Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney was one of the busiest NHL GM’s heading into the March 3 NHL trade deadline, and he will be once again heading into the 2023 NHL Draft, free agency and beyond.
“There’s big roster changes coming in Boston,” an NHL source opined to Boston Hockey Now this past Friday. “Obviously they’ve got the [Patrice] Bergeron and [David] Krejci decisions hanging over them right now but clearly it’s more than that. Look at all those UFA’s they have and look at what little cap space they have. Donny will have to make some trades he may not want to.”
Like so many NHL teams hamstrung by an NHL salary cap that won’t go up as much as once expected, Sweeney will have to wheel and deal to get under what is expected to be an $83.5-84 million salary cap for the 2023-24 NHL regular season. According to Puckpedia, the Boston Bruins currently have $3.1 million in salary cap space but once the season ends, that would become -$1.5 million in cap space. The Bruins do have eight players on their roster that can become unrestricted free agents on July 1, and three potential restricted free agents, so that will free up space, but that’s also potentially eight spots to fill on the roster.
Boston Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron ($2.5M AAV), fellow center David Krejci ($1M AAV), fellow forwards Nick Foligno ($3.8M AAV), Tyler Bertuzzi ($2.3M AAV), Tomas Nosek ($1.7M AAV), and defensemen Dmitry Orlov ($1.2M AAV), and Connor Clifton ($1.1M AAV), are eligible to hit the NHL free agent market on July 1. Forwards Trent Frederic ($1M AAV), Jakub Lauko ($764, 167) and goalie Jeremy Swayman are the three potential RFA’s.
*Providence Bruins goalie Brandon Bussi (22-5-4 with a 2.40 GAA and .924 save percentage), is also a restricted free agent.
“[Sweeney] is going to need to fill roster space, and unless he’s going to bring up more than he wants from Providence (AHL), he’s got to fill some roster spots there. His best bet is through trades. Unload some, take less back but you can still get some quality that way.”
NHL trade rumors have already started to percolate on likely 2023 Vezina Trophy winner Linus Ullmark. After the 29-year-old followed up a 40-6-1 (1.89 GAA, .938 save percentage) season with a at best, shaky 3-3, 3.33 GAA, .896 save percentage performance in the seven-game series loss to the Florida Panthers, NHL trade chatter sparked up almost immediately.
“Teams called on Ullmark last summer and I can tell you that they at least listened to trade offers on Ullmark because the team I was working for then was one of the teams calling on him,” an NHL source told Boston Hockey Now last Tuesday. “We figured why not try after he had a shaky playoff series and they had Swayman on the rise with his contract up this offseason. Ullmark is at a doable cap hit for most teams. I could see him moved this offseason.”
Of course, if the Kevin Weekes report that Ullmark was battling through a ‘debilitating and painful’ injury proves to be true (and despite what Ullmark or the team may say, numerous sources have confirmed it to be), then the NHL trade value of Ullmark, may go down. His 16-team no-trade clause doesn’t help either, but his name is suddenly out there because the Bruins are about to give
As for other Boston Bruins players that may, whether they want them to be or not, be on the NHL trade market soon, winger Taylor Hall (two years at $6M AAV), and defensemen Matt Grzelcyk (one year left at a $3.6M AAV), Derek Forbort (one year left at $3M), and Jakub Zboril (one year at $1.1M AAV), are common names being bantered about sonce the Bruins exited the Stanley Cup Playoffs a week ago.
“Someone you may not expect could really be gone,” the first aforementioned NHL source said.