At long last, direction.
The NHL and NHLPA on Friday announced that it had ratified both the return to play protocols and a four-year extension of the CBA, which now will run into Sept. 2026. It was impressive work from all sides, as the negotiations, contrary to the baseball, largely were kept out of the public, and the league really only made announcements along the way only when it was to make something official. It was a pragmatic way of handling an uncertain situation by both the league and players.
While the particulars of the agreements impact each team differently, one consistent for all teams is the roster sizes. It’s now confirmed that teams only can bring 31 players (with a maximum of 28 skaters) to the hubs, and they’re only allowed to have 52 people total in their travelling party — so that includes coaches, medical staff, front office personnel and team public relations, for example.
So, there won’t be any Black Aces, per se, for the Boston Bruins this season beyond the extra skaters and goalie(s) they will carry on the roster.
In a way, that makes training camp all the more interesting, as there will be guys competing for those fringe roster spots. Anyone who doesn’t go with the team to Toronto cannot join midway, so the Bruins have to make sure they don’t bungle their decision. Back in late May, when it first was rumored teams would be able to bring 28 skaters, we took a crack at predicting who would make it. Our last guys in ended up being Trent Frederic, Karson Kuhlman, Jack Studnicka, Paul Carey, Steven Kampfer and Jakub Zboril.
We’ll see how it all shakes out with training camp beginning Monday, but it’s finally something hockey-related to look forward to.
Here are some other notes and takeaways from Friday’s news:
— The salary cap will be staying at $81.5 million for, at the very least, next season. The Bruins have a slew of notable free agents to take care of, among them Torey Krug and Zdeno Chara, as well as RFAs Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk. For a look at the B’s cap situation, click here.
Now, with just under $20 million to work with, the Bruins aren’t completely in cap hell. They probably will place extra emphasis on not making any moves that cripple them down the road, but in the eyes of this particular writer, this news seems to point toward the possibility of Krug re-signing more likely.
Hear out a theory: Teams probably won’t be as willing to throw out big, big money deals as they might’ve been as recently as this time last year. And since there’s a chance the cap might start rising again in, say, 2021-22, maybe we’ll see top free agents stay put on one- or two-year deals at a more modest figure in hopes of cashing in more when the cap rises.
But for a guy like Krug, who just turned 29, he pretty much has to sign a deal with plenty of term now. If teams aren’t going to give out John Carlson-esque contracts this offseason, Krug’s best bet might be to take a modest raise with the Bruins on a lengthy deal that will at least give him long-term security.
Of course, this is all conjecture, but it’s one way to look at the situation. The overarching point here is that it seems teams right now will be dubious of making huge financial commitments right now that could bite them in the keister in a couple years if the cap doesn’t rise, so it puts guys in their late 20s like Krug in a precarious spot.
— The inclusion of the Olympics in the new CBA is significant for the Bruins, who figure to have plenty of guys that could end up on Olympic rosters in 2022 and 2026.
This hardly is a scientific list, but here are some guys that might be getting looks to represent their country (while fully acknowledging some might be a reach and that this all is predicated on some of these guys re-signing with the Bruins/not retiring).
Canada — Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand
Czech Republic — David Pastrnak, David Krejci
Finland –Tuukka Rask, Urho Vaakanainen
United States — Brandon Carlo, Charlie Coyle, Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy
Teams are skeptical of sending their players to the Olympics because of injury risk, but it’s clear the players want to do it if they get the chance. And it’s worth mentioning the 2013-14 Bruins had five players go to the Sochi Olympics, then they came back and Boston went 17-3-5 following the break, so it’s not like that set the Bruins back too much.
— Players have until 5 p.m. ET on Monday to opt out of the return to play, and they won’t be penalized for doing so.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy indicated last month that he had not heard of any players planning on not playing, but he would have a conversation with and respect the decision of anyone who did.
For what it’s worth, the only Bruins not confirmed to have taken part in an on-ice workout at Warrior Ice Arena since the start of Phase 2 are Pastrnak, McAvoy, Coyle, Chris Wagner, Ondrej Kase and Anton Blidh. Pastrnak and Blidh went overseas during the shutdown, so it’s possible they just haven’t been given the green light to rejoin the team since they travelled internationally.
Regardless, as of now it seems as though the Bruins will have their full arsenal of players. If anyone opts out though, we should know that soon.
— There has been curiosity as to whether or not Cassidy will rest players during the round robin tournament.
The structure of the schedule seems to make it more unlikely that he does rest guys. Each round robin team has two days off in between games, and considering the Bruins probably will be trying to ramp guys up instead of giving them added time off, it would appear that the schedule setup will result in just regulars playing in each game right from the jump.