(Photo Credit: Associated Press)
By Mike Cratty Twitter: @Mike_Cratty
For the past month or so, there has been no shortage of speculation surrounding the Boston Bruins. Whether it’s about there recent surge over the past 25+ games or trade rumors, the Bruins have sure been in the mill. But what about free agency? Staying put at the deadline may be a smart option if making a splash, to some degree, is in the cards. On the subject of free agency, the Bruins have plenty to work with internally, with $13,266,668 in cap space, as of now (refer to the second image).
(Source: @bruinscapspace on Twitter)
With their internal matters being the main priority, the next step would be to decide how to approach an interesting free-agent pool. There aren’t a ton of huge names in the free-agent market, but a few interesting names. These names stick out to me with the defense and not the forward department. There are names that I like in the forward free-agent pool, but I don’t see a screaming need to add to the forward core in free agency, or at the trade deadline. The Bruins have an absurd amount of capable depth forwards, many on the cusp of NHL readiness. Take Peter Cehlarik for example, or possibly Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson.
Ryan McDonagh has been the main name in trade rumors as of late. Despite the fact he has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury. We’ll have to wait and see if he is the guy, but regardless of where he goes, if anywhere, New York Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton is going to want a haul for him. He has good reason to. McDonagh is a top-pairing caliber defenseman on a pretty reasonable $4.7 million/year contract that is set to expire two summers from now.
Save trade assets including roster players, prospects, and draft picks and head into free agency instead? Control negotiations with your own players and approach the frenzy how you want to. That’s the decision Don Sweeney has to make in the next week.
Although the Bruins’ defensive core has been stellar this season, for the most part, bolstering to it within reason is a no-brainer.
Three players that stick out to me on defense in free agency are John Carlson, Calvin de Haan, and John Moore. When considering the free agency route, one needs to account for the current cap situation of the team going forward.
John Carlson’s name is the most tantalizing of the bunch. A player who has been the number one guy for the Washington Capitals for quite some time, Carlson would be a massive addition to the Bruins’ top-four defensive core. Some players would have to be let go, and maybe some contracts would need to be moved to make his contract work, but it’s not out of the realm of possibilities, although complicated. Currently is making $3,966,667 per year, he will be paid handsomely due to the progression of his game, likely in the $6-7.5 million range.
Here are some of the top defensive contracts in the NHL currently: http://www.spotrac.com/nhl/rankings/cap-hit/defenseman/ (Source: www.spotrac.com)
In my eyes, something like Kevin Shattenkirk’s $6,650,000 cap hit would be reasonable. Fairly similar production, outside of this season, similar age as well, both right-shot defensemen. Seems pretty reasonable to me. It’s no secret that free-agents need to be overpaid for a bit at times, especially when you’re on pace for a career year like John Carlson is. In the 2014-2015 season, Carlson finished with 55 points in 82 games, this year, in 58 games, he already has 45 points. If he keeps his pace up, he should break 55 points. Perfect timing for a big-time payday. Seeing him making more than a guy like Kevin Shattenkirk wouldn’t surprise me, approaching $7 million cap territory.
Calvin de Haan and John Moore fly under the radar more than a player of John Carlson’s status as one of the NHL’s better puck-moving defensemen. With the eye test, this is displayed due to their drastically different point outputs. But, all three defensemen possess the capability to move the puck effectively, with Carlson’s ability just leading to more offensive output than the others.
Starting with Calvin de Haan of the New York Islanders, who is set to make $3.3 million this season before he possibly hits the open market. At just 26-years-old, de Haan wields a strong defensive game with good skating ability and smarts. Unfortunately, a season which he could make a case for a nice free-agent payday has been cut short. Calvin de Haan has been out of the Islanders lineup since December 16 and will miss the rest of the season after shoulder surgery. Making his free agency case an interesting one without a huge sample size from a contract year. Before his injury, de Haan played in 33 games, tallying a goal and adding 11 assists, good for 12 points.
John Moore boasts a very similar defensive mold to Calvin de Haan, but with the New Jersey Devils. Keeping a pretty consistent point pace this season, John Moore adds a fresh face to the New Jersey’s defensive core. Currently, with seven goals, 10 assists and 17 points in 58 games, it’s reasonable to think he’ll want a raise in his next contract if he stays on this trajectory. Moore is set to make $1,666,667 before hitting free agency in the summer.
Calvin de Haan and John Moore could be second pairing guys with the Boston Bruins. Pushing Torey Krug for minutes on the left side, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Torey Krug could play on the third pairing with Matt Grzelcyk, Brandon Carlo, Adam McQuaid, or Kevan Miller and hold down top power play minutes. Their styles would fit well in a system implemented by Bruce Cassidy centering in on puck-movement, good skating, and good transition game.
Holding on to trade assets and using cap space instead could be beneficial for the Bruins long-term while holding on to important pieces in case of injury, or moves down the road. There could also be the case where one, multiple, or all of the free-agents mentioned sign elsewhere. What the Bruins decide to do at the trade deadline and beyond will be an intriguing storyline to follow in the future.