Is the Bruins window as an Eastern Conference Superpower already coming to a close?
The Boston Bruins are 1-3 in this young season and for the first time in a while they may have more questions than answers.
The Bruins are finding out what the Pittsburgh Penguins found out, when it’s time to pay your players money runs out fast and tough decisions need to be made.
Looking into the future the Bruins will have some big contracts on the books with David Krejci at 7.25M, Tuukka Rask at 7.0M, Zdeno Chara at 6.9M, Patrice Bergeron at 6.5M, and Milan Lucic at 6.0M. Intermediate contracts such as Brad Marchand at 4.5M, Louis Eriksson at 4.25M, Dennis Seidenberg at 4.0M, and Chris Kelly at 3.0M all start to add up as well.
These contracts make up 71.6% of the current 69.0M salary cap. This doesn’t leave a lot of money left over to fill the other 14 roster spots. In fact it only leaves on average 1.4M per player to fill out the roster. No easy task.
Making Peter Chiarelli’s task all the more difficult is the fact that some of his bargain players will be looking for raises next year. He was able to sign with Reilly Smith and Torey Krug to one year sweetheart deals this year but next year they will be looking to cash in and increase their worth from the current 1.4M they are both making. Dougie Hamilton currently makes 894k and he will be getting a proper raise as well. Adam McQuaid and Mark Bartowski will also be UFA’s looking for more money. Four of the six regular Boston defenders will be looking for contract raises. Zdeno Chara is a steal at 6.9M but only if he is able to maintain the high level of play that he has performed at. He will be 38 by the time this season ends. Dennis Seidenberg is coming off a pretty bad knee injury and he has shown signs of slowing down already.
The Bruins cap situation has already cost them at least one quality player. The Bruins traded away Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders for draft picks. It does nothing to help the current on ice product and it is not something Peter Chiarelli wanted to do, but the cap situation forced his hand.
Jarome Iginla had a really nice year with the Bruins in 2013-14 but they could not find the money to keep him around.
At some point the Bruins will suffer from similar depth problems that Pittsburgh did if they keep all of their bigger contracts around. If they choose to sacrifice some of the top end guys for depth they will be hard pressed to replace production from the high end guys they part with. The Bruins are between a rock and a hard place.
What is the fallback plan when Zdeno Chara’s play regresses? Will the Bruins realize that 6.0M is way too much money for what Lucic brings to the table? Is 7.25M fair value for David Krejci?
While it is true the cap will continue to rise, will the rise in the cap ceiling be enough for the Bruins to construct the caliber of roster they have been accustomed to?
I’m not so sure it will be.
I think there is a good chance we have seen the apex of the Boston Bruins.
I suppose it is only a matter of time before trading players like Joe Thornton, Phil Kessel, and Tyler Seguin catches up to a franchise. It looks like that time is now.
This much is certain, the Eastern Conference is officially wide open.
Thanks for reading!
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