September 7, 2012

Bruins may face major cap conundrum next summer

By Jesse Connolly

 At present, it’s utterly impossible to predict where the salary cap will wind up (even for 2012-13), but after today’s signing of Brad Marchand to a four-year extension worth $4.5 million annually, the Bruins have $47.6 million committed to their roster for the 2013-14 campaign. 

Nathan Horton (left) and Milan Lucic celebrate a goal during a game in New Jersey. (Getty Images)

Even if the cap were to stay at its projected 2011-12 figure of $70.2 million, that’d leave Boston – assuming Marc Savard goes on LTIR and frees up $4 million worth of space -- $26.4 million to sign a trio of wingers capable of scoring 30-plus goals in Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and Tyler Seguin, their “glue guy” on defense in Andy Ference, a former first-rounder in Jordan Caron who hopes to make his mark in the NHL this season and their No. 1 netminder, Tuukka Rask.

Oh, and they’ll also need to account for a backup goalie, too. Anton Khudobin, a highly-affordable commodity right now at $875,000 per year, will become an unrestricted free agent.

And keep in mind that the aforementioned amount of wiggle room is only if – and that’s a big if – the cap doesn’t go back down.

What’s a GM to do?

“I can’t ignore it,” said Chiarelli of the landscape possibly shifting. “We’re trying to lock up our core guys and the critical mass of our team. I’ve told the guys that if the system changes dramatically and we have to shuffle pieces around, I have to do that. It’s part of the business. When we’re signing guys, they’re okay with that.

“There are some guys that might have to wait (on new deals), there are some we may do and we’re trying our best to maintain the core of this team and to keep it good for a long time.”

The Bruins have seen the harsh reality that a salary-cap world presents for NHL teams, as the Black and Gold aren't exactly too far removed from the cap quandry they faced heading into 2010-11.

But with a core of players they're confident can capture the Cup again, the last thing Chiarelli and Co. want is to be forced to break them up.

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.