As it stands now, the Boston Bruins are over the salary cap for the 2022-23 season after they signed Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Pavel Zacha to one-year contracts on Aug. 8. Bruins general manager (GM) Don Sweeney needs to get under the $82.5 million cap by opening night on Oct. 12 against the Washington Capitals and Sweeney needs to shed about $2.3 million.
Going into the offseason, Sweeney mentioned many times that the Bruins were a cap team, which meant that adding a big-name player from outside the organization was unlikely. The only two players they have currently added who were not on the 2021-22 roster are Zacha and he was added through a trade that sent Erik Haula to the New Jersey Devils and Krejci who inked his free agent contract for $1 million with incentives. In order to be cap compliant by Oct. 12, here are some ways the Sweeney can get to $82.5 million.
Trade a Left-Shot Defensemen
If there’s one spot that the Bruins and first-year coach Jim Montgomery have some depth heading into the season, it’s with their abundance of left-shot defensemen. Even with Matt Grzelcyk beginning the season recovering from offseason surgery, the Black and Gold could move one of their left-shot blue liners.
The first candidate is Mike Reilly who has two years remaining on his three-year contract that carries a $3 million cap hit. Another option on the left side is Derek Forbort, who like Reilly has two years remaining with a $3 million cap hit. Of the two, Reilly makes the most sense moving as he struggled big time last season and he is someone that teams could be interested in as a puck-moving offensive defenseman. Forbort, one of the more physical defensemen with Brandon Carlo, became a valuable piece of the penalty-killing unit in his first year in Boston.
Hampus Lindholm will play his first full season in Boston after being acquired at the trade deadline in March from the Anaheim Ducks to anchor the left side and 2015 first-round pick at No. 13 overall, Jakub Zboril, will get a chance to make the roster on the bottom pairing after signing a two-year extension in May. He had played well in 10 games early last season, but his season came to an end with a knee injury in December in a game against the Nashville Predators, which required surgery. Ahcan is undersized, but has been knocking on the door of an NHL spot and both are cheaper options than Reilly and Forbort
Sweeney Can Deal Another Forward
With Bergeron and Krejci back and Zacha in the fold for this season, Sweeney could trade another forward after trading Haula in July. Jake DeBrusk requested a trade last season, but rescinded it in July through his agent. While the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Draft would be an easy choice to move with his $4 million cap hit, another option to move is Craig Smith, which would free up $3.1 million and get the Bruins in cap compliance.
Things have not gone as well as the Bruins and Smith would have liked after he signed as a free agent in October of 2020. A five-time 20-goal scorer in nine seasons with the Predators, he has yet to hit the 20-goal plateau with the Black and Gold and has been one of the more streakier goal scorers Boston has had, despite him shooting the puck from anywhere. A sneaky trade option could be Charlie Coyle who carries a hefty $5.25 million cap hit for a third-line center, but he could be replaced by Zacha who can slide into the middle in a pinch. Maybe the Bruins and Sweeney can get lucky and someone takes Nick Foligno or Tomas Nosek off their hands in a deal. Easier said than done.
LTIR is Sweeney’s Most Likely Option
The simplest way for Sweeney and the Bruins to get cap compliant is by using Long Term Injury Reserve (LTIR) to begin the 2022-23 campaign. Grzelcyk, Brad Marchand, and Charlie McAvoy are all recovering from offseason surgeries, and putting one of them on LTIR eliminates their cap hits counting towards the cap. Sweeney recently said that all options are on the table.
“I hope we’ve done significant math to be able to put the pieces together. We have some challenges, as do several teams, and how we do that through trade or be it through waivers, that really all teams are going to have to face. We don’t have an issue certainly through November. We don’t have an issue because of [Long-Term Injured Reserve] and the likelihood that will be an LTI with the injuries we have, the amount of injuries we have. But coming out of it is the math challenge.”
Marchand and McAvoy are expected to be out until sometime in November at the earliest, while Grzelcyk has the earliest expected return timeframe. Marchand carries a $6.125 million cap hit and Grzelcyk has a $3.687 cap hit. McAvoy has the biggest cap hit, $9.5 million after signing his extension prior to the 2021-22 season. If LTIR is the route the Bruins choose, they will have to make some moves when any of those players they put on LTIR return, so eventually big decisions have to be made.
Sweeney Has Multiple Options
Trading a player at this point is not going to be easy for Sweeney, but there is no hurt in trying. LTIR is the best option if a trade can’t be made by the season opener to free up cap space. Whichever the Bruins choose is going to cause some tough decisions at some point, but they are decisions that have to be made.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.