This past season the Boston Bruins were the lowest scoring team in the NHL with just 196 goals for (the only team not to reach 200 goals) or about 2.34 goals per game and in the playoffs they were only slightly better scoring at a 2.58 goals per game pace. So the question that needs to be answered is how will they go about improving their offensive output? To answer that, lets start off by looking at their salary cap situation. The Bruins have the following players under contract:
- Forwards: Bergeron, Savard, Lucic, Ryder, Krejci, Sturm, Thornton
- Defesnse: Chara, Wideman, Ference, Hunwick, Seidenberg
- Goalies: Thomas, Rask
Total salary cap hit for those 14 players is approximately $50.5M including todays signing of Dennis Seidenberg at $3.5M a season for 4 years. The best case scenario is that the salary cap rises about $2M so let’s assume the salary cap gets set at $58.5M. That leaves $8M for 5-6 forwards and a couple defensemen.
The Bruins key restricted free agents include forwards Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille, Vladimir Sobotka along with defenseman Mark Stuart. On the unrestricted free agent front there is Mark Recchi, Miroslav Satan, Steve Begin, and Johnny Boychuk.
The Bruins could probably get Wheeler, Paille and Sabotka signed for $4M combined and there may be interest in bringing Recchi (who scored 18g, 43pts) back on a cheap contract and I expect they will try to sign one of Stuart or Boychuk for under $1.5M if possible but they will barely have $2M in salary cap room remaining and they have only rebuilt last year’s team. They might like to bring Satan back who had an decent season since being signed (9g in 38 games) and an excellent playoff (5g, 10pts and team best +4) but his good play may have improved his market value beyond what the Bruins might be able to pay.
The Bruins do have the second overall pick which will likely be Tyler Seguin (assuming the Oilers take Taylor Hall) and I am sure they envision him being in their lineup next season to help their woeful offense. The thing is, the cap hit, including bonuses, for Seguin will total approximately $3.75M and with the CBA ending after the 2010-11 season (unless the players choose to extend it for one additional season) there will be no bonus cushion so the full $3.75M will count against the cap, regardless of whether he is able to reach those bonuses or not. There will be no carryover option. The end result is the Bruins will have some real tough choices to make this off season. Here are some options:
- Don’t sign Seguin and let him play another year of junior. This is an extremely unlikely scenario since the Bruins desperately need Seguin’s offense and they wouldn’t want to give Seguin a bad view of the organization.
- Trade a high priced player. There probably isn’t much of a market for Ryder or Sturm with their salaries unless the Bruins are willing to include their own first round pick or a top prospect. There would be a market for Lucic or Krejci but those guys, particularly Lucic, would be very difficult for the Bruins to part with. I am sure they would love to trade Tim Thomas but the success of cheap goalies this playoff season the market for older goalies with big contracts like Thomas is probably as low as it has ever been if it exists at all. Thomas is still likely a capable goalie It is tough to imagine anyone wanting him at his salary though we should never underestimate an NHL GM’s ability to make stupid moves. I don’t see them moving core players like Savard, Bergeron, Chara or Wideman so simply trading away a big contract is an unlikely scenario.
- Buy out the contracts of Michael Ryder and/or Marco Sturm. Buying out Ryders contract would save them $2.66M in cap space and buying out Sturm would save them $2.33M in cap space. Either or both are highly possible scenarios but they would lose Sturm’s 22 goals and Ryder’s 18 so it wouldn’t do anything to improve their offense.
Under any of the above scenarios it is difficult to believe that the Bruins offense will be significantly improved through player movement. For the Bruins to improve their offense it will come down to keeping both Bergeron and Savard healthy and having guys like Krejci, Wheeler and Lucic improve their player closer to their 2008-09 levels. That said, the Bruins will likely be a team relying on great defense and goaltending once again in 2010-11.