Don Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney was always going to have his work cut out for him this offseason. The club has numerous key free agents in need of new contracts. Included are UFA D Torey Krug and RFA F Jake DeBrusk. The hope, as recently as March, was that the salary cap could climb to as high as $84.5 million. That won’t be the case anymore.
As part of the agreed to NHL/NHLPA ‘Return to Play’ deal and CBA extension, the NHL’s salary cap will remain flat at $81.5 million for the 2020-21 season. It could remain that way for the 2021-22 season as well. Perhaps even beyond depending on the league’s economic landscape.
A tough offseason is now tougher for Sweeney. There’s no panic in the GM, however.
“Obviously everyone was hopeful that things would continue on an upward trajectory, but no one could’ve expected a pandemic to hit a bit of a stall for us all,” Don Sweeney said via video conference on Sunday. “So we’ve had to run those simulations. We try to operate in a situation where we’re treating every player fairly from a compensation standpoint. We have some decisions to make, and we may have to make some hard ones.”
One decision already made was to re-sign veteran goaltender Jaroslav Halak. He inked a one-year deal in May to return for next season at a discounted rate.
In addition to Krug (UFA) and DeBrusk (RFA), the Bruins will need to make decisions on UFA’s Joakim Nordstrom, Zdeno Chara and Kevan Miller. Matt Grzelcyk and Anders Bjork will also need new deals as pending RFA’s.
“Ultimately I think we’ll have some. It’s case-by-case,” Sweeney said when asked about having contract negotiations during the playoffs. “I’m not going to be overly aggressive as we go through this training camp Phase 3 and get to Phase 4 and ultimately play in the playoffs, but if something makes sense, we will do it.
“Some players are very particular about the fact they don’t want to have those conversations until we’re done, and I respect that as well. So we’ll be in a position that we can have those conversations, but will I be aggressive? I think I’ll just touch base with each and every one of them, and that includes RFAs that want to know where they’re going to be when we start up next year.”