The Boston Bruins will likely need to trade a defenseman when blueliners Kevan Miller and John Moore come off injured reserve. Their eventual return will give the Bruins nine healthy defensemen on their roster. According to numerous NHL sources, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is already working the phones ahead of an even worse salary cap crunch than he already finds his team in.
With Moore (shoulder) currently on long-term injured reserve, the Bruins currently have $1.2 in cap space. Miller (knee) has been skating in the past week and is believed to be closing in on an early November return. Moore’s timetable is more uncertain but even with just Miller returning soon, it’s very unlikely the Bruins will carry eight defensemen on their NHL roster. That means that Sweeney will either choose to send a defenseman down to the Providence Bruins (AHL) or make a trade. That decision will largely depend on when Miller returns.
Right now the two likely blue line candidates to be sent down to Providence would be either 31-year-old Steven Kampfer or 24-year-old Connor Clifton. The problem with Clifton though is that he will require clearing waivers after 15 games played this season or after the team’s game at Montreal on November 26. Heading into the Bruins Stanley Cup Final rematch with the St. Louis Blues Saturday, Clifton is at the eight-game mark. If he were to play in the next seven games, he would have to clear waivers from November 9 on.
So what happens if Miller comes back after that date? That’s when things will get really tricky for the Bruins. There has been a common belief amongst fans and some media that Sweeney can simply move Miller and his $2.7 million cap hit for this season when he returns, but what team is going to want an oft-injured and physical defenseman just off injured reserve? Others will say that Moore will be the odd man out when he comes back but if you’re an NHL GM, do you really want a likely third-pairing defenseman just off a longterm injury that has three years left on his contract with an annual cap hit of $2.7 million?
No one is saying that Miller and/or Moore are untradable, but there is a very real chance Sweeney may have to make room by trading a player he doesn’t necessarily want to move. With that being said, despite the fact the two sides have had some talks on an extension, one name that is sure to come up will be star defenseman Torey Krug. Krug is set to become an unrestricted free agent next July 1 and while the feel here is that with the Bruins clearly all in for another shot at the Stanley Cup, they will either sign Krug or let him walk to win the championship that eluded them last June, the Krug trade speculation will return if Sweeney can’t find a suitor for Miller or Moore. Krug could actually net the Bruins that top six right winger they’ve coveted them for so long, so his name is sure to resurface on the trade rumor circuit soon.
While who Sweeney may trade remains a question mark, there are at least a handful of teams that could definitely use some blue line depth and many of them, have had scouts attending at least one of the Bruins’ first four home games. The Winnipeg Jets have been ravaged by injuries on the blue line and the potential retirement of top defenseman Dustin Byfuglien. Could they be interested in replacing some of Byfuglien’s grit and physicality with the rugged Miller?
The Dallas Stars, Edmonton Oilers, Florida Panthers, and Los Angeles Kings are all rumored to be looking for blue line help as well. Could the latter want to bring the L.A. native Miller back home to add some veteran leadership to a rebuilding team?
Whatever route Sweeney decides to take over the next month, one thing is for sure, the Bruins’ blue line will not look the same as it does Saturday night when they play the defending Stanley Cup champions.