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.
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.
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.