Could injured defensemen Kevan Miller and John Moore be temporary solutions that help the Boston Bruins finally sign restricted free agent defensemen Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo?
If Bruins general manager Don Sweeney fails to find a suitor for veteran forward David Backes and his two years, $6 million AAV, Sweeney could place Miller ($2.5 AAV) and Moore ($2.7 AAV) on long-term injury reserve to temporarily gain $5.2 million in cap space. Neither Miller or Moore are expected back until at least November. To avoid Carlo and McAvoy not being signed by the start of the 2019-20 season, Sweeney could buy some time putting the injured blueliners on LTIR, as soon as they’re eligible in September.
Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas was able to gain salary-cap space via acquiring another injured player (David Clarkson) who joined former Bruin Nathan Horton on long-term injury reserve and Dubas can now gain a total of $10.5 in cap space. . Even with Backes’ recent concussion history and offseason surgery, the ability to gain cap space through LTIR for Backes is currently unlikely. However, while Dubas has been creative, Sweeney has played it straight and it has gotten him nowhere in the cap pickle he finds himself in with just $7.2 million to spend and two future backbones of his blue line still unsigned.
Yes putting Moore and Miller on LTIR to start the season would only serve as temporary relief, but the moves would allow Sweeney to avoid what surely will be a distraction if Carlo and McAvoy aren’t signed by the time the puck drops on the new season. It’s also quite possible Sweeney could line up a trade for one of Miller or Moore once they’re healthy and at least shed some cap space permanently.
No one is arguing that moving Miller, even with just this season and a $2.5 million cap hit remaining, could be difficult given Miller’s injury-riddled past three seasons. The rugged, 31-year-old rearguard missed 43 games and all of the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs with a variety of injuries and has missed 81 regular season games over the past three seasons. However, it must be noted that Miller attempted to play through all those injuries and likely had to be held back by the team medical staff at times. That’s because Miller is one of the grittier players the Bruins have had on their roster since his first NHL season in 2013-14. Miller is the type of defenseman and leader any Stanley Cup contender needs and would be willing to take on as at least a rental and look past his previous injuries for the right price.
Moore, on the other hand, may be more difficult to move given his lackluster performance (61 GP, 4 goals, 9 assists) when he played during his first season in Boston and that he has four years remaining on his contract. That is, however, four years at just $2.7 million. If Moore could come back and establish himself as at least a serviceable fifth or sixth d-man, Sweeney may be able to tempt a contending GM.
Of course, there are other options that may have already presented themselves or could in the very near future, such as McAvoy taking a bridge one-year deal in the neighborhood of $5 million for the season. Sweeney could also make a major trade involving defenseman Torey Krug ($5.2 million AAV this season) who is entering his walk year or center David Krejci who has two seasons left at $7.2 million per.
If Sweeney wants to avoid going nuclear on the trade front and potentially close the narrow window his veteran core has at winning another Stanley Cup, then a temporary spell of cap relief via Miller and Moore could at least have McAvoy and Carlo in the fold come training camp or at the latest by the season opener in Dallas October 3rd.