By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn
The season is fast approaching, and the Boston Bruins have a salary cap issue. As of writing this, the Bruins are currently over the salary cap and will need to make at least one move in order to be cap compliant. As can be expected from this rabid fanbase, suggestions and demands have been swirling around social media from the armchair GMs about who should be traded and what returns should be acceptable in those deals. I’m here to discuss one problem that I’ve realized recently and what it says about the organization as a whole.
As the rumors began to swirl that Craig Smith could have been on his way out here at BNG, we had some internal discussions about the situation. We had a hard time coming to an agreement about Craig Smith, with some feeling that it was time to let him go, while others believe he could play a key role on the third line this season. I align with the latter opinion in that debate. I think the Bruins would benefit more from trading a defenseman (of which they have plenty) to clear a few million dollars than if they dealt Smith somewhere.
In those discussions, though, BNG Founder and CEO Mark Allred made a great point that alerted me to a possible issue the Bruins have. He pointed out that the Bruins’ management of Don Sweeney and Cam Neely could, in fact, be trying to move a defenseman but having no success. Well, how could that be the case? Here is the problem I think the Bruins have. They may have managed to sign three defensemen – Mike Reilly, Matt Grzelcyk, and Derek Forbort – to contracts that no other team wants to take on.
Of course, I have no way of knowing for certain if that is the case. It also could be the case that Sweeney and Neely simply do not want to entertain the idea of trading one of their three left-handed defensemen making $3 million or more even though they also have Jakub Zboril eager to win a spot and Hampus Lindholm ready to be one of the best defensemen in the league. It’s hard to believe that two guys employed by the Boston Bruins would be unable to properly assess this situation and see that they don’t need five left-handed defensemen.
So much has been said about Don Sweeney as a general manager. His draft strategy has been criticized, and his activity in terms of trading was targeted for a while, but one aspect of the job that hasn’t been spoken about enough, I think, is his ability to negotiate contracts. We discussed this in episode 294 of the BNG Podcast when we discussed Charlie Coyle. Coyle is currently making $5.25 million per year, which is not a ton of money, but for a third-line center, it is way too much.
I’m not saying the Bruins should trade Coyle. I really like him as a player. My point with that fact was to point out that Sweeney has made a habit of signing bad contracts. So, to address the title of this article, the problem the Bruins have right now is not that they need a better defenseman or that they don’t have enough depth. The problem the Bruins have is that they might be carrying as many as three players that no other team wants.
The reason that’s a problem is that here in Boston, we have aspirations of being a championship team. To be a championship team, you must have a roster of solid players. Carrying three guys who would have trouble getting a spot on one of the other 31 teams is not a good formula. To be fair, the players themselves are not necessarily the reason the Bruins might not be able to find a trade; the contracts that these players are signed to are equally responsible.
So now the Bruins’ management has a problem. If they want to win a Stanley Cup in the coming seasons before the retirements of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, they’ll need to figure out a way to move some money out of the team without hurting the team too much. Many people, including myself, also believe that the team needs some improvements on top of those transactions to be a contender. For now, though, the salary cap is the biggest problem the Bruins’ management has, and it’s a problem they created for themselves.