Shifting Gears: What The Summer Could Look Like For Don Sweeney
Although the sting of Game 7 is still very much fresh in the minds of both fans and the Boston Bruins, the focus must begin to shift. For GM Don Sweeney and his front office staff, the work begins Saturday. The first buyout window opens Saturday, and the Bruins have a prime candidate in David Backes. Shortly after that, seven days from now, all 31 NHL teams will be in Vancouver for the annual NHL Entry Draft. There is no time for Sweeney and company to lament Wednesday night’s Cup Final loss.
The focus must immediately shift, and the Bruins must begin to put a plan in place to try and return to the Final next June. This offseason provides the Bruins with challenges that will be tricky, most on the contract negotiation front. There will be much written in the coming days and weeks about what should be done to this roster, but for now, a quick look ahead should set the stage.
The Buyout Window
The first buyout window of the NHL offseason opens Saturday, June 15. That’s three days after the Stanley Cup Final concludes. According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, in conversation with Edmonton’s TSN 1260, “There’s going to be a lot of buyouts.” The Bruins very well could be in the mix here.
David Backes provided the club with leadership and was a pivotal mentor to young players this season. Even when he wasn’t in the lineup, Backes guided the players on this Bruin team and was mentioned as a strong presence in the locker room. Even with that, his $6,000,000 cap hit through the 2020-21 season is too much.
According to Cap Friendly, a buyout of Backes would save the Bruins just $333,333 in 2019-20. The real savings comings in 2020-21, when the Bruins would get $2,333,333 of cap relief. They’d be saddled with a $666,667 penalty in both 2021-22 and 2022-23.
The minimal savings in 2019-20 begs the questions, is a Backes buyout worth it for Don Sweeney? It hardly looks like it from here. Boston finding Backes a spot on the third or fourth line would be a better option. There is also the possibility the club sends Backes to Providence (he would have to clear waivers). That too is a better option from a cap perspective, as is eating some salary to trade the veteran.
The Bruins hold picks in the first, third, fifth and sixth rounds of the draft, with a seventh rounder via the New York Rangers also in their possession. A deeper dive into this year’s draft will be required before next Friday night, but the club should be positioned to grab a decent prospect at 30th overall.
There will also be an opportunity for a trade. The draft has become an even bigger trade day than the trade deadline, and there is already a ton of smoke surrounding this years event. For a Bruins team that must create cap space before July 1, there will be options.
The club could look to move the final four years ($2,750,000 AAV) of John Moore’s contract. Moore won’t garner a huge return, but he could fetch the Bruins a mid-round pick and nearly $3,000,000 in cap space. That cap space alone will be valuable. Torey Krug, who has one year left at $5,250,000, could also go.
Krug was nearly dealt to Edmonton last June in a deal that would have sent Oscar Klefbom to Boston, among other pieces on both ends. Krug had a terrific playoffs and is a perfect candidate to be sold high. Boston’s defensive depth and strong prospect system allows for this possibility.
Also in the category of selling high is David Krejci. He’s important as Boston’s second line center, but his $7,250,000 cap hit is prohibitive.
A year ago, the Bruins were heavily involved in the John Tavares sweepstakes. Odds are, they won’t be in on an impact player in the UFA market this time around. The Bruins must re-sign RFA’s Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo, which will chew up most of their remaining cap space. Boston also needs to decide on UFA forward Marcus Johansson, who fit perfectly with the club after the deadline.
Danton Heinen, Steven Kampfer, and Noel Acciari will also need new contracts if they are to return next season.
Boston could be in the market for depth pieces, perhaps a winger to replace Johansson and a seventh defender should Kampfer leave in two weeks. Other than that, the contract work for Don Sweeney will focus on his own men this summer.