State Of The Boston Bruins Following Johnny Boychuk Trade

The writing has been on the wall for months now. The Bruins had too many defensemen on their roster. The only question was which of Boston’s defensemen would be traded. The answer to that question would undoubtedly be followed by another question, “Did they make the right decision?”

The first shoe to drop was the re-signings of Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. This elevated the Bruins’ team salary further over the salary cap, creating financial motivation for a deal. Add that motivation to the surplus of defensemen and the result is the trade of Johnny Boychuk.

The Bruins traded Boychuk to the New York Islanders in exchange for a 2015 2nd round pick, a 2016 2nd round pick (via NYI), and a conditional 3rd round pick in 2015 (if the Islanders trade Boychuk to another Eastern Conference team).

Boychuk was a fan favorite, known for his booming slapshot and lethal body checks, leading to a lot of public outrage over the deal.

As painful as it may be to hear this, Peter Chiarelli made the right decision.

Prior to the trade, the Bruins were approximately $3.6 million over the Salary Cap Ceiling, with Krug and Smith back in the fold. To accommodate that roster, the Bruins would have had to put Marc Savard on Long Term Injured Reserve (LTIR).

While this was possible, it would remove all of the team’s financial flexibility going forward. For a team with questions about their goal scoring, the ability to make a mid-season trade (or trades) could be vital to their Stanley Cup aspirations. The only trade option the team would have would be to send roster players out to create the cap space necessary to accommodate newly acquired players.

Instant Impact

Boston Bruins Johnny Boychuk Trade Matt Bartkowski

The biggest concern will be replacing Johnny Boychuk. As it stands now, either Torey Krug or Matt Bartkowski will be called upon to join Boston’s top four. Based on their defensive struggles, this is potentially a cause for concern.

Whether Claude Julien tabs Bartkowski or Krug as Boychuk’s replacement, they will be paired with Dennis Seidenberg on the second unit. Seidenberg, who missed the second half of last season and all of the postseason, is well-known for his work in the defensive zone. Seidenberg’s defensive ability will cover up for some of his partner’s inexperience, just as his partner’s offensive ability will allow Seidenberg to play his game and not try to force offense.

This trade also allows the Bruins to retain Kevan Miller as the 7th defenseman, a luxury that could prove crucial as the season goes along. Last season, when Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid were injured, the Bruins were forced to trade for Andrej Meszaros because they did not have enough depth on the backend. Maintaining this depth (David Warsofsky cleared waivers and will remain in Providence) will allow the Bruins to focus on other needs at the trade deadline.

Alternate Options

The Bruins had a number of players that they could have moved instead of Johnny Boychuk.

On the defensive end, they could have realistically moved a number of players. The primary candidates in this group were Matt Bartkowski, Adam McQuaid, and David Warsofsky. Each of these players had a smaller role on the Bruins than Boychuk, making their loss easier to absorb. That said, these three players make less (combined) than Johnny Boychuk. That doesn’t even factor in that the Bruins would have to look further down the line for a 7th defenseman, if and when the need arose.

The Bruins had the opportunity to use an Compliance Buyout (or Amnesty Buyout) this summer, allowing them to terminate the contract of a player without salary cap ramifications. The primary candidate for this would have been Chris Kelly, who is making $3 million per year for the next two seasons. While this would have cleared a similar amount of cap space, the Bruins do not have the depth upfront that they do on defense. The buyout would have got the Bruins back under the salary cap ceiling, but it also would have created a need for another forward.

The team could have explored trading other forwards, such as Gregory Campbell or Loui Eriksson, but this too would have created additional holes to fill. By dealing from depth, the Bruins created financial flexibility, without creating additional areas of need.

There is no question that Johnny Boychuk will be missed, but the Bruins are better off in the long run having made this trade. They received future assets, financial flexibility, and resolved the overabundance of defensemen.

Campbell or Kelly: Who Would You Keep?

As the Bruins approach the end of the preseason schedule, Peter Chiarelli and his staff will be tasked with making some very difficult roster decisions. All summer we have heard about the cap crunch facing Boston, but to date, the roster moves have been lackluster.

Jarome Iginla departed for greener pastures in Colorado. Shawn Thornton headed for warmer weather in Florida. Fortunately, the Bruins were able to outlast Torey Krug and Reilly Smith, re-signing each to a one year, $1.4 million deal. In all, the Bruins return a team very similar to the squad that lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, relying heavily on young players to make major strides.

Based on some of the underwhelming performances in last year’s postseason, this roster might not immediately inspire confidence in the fan base. Fans may find solace in the fact that the team’s top-pairing defenseman, Dennis Seidenberg, will be back in the opening night lineup, following a season-ending injury in December. Perhaps more important than Seidenberg’s return is the Bruins ability to limit roster turnover.

Since their 2010-2011 Stanley Cup run, Boston has established a strong group of veterans that has been supplemented by a steady influx of young players. Chiarelli has become known for his ability (or willingness) to lock-up his veteran players before they reach free agency. Enter Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell.

The Candidates

With a limited amount of cap space, the time may be rapidly approaching where one of these two valued veterans is sent packing. Based on their salary cap hits and the roles they play, Kelly and Campbell would be the easiest to replace with a low cost rookie, without negatively impacting the team’s overall level of success.

Boston Bruins Kelly Campbell

Chris Kelly is signed for the next two seasons with an annual cap hit of $3 million. Kelly has battled injuries over the last two seasons, resulting in a significant drop-off in production. He provides strong play on the penalty kill and (aside from last season) at the faceoff dot, accompanied by the leadership qualities that earned him a role as an alternate captain. Working in Kelly’s favor is his ability to shift out to the wing, helping to complete the third line, while also providing center depth in the event that injuries pop up.

Gregory Campbell, on the other hand, is a pending free agent with a cap hit of $1.6 million for this season. Campbell, like Kelly, is a key member of the Bruins penalty kill. He has anchored the Bruins fourth line since his arrival in the summer of 2010, becoming an invaluable member of the locker room in the process. While he doesn’t offer Claude Julien as much upwards mobility (primarily a fourth liner), he has received time on the team’s power play over the last few seasons, making him an option in all game situations. The biggest issue for Campbell will be that the Bruins minor league system (similar to the big club) is overstocked with young centers, and his fourth line spot is the easiest target for an emerging center man.

Boston Bruins Kelly Campbell

The Outcome

The decision could come down to health, as Campbell has struggled with injuries in the preseason, while Kelly has been a full participant in the exhibition games to date. It is far more likely that the decision will ultimately boil down to dollar and cents. Kelly is making twice as much, is three years older, and is locked at this higher salary for next season. As a matter of fact, this would be a lot more of an open and shut case if Campbell had remained healthy through the preseason.

The good news for both players is that the Bruins have created enough cap flexibility to, if necessary, start the season with both players on the roster. Even if that ends up being the case, it is very unlikely that both players remain with the team through the entire season.