Dominic Tiano: The Dollars and Sense of the Boston Bruins Offseason

Guest post by Dominic Tiano

The Boston Bruins season didn’t end as they or their fans had hoped it would when the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Bruins in 5 games in the second round of the NHL Playoffs. Since then, we’ve heard President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney talk about “change”. We’ve heard Zdeno Chara speak about wanting to return for the 2020-2021 season. And of course, there are the few words spoken from both sides of the Torey Krug situation.

Depending on where you look (and it’s more about the rosters that different cap sites use) the Bruins have around $15.5 million in cap space to use this offseason. That’s around the 10th most in the league so, there is an opportunity for some movement there.

The Bruins were charged with a performance bonus overage of $1,928,445 in which they can take the cap hit entirely during the 2020-2021 season or split it over 2 seasons. For this conversation we have chosen the latter.

Below you will see our roster comprised of players under contract, restricted free agents and players that will require waivers to be sent to the AHL or other leagues. Some of you will certainly ask “where is Karson Kuhlman?” (much to the chagrin of my fellow Amigos, he is absent). Well Kuhlman does not require waivers, that is until he plays 11 more NHL games, so it is likely he will begin the season in Providence (or elsewhere depending on which leagues will be paying).

Our roster also doesn’t include Chara, Krug or Joakim Nordstrom, all unrestricted free agents. (We don’t believe Nordstrom will be offered a contract to return).

If both Chara and Krug return, it will almost certainly cost the Bruins over 50% of the cap space they have today. That will also mean that they would have to loan two bodies to other leagues to get down to the 23-man roster. That would leave the Bruins somewhere between $5 million and $8 million to sign RFA’s Jake DeBrusk, Jakub Zboril, Matt Grzelcyk and Zach Senyshyn. That’s certainly do-able, but leaves little to no room to improve on the forward group.

If only Chara were to return, that may paint a rosier picture as they would have in the $14 million range to sign the RFA’s and fill that green square next to Charlie McAvoy as Chara’s days there should be over and to improve on the forward group.

It is imperative that the Bruins find a way to move out John Moore and his $2,750,00 cap hit as Connor Clifton and Jeremy Lauzon have shown they are ready to play bigger roles on the backend. Not to mention that it may be time to see if Zboril can play, even in a bottom pairing role. In the end, the extra $2.75 million can only help in improving the squad overall.

Then there is Nick Ritchie and his $1,498,925 cap hit and what to do if he is not able to break the lineup next season or has not taken the necessary steps to do so. The obvious answer would be to loan him to another league and save $1,125,000 of his cap hit. (This is an increase from last season because of the increase to the minimum league salary to $750,000. (Minimum league salary plus $375,000 is the new cap relief). This would put the Ritchie cap hit at $373,925 while costing the team $2 million in real dollars – his salary for 2020-2021.

What might make more sense for the Bruins in terms of both real dollars and in cap hit is a buyout. But because the buyout window is not yet confirmed, the Bruins would have to make a premature decision on Ritchie.

Why might it make sense?

CapFriendly and its buyout calculator will explain. Because Ritchie is under 26 and only 1/3 of his remaining salary would have to be paid, the Bruins would only have to pay $666,667 in real money. Where it gets a little complicated is the cap hit, which would be spread out over two seasons. Next season, the Bruins would receive a credit of $167,742 and a cap hit of $333,333 in 2021-2022.

Effectively what this does is removes Ritchie’s cap hit for 2020-2021 and gives them a small credit to use towards the bonus overage incurred. In other words, $1,666,667 more cap flexibility next season for a cap hit of $333,333 in 2021-2022.

Then there is the situation surrounding Tuukka Rask. Others have called it a dilemma. There are conversations among fans and media about retirement. There are many that believe the Bruins should trade him.

Certainly, any team would welcome $7 million in cap space, but in this case the Bruins would have to find another goaltender capable of carrying the load as the number one goaltender, and what is that going to cost? And if you trade him, what are you bringing back in salary and how much are you going to spend on a replacement netminder? Until Rask and the Bruins come to a decision, this is just all moot right now.

We’ve seen how performance bonuses can affect the cap. Let’s turn our attention to Rask’s partner, Jaroslav Halak. The Bruins 1-B netminder is set to earn $1,750,000 in salary for next season with a $500,000 signing bonus for a cap hit of $2,250,000. Halak is scheduled to earn a performance bonus of $1,250,000 for playing in 10 games, a bonus he will surely attain barring a season ending injury early on. The Bruins should and probably will keep an eye on that as to not have a bonus overage for 2021-2022.

No one knows for sure whether Sweeney will turn to the free agent market or go the trade route, although he is talking to other teams. He could use both options and still infuse some youth from within, for instance, Trent Frederic centering the 4th line over Par Lindholm. Jack Studnicka also showed these playoffs that he’s about ready to make a push for a roster spot.

There is certainly room for maneuvering and this should prove to be Sweeney’s most active offseason since 2015.

Jarome Iginla the newest Bruin elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame

IginlaHHOF

(Image courtesy of the Boston Bruins)

The Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2020 was announced today and to no one’s surprise Jarome Iginla was one of the inductees as a first-ballot entry.

The one-time Boston Bruins 30-goal scoring forward and member of the 2013-14 President’s Trophy-winning squad joins Marian Hossa Doug Wilson, Kevin Lowe, Kim St-Pierre and Ken Holland as the individuals whose selections were announced today.

Iginla, who spent the bulk of his storied career with the Calgary Flames, could have been a Bruin for a little longer, as he was apparently traded to the team just before the 2013 trade deadline, but reportedly nixed the deal until the Pittsburgh Penguins put together an offer that he accepted. It was a bit of a crazy story, and the reality will always be known only to the primary players- Peter Chiarelli as then-B’s GM, Flames GM Jay Feaster and Iginla himself.

As you know, the Iginla-less 2013 Bruins instead acquired Jaromir Jagr from Dallas at the deadline and went on a run to the Stanley Cup final, coming up short in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks. Ironically enough, Iginla, whose trade to the Penguins at the time was widely hailed as the move that was sure to put the Pittsburgh offensive powerhouse of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin over the top, watched as the B’s swept the Penguins in four games of the Eastern Conference final. His output in the series…to quote the incomparable Dean Wormer from Animal House…Zero. Point. Zero.

A few months later, Iginla was wearing similar colors but traded the Penguin in for a spoked-B when he signed as a free agent.

I won’t lie- I was floored by the move. He was the one unrestricted free agent I was confident the B’s wouldn’t pursue after the trade fiasco, but Chiarelli and Co. torpedoed my ego and got him on a fun-now/pay-later contract that had a low base but easily attainable bonuses.

Iginla went out and hit just about every one of them, boosting his team-friendly deal of $1.8M in 2013-14 to another $4.2M in bonuses applied to Boston’s 2014-15 cap number for a total of $6M for his 30 goals and 61 points at age 36.  The B’s could only watch helplessly as they landed in cap hell and Iginla signed an un-matchable $15.9M three-year contract with the Colorado Avalanche in 2014. His production steadily declined in all three years, and he finished out his NHL career with a late-season trade to the L.A. Kings in 2017.

“Iggy” is deserving of his place in the HHOF. He was a power forward who was among a new generation of players that took the mantle from Cam Neely, retired just one month before Iginla began his NHL career with the Flames as a 19-year-old rookie.

Originally drafted by the Dallas Stars in the first round (11th overall) of the 1995 NHL Entry Draft out of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers after winning the 1994 and 1995 Memorial Cups. He had a dominant season in 1995-96, racking up 136 points, but was dealt to the Flames mid-season in a trade that sent former multiple 50-goal guy Joe Nieuwendyk to Big D. It was the proverbial trade that helps both teams- Nieuwendyk was a member of the Stars’ 1999 Stanley Cup championship team, and Iginla became Calgary’s franchise player.

Iginla was a member of Canada’s Olympic teams in 2002, 2006 and 2010, winning gold medals in 2002 and 2010.

The closest Iginla came to an NHL championship was in his prime during the 2004 playoffs when the Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning battled to the seventh game of a hard-fought series, but fell short. After a 41-goal season (he shared a second Richard Trophy with Ilya Kovalchuk and Rick Nash), Iginla tallied 13 goals and 22 points in 26 playoff games that spring. He would not get out of the first round for the remaining four playoffs of his Flames career.

In 1554 career games, Iginla scored 625 goals and 1300 points. He was one of the faces of the NHL during his tenure. When he won the Art Ross and Maurice Rocket Richard Trophy in 2002, he was the first black player to win those major awards in the NHL.

Iginla was one of the very best in the game, and he was extremely popular during his one season in Boston. If only GM Harry Sinden had a crystal ball in his possession, the B’s could have drafted Iginla with the 9th selection in 1995 over defenseman Kyle McLaren, but at least fans can claim him as one of their own, albeit for a short period of time.

As the old saying goes, better late than never.

Congratulations Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla– HHOF Class of 2020.

Boston Bruins cult heroes: Dean Chynoweth

With summer about to arrive, we’re still weeks away from the return of NHL training camps, so it’s time for another entry in the Bruins cult hero series with defenseman Dean Chynoweth, former 1st-round pick and depth defenseman who played just 94 career games with the B’s out of 241 career NHL contests, but was known for his toughness and willingness to pay the price for the team. He’s held numerous coaching jobs in junior and pro hockey, and is currently one of Rod Brind’Amour’s assistants with the Carolina Hurricanes. Much of this piece is lifted from an interview I conducted with Chynoweth in 2001, when he was head coach of the WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds, and we had a chance meeting at the NHL draft in Sunrise, FL.- KL

When you think of the Boston Bruins, Dean Chynoweth’s name won’t be on the tip of your tongue.

The hard-nosed defenseman only played a total of 94 games with the team, scoring 2 goals and 10 points while totaling 259 minutes in penalties.  However, in his short time with the club, Chynoweth fit the traditional Bruin stereotype of a hockey player who battled hard for his team any given night, and while perhaps not the most talented, played the sport with toughness, tenacity and honesty.

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Friday Flashback: Bruins 2006 Draft

Here’s a comprehensive look at the 2006 Boston Bruins draft, which transformed the franchise in a single weekend of picks and one major trade. Other than 1979, there isn’t a more impactful single draft in team history, though 1980 was quite strong, along with 2014 more recently. Here you go- KL

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(Photo courtesy of Alison M. Foley)

The Boston Bruins franchise was in disarray at the conclusion of the 2005-06 hockey season and faced a crucial crossroads leading up to the entry draft being in Vancouver that June.

A year that began with promise with the return of NHL hockey after a lockout cancelled the 2004-05 big league campaign descended into chaos and despair when a series of big-money free agent signings went bust (Alexei Zhamnov, Brian Leetch, Dave Scatchard) and franchise face Joe Thornton was traded to San Jose before December for the kind of return that ultimately sealed Mike O’Connell’s (Cohasset, Mass.) fate as Bruins GM. O’Connell’s departure opened the door for one-time Harvard hockey captain Peter Chiarelli’s ascension as the B’s new chief of management and operations, but as the assistant GM of the Ottawa Senators, the job of riding herd over Boston’s 2006 draft and early phases of free agency fell to O’Connell’s interim replacement, Jeff Gorton.

 Thanks to a win by the Columbus Blue Jackets on the final day of the 2005-06 regular season, the Bruins slid into the fifth overall draft position (not affected by the draft lottery, won by St. Louis).  Two points are what separated the B’s from Phil Kessel and someone else (Derick Brassard went one selection later at sixth overall). Kessel may no longer be with the Bruins, but his impact will likely be felt in the years to come, even if the jury is still out on the players received from Toronto and then Dallas last summer.

The B’s former chief amateur scout and current director of player personnel, Scott Bradley, called 2006 a “historic” draft year and critical moment for the rebuilding of the once proud franchise’s sagging fortunes. Little did Bradley know at the time that his words would prove to be prophetic, and that just five years later, the club would reverse direction from the road to ruin to Stanley Cup glory in the very city the draft occurred, defeating the Vancouver Canucks in an epic seven-game championship series.

Boston’s selections in the second and third rounds were instrumental in the 2011 Stanley Cup championship and run to the 2013 Stanley Cup final: Milan Lucic and Brad Marchand, while No. 1 goaltender Tuukka Rask’s history is inextricably linked to the 2006 draft as well. Although Lucic was traded five years ago, Marchand has ascended to NHL superstardom, as has Rask, who could be in line to collect the second Vezina Trophy of his career after a shortened 2019-20 season. Marchand and Rask helped lead the B’s to within one win of the 2019 Stanley Cup championship, though they fell short at home to the St. Louis Blues.

Nearly a decade-and-a-half later, Boston’s 2006 draft is still making a direct and indirect impact on the team’s fortunes.

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All The President’s Men: The 1990 Boston Bruins (Part 3)

Today, we wrap up the tribute to the 1990 Boston Bruins, the franchise’s first President’s Trophy-winning team, with the run through the playoffs. This was written 20 years ago and has been updated in certain sections, but apologies for some of the wooden writing- we’ve come a long way since 2000. Hope you have enjoyed this look back at that team and season.- KL

Andymoog

As the 1990 playoffs began, the Boston Bruins were riding high with a regular season title, but knew they faced a tough opponent in the Hartford Whalers, who had an impressive and ever-improving young core. The B’s and their fans knew that all of the goodwill of a President’s Trophy would be for naught if they were knocked out in an upset, and the Whalers had the talent to do it.

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All The President’s Men: the 1990 Boston Bruins (Part 2)

(The 1989-90 President’s Trophy Boston Bruins retrospective continues with the second half of the regular season. Part 3 looks at the 1990 playoffs and will be posted soon- KL)

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         In the first couple of days in 1990, Sinden pulled off a key trade, acquiring veteran two-way center and former Frank Selke Trophy winner Dave Poulin, the Philadelphia Flyers’ captain in exchange for Linseman.  When the deal was announced, Poulin was less than enthusiastic about joining Boston, having been a Flyer his entire career and visibly stunned that he had been traded.

            “I’m going to go home, sit down with my wife, and go over our options,” he remarked when initially interviewed.  “I’ve tried to keep my options open.”  These words were hardly a ringing endorsement from Poulin, who had just been dealt from the only team he had ever known.

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Friday Flashback: All the President’s Men: the 1990 Boston Bruins Pt. 1

Wrote this about 20 years ago for the 10-year anniversary of the 1989-90 President’s Trophy Boston Bruins team that came up short in their quest to bring the first Stanley Cup back to the Hub in 18 years. It would take the B’s another 21 years, but at the time, it was just another promising group that did everything but win the championship. I originally wrote the piece in 2000 to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the team’s only (at the time) regular season championship, but have updated it in the years since with a new intro today and thanks to later access to players who were a part of the club to insert quotes and memories of that team.  Given that it is a complete season recap including playoffs, the word count comes in at around 9,000 words, so we’ll break this up into 3 parts over the next few days.- KL

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The Boston Bruins are one of the National Hockey League’s more storied franchises, yet they’ve also been somewhat star-crossed in their near century of existence, coming up short in numerous opportunities to capture more than the six Stanley Cup championships in team history. Most recently, the B’s and their fans saw heartbreak in 2019, losing a decisive game 7 at home to the St. Louis Blues.

30 years ago, another Boston hockey club took their fans on a dizzying ride and tantalized the region with an unforgettable run that had more than its share of peaks and valleys after a terrific regular season. It almost ended before it began with a near-upset at the hands of a younger, upstart Hartford Whalers team, followed by another memorable matchup against an archrival and an extended run through the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This is their story.

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Boston Bruins Cult Heroes: Dave Poulin

Sorry, folks- been on a bit of a hiatus preparing for the USHL Draft and then all of the things we do afterwards. We’re back with a re-post of a Where Are They Now? story I did on Dave Poulin for New England Hockey Journal about 20 years ago when the former B’s standout and Selke Trophy winner with the Philadelphia Flyers was still coaching his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. He always was and is a class act, calling giving me his personal cell phone to call him back when he wasn’t in his office at the time he had set up our interview. He missed it, but called me and had me call him at home that night so I didn’t miss my deadline. Enjoy.- KL

Poulin

Dave Poulin spent 165 games as a member of the Boston Bruins from 1990-1993 providing the kind of leadership and veteran savvy that helped the team rise to the top of the National Hockey League’s standings and remain there throughout his tenure.

Poulin’s ability as a defensive forward, as well as his maturity, provided the Bruins the kind of depth around which championships are built.  Although none of his teams reached that elusive prize called the Stanley Cup, Poulin’s name is synonymous with words like heart, character, desire and skill.  Seven years after walking away from his playing career, Poulin still cherishes the time he spent in Boston as a member of its storied hockey franchise.

            “What I remember about playing for the Bruins was that it was two distinctly different teams,” Poulin, 42, told the New England Hockey Journal.  “The first team I was on featured Craig Janney, while the second had Adam Oates.  The first also had Cam Neely, while the second did not.”

            Poulin was the captain of the Philadelphia Flyers when B’s GM  Harry Sinden made the move to acquire the 1987 Selke Trophy winner as the league’s top defensive forward, in exchange for Ken Linseman on January 16, 1990.  At the time, the Bruins were making serious noise as a Stanley Cup contender and in Poulin, Sinden no doubt recognized the value of one of the league’s most renowned leaders and the benefits that would have both on the ice and in the locker room.

            “I enjoyed my time in Boston immensely,” said Poulin.  “I loved that town and we had a great bunch of guys on those teams.”

            Poulin was a free agent signee with the Flyers after a great career with the University of Notre Dame and a stint in Sweden.  He helped lead Philadelphia to a pair of Stanley Cup finals appearances in 1985 and 1987, falling short in both instances to the Edmonton Oilers.  In his first season with the Bruins under head coach Mike Milbury, his new team reached the finals only to succumb once again to Edmonton in five games.  However, looking back on that 1989-90 Boston Bruins hockey club, Poulin says that they certainly had a shot to win it all, and a lot of the credit for that should go to Milbury.

            “Mike was terrific for us,” he said.  “He was the perfect coach for a veteran team.  He didn’t try to bring in a lot of systems, but he realized that there was so much leadership inside that locker room and he pretty much left it up to us to go out and win hockey games.  It was a great situation for the team given our talent level and veteran presence.

            Perhaps Poulin’s greatest moment as a Boston Bruin took place on April 11, 1990, in Game Four of the Adams Division Semi-Final Series against the Hartford Whalers.  With the favored Bruins trailing in the series two-games-to-one, and with team’s captain and defensive stalwart Ray Bourque sidelined with an injury, Poulin led one of the greatest comebacks in Boston Bruins history.

With the team down 5-2 after two periods, he scored a pair of third period goals en route to a 6-5 victory that stunned the Whalers, ultimately dooming them to defeat in that series.  Poulin’s heroics began in between periods of that contest, when he asserted his leadership skills, exhorting his teammates to make amends for such a poor showing in the game’s first 40 minutes.

            “I was very emotional that night,” Poulin recalled of his sentiments in the dressing room before the final period of play.  “At that time, I had only been on the team a few months, but I realized that one of the things I brought with me was my leadership and when you’re in a situation like that, something just comes over you.

            “I knew we had a better team than we had showed to that point.  We needed everyone in that locker room to beat Hartford that night and I told them that much.  I think some guys were surprised at some of the things I said, but when the third period started, and I scored on the very first shift from Glen Wesley to make it 5-3, I think they were kind of like, ‘Wow- it’s one thing to say it, but it’s another thing to actually do something about it.’  Then, Bobby Beers got one, and Dave Christian scored a great goal to tie it.  When we won the game, I knew that we were going to win that series.”

            According to Poulin, those Boston Bruins teams were full of leaders, none more important than the captain himself.

         “Raymond’s leadership is so underestimated,” he said.  “He was a very vocal leader, but I think that he encouraged the perception that he was quiet off the ice.  As far as being a team leader however, he acted quite differently in the locker room.  I think he was happy when I came to the team because he knew that I had been a captain in Philadelphia and that my experiences in a leadership role would take some of the responsibilities off of him to be the team’s focal point.”

            Poulin left the Bruins in the summer of 1993 to sign with the Washington Capitals, where he spent two seasons before retiring from hockey with a year left on his contract to pursue the head coaching position at his alma mater. Since retiring, he has led the CCHA’s Notre Dame Fighting Irish to an 81-124-30 record in seven seasons.

            Although Poulin’s time with Boston Bruins was far too short, fans who were privileged enough to see him play for the team will always acknowledge his key contributions to those clubs that reached one final, and two conference final series while he was an alternate captain.  Poulin’s class, skill and leadership make him a fan favorite to this day.

Bruins Cult Heroes: Shoe and Moe’s Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em 1988 Playoffs

This is a new series where we’ll recount some of our favorite underappreciated, cult favorite players in Boston Bruins lore. Kirk kicks it off with the Boys of Spring- Bruce Shoebottom and Moe Lemay, who helped jumpstart a magical run in 32 years ago. It didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but against Adams Division archrivals Buffalo and Montreal. those two made an unforgettable impression on the high school sophomore from Hudson, N.H. Enjoy! -KL

SHOOOOE! SHOOOOOE! SHOOOOOOE!

The chants rang down from the Boston Garden rafters during the Boston Bruins Adams Division semifinal series against the Buffalo Sabres in the spring of 1988.

The B’s were up 2-0 after capturing both home games to open the seven-game set and in Game 2 on April 7, defenseman Bruce Shoebottom  swooped in from the point and fired home the winning goal in a 4-1 victory.

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Tribute to Colby Cave 1994-2020

Boston Bruins graphic courtesy of BostonBruins.com

Colby Cave

Today came the devastating news that days after emergency surgery for a brain bleed, Edmonton Oilers forward and former Boston Bruin Colby Cave passed away at age 25.

Words can’t even begin to convey the depth of loss and tragedy that the player affectionately known as “Caver” meant to his family, friends, fans and all who were touched by him in one way or another.

I didn’t know him all that well or cover him closely during his time in the Bruins organization, but the times I did interact with him were indicative of a former junior team captain and underdog who worked and willed himself to the big show after being passed over in the NHL draft. Despite modest expectations, Cave achieved far more than so many players drafted in 2013 and 2014, the two years any one of the NHL’s 30 clubs could have selected him. Here are a few honest observations and anecdotes about a player who is gone well before his time.

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