Has Boston Bruins owner Jeremy Jacobs implemented an internal spending cap for Bruins President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney?
When asked recently and directly, if as a result of Jacobs’ financial losses and the economic climate right now, he and Neely had been given an internal cap on spending this offseason, Sweeney did not provide a yes or no answer.
“The decision from a hockey ops standpoint, obviously, Cam is in constant communication,” Sweeney said this past Saturday. “Charlie, we are all in constant communication as to how we are going to operate. There is so much unknown for what is ahead of us in the short term here. And also, the long term. We understand there is going to be a flat cap scenario. It’s not just a one and done here, it’s going to take a while for us to build this thing back up.”
Sweeney then pointed out that even if an internal cap had been put in place, it was his and Neely’s jobs to produce a winning roster regardless of any financial limitations. He then deferred any financial questions to Neely, Jeremy Jacobs, and his son Charlie.
“From a hockey ops standpoint, Mr. Jacobs is consistent that we’ve been put in place to make really effective decisions and put the best team we can possibly put on the ice, and he’s consistent with that,” Sweeney explained. “I can also guarantee he’ll be consistent in the fact that if we don’t put the quality product on the ice, he’ll find people that will. And that’s a part of them and I respect the hell out of that, to tell you the honest truth. But as far as the greater economic standpoint, I think only Cam, Charlie, Mr. Jacobs should really answer the question in terms of the global part of Delaware North and the Boston Bruins.”
Did Jeremy Jacobs Impose Internal Cap?
The Bruins were reportedly in on top UFA forward Taylor Hall before he signed a one-year contract worth $8 million with the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday night. How close were they? That has not been revealed and likely won’t be. What caught many off guards though and once again points to an internal cap being in place, is that according to Sweeney, the Bruins were not in the market for top free agent defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, and as of Saturday, they hadn’t even been in contact with the 2019 Stanley Cup champion. Pietrangelo signed a $61.6 million, seven-year deal with Vegas on Monday that carries an $8.8 million annual salary cap hit through 2027.
“I have not, full disclosure, in this case, I have not had a discussion with Pietrangelo’s camp,” Sweeney said Saturday after the Bruins signed forward Craig Smith. “We feel that our right side might not be the absolute best fit for our club. Very respectful for the player, an elite player in the National Hockey League. That’s not the discussion we’ve had. In regards to other players, we’re certainly engaging the interest on both sides of it and seeing what we can potentially fit in.”
Does one really believe a hockey mind like Sweeney’s, that earned him the 2019 GM of the Year Award, doesn’t think the former Blues captain would’ve been ‘the absolute best fit’ on the right side of a Bruins blue line that already has rising stars in Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo? Sweeney has constructed a playoff team in four of his five years as the Bruins’ General Manager, with the 2019 edition making it to Game 7 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final where he watched Pietrangelo dominate Bruins forwards and play a pivotal role in the Blues winning the Stanley Cup. Sweeney sounds more like his offseason wallet is limited as opposed to a GM that wouldn’t figure out a way to make a player like Pietrangelo fit into his lineup.
Are Delaware North Losses Trickling Down To Bruins
Bruins fans who are rapidly growing impatient with their team’s lack of significant activity in the free agent and trade markets may want to direct their anger at the pandemic and not Neely and Sweeney. As reported here on September 19, there was league-wide speculation that Jeremy Jacobs may impose an internal cap and it appears he’s done just that.
“Jacobs has taken a huge hit,” an industry source told BHN back on September 18. “They’ve tried hard to avoid as many layoffs as they can but it’s just been something they or any of us could ever imagine. I would definitely think this will trickle down to the money he allows Sweeney to ice a team next season.”
Delaware North had just laid off 14% of its local full-time jobs in Buffalo, and 4% of its national full-time workforce. Now comes the recent news that Jeremy Jacobs and Delaware North has agreed to sell its llinois casino and hotel property, Jumer’s Casino and Hotel in Rock Island, Ill., to Twin River Worldwide Holdings for $120 Million. The deal is expected to be completed by the second quarter of 2021. Delaware North said that this sale had been in the works since before the pandemic but they will take a $60 million loss as they purchased the property for $180 million back in 2011.
Realtor.com also recently reported that Jeremy Jacobs is also selling his palatial Manhattan residence for $11 million.
That speculation from the industry source last month wasn’t solely focused on Jacobs but across the league as the losses in ticket sales, concessions and other related businesses NHL owners hold were affected more and more. Fresh off a run to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, that’s exactly where the Western Conference champion Dallas Stars find themselves right now. Owner Tom Gagliardi, who like Jeremy Jacobs, also has holdings in the hospitality business, continues to be hit hard by the pandemic and also lost money thanks to sponsors and season ticket holder bailing due to NHL players supporting Black Lives Matters. According to Sean Shapiro of The Athletic, Gagliardi hasn’t officially imposed an internal cap but GM Jim Nill knows the purse strings are tightened.
Is This The Old Jeremy Jacobs Or The Pandemic?
Understandably so, longtime Bruins fans who remember the pre-lockout days when Jeremy Jacobs would never allow former Bruins GM’s Harry Sinden and then Mike O’Connell, to go out and pay for that final piece of the Stanley Cup puzzle, are beyond irate reading this. However, this isn’t exactly Déjà vu. The entire NHL is dealing with this and only a tentative date of January 1 for what’s expected to be a shortened 2021 season, no one knows what the future holds.
So as Sweeney referenced above, yes it’s on him and Neely to still find a way to keep the Stanley Cup window open for the veteran core. The problem though is that he apparently was unable to trade goalie Tuukka Rask and unload $7 million in cap and spending space he was seeking to replace his powerplay quarterback and highest-scoring defenseman Torey Krug. If Krug’s claim that the Bruins pulled the six-year, $39 million contract they offered him last year is true and that there was zero communication from Sweeney on a new offer, the read here isn’t necessarily that Sweeney didn’t want to bring Krug back but rather he knew, as the pandemic went on, that and other megadeals like Krug’s and Pietrangelo’s wouldn’t be possible for the Bruins.
Just after the Bruins were eliminated in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, both Sweeney and Neely were very open about their desire to add another piece to their top-six forward group. They’ve added Smith but Sweeney said Saturday they were still looking for more. That will only increase now as the Bruins announced late Tuesday afternoon that forward Brad Marchand (sports hernia) will be out at least until January 14 and forward David Pastrnak (hip, labral repair) will be out until at least February 16.
The question is though, with just over $11 million against a flattened $81.5 million cap and by all accounts, an internal spending account, can Sweeney prevent the Bruins from likely taking a step back on the ice?
Note: An email request for comments from Jeremy Jacobs or Charlie Jacobs or Neely on if there is an internal cap in place this offseason has yet to be returned.