This is going to be a difficult summer for many teams thanks to a salary cap which has risen by less than expected early in the year. For a team like the Edmonton Oilers, there’s a chance to land talent from a team in cap trouble.
Taking Advantage of Cap Hell is dedicated to looking at clubs reportedly in cap trouble and figuring out who might shake loose. We start with Peter Chiarelli’s old haunt: the Boston Bruins.
The Depth Chart
We don’t know yet how Boston will address the various holes created by free agency and expiring contracts, so my projection sees the bottom end of the roster populated by relatively cheap players, either re-signed RFA’s who spent part of last year in the minors or veteran NHL depth guys on low-cost deals. It’s a way of populating the roster without assuming any big name additions.
What does Boston’s cap situation look like under these conditions?
Those numbers could be driven higher, if Boston spends a little more money finding Yuro Friagent and Rand Umplug, or opts to run Malcolm Subban instead of Goalie McBackup. This projection by design assumes some cost conscious additions to the team. It could also come in a little lower if, for example, Justin Florek takes a one-year, one-way deal at the NHL minimum in place of Imin Theneychel.
The Bruins have four significant RFA’s of note: Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Spooner, Brett Connolly and Joe Morrow (NHL Numbers lists another year on Morrow’s deal, but as I figure it he’s burned through his entry-level contract at this point).
Using these numbers, they have $62.9 million committed, leaving them roughly $8.6 million to get all four players signed.
Update: Under normal conditions, Morrow would have burned the first year of his ELC in 2011-12, making him an RFA this summer. However, it’s possible that the lockout means his Age 20 date gets interpreted differently than it would be any other year, in which case it’s possible his deal slid that season, which would mean he has a single year left on his deal, as per NHL Numbers. In that case, the Bruins would have $63.7 million, not $62.9 million, committed.
It’s going to be tight. However, Hamilton is coming out of his entry-level deal and those defencemen rarely get paid major dollars and none of the other three are really established as full-time NHL’ers (though they probably will be in a year’s time).
I should also note that this projection assumes that Marc Savard will start the year on injured reserve. There are advantages to going into Day 1 with Savard on the roster and then bumping him to the IR, but that’s going to be awfully difficult and would force some really tough choices unnecessarily.
Targets for Edmonton
The obvious primary target for Edmonton is Dougie Hamilton, because he’s the player they need. I don’t think there’s any chance it happens. Boston has the flexibility to match nearly any offer sheet, and given how close Zdeno Chara is to the end of the line they have incredible incentive to do so. They certainly won’t trade him.
The other hypothetical possibilities on defence are Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. It’s hard to imagine the Bruins moving Chara; even if they were willing it’s hard to imagine the Oilers paying a premium for a 38-year-old defenceman. Seidenberg was the subject of trade rumours this spring, but he turns 34 in July and has three years left to run on his current deal; would Edmonton really consider that for a player whose performance has slipped over the last couple of seasons?
Things are more promising at forward. If Boston looks to shed salary that’s the logical place to do it. In the Bruins’ shoes, I’d be looking at Milan Lucic, Chris Kelly and Loui Eriksson (in that order) as possible cap sacrifices. Any of those players might be nice fits in Edmonton and all have just a single season remaining on their current contracts. Whether it’s sensible for the Oilers to be spending money/assets up front is more problematic but the opportunity probably exists.
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