The Boston Bruins are in a similar predicament as the Columbus Blue Jackets are with Ryan Johansen. Two of the Bruins key players, 3rd line Center Reilly Smith and offensive defenseman Torey Krug, are Restricted Free Agents (RFAs).
Unlike the Blue Jackets’ situation, the Bruins are hard pressed for cap space. They currently sit approximately $800k over the salary cap that is set to kick in at the start of the season on October 8th. But they’ll get just over $4M in salary cap relief by placing injured forward Marc Savard on the Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR) opening week. This will open up $3.2M cap space to sign their two RFA stars. The Bruins also have a cap hit of $4.8M carried over from bonuses paid to players last season. Jarome Iginla is mainly the cause for this as he took a cheap contract (1 year, $1.8M) that was laced with more than $4.2M worth of bonuses that he was able to achieve.
Torey Krug came onto the scene during the 2013 playoffs when the Bruins made a run to the Stanley Cup Finals. He became a fan favorite quickly after being known as an offensive defenseman and scoring four goals in his first five playoff games against the New York Rangers. Injuries on the Bruins’ blue line cemented Krug as a top-four defenseman this past season and he shared the Bruins team lead in points by a defensemen with Zdeno Chara (40). Krug is likely looking at a 1-2 year contract in the $2-2.5M range. Compared to other offensive defensemen in the league, Krug is worth much higher than this, but will be a casualty of the Bruins cap situation. This contract would’ve likely been completed a long time ago if he was on any other team that wasn’t experiencing the cap issues the Bruins are dealing with.
Reilly Smith was acquired from Dallas in the Tyler Seguin blockbuster trade last summer. He put up 20 goals and 51 points centering the Bruins’ very strong 3rd line. He exceeded all expectations and was awarded the Bruins’ 7th player award as voted by the fans. Similar to Krug, Smith is looking towards a short term contract worth a few million dollars. He would also get more on the open market and from the Bruins if the circumstances were different.
Doing some simple math, both of these players won’t be able to fit under the cap. Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli will have to be creative in keeping his team under the salary cap. The most reasonable solution is to unload a current contract via trade likely for a prospect or draft pick, but this will be very hard to do even if the asking price is considerably lower than market value. As it is already the middle of September, most teams are already set on their roster and will plug the missing holes from within their respective organizations. If anyone was to be traded from the Bruins, it would likely be a depth defenseman, namely Adam McQuaid or Kevan Miller. Both have relatively cheap contracts (McQuaid 1 year, $1.6M, Miller 2 years, 800k) that are easier to unload.
A more realistic solution would be to bury a contract in the minors by sending McQuaid or Miller down to the Providence Bruins to free up some cap space. They would have to go through waivers meaning that the Bruins would have to take the chance of another team scooping them up for free, but at this point it is the most likely solution for the Bruins in order to sign their two RFAs.
UPDATE: The Bruins have resigned both Krug and Smith to cap-friendly identical 1 year, $1.4M contracts. This puts the Bruins about $400K below the salary cap. Chiarelli would like more cap space to work with this season so it is still likely a contract (still looking at McQuaid or Miller) will get moved either to another team or down to Providence. Full blog on the future of the Bruins coming tonight.