With winger Brad Marchand already back from offseason hip surgery earlier than expected and defenseman Charlie McAvoy seemingly not too far behind, the Boston Bruins are apparently ramping up their efforts to clear salary cap space on the NHL trade market.
“I’m hearing their name a lot more since Marchand returned last week,” one NHL executive told Boston Hockey Now Monday night. “They knew this was coming but I’m not sure even they knew it would be this fast with both guys coming back way sooner than expected.”
Well, according to the aforementioned NHL source, Mike Reilly ($3M AAV) and Craig Smith ($3.1M AAV), whom it was reported here were both on the NHL trade market leading into the season, are common names in NHL trade chatter over the last week again.
“I would be pretty surprised if both of them are still Bruins after the trade deadline,” the source opined. “I see it happening a lot sooner for at least one of those guys. Solid players with reasonable cap hits.”
Marchand and his $6.1M AAV went back on the books last Thursday when the Bruins activated him just hours before he scored two goals and added an assist in his first game back and a 5-1 Bruins win over the Detroit Red Wings. In that same game, center David Krejci suffered an upper-body injury and missed the Bruins’ 4-0 win over the Blue Jackets in Columbus on Friday. While Krejci did travel with the Bruins to Pittsburgh, where they will continue a four-game road trip Tuesday night (8 PM ET, ESPN, ESPN+), he was placed on injured reserve Monday before the team departed as Sweeney, like every NHL GM these days, continued the salary cap gymnastics. The Bruins also recalled forward Jakub Lauko and defenseman Mike Reilly from Providence (AHL).
Speaking of Mike Reilly, it was reported here just prior to training camp and a few weeks before the Boston Bruins waived him, along with forwards Nick Foligno and Chris Wagner on Oct. 9, that Reilly was a hot name on the NHL trade market. After Reilly, Foligno and Wagner cleared, Don Sweeney was asked by yours truly directly about Reilly and the surplus of left-shot defensemen he would have once the 29-year-old rearguard, returned to the NHL lineup. Could one of them be used as a trade chip to clear cap space for Marchand’s and McAvoy’s returns or is he viewing it has having the blue line depth so many teams can use later in the season and during the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
“It could be all of the above, to be honest with you. 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,” Sweeney replied at Media Day on Oct. 10. “Clearly, the decisions we made yesterday 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.
Putting the roster together when you’re teetering on guys that are ready to come back as opposed to guys that it’s an unknown, these guys are all ready to come back within a shorter period of time. They’re not out for the whole season, where some teams can plan accordingly in that regard. We’re fortunate in that regard because they’re good players.”
Per our friends at PuckPedia, as of Tuesday morning, the Bruins had $6.2 million in salary cap space, but with Charlie McAvoy and his $9.5 AAV closing in on a return, they will be $2.8 million over the cap. Hence the increasing NHL trade chatter around the Boston Bruins.