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.

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Peter Chiarelli Leaving No Stone Unturned

Following a disappointing end to their 2014 playoff run, the Bruins entered the summer with a number of questions to answer. Facing a cap crunch, a number of key players entered free agency (restricted or unrestricted), leaving Peter Chiarelli and his staff to make some difficult decisions. Every team faces turnover in the offseason, but the Bruins have been extremely fortunate to keep the core members of their team intact over the last four seasons.

Last summer, we saw alternate captain Andrew Ference leave town to create cap space and opportunities for younger players. This season, the Bruins parted ways with Jarome Iginla (cap reasons) and Shawn Thornton (younger players). This summer hasn’t featured the headline grabbing deals of its predecessor, which has led many to question if the Bruins will be better or worse next year.

So with just over a month left until training camp kicks off, where does the roster stand? What’s left on the to-do list for the front office? Let’s take a look.

Forwards

In addition to losing Iginla and Thornton, the Bruins have yet to agree to a new deal for right winger Reilly Smith.  As it stands now, the Bruins forward group projects to something like this:

Milan Lucic – David Krejci – Loui Eriksson
Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – Open
Chris Kelly – Carl Soderberg – Open
Daniel Paille – Gregory Campbell – Open

As you can see, the Bruins have a number of openings on the wing.  Even after the re-signing of Reilly Smith, two new players will have to claim roles in the bottom six.  How can the Bruins fill these spots?

First, they could turn to their prospects, hoping the likes of Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, Alexander Khokhlachev, or Ryan Spooner could step into an NHL role.  In terms of cap space, this would be the ideal scenario.  These players are on entry-level contracts, each possessing a cap hit of less than $1 million. Another option is 2014 first round pick David Pastrnak, although with the least professional experience, he will need an outstanding training camp and preseason to steal a spot.

Another route, perhaps the most financially costly, would be to sign free agents.  While most free agents would provide the Bruins with NHL experience, the summer market tends to inflate prices, making it almost impossible to find good value.  It helps that the Bruins would be looking for bottom six forwards, as there is no shortage of these players available.  Even with that bit of leverage, the Bruins seem unlikely to go this route, simply because of the potential long-term cap ramifications (future cap commitments).

The last option, the trade route, could help answer multiple roster questions with one move.  The existing surplus on defense could allow the Bruins to clear cap space and roster spots on defense, while adding a valuable piece up front, potentially filling the third line wing spot.  A trade on defense is almost a certainty, but if the return was a winger, the Bruins could avoid overpriced free agents and maintain their near NHL-ready prospects for a future move, allowing the team to address a trade deadline need.

Defensemen

Unlike the shortage of forwards, the group of defensemen currently assembled in Boston presents a drastically different problem for Peter Chiarelli. Assuming that Torey Krug will be re-signed,the Bruins will enter training camp with a minimum of eight defensemen.  Barring an injury or a setback for those returning from injuries (Dennis Seidenberg, Adam McQuaid), Chiarelli will likely be forced to deal at least one player from this group:

Zdeno Chara – Dougie Hamilton
Dennis Seidenberg – Johnny Boychuk
Torey Krug – Kevan Miller
Matt Bartkowski – Adam McQuaid

For the time being, Chiarelli may hold off on making a move, choosing rather to see what he has in training camp.  This could prove risky, as injuries or struggles could decrease the value of Boston’s assets, but the Bruins depth provides a bit of insurance.  In addition to their eight NHL defensemen, Providence is slated to have David Warsofsky, Joe Morrow, and Zach Trotman roaming the blue line, giving the Bruins upwards of 10 NHL ready defensemen to start the year.

Which defensemen are most likely to be moved?  At this point, it seems like Matt Bartkowski and Adam McQuaid are the most expendable of the bunch.  When Adam McQuaid got injured last season, Kevan Miller stepped in and provided similar, if not better, production at half the price.  Matt Bartkowski was never able to separate from the pack last season, instead finding himself as the odd man out behind youngsters Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug.  A cost controlled, young defenseman like Bartkowski will not be a difficult piece to move, making Peter Chiarelli’s job much easier if he decides to go this route.

Goaltenders

After the pleasant surprise that was goalie Chad Johnson, the Bruins are set to employ their third backup in as many seasons.  The frontrunner, Niklas Svedberg, has some big shoes to fill, following stellar seasons by Anton Khudobin (2013) and Chad Johnson (2013-2014).  He will also face competition from 2012 first round pick Malcom Subban, although the organization may be better served allowing Subban another full season of starting in the AHL.  Svedberg has only started one game in the NHL, leaving the position a major question mark until he proves he can handle the NHL game on a regular basis.  Fortunately for the Bruins, they still possess one of the best defensive units in the league and the Frank J. Selke Award winner Patrice Bergeron upfront, lessening the pressure on Svedberg’s shoulders.

Tuukka Rask
Niklas Svedberg

It’s unlikely at this point that Boston will make a move in net, barring an injury in training camp/preseason.  So while there is a question mark at backup, the personnel that will start the season is already in place.

 

 

When Will Boston Bruins Address Free Agents Reilly Smith, Torey Krug? & More

The Boston Bruins made some small signings in the past couple days, bringing back Jordan Caron and Matt Bartkowski with one-year contracts. Both have shown flashes of potential, and will likely get the chance to prove whether or not they’re worth further consideration this year.

While that’s all well and great, the team still needs to address two restricted free agents who both individually contributed more than Caron and Bartkowski combined: Reilly Smith and Torey Krug. Both players need to be resigned, but the process of doing so is further complicated by the sliver of cap space Boston has remaining. Right now, the Bruins have a measly $390K left to spend.