The Bruins have been incredibly busy this offseason, hogging the transactions log with their re-signings (Shawn Thornton, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Mark Recchi), a major trade for Nathan Horton, and making the second overall pick in last week’s NHL draft.
In the process, they’ve tacked on more money to an already tight salary cap situation. The inflator clause to raise the cap to $59.4 million helped some, but when considering the raises to Seidenberg ($1 million) and Boychuk ($1.375 million), potential arbitration cases for Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart, and a deal to be done for Tyler Seguin, it’s no wonder general manager Peter Chiarelli has been speaking like someone who doesn’t seem set on being a player when free agency opens on Thursday.
“We’re going to work the trade market,” Chiarelli said Tuesday. “We’re not going out and signing anyone unless 1. We have someone we really want and/or we have the cap space. Right now we don’t really have the cap space to go out and sign a big deal, but that could happen.
“We could make a trade and there could be cap space, but that doesn’t mean we have someone in mind. We’ve got a list. The list is small and in the event we do enter it, unlikely.”
Everyone has heard the rumors involving Marc Savard and Tim Thomas, but as is the team has just $5.40 million in cap space, with the aforementioned players (Wheeler, Stuart, Seguin), Daniel Paille, and Gregory Campbell still to be accounted for. It would appear that they would be pressed for cash even when trying to hold onto their own guys, let alone bring in outside help. They already moved Vladimir Sobotka rather than paying the restricted free agent, but could Wheeler be next?
Many speculated that Wheeler could have been moved to the Oilers in a deal that could have secured the Bruins Taylor Hall, but those rumors were debunked when the fact that the Oilers’ plan was to get both Hall and Seguin came to light last Friday.
If the Bruins try to shed one of their current players’ deals, they might not be able to do so without getting very little talent in return, which could be counterproductive to their chase for a Cup. With the exception of perhaps Savard, none of their bigger contracts are completely desirable for other teams to take on. If they move Thomas’ $5 million, they run a big risk with whichever player they try to sign with the freed money, as history suggests Tuukka Rask hasn’t been a No. 1 goalie long enough for the team to feel completely comfortable without another big-time netminder.
As for moving Savard, you’d have to think the Bruins have seen enough of a shakeup in their offense without potentially offsetting whatever upgrade it got with the addition of Horton. The “he’s not a Neely type of player” talk might quiet down once the two play together.
Chiarelli said Wednesday that the team could look for another defenseman and a third goaltender, both of which would likely be low-cost options (especially the latter). He hinted on Thursday when appearing on Dennis & Callahan that “you might see a couple trades,” but once again downplayed them doing much else.
The Bruins are by no means done when it comes to building the ’10-’11 team. They may even steal a some more headlines in the next few days. Just don’t expect them to be with free agent signings.