This is a 30 part series analyzing the short and long term cap situations of each team in the NHL as we head into the 2015-16 season. The stats and information that I use in these articles is courtesy of Hockey Reference and War on Ice, and of course, NHLnumbers.
It’s been a roller coaster offseason in Boston. Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, and Dougie Hamilton were traded away, Carl Soderberg and Gregory Campbell left via free agency, and Matt Beleskey was signed to a five year contract. When it was all said and done, the Bruins look like a completely different team than the one they were last year, and on top of that, their cap outlook looks a lot less foggy. At this time last year, the Bruins were frequently mentioned as one of the team stuck deep in cap hell, but after a handful of pretty shocking moves this summer, they actually have a lot of flexibility moving forward. This summer, they’ll have to make decisions on Loui Eriksson and Torey Krug, among others, who are in need of new contracts at the end of the season. After a jump, I’ll break down the Bruins’ short and long term cap situation.
- Traded the UFA rights to Carl Soderberg to the Avalanche for a 2016 sixth-round pick.
- Traded Dougie Hamilton to the Flames for a first-round pick and two second-round picks in 2015.
- Signed Adam McQuaid to a four-year contract with a cap hit of $2.75 million.
- Traded Milan Lucic to the Kings for Martin Jones, Colin Miller, and a 2015 first-round pick.
- Traded a 2017 third-round pick to the Flyers for Zac Rinaldo.
- Traded Martin Jones to the Sharks for Sean Kuraly and a 2016 first-round pick.
- Traded Reilly Smith and Marc Savard’s contract to the Panthers for Jimmy Hayes.
- Signed Ryan Spooner to a two-year contract with a $0.950 million cap hit.
- Signed Matt Beleskey to a five-year contract with a $3.80 million cap hit.
- Signed Jimmy Hayes to a three-year contract with a $2.30 million cap hit.
- Signed Brett Connolly to a one-year, $1.05 million contract.
- Signed Matt Irwin to a one-year $0.800 million contract.
- IN: Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes, Zac Rinaldo, Matt Irwin.
- OUT: Milan Lucic, Reilly Smith, Marc Savard’s contract, Gregory Campbell, Dan Paille, Carl Soderberg, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartowski, Niklas Svedberg.
The Bruins’ forward group is going to look really different this year than it has in the past. This is largely because of the departure of Milan Lucic, who was traded to the Los Angeles Kings in the offseason. Letting go of Lucic is obviously difficult because he’s been a huge part of the team’s success over the past few seasons and he has a really unique, fan friendly skill set. There’s a reason that when teams take flyers on coke machines in the second and third rounds of the draft, the sentiment is that they could be the next Milan Lucic. I mean, when everybody is looking for the next version of you, you’re obviously a damn good player. That being said, this was the right move to make because Lucic’s production has been deteriorating over the past few seasons. He has just one year left on a contract with a $6 million cap hit, and had the Bruins signed him to an extension, they would have had themselves a boat anchor contract for years to come. Of course, it’s also really difficult to let a player like Lucic walk as a free agent, so the Bruins did a great job finding a middle ground in which they could escape Lucic’s declining game and upcoming contract extension, but still manage to get some value for him. Along with Lucic, the Bruins also allowed Greg Campbell, Dan Paille, and Carl Soderberg (they got a pick because they traded his UFA rights) walk out the door. They also traded Reilly Smith to the Panthers for Jimmy Hayes in a deal where they also managed to unload the final two years of Marc Savard’s contract. Their biggest move in free agency came when they signed Matt Beleskey to a five year deal with a $3.8 million cap hit.
All in all, the Bruins may not have a stronger group of forwards as they did last season, but their cap situation looks a lot nicer. Only three of their forwards are signed to long term deals, which gives them a lot of flexibility moving forward while also maintaining the stability of having a No. 1 and No. 2 centre penciled in for the next six years. They have Chris Kelly and his $3 million contract coming off the shelf at the end of the season, which will help them deal with new contracts for other expiring players and upgrades through free agency. In terms of forwards, the most interesting decision the Bruins will have to make this summer will be regarding Loui Eriksson, who’s set to become a UFA at the end of the season. Eriksson, who turns 31 next July, has been a pretty solid player in his two years with the Bruins, but he hasn’t come close to matching the production he had with the Stars before being traded to Boston as a part of the Tyler Seguin deal. Between 2009-12, he had three straight seasons with at least 70 points, but since joining the Bruins, he’s scored 37 and 47 point respectively. Despite that, his underlying numbers have been pretty impressive, as he boasts a 55.3 even strength Corsi For percentage in his Bruins career. My guess is that Don Sweeney will look to trade Eriksson if the Bruins are out of the playoff race come February. If they let him walk as a free agent for nothing, the Seguin deal goes from absolutely terrible to a complete catastrophe.
I said earlier that the Bruins did a really good job at pulling themselves out of cap hell, and that their short and long term financial situations look a lot better right now than they did at this point in time last year. With that being said, I still don’t want to make it seem like they’re a big winner for doing so. The big reason why everybody was stressing out over Boston’s cap situation was the fact Dougie Hamilton needed a new contract, and the Bruins were going to need to move a lot of junk around in order to get him locked in long term. It seemed that Boston’s top priority was going to be signing Hamilton, because having a top young defenceman locked up for the better part of the next decade would be a great way to start a retool. They managed to free up cap space, but for whatever reason, they went ahead and traded Hamilton to the Flames for a collection of draft picks. Apparently the Bruins gave him a substantial contract offer, but the two sides couldn’t make anything happen. I’m not sure what Sweeney considers a substantial offer to be, but Hamilton eventually signed a six year deal with a $5.75 million cap hit in Calgary. Like I said, I’m not really sure what happened with Hamilton and Boston, but from an outsider perspective, they lost a really good young defenceman for draft picks because they weren’t able to pay him what he wanted, but then another team signed him to what looks like a very reasonable deal.
Long story short, the Bruins handled their ugly cap situation nicely, and as a result, they certainly had the money to get this done, but they didn’t. To add insult to injury, they also decided to give Adam McQuaid a four year deal with a $2.75 million cap hit, which, again, is money that surely could have been spent on Hamilton. Throughout his career, McQuaid has consistently had a negative Corsi For percentage in relation to his teammates despite not being given ice time in overly defensive zone starts or difficult opposing competition. He also provides virtually nothing on the offensive side of the game, as he boasts just nine goals and 34 points in 283 career games in the NHL. Looking forward, the Bruins have Dennis Seidenberg and Zdeno Chara signed for another three years, and McQuaid for four, while Torey Krug and Zach Trotman need new RFA deals at the end of the season. I’m guessing that Krug is going to be the Bruins’ top priority this summer, but judging by the way things went this summer, it wouldn’t even surprise me if he was traded away for draft picks because he turned down a low ball offer.
There isn’t much to talk about here. The Bruins have a really good goalie in Tuukka Rask who, barring injury, is going to suit up in most of the Bruins’ games this season. They also have Malcolm Subban, who’s currently regarded as one of the top goalie prospects in the league. Rask is signed for six more seasons at a pretty fair $7 million cap hit. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen long term with the Bruins goaltending situation because goalies are so volatile. Subban could easily bust, like so many other goalies in the past with similar skills and pedigree have, but he could also reach his potential and become a star goalie in the NHL. That’s always a nice problem to have, because then the Bruins can use one of them as a trade chip in order to fill an organizational need in another position. If I had to make a bet, I would say that Rask is more than likely the goalie of the future in Boston, while Subban will eventually be dangled in a trade. Right now, though, since Rask is going to be playing just about every night for the Bruins this year, it’s safe to assume Subban will play the season AHL so he can actually get some playing time.
There are two different ways to look at Boston’s roller coaster offseason. On one hand, the team has pulled itself out of the mud quite a bit. At this time last year, they were pretty deep in cap hell, but now they actually have a pretty flexible financial situation right now and in the long run. They have the money to sign Torey Krug to an extension, and if they want to, they can also sign Loui Eriksson to a new contract. On the other hand, even though they opened up this cap room and things seem a little less foggy, they still couldn’t manage to sign arguably their most valuable player moving forward.
Like I said before, one of the biggest reasons people were worried about Boston’s cap situation last year was the impending contract status of Hamilton. The fear was that the Bruins had so much money tied up already, they wouldn’t be able to afford Hamilton without moving a core piece. They bit the bullet and moved a core piece in Lucic, which was a really good deal, but they didn’t manage to use the opened up space to sign Hamilton, which essentially negates how strong a move it was. I mean, losing Hamilton but having a nicer cap outlook is better than losing Hamilton and still having a terrible cap outlook, but it seems the Bruins could have signed Hamilton and still managed to sooth their financial situation. The money they’ll be paying McQuaid and Beleskey for the next four years together adds up to $6.55 million, which is just under a million dollars more per year than Hamilton is making in Calgary over that time. Would you rather have Dougie Hamilton, or Adam McQuaid or Matt Beleskey? That’s a pretty easy answer to me.