By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter @BlackAndGold277
The Boston Bruins have a salary cap issue looming over the team’s future, and B’s General Manager Don Sweeney and capologist (Assistant GM) Evan Gold certainly have their plates full this off-season. Heading into the 2023-24 National Hockey League season, their roster will be challenged by the NHL-mandated cap that currently sits at $82.5 million. Next season that cap number is projected to go up by another million, which doesn’t exactly help many NHL organizations that constantly spend near the cap ceiling.
The B’s currently have six forwards that are unrestricted free agents with futures uncertain until July 1st, 2023. Sweeney mentioned the upcoming roster as looking different at this weeks end of season Press conference held at TD Garden. Those words spoken and the limited amount of cap space means this Bruins team could see some pretty lean years starting this fall. This could be the start of a youth movement aggressively moving prospects and current veteran depth forward for NHL roster spots at cap-friendly numbers.
Major trades could happen to shake up this Boston organization’s roster for the better, but I honestly don’t see that happening with the B’s available draft selections for the next three years. Draft selections carry huge leverage when trying to acquire higher talent around the league, so I think the B’s look internally and maybe even dab with depth additions via the aforementioned free agency period.
However, the Bruins have some decent, talented players currently within the organization, such as forward Vinni Lettieri, whose strengths could be utilized to their advantage at a low cap number. Lettieri, a 28-year-old Minnesota native, was an essential part of the American Hockey League Providence Bruins last season. His versatility and offensive punch with the B’s top minor-pro affiliate might be a low-risk, high-reward re-signing when monetary restraints occur before the upcoming year.
Vinni Lettieri is a veteran forward who joined the Bruins organization on July 13th, 2022, the opening day of free agency last year. Before arriving in Boston, Lettieri played with the New York Rangers and Anaheim Ducks spending most of his pro playing time with their respected minor-pro affiliates. In 87 career NHL games, Lettieri has 7-11-18 numbers, but in the AHL, in 267 games posted 116-113-229 totals.
In his one season with Providence last year, the 5′-11″ 185-pound Lettieri appeared in 48 games, posting 23-26-49 numbers. Vinni was a valued asset to Providence Bruins Head Coach Ryan Mougenel’s power play sharing the top honors with fellow linemate Georgii Merkulov with 11 each. Both also tied for game-winners last year as two-thirds of a line.
Why Is Lettieri Important for the Bruins?
Lettieri’s value to the Bruins begins with his contribution to the Providence offense, which carries a leadership role playing alongside Merkulov on the left and Boston Bruins prospect Fabian Lysell on the right. His ability to generate scoring chances and create plays has been impressive to watch in a career year offensively as a pro hockey player.
Lettieri has the ability to play all three forward positions, making him a valuable asset to the Bruins organization, and we all know this team loves versatility. He is a speedy skater with a solid defensive game, two highly valued traits regardless if it’s the AHL or higher NHL.
Compared to other Bruins players, it is clear that Lettieri brings unique qualities to the organization and is constantly knocking at the door of a return to the NHL with consistency. His ability to contribute offensively and defensively, along with his versatility and fast skating, make Lettieri a well-rounded player. He could be one piece available if faces are changing for salary cap saving measures. These traits allow him to step up and play with elite players, making him a crucial component of the Bruins depth and break glass in case of an emergency scenario
The 2023-24 Salary Cap Constraint
The NHL salary cap is a crucial element for all teams. The salary cap is the maximum amount a team can spend on a player’s salary per season. Although extending Bruins forward David Pastrnak before the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline was a necessity, it set up extremely difficult challenges moving forward in an effort to keep the band back together.
Also, can’t forget the Bruins get a head start in this salary cap misery for the upcoming year because they have a 2023-24 “cap-able” $4.5 million in bonus penalties from last season. These “penalties” were attached to the one-year extension of forward and team captain Patrice Bergeron and the return of forward David Krejci, who spent a full season in his home country Czechia playing in front of his family.
Lettieri’s Contract Situation
During the 2022-23 season, the Boston Bruins signed Vinni Lettieri to a one-year, two-way contract worth $750,000. His AHL salary was $550,000, while his NHL AAV was $750K. While the Bruins can sign Lettieri to a new contract this offseason, they must evaluate the financial ramifications.
If the Bruins sign Lettieri to a new contract, they could add a valuable player to their short-term or long-term plans. Re-signing Lettieri makes sense, as it would provide the Bruins with a cost-effective and reliable forward. Moreover, Lettieri’s versatility could be vital in the 2023-24 season as the team seeks to overcome any salary constraints.
The Providence Bruins play their Atlantic Division rival Hartford Wolf Pack ten to 12 times a year, so the NHL Bruins were constantly pre-scouting this guy as an opponent for the past few seasons. Last season’s free agent signing of Lettieri also showed that the Bruins were considering him as an option if members up the depth chart fail to secure an NHL forward roster spot out of training camp. If he’s that highly regarded and works well with the youth, why not at least take a low-risk, high-reward chance and sign this guy for a two-year deal via the same terms now or go up to $825K per season?
I know height and weight are going to be a target of displeasure in retaining the services of a player like this, but if you haven’t had time to see him play live or on AHLTV, his career stats simply don’t do any justice. This isn’t an addition that’s going to cross the threshold of an upcoming Stanley Cup season, but he’s a depth asset and an offensive leader that comes on the cheap and looking to create more opportunities at knocking at the NHL door.