(Photo Credit: Bob DeChiara / USA Today Sports)

By: Michael DiGiorgio  |  Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio

The NHL is starting up its normal operations as we get closer to a renewed playoff start.  The NHL held their draft lottery this past week, which of course, had some fireworks, and it also announced the potential cap situation for the upcoming year.

A “flat salary cap” means the cap in which teams must keep their total salaried players under will not change year over year.  This creates a lot of headaches for organizations because historically, the cap tends to increase year over year.  General managers will forecast the players they can keep or let go based on the future cap numbers.  It is a “hard” cap, which means teams cannot exceed the amount and pay a luxury tax like Major League Baseball.

The salary cap is calculated based on a percentage of the league’s revenue from the previous season.  As the NHL’s revenue increases year over year, the salary cap will usually follow suit.  This suspended season has essentially been deemed incomplete; therefore, the NHL has decided to keep the salary cap a flat number year over year.

Boston Bruins General Manager, Don Sweeney, cannot be thrilled by the news considering he has a few key cogs who are playing in their final contract years.  The following NHL roster players require a new contract this offseason: Torey Krug (UFA), Kevin Miller (UFA), Zdeno Chara (UFA), Joakim Nordstrom (UFA), Anders Bjork (RFA), Jake DeBrusk (RFA), Karson Kuhlman (RFA), and Matt Grzelcyk (RFA).

Unrestricted free agents are allowed to meet and sign with any team in the NHL of their choosing, meaning there is a real risk they could be wearing a different uniform next season.  The Bruins will likely let Nordstrom and Miller walk in the offseason, ending their times as Boston Bruins.

Nordstrom has been a helpful piece of the Bruins’ fourth-line and penalty kill, however, the Bruins have more than enough players to fill his void.  Kevan Miller has unfortunately been plagued by the injury bug and has been on the Long-Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) since November 2019.  Retirement is a real possibility for Miller, and the Bruins probably will not offer him a new deal if he decides to keep playing.

Zdeno Chara is a 43-year old defenseman in a league that has become faster as the years’ progress.  He re-signed for another year in March 2019 for a $2M cap hit.  Depending on how the playoffs go this year, Chara could call it quits.  Though, it is also possible that he continues to defy the odds and play into his 44th year.  If he wants to extend his career, the Bruins would need to make some more hard decisions.

As it stands today, the Bruins have $19.5M in cap space with a flat cap of $81.5M, as seen above.  Torey Krug has reached the 50-point plateau since 2016 and is one point shy in this shortened season.  He has been the Bruins’ best first powerplay unit quarterback with his creative passing and incredible vision.  He can open up space, even with his 5’9 frame, and creates any type of scoring opportunity.

He anchors the second-line defense pairing with Brandon Carlo.  The two defensemen complement each other’s strengths quite well.  Carlo is an underrated defenseman who typically shuts down the opposition’s best and gives Krug the space to use his quick speed and vision.  Last year in the playoffs against the Carolina Hurricanes, Krug and Carlo (with the help of their offensive line) shut down the Canes’ best player in Sebastian Aho.

This next stat may surprise hockey fans: Torey Krug ranks sixth among NHL defenseman in points in the last five seasons.  He’s amassed 256 points in five seasons, sitting only 28 total points behind Nashville’s Roman Josi.  Some wouldn’t classify Krug has elite company and therefore wouldn’t predict he’ll command top dollar.  His statistics and gameplay would say otherwise.  If Sweeney were to allow Krug to seek other teams’ offers, he would command north of $7.5M per year.

Back in March, another Black N Gold Hockey writer gave his take on a Krug report that Krug is seeking about $8M per year.  This price point for Krug is about the general consensus starting point amongst NHL execs and players throughout the league.  Roman Josi, the player who sits above Krug in points over the past five years, signed an 8-year, $72.4M deal, which equates to a $9M per year cap hit.  Josi plays a much different game than Krug.  Josi has anchored the Predators’ top defensive pairing for the past five years and has averaged 25 minutes since his rookie year in 2011.  He currently leads his entire team in points with 65.  John Carlson (Washington Capitals defenseman) sits fourth in points in the last five years and carries an $8M cap hit per year.  Carlson currently has 75 points and is the front-runner for the Norris Trophy.

If the Bruins were to sign Krug to a fair market value deal, Krug would likely play for the Bruins for the next six to seven years for $8M per year.  Don Sweeney has been scarred signing players for longer than six years, and $8M might be too costly for Sweeney, given his other free agents.

If the Bruins adhere to his fair market value, the $8M per year cap hit will give the Bruins only $11.4M next year to sign the plethora of players whose contracts are ending.  Sweeney would once again have to work his magic and play with the roster to free up more cap space.  John Moore is the most likely starting point.  He has a $2.75M cap hit through the 2022-2023 season.  The Bruins would seek a mid-round draft choice for Moore to increase their cap space total to $14.2M.

Most fans in any sport hope their beloved hometown heroes take “team-friendly” deals.  This means the player will sign for less than what they’d command on the open market.  Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak all took team-friendly deals when their respective contracts were signed.  The three forwards are on the Bruins books for a combined $19.6M, which is basically the Bruins’ cap space next year.  Krug is on record saying he would be open to a team-friendly deal.

A team-friendly deal for the Bruins would be somewhere in the ballpark of 6 years and $7M per year.  Anything lower would be a bit disrespectful considering Krug already carries a $5.25M cap hit.  Trading Moore is still on the table and a likely scenario, regardless of the deal Krug signs.  With the emergence of Jeremy Lauzon and a few of their recent prospect signings, the Bruins could find a different home for restricted free agent, Matt Grzelcyk.

Restricted free agents are still under their teams’ control, but can be offer-sheeted elsewhere.  An offer sheet is a contract that a new team can offer a restricted free agent. If an offer sheet is signed by the player, the originating team has the option of matching that offer or receiving compensation from the team in the form of draft picks.  However, NHL executives have been reluctant to offer sheet other teams’ prospects in fear theirs will be targeted.  The Bruins could be open to finding a trade partner for Grzelcyk and allow another team first dibs at signing the RFA.  The move would enable Sweeney to turn his attention to fewer RFA’s and still keeping the roster competitive.

Don Sweeney has been awarded General Manager of the Year in the past for his incredible perseverance in leading the Bruins to consecutive successful years.  Sweeney will undoubtedly need to continue that work ethic and cap management to sign Krug and the rest of his impending free agents and keep the roster looking similar.  The Bruins do not need a massive shakeup in roster makeup; however, they can’t allow certain players to wear another team’s jersey.  Krug is the number one priority this offseason, and Bruins fans hope he’ll be a Bruin for life.

Check out the new Black N’ Gold Hockey Podcast episode 184 that we recorded below on 6-28-20! You can find our show on many worldwide platforms such as Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, iHeart Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, and Stitcher!

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