By: Mark Allred | Follow me on Twitter / X @BlackAndGold277
The Boston Bruins, one of the National Hockey League’s most storied franchises, are currently facing a familiar challenge – managing their salary cap. With restricted free agents Trent Frederic and Jeremy Swayman done with the arbitration periods and signed, per PuckPedia.com, the Bruins have 22 of 23 players locked up for the upcoming 2023-24 season and $417K in available salary cap space. One potential solution proposed via social media platforms is the demotion of defenseman Derek Forbort to their American Hockey League affiliate, the Providence Bruins.
In the NHL, each team operates under a salary cap, which limits the total amount a team can spend on player contracts. The Bruins, like many other teams, are often grappling with this limit, attempting to maximize their talent while staying within the confines of the league’s mandated cap. Other NHL teams have often had to get creative with their roster management, including trading high-value players, buying out contracts, and sometimes demoting players to their AHL affiliates.
Derek Forbort, a defenseman for the Bruins, has had mixed reviews regarding his performance in recent years since joining the Bruins organization in late July of 2021 as a free agent. With the new defensive addition of Kevin Shattenkirk via free agency this summer and his $1 million contract for the upcoming year, it feels Forbort may be on the outside looking in when it comes to training camp this fall. The 6′-4″ 220-pound Minnesota native is in his final year of a three-year contract with an average annual value of $3 million per season.
The Providence Bruins, the AHL affiliate of the Boston Bruins, serve as a secondary team where players can be sent to develop their skills or, in some cases, to save cap space. When a player is demoted to the AHL, a portion of their salary (depending on their contract terms) does not count towards the NHL team’s cap. This has been a tactic employed by various NHL teams when they find themselves in a tight salary cap situation. Most recently, former Bruins defenseman Mike Reilly and forward Chris Wagner have been salary cap casualties in an effort to get their NHL average-annual-value down to be salary cap compliant.
Demoting Forbort could have several impacts on the Bruins. Firstly, it could affect team dynamics, as Forbort is a well-established team member. However, from a financial perspective, this move could free up around $1.2 million in cap space, allowing the Bruins more flexibility in managing their NHL roster. Potential replacements for Forbort in the lineup would need to be considered, but with a deep pool of defensive talent, the Bruins may find a suitable replacement internally.
At Bruins training camp this fall, there will be a healthy amount of competition for Head Coach Jim Montgomery and staff to consider for locking in roster spots for the 2023-24 season. While defensemen Brandon Carlo, Matt Grzelcyk, Hampus Lindholm, and Charlie McAvoy seemingly locked their defensive positions for the upcoming season, there will be a battle for two spots, in my opinion. New defensive addition of Kevin Shattenkirk, 2015 first-round pick Jakub Zboril, and Forbort will all be the experienced blueliners getting looks in camp, but some prospects with cap-friendly salaries will also be in the mix trying as the youth try to rise for first-time NHL career games to start the 2023-24 season.
Names like Mason Lohrei and Ian Mitchell could be younger blueliners that push some Bruins veterans to work harder. Obviously, Lohrei has a higher ceiling for a defenseman with decent size and mobility and seems to be the most NHL-ready when talking about a younger work-in-progress blueliner. There will be others in camp looking to impress, like Ryan Mast, Michael Callahan, Alec Regula, Reilly Walsh, and Parker Wotherspoon will most likely participate but may also get cut, sending them down to Providence for the AHL Bruins training camp.
While demoting Forbort to the Providence Bruins could provide the Boston Bruins with some much-needed salary cap relief, it is ultimately one of many options the team may consider. Whether this move happens or remains speculative will likely depend on several factors, including Forbort’s performance in upcoming games, the development of other defensemen in the Bruins’ system, and the overall financial strategy of the Bruins management. Only time will tell if this becomes the next salary-cap-saving move for the Bruins.