Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli held a Tuesday afternoon conference call with reporters, and confirmed that the team has enough room under the salary cap to sign all of their restricted free agents prior to the July 1 deadline for RFAs.
After July 1 the Bruins RFAs (Phil Kessel, Matt Hunwick, Byron Bitz) can begin accepting offer sheets from opposing NHL teams, and Chiarelli said that it’s a roll of the dice that the Bruins are willing to take. Chiarelli is surely taking into account the fact that teams can go 10 percent over the salary cap in the summer, but must fit snugly under the $56.8 cap number before the start of the 2009-10 hockey season.
The ”read-and-react” philosophy that Chiarelli is employing is one that your humble hockey writer opined about on Monday, and it looks as if there won’t be any Kessel trade in the works over the next couple of days. Instead the B’s GM is fine with watching how things play out when the July 1 free agent shopping period begins, and players like Kessel can be wooed by other teams.
It was assumed that Chiarelli couldn’t fit Kessel’s $5 million per season salary demands under the cap, but perhaps the 21-year-old sniper is asking for something closer to $4.25-4.5 million. Either way, Chiarelli said he doesn’t anticipate coming to terms with any of his free agents prior to Wednesday.
“We have room (under the cap) to sign our guys at what they’re asking tonight, but we’re not going to do it,” said Chiarelli. “There’s a risk allowing these guys to go out unsigned into the market place, I understand that. That’s a risk we’re willing to take and we’re also willing to continue to negotiate.”
Other tidbits from the conference call:
–Chiarelli restated that his No. 1 priority in a world with no salary cap would be another No. 1 or No. 2 defenseman to ease some of the pressure off Zdeno Chara in terms of on-ice minutes.
“My (wish) list would probably include an impact defenseman, either a 1 or a 2 (pairing). It’s more minutes to sort of ease the pressure on Zdeno (Chara),” said Chiarelli. “Z can play both (the right or left) side, and it’s not just (getting a right-handed shot).
“If we don’t do anything with our ‘D’ then I’m happy with it. You have to remember that two of our defenseman didn’t play in the last series (against Carolina) and I feel that’s a big part that’s missing. Let’s say I don’t have that (imaginary) $12 million or whatever, I’m happy with where I’m at defensively. If I don’t do anything defensively, then I’d like to get some size on the wing.”
–Both Matt Hunwick and Byron Bitz have arbitration rights as RFAs and have until 5 p.m. on July 5 to opt for arbitration with the Bruins concerning their contracts.
–Peter Schaefer has cleared waivers and the Bruins have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to decide whether they’ll but out the remainder of his contract. Schaefer was scheduled to make $2.1 million this coming season, but Chiarelli said Schaefer’s contract settlement would amount to an approximate $566,667 salary cap hit for the next two seasons.
UPDATE: The Bruins sent out a release on Tuesday evening that announced the Bruins were buying out Schaefer’s contract, and the B’s will have an additional $566,667 cap hit on the books for the next two seasons. Schaefer is now a free agent capable of signing with any other NHL team.