Navigating the Salary Cap is probably one of the more important tasks for any general manager to have. Teams that can avert total cap chaos by walking the tightrope of inking players to deals that match their value (or compensate for future value without breaking the bank) remain successful. Those that don’t see struggles and front office changes.
PHR will look at every NHL team and give a thorough look at their cap situation heading into the 2018-19 season. This will focus more on those players who are integral parts of the roster versus those who may find themselves shuttling between the AHL and NHL. All cap figures are courtesy of CapFriendly.
Current Projected Cap Hit: $76,540,667 (under the $79.5MM Upper Limit)
Entry Level Contracts
D Charlie McAvoy (one year, $917K)
D Brandon Carlo (one year, $789K)
F Jake DeBrusk (two years, $863K)
F Danton Heinen (one year, $873K)
F Ryan Donato (one year, $900K)
F Anders Bjork (two years, $925K)
Under $5.5MM in salary and under $2MM in potential bonuses for that group of players? It would be hard to find any team in the league who wouldn’t be excited about that scenario. Carlo has played a top four role for the Bruins for two seasons already and McAvoy asserted himself not only as the top defenseman on the team as a rookie last year, but one of the best defenders in the league; they’re both just beginning to show what they can be. The other four forwards will likely make up the bulk of the top nine in Boston this season. Heinen and DeBrusk finished fourth and sixth respectively among Bruins forwards in scoring last year, each with 40+ points, and noticeably improved as the season wore on. Bjork began the year in the top six and scored at a pace that would have put him at 30+ points on the year, if not for a roster crunch and later on an injury that kept him out of the lineup for much of the year. The latest addition is Donato, who joined the team down the stretch after leading both the NCAA and Winter Olympics in goals per game. If the Bruins’ top prospect finds chemistry with a scoring line and earns substantial ice time, he could be a legitimate Calder Trophy threat.
Of course, the caveat to all of this is that the Bruins can only enjoy most of these bargain deals for one more year. All but DeBrusk and Bjork will be due extensions by this time next year. McAvoy is in line for an expensive, long-term contract that could easily surpass the six-year, $29.7MM contract just recently signed by the Calgary Flames’ Noah Hanifin. Carlo will be due a much more modest raise, but a raise nonetheless. The real intrigue lies with Heinen and Donato. If Heinen is again the best non-first line forward on the Bruins this season, he will have cemented himself as a crucial piece of the core and will be able to command a hefty bump in salary. A regression and being overshadowed by other young forward could keep his next cap hit at a more comfortable level. The same goes for Donato, who could meet his lofty expectations as a rookie and significantly raise his asking price or could fail to stand out against Boston’s other young forwards and sign a more modest second contract. Perhaps even the Bruins don’t know which outcome they would prefer: their impending RFA’s playing incredibly well and boosting their value or instead playing secondary roles and staying reasonably priced? Either way, the team will at least be glad to have DeBrusk and other incoming prospects at ELC cap hits in 2019-20.
One Year Remaining, Non-Entry Level
Not much is going to change on the Bruins roster between 2018-19 and 2019-20 if unrestricted free agency is any indicator. Given how few current players are impending unrestricted free agents and the number and value of the likely RFA contracts that they will need to hand out, it will probably be a quiet summer in Boston next year.
Of this group, the one departure that seems certain is McQuaid. As it stands now, McQuaid might not only be a bench player for the Bruins this season but could even be considered the team’s #8 defenseman and very well could land on the trade block or even waivers over the course of the campaign. The loyal veteran is one of the remaining holdovers from the team’s 2011 Stanley Cup title and has only ever played hard-nosed, competent hockey in Boston. However, frequent injuries paired with the development of Kevan Miller into a better version of McQuaid has all but made the original superfluous. Now, Boston may not carry eight defenseman all season long and if someone other than McQuaid is traded, that would open up some more opportunity for the physical veteran. However, it still seems that – given the players signed on the blue line as it is and the crop of prospects in Providence (AHL) pushing for play time – that McQuaid’s days in Boston are numbered one way or another.
Counting the days until Chara retires may be a pointless effort, though. The 41-year-old continues to defy nature in every regard. Chara led all Boston skaters in ice time with 23 minutes per night and has been the team’s average ice-time leader for a whopping twelve years straight. While his offense remains in decline, his defensive game made a major comeback last season and the league’s oldest defenseman even garnered Norris Trophy votes. In all likelihood, the Bruins will look to reduce Chara’s role this year in an effort to make him even more effective in limited minutes. If that proves successful, don’t be surprised to see Boston give Chara incentive-laden one-year contracts until he finally decides to hand up his skates. At this rate, it could be another year or two after this current contract expires.
Some may discount what spark plug Acciari brings to the Bruins and consider his impending free agency to not be much of a factor. Yet, Acciari is considered by many to be one of the more underrated defensive forwards in the league. A versatile player and punishing checker, Acciari is an ideal fourth-liner who frustrates the opposition without landing in penalty trouble or ending up on the wrong side of turnovers. Acciari logged 152 hits last season versus just four minor penalty minutes and recorded 20 takeaways to just nine giveaways. Few players in the league are so efficient with their defensive play. Acciari is a local product who fits the style and culture of the Bruins well and could certainly wind up with a multi-year extension. With that said, the Bruins’ addition of Chris Wagner this summer adds a lot of the same ability that Acciari brings to the table. If cap space or roster space becomes an issue, Acciari is not guaranteed a new contract.