The Boston Bruins have 10 pending free-agents, and only $3.7 million in cap space to sign them. If all 10 free agents were to be signed, they would each have to carry an annual cap hit of $370,000 which is less than the league-wide minimum of $550,000. The most notable players that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has to sign are Reilly Smith, Jarome Iginla, Matt Bartkowski, and Torey Krug. Of those 4 players, 3 are restricted free agents, which means that if the Bruins are unable to sign them, they will (most likely) be given a Tender Qualifying Offer, which makes it so that any team that wants to sign them has to forfeit a draft pick(s) to the Bruins.
I believe that the cheapest player that I mentioned will be Matt Bartkowski. Bartkowski played 64 games this year, putting up 18 points. Those numbers might not be the most impressive, but Bartkowski was very good defensively, and I believe that in a few years he’ll be a solid #4 defenseman in the NHL. However, he was scratched several times during the regular season, and he was also a healthy scratch for 4 of Boston’s 12 games this postseason. Because of his current play, as well as his future projections, I believe that a good deal for Matt Bartkowski would be 2-3 years at $1.75-$2.25 million per year. Torey Krug had a phenomenal rookie season for the Bruins, posting 14 goals and 40 points, which are great numbers for anyone’s rookie year, especially a defenseman. Krug is one of the best up-and-coming defensemen in the league, and it’s a travesty that he wasn’t nominated for the Calder Trophy. In 5 years, the Bruins’ top defensive pairing will no longer be Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, but rather Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug. Krug’s potential is through the roof, and he’s already proven himself to be a capable defenseman at both sides of the ice, especially during this year’s playoffs, as Krug lead the team in scoring with 10 points in 12 games. Krug is only 23, and the Bruins are going to want to lock him up to a long term deal. If I were Peter Chiarelli, I’d offer him 5-years at $4 million per year. Reilly Smith plays on the Bruins’ top unit with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and was 4th on the team in goals with 20. Smith has great chemistry with his linemates, and he could fill the Bruins top-6 Right Wing slot for a long time to come, as he is only 23 years old. Smith was also 2nd on the team in postseason goals with 4. I believe that a good contract for Reilly Smith would be 3-years at $3 million per. The only Unrestricted Free Agent on my list of the Bruins’ top priorities is Jarome Iginla. Iginla nearly became a Bruin at last years trade deadline, but he instead ended up in Pittsburgh. Iginla signed a 1-year deal with the Bruins in the offseason, and he has fit in perfectly on a line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic. Iginla’s contract was filled with bonuses, which is one of the main reasons that the Bruins are so close to the cap ceiling. The Bruins desperately want Iginla to come back, but it won’t be cheap. Iginla is 36 years old, and his next contract will most likely be the last contract he signs in his career. Iginla could fetch a 4-year deal worth $5.5 million annually.
I’ve been throwing around a lot of money to sign these players, and the sum of all 4 contracts would cost Boston$14.3 million next year, which is $10.6 million more than they have. Chiarelli would have to trade too many valuable players to make that happen, so I believe that they would have to let Jarome Iginla walk, as he would want the most money, and he is going to begin declining within the next few seasons. Theoretically, that gives that $5.5 million more to work with, bringing the total of the 3 contracts (now only Bartkowski, Krug, and Smith) down to $8.75 million. Obviously, a trade needs to be made, but who should be moved? One candidate is Johnny Boychuk. Boychuk has been a solid shutdown defenseman for Boston ever since the 2010-2011 season, and he’s a steal at only $3.4 million a year, but he is made expendable with Bartkowski, Krug, and Hamilton coming up the defensive charts. If the Bruins dealt Boychuk, it would bring their cap space up to $7.2 million, which I believe would be enough to sign the 3 players. If you take off $500,000 from the 3 contracts, it gives Boston just enough money to get them all signed, and I believe that Chiarelli might even be able to convince Krug and Smith to take even more of a discount to stay in Boston and continue playing for a contender. The NHL Entry Draft is on Friday, June 27th, and I expect Boston to make some kind of trade during the opening round in order to free up cap space and keep their team mostly intact. Peter Chiarelli is a great GM, and I believe that he can get it done.