There's a lot of talk out on the radio airwaves the last two days reference the Bruins and the Salary Cap. It was reported that the Bruins yesterday, would have $4.75 million charged against them for bonuses paid out to players from this past season tacked onto next season. Currently from the main squad, 17 players are under contract totaling $67.310 million, which includes $4.007 for Marc Savard and the $4.75 million in past year bonuses. The Bruins are seven roster spots short of a full team. Allowing for subtraction of Savard's salary to be picked up by insurance on the Long Term Injured Reserve, (LTIR); $63.303 spent on next season. The NHL has not as of yet announced what the new Cap will be, but it is estimated to be between $70 and $71 million. To be fair and optimistic, lets guess this number will be $70.400 million ( I think i'll be close within a $150 thousand +/-). That means the Bruins will come in with just under $8.1 million in available space.
Another noteworthy point would be that the Bruins under the cap to start a season the last 5 years have left $2.5-2.6 worth of space unused initially. What is not widely known or talked about is, any cap space left over from the previous season can be used to pay down the bonuses earned by players. I frankly, don't know how much if any cap space was still available when the season ended. For purposes or this article, I will assume nothing was left over. Teams have options to buy existing contracts of two team players since the New Collective Bargaining Agreement. That time limit will run out just before the start of this year's draft. Currently the Bruins have not bought out any contracts. A buyout is complicated by the idea that the player gets his contractual value from the team and can then become a free agent on July 1st, the start of free agency in the new year. However the contract against the cap does not disappear for the team. The remaining length of the contract is doubled and half the value of the total payout is distributed against the cap over those years. An example would be Chris Kelly who is under contract for the next 2 years for $6.0 million dollars. His current cap hit is $3.0 million per year. If bought out, he would count against the cap $3.0 million over 4 years or $750 thousand per year.
Next to consider are free agents, of which there are two types. Restricted Free Agents (RFA) and Unreistricted Free Agents (UFA). All free agents are still considered property until midnight going into July 1st to the previous season's team. At that time UFA's are free of all teams and available to negotiate new contracts with any team including their previous team. RFA's are free to negotiate with all teams as well and if signed to a contract by a new team, the previous team can match the offer and retain that player under the new contract terms or release the player to the new team and receive compensation in draft picks or make an arrangement to turn the negotiation into a trade for current roster or minor leaguer players. In the event that a RFA doesn't receive an offer from another team, their current team can offer a contract that they deem fair. In most cases, it's somewhere around 20-25% more than their previous contract. The RFA if he deems himself worthy of greater value can request an Arbitration hearing where a legal Majistrate determines the players value and then the player and the team have a choice to accept arbitration or walk away, leaving the player unsigned and unable to play for anyone else.
The Bruins from this years roster, have 5 UFA's and 4 RFA's. In addition to the Boston roster, the Bruins have 4 UFA's and 8 RFA's in Providence. Roster UFA's are Iginla, Thornton, Johnson, Meszaros and Potter. Roster RFA's include Krug, Bartkowski, Caron and Smith. We already know Thornton will not be returning, Iginla is in negotiations and Johnson is in the wings. I think it likely there will be no offer made to Meszaros or Potter. I feel they will offer contracts to 3 of the 4 RFA's, those being Krug, Bartkowski and Smith. If a contract is offered to Caron, it will likely be a minor league contract only. Down in Providence, I think it is unlikely that any of the 4 UFA's will be offered contracts. The two most notable of those are Nick Johnson and Chris Bourque. Of the 8 RFA's, I believe 6 maybe 7 will be offered contracts. Those six for certain are Niklas Svedberg, Matt Fraser, David Warsofsky, Craig Cunningham, Justin Florik and Zach Trotman. Maybe they offer a contract to Tommy Cross.
I'll start with the RFA's and say that Krug will be offered 50% more with bonus, Smith 50% more with bonus and Bartkowski 25% more. Krug will be offered $1.388 million per year over two years, Smith will be offered $1.35 million over 3 years and Bartkowski will be offered $813 thousand over two years. That's $3.541 million to the roster cap making the new cap $66.844 million. Let's add $2.5 million in reserve space $69.344 million. That leaves just over $2 million almost $2.1 to hit the cap and we are still 3 players short. We still have to fill Johnson's, Thornton's and Iginla's slots. I think we could re-sign Chad Johnson for $800 thousand per year for two years. That would be cheaper than Svedberg with a 20% raise over two years at $1.11 million. and Justin Florek could replace Thornton for a 20% raise at $828 thousand per year over two years. That's $1.628 million of the remaining $2.0 million. If we add Matt Fraser to the mix at a 25% raise over two years, that's $807 thousand per year. The team total built within the current roster would be $69.279 million, leaving $2.121 million under the cap. Definitely doable!
So what would the Bruins roster look like? Goalies: Rask and Johnson, Defense: Chara, Seidenberg, Boychuk, McQuaid, Hamilton, Krug, Miller and Bartkowski. 1st line: Lucic, Krejci and Eriksson, 2cd line Marchand, Bergeron and Smith, 3rd line: Kelly, Soderberg and Fraser, 4th line: Paille, Campbell and Florik. Not a bad team and certainly competitive. We haven't even discussed trades though and while I don't think the Bruins will sign any free agents in July, I do think we might try for some depth in trades and try to make a big splash come next March for a goal scorer and depth forward. Players I expect could be moved between now and March 2015 are Kelly, McQuaid and Bartkowski and from down in Providence; Spooner, Knight, Warsofsky and Svedberg. I don't expect all of them to move, but do believe some will move. I believe we could get a top three defenseman in the $4 million dollar range for Bartkowski McQuaid and Svedberg. I think we could get a 25-30 goal scoring right winger for Kelly, Spooner and Knight. Someone in the $2.5-$3.0 million range. The other thing I might add is this. It's not important that the Cap number be maintained throughout the year. What is important is the Cap number divided by 82 games. If the Cap were in fact $70.4 million divided by 82 games it equals $8,585,366. That's the allowable roster total available to the team on any game night. So if your roster has call-ups from the farm team due to injury, and the injured player is on the LTIR, his cap number doesn't effect the team. You can also adjust your roster to 21 or 22 players for the purpose of cap savings.
I hope this helps some people to understand how the cap works and free agency. I also hope that the doom and gloom sayers realize that we don't have to figure out which core players to part with. You can sign free agents and make trades, but roster size factors into it. Now having explained the system, I feel it's unlikely we can sign Iginla or any other high profile free agents. The best path to improving next years team will be through trade and step-ups from Providence. The Bruins can afford to wait until the new season to evaluate what they need to tweak with and make offers as the season progresses.
Until Next Time!