It’s no secret that the Boston Bruins are in dire need of some cap space. According to CapGeek.com, they’re currently at $69,809,143 of $69 million in cap space, in part due to $4.75M in cap overages from last season. And they still need to re-sign restricted free agents Reilly Smith and Torey Krug (who likes to pretend like he’d go play in the KHL).
Boston has to do something.
Krug and Smith are budding stars and key pieces of the puzzle in Boston, so someone has to go. Marc Savard‘s $4M should be coming off the cap (or rather the team will given an allowance to exceed the cap in the amount of his salary) with him on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), but that isn’t likely to be enough to make the team cap compliant after Krug and Smith get new contracts. Krug and Smith made a combined $2.6M last season. To think you’ll get them both, after very good seasons from both of them, for just an additional $400,000 isn’t a notion that anyone is entertaining.
So what are Boston’s options? They could move Patrice Bergeron, as some have speculated they might do. He carries a cap hit of $6.5M over the next eight seasons. He’s a key player on their team, but trading him ought to bring serious returns. They could easily win that trade three years down the road while the team acquiring Bergeron would get help now. On the other hand, you can’t really trade or replace a player like Bergeron.
A more likely scenario is a temporary fix. Defenseman Johnny Boychuk‘s $3.37M contract ends after this season, making him great trade bait for a team looking to get a veteran in for a single year while prospects develop.
Why This Makes Sense For Boston
Boston has one of the best defensive corps in the league. (The best according to some.) Boychuk, a second pairing d-man, is good enough for them to get a solid draft pick or prospect in return — remember they’re trading him to take money off the books, so taking a NHLer in return doesn’t make much sense. Boychuk’s contract is large enough that he could solve their cap problems with his departure.
Also working toward the trade of Boychuk is that the team actually has one too many defenseman. From Fluto Shinzawa at the Boston Globe (via Defending Big D’s article on Boychuk):
The Bruins have excess on defense. General manager Peter Chiarelli has repeatedly classified nine defensemen as contenders for jobs when training camp opens Sept. 18. David Warsofsky, one of the nine, can be assigned to Providence without clearing waivers. But that leaves eight still in varsity play, which is one more than the Bruins usually carry.
The team won’t move Krug, Dougie Hamilton, or Zdeno Chara. Dennis Siedenberg has a no-trade clause and is coming off an injury, so would be unappealing until a team can see him play (and the Bruins need money off the books before he plays). That leaves Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski ($1.25M), Adam McQuaid ($1.57M), and Kevan Miller ($800K). Miller’s contract doesn’t free up enough space, McQuaid has an injury history, and Boychuk is a free agent after this season, making him an appealing piece to move.
The reality is that after this season, the Bruins probably can’t re-sign Boychuk. He’s a Cup-winner, right handed shot, gritty style, solid numbers, and we saw how ridiculous the market is on defenseman of that relative ilk with the Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen contracts this summer. Boychuk is getting a raise next season.
Trading Boychuk solves the cap problem and the log jam on defense. Maybe this trade would make sense for a trade partner that could use the help right now because of a young defensive corps, but really need to have a veteran player’s salary come off the books at the end of the year because they’ve got a giant pile of restricted free agents coming up for new deals next season.
Maybe that team is the Wild.
Why It’s Not The Wild
The first sign that the Wild might not be the right partner is that general manager Chuck Fletcher has repeatedly said he’s not interested in giving up draft picks right now if it can be avoided. If this trade needs to happen before the start of the season, before the team can truly assess their need on defense, that stands in the way of this trade happening.
As Fletcher told the Star Tribune’s Michael Russo, “If you keep bringing in vets, how are these kids ever going to play?” Those “kids” this season include Jonathon Blum, Mathew Dumba, Christian Folin, and Gustav Olofsson. Maybe a player like Guillaume Gélinas gets a shot as well, though that’s less likely. Fletcher will want to see what Dumba, Folin, and Blum in particular bring to camp. He won’t want to get closer to the cap now and tie his hands at the trade deadline (especially with the goalie situation having fallen apart the last couple seasons) when he may have everything he needs already.
But, say he’s not concerned about continuing to develop these young defenseman or that he only wants to have one rookie on the blue line. The team’s major needs on defense are a scoring defenseman who can provide offense from the blue line and be dangerous on the power play and some size. They need to replace the size they lost when they let Clayton Stoner walk.
Boychuk does have good size at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds. He could provide size and grit for a blue line that has some smaller and younger defenders.
Offense he cannot provide. At least not the goal-scoring part. He has 19 goals in 321 career games and carried a .79 goals per 60 minutes of play last season. Ranking ninth of ten among Bruins defenseman who played at least 100 minutes. On the other hand, he was a solid possession player with a 55.2% Corsi for. Though, some of that positive Corsi has to do with Boston being really good last season. Seven of their ten defenseman who played at least 100 minutes had a positive Corsi rating.
If you look at the possession stats of Boston defenseman over the last three seasons combined, Boychuk still comes out looking pretty good. He has a 55.2% Corsi for over the last three seasons. Though, again, every Boston defender looks pretty good over the last three seasons. That doesn’t take anything away from a single performance, but it should be considered that they are a good team defensively and not just on the blue line, they’ve had a defensively responsible forward group as well. Among Boston defenders who’ve played at least 500 minutes over the last three seasons, eight of 11 have a positive Corsi for percentage.
I Thought You Said It’s Not The Wild
While his numbers are good and he does fit a need the Wild have, Boston needs to do something soon. If this was the trade deadline, Boychuk might make a lot of sense, but it’s not. There are a handful of teams that have the cap space and need for a player like Boychuk and while the Wild are one of them, the Wild shouldn’t make a pre-emptive move that stunts the growth of their young defenseman.
For the Wild to become a Stanley Cup team with the cap issues that lie ahead, they need to develop the young defenseman they have. At a minimum, they need to give them a fair shot at making the team. Signing Boychuk would guarantee that there’s one less spot available for prospects. It seems like Fletcher doesn’t want that to happen and they shouldn’t allow it to happen.
Even if the Wild decided to jump into a bidding war on Boychuk, their need is less and with the point of view that ideally young players get a chance, the asking price may be higher than the team has the stomach for. A team like the Dallas Stars or the San Jose Sharks (though they may be apprehensive to give up picks) might make a lot more sense.
Ultimately, this trade would make some sense for the Wild, but it’s hard to imagine them going for this. The circumstances are wrong even if they player seems right.