BOSTON — Signing restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith to one-year, $1.4 million contracts was a work of brilliance by Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. He had limited salary cap space and two quality players who deserved raises after impressive seasons.
The Bruins weren’t forced to make a substantial trade in order to sign Krug and Smith, but that doesn’t mean a deal won’t happen before or during the regular season to clear additional cap space.
“There’s still housekeeping to do from a numbers perspective,” Chiarelli said Monday. “This is a business, and you’ve got to put a roster in place and you have to put a winning roster in place, and that’s still a challenge that we have and we always have and it will remain a challenge.”
Let’s break down the B’s roster as it stands now, and looking head to the summer of 2015.
Impact on 2014-15 Roster
Now that Krug is signed, there are probably five defensemen who are locks, or near-locks, to have a spot on the NHL roster.
Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton and Krug are the best D-men on the team and should occupy five of the top six spots on the blue line. The last third pairing defenseman likely will emerge from a group that includes Kevan Miller, Adam McQuaid, Matt Bartkowski and David Warsofsky.
The last three preseason games will give the coaching staff and front office a better idea of which player deserves to play a regular role on the bottom pairing. Warsofsky has a two-way deal, so he can always go back to Providence. Miller, McQuaid and Bartkowski all have one-way contracts, and it’s possible one of them could be traded because teams rarely carry eight defensemen on the NHL roster.
“There’s been normal stuff that you would expect in the first half of camp,” Chiarelli said when asked if there was any trade chatter. “Our players are good players, and they’ve had success and I’d hate to move any of them.”
Smith’s return eliminates one forward spot that was open for competition. He probably will slot back into his role alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the second line. If Loui Eriksson moves up on the first line, the right wing positions in the bottom six would be up for grabs. Matt Fraser, Ryan Spooner and 2014 first-round draft pick David Pastrnak are among the players battling for a forward spot.
Impact Beyond 2014-15
During Chiarelli’s tenure, the Bruins have been willing to extend guys before their contracts expire. They’ve done it recently with Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask and David Krejci. Chiarelli revealed Monday that he has interest in signing Krug and Smith long-term.
“We’ll try and bang out extensions as soon as we can because those are two kids—two young men that we want to have in the mix,” he said.
Here’s a list of notable Bruins players eligible for free agency after this season, per CapGeek.
|Player||Age||Position||2013-14 Salary Cap Hit||FA Status|
|Gregory Campbell||30||Center||$1.6 million||UFA|
|Reilly Smith||23||Right Wing||$1.4 million||RFA|
|Daniel Paille||30||Left Wing||$1.3 million||UFA|
|Carl Soderberg||28||Center||$1.008 million||UFA|
|Jordan Caron||23||Right Wing||$600,000||RFA|
|Johnny Boychuk||30||Defenseman||$3.36 million||UFA|
|Adam McQuaid||27||Defenseman||$1.56 million||UFA|
|Torey Krug||23||Defenseman||$1.4 million||RFA|
|Matt Bartkowski||26||Defenseman||$1.25 million||UFA|
The B’s will have some tough choices to make on the blue line. Boychuk is a valuable player, but it’s possible he’d make over $5 million per season as a UFA — he’s better and younger than Brooks Orpik, who signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal with the Washington Capitals in July. Hamilton likely will be in line for a nice raise if he continues to develop at his current rate — he projects to be a top-pairing defenseman.
Campbell and Paille have been quality fourth-line forwards over the last few years, but the Bruins have several younger, cheaper prospects (Matt Fraser, for example) who could provide more speed and skill to that line. Soderberg emerged as a quality third-line center last season, but a great 2014-15 campaign might make him too expensive to re-sign.
Even though the cap ceiling is expected to rise next summer based on factors such as league revenue and a new television deal with Rogers Sportsnet, signing these upcoming free agents to fair deals won’t be an easy task for Chiarelli. Luckily for the Bruins, they have great depth throughout the organization and will be able to replace departed veterans with talented young players who are hungry to prove themselves at the top level.