By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
With the NHL on pause due to the current COVID-19 pandemic that is essentially putting the entire world on hold, there have been a large number of questions regarding the future of the 2019-2020 regular-season as well as the subsequent postseason and how it may have an impact on the 2020-2021 campaign.
Today, April 17th, 2020, St. Louis Blues reporter Andy Strickland tweeted that the players of the league were informed on a call that the salary cap will remain the exact same for the upcoming season, flatlining at $81.5 million. Strickland went on to say that there were many ideas and scenarios presented to the players, including this one, and there are “several variables” that played a part in this decision.
Going back to earlier in the season, on March 4th, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly announced that the salary cap would increase from the current $81.5 million to anywhere from $84 million to $88.2 million. This, of course, was before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it created a sense of security for teams around the league who have numerous players with expiring contracts come July 1st. One of those teams that would have benefited greatly from a raise in salary cap? The Boston Bruins.
Below is the full list of Boston Bruins players that have expiring deals come July 1st, 2020 as per CapFriendly:
- F Anders Bjork – RFA
- F Jake DeBrusk – RFA
- F Joakim Nordstrom – UFA
- D Torey Krug – UFA
- D Zdeno Chara – UFA
- D Kevan Miller – UFA
- D Matt Grzelcyk – RFA
- G Jaroslav Halak – UFA
AHL Roster (Providence):
- F Brett Ritchie – RFA
- F Zach Senyshyn – RFA
- F Karson Kuhlman – RFA
- F Ryan Fitzgerald – UFA G6
- F Brendan Gaunce – RFA
- F Peter Cehlarik – RFA
- D Jakub Zboril – RFA
- D Wiley Sherman – RFA
- D Alex Petrovic – UFA
- G Daniel Vladar – RFA
- G Maxime Lagacé – UFA
For simplicity’s sake, in this article, we will only take a look at the eight players on the current Boston Bruins NHL roster and not the ones in the American Hockey League as the majority of them can be placed on a qualifying offer. According to @bruinscapspace on Twitter, the B’s will have roughly $20 million in available cap space to sign players this offseason.
Starting off, it is very likely the Bruins do not re-sign goaltender Jaroslav Halak. At 34-years-of-age, Halak is making $2.75 million, but with his impressive performances in both the 2018-19 and 2019-20 campaigns, Halak has proven that he deserves a pay raise, and he can very well be a solid starting goaltender for a franchise who’s looking for a more experienced netminder. With funds running dry and the potential for goalies such as Daniel Vladar to become the new backup goaltender behind Tuukka Rask, it makes the most sense to move on from Halak.
To add to my releases, I do not see the Bruins re-signing forward Joakim Nordstrom. The 28-year-old has been making $1 million for each of the past two seasons and has been a solid depth player for the B’s, but it’s a spot that can be replaced by a depth player from the Baby Bruins. His short tenure with the Black and Gold is valued and appreciated, but it is, unfortunately, time to move on.
This brings us to the two restricted free-agent forwards – Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork. DeBrusk has been a consistent 40-point scorer (he was only five points away from hitting 40 again this season) and last season in his sophomore campaign, scored 27 goals. Again, I look to @bruinscapspace on Twitter, who created a simple graphic on some comparable contracts for DeBrusk.
The comparables listed make it appear that DeBrusk could be looking at an average cap hit of somewhere around the $3.5 million number on likely a three or four-year contract. At a young age, DeBrusk has been a good top-six winger for the Bruins but has also faced times of inconsistency throughout his tenure. Those inconsistencies are what brings his salary cap number down. I have DeBrusk re-signing with the Bruins on a three-year, $3.5 million AAV contract.
Anders Bjork is the other RFA forward on the Bruins roster that will return. Bjork is finishing up his entry-level contract and has played 108 regular-season games for the B’s, scoring 14-20-34 numbers during that time. Bjork has 19 points in 58 games this year, meaning he won’t ask for a large salary. For a comparable, the Penguins re-signed Zach Aston-Reese when he was 24 (Bjork is 23) for $1 million AAV for two years. Aston-Reese had a 0.38 points-per-game average in 59 games, whereas Bjork has a 0.31 points-per-game average in 108 games played. I have Anders Bjork re-signing with the Bruins on a two-year, $1.25 million contract.
Now, the defencemen. With a doubt, the blueline of the Bruins has been the number one talking point in regards to the offseason with powerhouse defender Torey Krug and captain Zdeno Chara each on expiring deals as well as the young offensive Matt Grzelcyk and the injury-riddled Kevan Miller. With today’s news of the new salary cap, it appears to be unrealistic for all four to re-up their deals.
Earlier this month, General Manager Don Sweeney said that if the NHL season does resume this year, that defenceman Kevan Miller will likely not be healthy enough to return to the team. However, in an article by 985TheSportsHub.com writer, Ty Anderson, Sweeney said, “Our intentions are for Kevan to be 100 percent healthy so he can resume when we start the next season. We know Kevan is a UFA, so we will entertain the opportunity to bring Kevan back, and he will also entertain whether or not he wants to be back.”
Injuries have prevented Miller from playing in over a full calendar year, and for that reason, he is expendable in my eyes and I believe the Bruins will not re-sign him prior to the July 1st deadline.
At 26-years-old, Charlestown, Massachusetts native Matt Grzelcyk is the future of the Bruins defensive core and in my humble opinion, is a must re-sign. In 68 games this year, Grzelcyk has 4-17-21 numbers, a new career-high in goals, assists, and points. Grzelcyk, like Krug, is a 5-foot-9, left-handed defenceman who is primarily known for his puck handling and offensive capabilities. With room to improve as well, Grzelcyk is one of those players teams would love to have on their backend. I have the Bruins re-signing Matt Grzelcyk on a two-year, $2.5 million contract.
Zdeno Chara has been the captain of the Boston Bruins since the 2006-07 season and ever since, has been the backbone of the leadership core in every way possible, guiding the way for countless rookies on the roster to make their mark on the league. However, at 43-years-old, Father Time is going to catch up on Chara eventually. Retirement is very likely around the corner but I doubt it happens this offseason due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Zdeno still averaged 21:01 minutes on the ice this year, proving he is still capable, so I predict he re-joins the Bruins organization. The only way this happens is on a one-year, $1.5 million contract.
Finally, Torey Krug. Krug is the quarterback of the power-play and the driver of offense on the blueline. At 29-years-old, the Michigan native has 337 career points in 523 regular-season games and put up 9-40-49 totals in 61 games prior to the pause. With the signings above, the Bruins would have $11.25 remaining in available cap space. Krug has made it clear he would rather remain a Bruin and the message seems to be the same on the management side as well. The Bruins could re-sign Krug on a seven-year, $7 million contract, leaving just around $4 million in cap room to get depth players or even a backup goalie if they feel Vladar cannot take the role.
Before we conclude, it is fair to note that comparisons of other players league-wide are nearly impossible given the worldwide circumstances. Times are not the same whatsoever so these numbers can fluctuate entirely. In addition, the Bruins could pull off a trade if they so feel necessary to free up more cap space or pick up another piece heading into the upcoming season.
Things could be a lot worse for the Boston Bruins, but with the talent in Providence and the strong depth, it makes more players a bit more expendable. However, predictions like these are very difficult to predict and these upcoming months will be fascinating to follow.