When Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk becomes a regular again on the Bruins’ blue line, the Bruins will have five left-shot defensemen. While the old mantra of ‘you can never have too many defensemen’ has been proven true time and time again in the playoffs, depth on either side of the blue line has never hurt on the NHL trade market either.
Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney recently touched on the variety of options the logjam on the left side of his blue line gives him. When asked last Monday if he thought that depth can give him a chance to make a cap space clearing move on the NHL Trade market or provide necessary depth when injuries occur, the Bruins GM was keeping an open mind:
“It could be all of the above, to be honest with you,” Sweeney replied. “Where we start right now without having those guys makes you feel like you need. You go through defensemen throughout the course of the season. You just have guys that can step in and play minutes in all different situations, which we currently have, and we’re better off when we do. Clearly, the decisions we made [Sunday] give us potentially more flexibility in really any way. Whether that’s moving guys around the roster or whether that’s to utilize cap space. They’re both really important, and again it’s not an easy conversation to have with players by any means. But it’s just the nature of some of the things that we have to deal with.”
Clearly the Boston Bruins were willing to part ways with left-shot defenseman Mike Reilly for salary cap space when they waived him – along with forwards Nick Foligno and Chris Wagner – last Sunday. Numerous NHL sources have confirmed to Boston Hockey Now that Reilly’s name was in NHL trade chatter before they waived him, but as evidenced by Reilly going unclaimed, too many teams are so cap-strapped and can’t afford the $3 million cap hit this season and next that Reilly has left on the three-year contract he signed prior to last season.
“They’ve been trying to move Reilly for a bit now,” one NHL source told Boston Hockey Now recently.
When defenseman Charlie McAvoy (who curiously was listed on the Bruins’ roster Friday despite being placed on injured reserve last Monday), and Brad Marchand (who was still on injured reserve Friday), are cleared to play and come off long-termed injury reserve, Sweeney will have no choice but to make a cap-clearing move on the NHL trade market. Whether that’s for Reilly or another defenseman or a forward (Craig Smith?), something will have to give to accommodate both players. The Bruins were $6.3 under the $82.5 million salary cap as of Friday night.
My BHN partner-in-crime, Joe Haggerty, thinks Brad Marchand will come back earlier than his American Thanksgiving target date, despite the Bruins winger walking that date back a bit this past week.
“Marchand’s going to get back earlier than that timetable, that’s just who he is,” Haggerty said on the premiere episode of the Boston Hockey Now Podcast this past week. “He’s going to get back as soon as he can and I think McAvoy will probably do the same thing.”
As Haggerty pointed out, none of the other 31 NHL general managers are going to do Sweeney any favors and he will likely have to throw in a prospect or draft pick to convince his fellow GM’s to take on a cap hit he needs to shed. Right now, the odds are that Reilly is that odd-man out but don’t forget, when McAvoy comes back, the Bruins will also have four right-shot defensemen as well.
It should be noted that in some recent chats with NHL scouts and management sources, some seem to wonder if right-shot defenseman Brandon Carlo who is in the second season of a six-year contract that carries a $4.1M AAV could eventually become trade bait in a bigger trade that isn’t necessarily just a salary cap dump?
“If Carlo doesn’t finally round into everything they’ve envisioned, In wouldn’t be surprised if Sweeney uses him for a big going for it move by the deadline,” one NHL scout opined to BHN recently.
Needless to say, Sweeney, with a plethora of defensemen to move on the NHL trade market, has options to clear cap space and improve his team.