With free agency kicking off on July 1st, general manager Don Sweeney’s off-season shopping list is a short one. When it comes to what the team needs to find and the team needs to lose, I have four items on Sweeney’s list.
Sign their restricted free agents
Obviously, the most important thing on Sweeney’s radar is taking care of their own. Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen are the Bruins three key restricted free agents and are all due for nice raises after having their entry-level deals expire.
A few blogs ago I dove into this more in depth,
but once the Bruins sign these three, there won’t be much, if any, cap space.
According to Cap Friendly
the Bruins have nearly $13 million in cap space available. I project McAvoy and Carlo to come in around $10-$11 million combined, and Heinen coming in around $2 million.
With McAvoy, Carlo and Heinen taking up the remaining cap space, the Bruins will then need to turn to shedding some salary.
Somehow, rid yourself of David Backes
It’s not going to be easy, heck, it may even be ”impossible,”
but the Bruins need to find a way to move Backes and free up some cap space.
Set to make $6 million in each of the next two seasons, the Bruins simply cannot afford to have Backes on the roster producing as little as he has. Coming off a season where Backes finished with a career-low 20 points, I don’t see many knocking on the door to acquire Backes, even if the deal is as fruitful as the one that sent Patrick Marleau to Carolina from Toronto.
With a buyout of Backes not making much sense from a salary cap standpoint, stashing Backes in the minors may be the Bruins only hope.
Sending the veteran to Providence of the American Hockey League would require the Bruins to carry a cap hit of $4.92 million.
Trade an NHL ready defenseman
With Carlo and McAvoy set for raises, and the emergence of Connor Clifton during the end of the regular season and into the playoffs, the Bruins have a logjam of NHL ready defensemen as they enter the 2019-20 season.
As it stands, the Bruins carry eight NHL ready defensemen. That is of course assuming Carlo and McAvoy are resigned, and pending unrestricted free agent Steven Kampfer is not. That is also not counting Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon who all are expected to make roster pushes this season.
Needing to unload cap space, and clear the jam that is the Bruins blueline, it would be in their best interest to try and trade a defenseman.
With an expiring contract and a very team-friendly cap hit of $2.5 million, Kevan Miller seems to me the likely defenseman to be moved. But coming off a handful of injuries that caused the physical defenseman to miss the entire 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, teams may be a bit hesitant about trying to acquire the veteran.
Find top-six help
It’s been the Bruins biggest ask for two seasons now, but with their roster and available cap space, it’s hard to see the Bruins landing that key top-six winger they need.
They’ve been linked to names like Jason Zucker and Chris Kreider via trade, but once again, cap space becomes an issue.
It would greatly benefit the Bruins to find themselves a right winger to play on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, or even one that can play on the top line should the Bruins chose to balance things out and put David Pastrnak on the second line.
Unless Sweeney has some tricks up his sleeve, I think it’s going to be another rotation of internal candidates, battling for a top-six role.