So, here I am with another post with my 3 Amigos colleagues Kirk Luedeke (the founder of TSP) and Reed Duthie. If you missed the previous posts, look back not too far and you will find them. I hope (I’m sure) you will find them informative.
Decisions, decisions, decisions: That’s what is facing Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney, President Cam Neely and the brain trust of your Boston Bruins. The most critical decision dropped this week when the interim tag was removed from coach Bruce Cassidy. It was crucial for this to be done as early as possible because, despite being two months away from the expansion draft and the entry draft, some key decisions are going to have to be made by mid-June as to which players receive qualifying offers and contracts, and who moves on, potential buyouts and buried contracts.
This is what we’ll focus on today.
The Bruins currently have 35 players under contract for the 2017-2018 season. That 35 includes Jesse Gabrielle, Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Zachary Senyshyn, whose contracts slid previously because they were playing in the Canadian Hockey League. Well, no more, they are on the books now.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams are allowed to have a maximum of 50 players under contract. Teams like to operate in the 47 to 48 range to leave options open throughout the season to acquire other players. The Bruins are in a situation where they have spots open to protect players in the expansion draft, and therefore, in a position to help out a team not willing to lose a player for nothing while at the same time, helping out themselves. Ideally, the team is probably more comfortable being in the 46 to 47 area. It drops to 44 to 46 once you take into consideration my final paragraph.
Assuming the high end of 47, that leaves the Bruins with 12 contract spots to fill.
The Bruins have 10 restricted free agents and 9 unrestricted free agents Sweeney, Neely and Cassidy will need to decide on. That means, 7 of them likely will not be returning.
The restricted free agents are: Ryan Spooner, David Pastrnak, Noel Acciari, Tim Schaller, Joe Morrow, Zane McIntyre, Malcolm Subban, Linus Arnesson, Austin Czarnik, and Colton Hargrove.
Spooner, Acciari, Schaller, Morrow, McIntyre, Czarnik and Hargrove are all arbitration eligible. Should the Bruins give any of them a qualifying offer, and they will, they may as well have a contract spot saved for them as the player may choose to file for player elected arbitration.
The good news about arbitration is that if the Bruins have two arbitration cases, it gives them a second buy-out window outside the regular buy-out window in which they can buy-out a contract in excess of $2.95 million. Teams are allowed three such buy-outs under the length of the current CBA. The Bruins have yet to use one. But going to arbitration is a risky business for teams. As an example, Spooner could get more in arbitration than he could receive in the open market.
The list of unrestricted free agents is: Drew Stafford, Dominic Moore, John-Michael Liles, Zac Rinaldo, Brian Ferlin, Chris Casto, Alex Grant, Tommy Cross, and Tyler Randell.
It’s hard to imagine the Bruins would bring back any of the UFAs. Moore might be an exception, but who knows what direction the brass is leaning? Cross has been an excellent and dedicated soldier for the Bruins, but contract space is getting tight.
Should the Bruins decide not to bring back any of the UFAs then they are in a great position. If they bring back Moore and Cross, then they are maxed out with barely any room to maneuver. Any more than that, they’ll have to cut loose some RFAs.
These are my locks to get qualifying offers:
Spooner, Pastrnak, Acciari, Schaller and McIntyre. I would include Subban on the list but they may open up a can of worms for the Bruins regarding the expansion draft. We discussed this at great length in one of the 3 Amigos Podcasts. (Editor’s note- Cliff notes version: if Subban is qualified, he has to be exposed given his pro tenure, but if he didn’t receive a QO in time for the expansion draft- he wouldn’t be listed because he’s not technically under contract. Given the way he’s played, the B’s can probably qualify him without fear of him being taken by Las Vegas in the draft, assuming that the team wants to bring Subban back for another year.- KL)
Here are my predictions of players the Bruins will not bring back from their UFA group and free to choose any destination:
Rinaldo, Liles, Ferlin, Casto, Grant and Randell.
Based on my list, there are some decisions to be made.
Current NHL salary and required qualifying offer for the Bruins RFAs
Ryan Spooner: $1,100,000 – $1,100,000
David Pastrnak: $832,500 – $874,125 (he’s going to be paid a lot more than that)
Noel Acciari: $800,000 – $840,000
Tim Schaller: $600,000 – $660,000
Joe Morrow: $800,000 – $840,000
Zane McIntyre: $832,500 – $874,125
Malcolm Subban: $832,500 – $874,125
Linus Arnesson: $775,000 – $813,750
Austin Czarnik: $750,000 – $787,500
Colton Hargrove: $725,000 – $761,250
Current salary, years remaining, and buyout cap hit
*NOTE: This is for the regular buyout window and has no minimum salary eligible to be bought out – unlike the secondary window in which a player to be bought out must earn a minimum of $2.95 million per season.
Matt Beleskey: 3 years – $3,800,00. Buyout cap hit: $1,022,222, $1,022,222, $2,022,222, $1,222,222, $1,222,222, $1,222,222,
Jimmy Hayes: 1 Year – $2,300,000. Buyout cap hit: $566,667, $866,667
Current cap hit, versus cap hit if assigned to Providence
Matt Beleskey: $3,800,000 – $2,775,000
Jimmy Hayes: $2,300,000 – $1,275,000
*All players earning less than $1,025,000 can be sent to Providence with no cap hit counting towards the Bruins. For all other players, their cap hit minus $1,025,000 would count against the cap.
It must be noted that buyouts do not count as contracts, but assigning a player to Providence does. Why is this important?
It many fans’ eyes, it’s easy to say we have to sign this specific player, or we have to send that player to Providence. The 50-contract limit is a real and serious thing to consider. What if in the spring of 2018 they want to take another run at getting Anders Bjork out of college? How about Trent Frederic? Keeping contract spots available for things like that need to be taken into consideration.
Decisions, decisions, decisions.