The NHL off-season is in full swing as teams around the league are maneuvering themselves into a position to compete for a Stanley Cup next season. With free agency still a week away, teams will now have to contend with a lower salary cap than expected.
The NHL and NHLPA announced the salary cap for the 2019-20 season will be $81.5 million. Originally teams believed the salary cap for next season would be $83 million. The announcement of a lower salary cap will make it tough for teams, like the Bruins, who have $12.8 million in salary cap space (per CapFriendly) to work with this off-season, to sign players that were essential to the teams run to the Stanley Cup Final. How does a lower salary cap affect the Bruins plans come the off-season?
The Bruins could be headed towards an active off-season as Pierre McGuire from NBC Sports believed they would be when he was on TSN 690 Radio in Montreal back on Thursday, June 13th. Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney echoed the same sentiment during his year end press conference back on Monday June 17th.
“We have some RFA stuff that we have to take care, and then I go from there,” said Sweeney. “I think we have areas that we would like to continue to address, whether that’s internally or externally, not just through free agency but through trades. We’re going to be active in trying to address those.”
Every dollar matters for a team like the Bruins who are so close to the salary cap, and with the cap falling $1.5 million short of expectations this means the Bruins will have some difficult decisions on their hands. As Sweeney reiterated the Bruins will focus on signing restricted free agents Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo this off-season. Both players are expected to get a significant raise on their next contract with the Bruins. What does this mean for a player like Torey Krug, who has one year left on his contract at $5.25 million, and has been linked to trade according to a source close to Boston Hockey Now.
In addition, Krug might not be the only player the Bruins would have to move to open up cap space. The Bruins are open to the option of trading RFA Danton Heinen according to a source close to Boston Hockey Now. Another key defensive free agent this off-season is Steven Kampfer, who was essential for the Bruins, especially in the playoffs when the team dealt with injuries on the backend. Kampfer came in and played his role to perfection. Kampfer will not demand as much as McAvoy or Carlo, but is expected to get a bump up.
After the Bruins locked up their RFAs, the focus will be on trying to re-sign Marcus Johansson. Johansson, who is a UFA this off-season, was vital to the Bruins run to the Stanley Cup Final as a depth player as he played well alongside Charlie Coyle, but in terms of dollars he could command, the free agent market has been set high. That was something Sweeney was asked about prior to the draft.
“I mean the UFA market is you just don’t know,” Sweeney told the media on Friday. “You think there is a couple and then all of sudden there is a fall off, or there is just a complete run. I think that there will be some trickle down. I wouldn’t be surprised if teams at looking strengthening their depth go after some players that are not even the headline guys. So it is very unpredictable.”
Another Bruin who could be coveted by other teams this off-season could be Noel Acciari. Even though Acciari played on the Bruins fourth line, he was a factor night in and night out. He could be fit for a team looking to add skill and depth in their bottom six. In order for the Bruins to keep him, they might have to pay him a little bit more just have depth on the roster.
Sweeney would point out again the Bruins remain focused on the RFA market.
“Where we are right now with an eye towards making sure we take care of our RFA market as well were probably tempering things on the UFA side things,” Sweeney told the media.
The Bruins will be not be as active as many people think, but instead the activity will be more internally than externally and focused on keeping their own players than signing players from other teams. Don’t expect the Bruins to be too active on the UFA market unless that player can fit inside a team friendly deal.
Keep your eyes posted on Boston Hockey Now with latest Bruins off-season news and notes.