Don Sweeney needed to make significant changes this summer, and he still needs to make significant ones. However, the first domino was dropped on Monday afternoon when Sweeney, in the simplest terms, threw out Taylor Hall’s salary to free up $6 million in space.
The deal’s specifics emerged a little more, with the rights to two RFA defenseman moving to Boston and the rights to pending UFA Nick Foligno also going to Chicago. However, the rationale for the transaction was pretty straightforward: the Bruins needed salary space, and Hall offered a direct route to get it.
However, if the Bruins re-sign Tyler Bertuzzi, the salary space that became available is expected to disappear fast. The Bruins have a motivation to want to convert the March trade deadline acquisition of Bertuzzi into a long-term union since Sweeney traded a first-round selection (and a fourth-round pick) to obtain him. During his tenure in Boston, Bertuzzi also blended in well, playing in all forward positions, leading the club in playoff goals while tied for the lead in postseason points.
Bertuzzi’s next contract is difficult to estimate, but it is likely to have a cap impact of more than $5 million, using up the majority of the salary space made available by Monday’s trade of Hall.
It makes sense for the roster if the Bruins are prioritising Bertuzzi above Hall. However, the general image of that roster is still unclear.
Based on the players presently under contract, the forward lines, if Bertuzzi joins Boston, will be as follows:
Even with around $6 million in cap room at his disposal, Sweeney will still have a very tough time assembling a championship-caliber front core. Although some less expensive forwards, such as homegrown RFA Trent Frederic, may help round out the bottom two lines, the Bruins will still have a lot of difficulty trying to replicate the kind of play they displayed last year.
Actually, Sweeney will only have two options. First, he’ll have to part with at least one defenseman and probably two. Second, he’ll have to give dealing Linus Ullmark some serious thought.
The latter option has already been acknowledged by Ullmark, who took note of how effectively Jeremy Swayman performed during the last campaign. Swayman, an RFA who earned $925,000 last season, is overdue for a rise but will still be less expensive than Ullmark. Nevertheless, Ullmark provided Vezina-caliber performance for the Bruins for under a $5 million cap charge, which is a wonderful asset for a club to have. Under normal conditions, no GM would wish to sever that winning combination. However, Sweeney’s cap problem may compel Boston to move Ullmark away in order to free up even more cap space. (16 teams are on Ullmark’s no-trade list).
Regarding the blue line, anybody who isn’t McAvoy or Lindholm must be taken into consideration as a potential. The $4.1 million cap hit for Brandon Carlo would be beneficial, but some clubs would be unwilling to accept it. After that, the Bruins may turn to some younger players to help fill out the D corps while Matt Grzelcyk’s $3.7 million contract cost, along with the $3 million cap hits for Mike Reilly and Derek Forbort, might help free up some money to be spent on forwards.
Obviously, the Bruins cannot afford to let all of those defenders go. But dropping one or two should give Sweeney the flexibility he needs to assemble a full forward group. According to the contracts signed by David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron last year, we also know that Sweeney is ready to defer payment in the form of incentive bonuses to the following year. Although not every player would agree to that, Sweeney still has it available in case the squad needs it.
When seen in that light, the trade of Hall on Monday was significant, but it wasn’t the significant move. This seems to be Sweeney’s busiest week in his eight years of employment.