in June that Charlie McAvoy, Matt Grzelcyk, and Brad Marchand would be out until at least November recovering from offseason surgeries. Missing their leading scorer from the 2021-22 season along with their top defenseman in McAvoy, along with Grzelcyk is not an ideal way to try and survive the first two months of the season in the standings.

There are some ways that Sweeney can go to free up some cap space for the upcoming free agency frenzy in July and here are some options the GM can take.

Bruins Can Look to Trade a Left Shot Defensemen

Even without Grzelcyk to begin the season, the Bruins are loaded with left-shot defensemen on their depth chart. Mike Reilly, who also had offseason surgery and is expected to be ready for training camp, is an option that can be moved. After being acquired from the Ottawa Senators in April of 2021 at the trade deadline, Reilly was the offensive defenseman that the Black and Gold were missing with eight assists in 16 regular-season games.

Mike Reilly, Boston Bruins
Mike Reilly, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Reilly was brought back on a three-year, $9 million contract last offseason, but had a disappointing 2021-22 season. Not only did he struggle 5-on-5, but also killing penalties and was on the ice for some bad timing goals. He found himself on the outside looking in following the trade with the Anaheim Ducks for Hampus Lindholm, when Lindholm was healthy. With two years remaining on his contract, moving his annual cap hit of $3 million would open some space.

If Reilly is not moved, Derek Forbort could be an option, however, he became a valuable piece of the Bruins’ blue line in the second half of the season. He killed penalties, scarfing his body for 100 blocks last season. It was a struggle to start the season, but the more he got his feet under him, the better he became. Like Reilly, he signed a three-year, $9 million free-agent contract last offseason, but he has more value right now than Reilly.

Jakub Zboril, who was selected 13th overall in the 2015 Entry Draft, and signed a two-year extension in May following the Bruins’ elimination at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round of the playoffs, is someone that could be a surprise move if traded, but the thought here is that Bruins are going to give him a chance to make the team out of training camp. Before season-ending knee surgery in December of 2021, Zboril was playing well and making a case to get more playing time.

Bruins Can Look to Trade Some Forwards

There are some forwards on the current roster that could be options to be traded. The clear obvious one is Jake DeBrusk, whose trade request to the front office became public last November. Whether or not DeBrusk’s trade request is still on the table following the firing of former coach Bruce Cassidy remains to be seen. If he still wants out, his two-year, $8 million contract extension he signed in March is a moveable contact with a $4 million cap hit for 2022-23.

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

There was some thought that when DeBrusk signed his extension the day of the trade deadline that it would make it a lot easier to move the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Draft. After being moved up to the first line with Marchand and Bergeron in February, he finished the season with 25 goals, two shy of his career-high of 27 in 2018-19. There is no doubt that the talent is there to be a consistent 20-goal scorer and someday he’s bond to crack 30. He is the best forward trade chip Sweeney has to clear some space.

Another forward option would be Craig Smith who is entering the final year of a three-year, $9.3 million contract. The Bruins have not got the results that they had hoped in October of 2020 when they signed him to a contract. A 20-goal scorer in five of his nine seasons with the Nashville Predators, he has yet to crack that number in two years as mostly a top-six forward. This season, his struggles saw him moved to the third line when DeBrusk was bumped up to the first line. A change of scenery could do Smith some good as he enters a contract season and would allow the Bruins to open up $3.1 million.

Bruins Could Buy-Out Foligno

Sweeney has said that he has no intentions of buying any players out of their contracts this offseason, but there is a prime candidate if he chooses to do so. The first one of Nick Foligno, who is scheduled to earn $3.8 million this upcoming season in the second year of a two-year, $7.6 million contract. That is a lot of money on the books for someone who had the 2021-22 season that Foligno had.

Nick Foligno Boston Bruins
Nick Foligno, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In 64 regular-season games, he had two goals, 11 assists, and a plus/minus of minus-13. At the time of the signing, it looked like it was a smart move to bring in a veteran that has had the career Foligno has had, but things didn’t work out with the Bruins. Buying out Foligno, could free up $1.9 million in cap space this offseason and while that doesn’t sound like a lot, a couple of other moves mentioned above could add up to some much-needed cap space.

Related: 5 Bruins’ 2022 Offseason Predictions

If Bergeron does indeed return, then that points to the direction that the Bruins will go this offseason to build their 2022-23 roster. Running it back is an option, but not one that would get any better results than they got in 2021-22. There needs to be subtractions and additions to the current roster, but in order to make additions, they need to make some subtractions and even some notable ones. It’s almost time for the Bruins’ 2022-23 offseason to kick into high gear.

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