BOSTON – Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli knows that there might be choppy waters as the Boston front office navigates its way through some difficult salary cap decisions this summer. Those difficult moments began on Wednesday morning as the Bruins bid adieu to longtime Bruins defenseman/alternate captain Andrew Ference, and they will continue as Boston attempts to clear off space for a number of planned contract extensions.
The Bruins have $59 million in player salary committed to next season with the cap ceiling dropping to $63.4 million, but they do have the $4 million Marc Savard salary exception once he’s placed on long term injured reserve.
Chiarelli confirmed the CSNNE.com report from Tuesday that the Bruins won’t be using any compliance/amnesty buyouts this summer, and admitted they’ve got some work to do over the next few months.
“What does CapGeek[.com] say this morning?" Chiarelli asked. "I’ve got some work to do. [CapGeek is] right, and we’ve got some decisions to make in short order. We’re confident that whatever decisions we make, the team that we have at the end of the day will be a contending team that has a real good chance to win again. So we’ll find the right mix, but we do have some hard decision to make, including deciding on re-signing players and deciding on retaining players.”
The first order of business will be signing playoff warrior and heart-and-soul leader Patrice Bergeron to an eight-year contract extension that will pay No. 37 $6 million-plus dollars per season, ensuring that the center retires in a Bruins uniform. Expect the Bergeron contract to be something in the eight-year range for $48-52 million.
One source indicated to CSNNE.com that both sides have already made some headway in negotiations toward this contract, and it won’t take much to get it consummated now that the playoffs are over.
Next up will be Tuukka Rask, who is looking at Carey Price’s six-year, $39 million contract as a starting point for his deal that would be market rate for an All-Star level franchise goaltender. That will take up all of Boston’s available cap space, and then some.
That leaves Nathan Horton as a potential returnee at the right wing position alongside David Krejci and Milan Lucic, but he’s a restricted free agent that will command a five-to-six year deal for something between $5.5-6 million per year. The Bruins want to retain Horton, and Chiarelli told the power forward as much during his exit interview on Wednesday morning.
But that will force the Bruins general manager to execute some trades in order to clear up some salary cap space. So who could be on the move?
Chris Kelly ($3 million cap hit for the next three years), Rich Peverley ($3.25 million for the next two years) and Johnny Boychuk ($3.36 million for the next two seasons) would all be prime candidates to be moved, though there would be a lot of hesitation from Boston’s end about dealing either Kelly or Boychuk.
Kelly is a good third-line center coming off a down year, and his value on the trade market certainly wouldn’t be at its highest peak. Boychuk, on the other hand, was in real danger of being traded this summer heading into the playoffs, but led NHL defenseman with six goals scored during the postseason while also leading all players in blocked shots.
He is simply too valuable, too durable and too good of a playoff player to move for salary cap purposes.
But Chiarelli and the Bruins know this is the way of the world under the new CBA: The $2.5-4 million middle class NHL player is quickly being phased out of the league as roster-building is moving toward using more players at both extremes of the salary cap pay scale.