By Erik Caron
By now it is well documented that GM Peter Chiarelli and the Bruins are living in cap hell and aren’t going to find an easy way out. Sure there are other teams who are having cap struggles of their own but no one seems to be feeling it quite like Peter Chiarelli and company. After signing Matt Bartkowski and Jordan Caron to new one year deals this past week the Bruins are 209,143 in the red. The Bruins can’t even apply the Savard money until the official start of next season. Chiarelli will have to get creative just to finish signing players to his roster which still include Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. The Bruins have nine NHL ready defensemen on the roster if you include David Warsofsky, which means one will be moved out of town so Chiarelli can finish resigning his remaining players and maybe even find a dirt cheap option to play right wing.
Unless the salary cap goes up a substantial amount next season the Bruins are going to have to make more tough decisions with key free agents Krejci, Soderberg and Hamilton all looking for new deals. Not to mention if somehow Johnny Boychuk hasn’t been moved out of town for salary cap relief, he’ll be looking for a new deal as well. All four guys are in line for substantial raises and Peter Chiarelli is going to have to decide if he can keep all of them.
The dormant offseason has been a reminder for Chiarelli that bad deals can come back to bite him. Chiarelli has been questioned for his decisions all summer now that the Bruins have been left on the outside of the free agency party looking in. The Bruins GM has continued to take heat over loyalty for “his guys” because he wouldn’t buy someone out or someone else is making too much. Salaries of guys like Chris Kelly are constantly brought up because fans and media in the Hub are crying foul over him being paid 3 million a season and not producing enough results to satisfy the cap hit.
The other ghost who keeps knocking at GM Peter Chiarelli’s door just finished fourth in scoring in the entire NHL this past season in Dallas. The blockbuster trade that sent Tyler Seguin to Dallas and brought back Loui Eriksson and Reilly Smith amongst others is still debated in Boston every time Seguin has a huge night. At the time it was a huge gamble but with the bitter taste of a Stanley Cup lost still lingering in his mouth, Chiarelli felt it was the move that would restore depth to a Bruins squad that seemed lacking. This opened the door for the Bruins to bring in Jarome Iginla on a team friendly deal and solidify the right side. The Bruins looked like a powerhouse considered they had dumped their future superstar in Seguin.
This solution only lasted a season though and with Iginla gone there is a huge hole in the Bruins top six while Seguin is flourishing in Dallas.
So how do the Bruins address their needs from here while the rest of the league continues to get better?
The Bruins hope is going to have to come from within and there aren’t too many options. Loui Eriksson is the obvious choice to jump on that line with Krejci and Lucic. A lot of fans in the Hub will grumble about this idea because of the rough introduction he had in his first year as a Bruin. He is a natural top six forward though and he has the potential to flourish on that line if he is given the opportunity to do so. In Eriksson’s second season as a Bruin he will be expected to make a bigger impact especially with the loss of Iginla.
Another solution to fixing the Bruin’s right side is bringing in their 2014 first round draft pick, David Pastrnak. After wooing the Bruins brass with his skill and speed at development camp the Bruins signed Pastrnak to an entry level deal, giving him the chance to go to tryouts and take a crack at making the Bruins lineup. Only Kessel, Seguin and Bergeron have made the roster immediately after being drafted in recent years. The question that will be asked is can Pastrnak endure the Physical toll that will be taken on his body. At 170 pounds he will need to bulk up.
The top six will be more than good enough to compete but the reality is its going to be the trickledown effect on the 3rd and 4th lines. With the window closing are the Bruins good enough to compete for a cup especially when they have to match up with power house teams out west like the Kings, Ducks, and Blackhawks? With a tight salary cap GM Peter Chiarelli is going to continue to be tested until he can find a way to get some relief.