How could the Boston Bruins clear up some salary cap space?

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Thumbnail image for timthomas.jpgIn case you missed it, the Boston Bruins decided to honor the arbitrator’s award and take on Blake Wheeler’s perfectly reasonable one-year, $2.2 million deal. Wheeler might not be a proven commodity, but he’s a big body who is worth a single season shot.

Of course, you’re probably also aware that the Bruins are in quite a salary cap pickle. They’re basically over the salary cap by Wheeler’s contract, so someone’s going to need to go whether it’s via a trade, a minor league assignment or a buyout. The situation is pretty intriguing, so I thought I’d break down some of the team’s most commonly discussed options to see which ones might be the most desirable.

Trade Marc Savard

I’ll get deeper into the latest rumor of the Kings inquiring about Savard later tonight, but let me discuss the bigger picture regarding the playmaking center.

There are a few things that make Savard a desirable candidate. He’s one of the league’s most gifted passers, putting up assist totals of 23 in only 41 games last year, 63 twice, 69, and 74 in the last five seasons. Savard was one of the NHL’s best bargains in his previous deal, but now his cap hit is even more reasonable at just more than $4 million.

Of course, there are some minuses too. The aforementioned cap-cheap deal is a baby Kovalchuk contract, with his final two years paying him at a league minimum. That would be fine-and-dandy except that the 33-year-old center suffered some serious concussion problems thanks to that notorious Matt Cooke hit. Any other GM must wonder if the Bruins are trying to get rid of Savard so soon after signing him because he’s still having issues.

Trade Tim Thomas

While Savard is a salary cap steal, former Vezina winner Thomas’s deal is an eye sore. He’s making $5 million per year and his deal is a 35+ contract, so you cannot even pray for him to retire to experience cap relief. Considering the bone-dry free agent market, why would a team want to clog its cap with a guy who couldn’t live up to a big deal? On the bright side, the Bruins at least will get a little security if Tuukka Rask falters Steven Mason-style.

Take a look at a couple other options after the jump


Thumbnail image for michaelryderbrotherofdan.jpgTrade/Demote Michael Ryder

After putting together a solid 27 goal, 26 assist campaign in 2008-09, Ryder floundered from 53 to 33 points last season. His playoff production also regressed considerably. My guess is that another team would only take on Ryder if the Bruins absorbed some of their cap headaches, so chances are that a demotion would be the most realistic option for the pouting power forward. My guess is that their penny-pinching owner might have some qualms with paying him $4 million to play in the AHL, though.

Play entry-level chicken with Tyler Seguin

One notion is to allow Seguin to play nine games and then ship him to the AHL before the team loses a year of his entry-level deal. While that would be a clever salary cap trick, I think it all comes down to production. If Seguin is as sensational as many expect, then he’ll be worth keeping with the big club. Even if that will mean jumping over some high, headache-filled hurdles.

Trade Andrew Ference

Ha. Haha. Hahahahaha.

So, anyway, those are the five most prevalent routes the Bruins might go to clear up some cap space. Naturally, other options could sprout up for GM Peter Chiarelli. That being said, what option seems the most advisable or realistic to the Bruins? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

Report: Predators avoid arbitration … with Marek Mazanec

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The Nashville Predators avoided salary arbitration in at least one case on Thursday, but it wasn’t the biggest name they were worried about.

FanRag’s Craig Morgan reports that Marek Mazanec settled for a one-year deal worth $650K at the NHL level and $100K in the AHL.

That two-way split is quite relevant, as Mazanec probably comes in fourth on the Predators’ goalie depth chart behind Pekka Rinne, Jusse Saros, and Anders Lindback. Actually, with Matt O’Connor in mind, Mazanec may even come in at fifth.

One interesting wrinkle is that Lindback gets the same $650K at both levels while Saros and Mazenec see different salaries depending upon where they are, according to Cap Friendly’s listings. From a sheer financial standpoint, that might give Lindback some fuel to push as Rinne’s backup, though Saros is already pushing for starts after strong showings in 2016-17.

It’s not the easiest situation for Mazanec, but credit Predators GM David Poile for giving his team plenty of options in net. Both Mazanec and Lindback saw elevated action when Rinne was hurt in 2013-14, so these situations can change quickly at times.

Mazanec was the least crucial of the Predators’ three salary arbitration situations, as Viktor Arvidsson‘s hearing is scheduled for Saturday (July 22) while Austin Watson is set for Monday (July 24). Arvidsson emerged as a legitimate first-line winger last season, so that will be a significantly trickier situation for the Predators.

For more on Arvidsson’s situation, click here.

Penguins GM confident they can find third-line center with Bonino gone

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August is nearing, and the Pittsburgh Penguins haven’t made a trade or signing to replace Nick Bonino, their outstanding (but former) third-line center.

On the bright side, the Penguins have remarkable breathing room considering their status as repeat Stanley Cup champions. Cap Friendly places their 2017-18 room at about $10.38 million.

That robust space likely explains why GM Jim Rutherford seemed fairly calm about the whole situation, as Jason Mackey of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

“I do feel confident that, by the start of the season, we’re going to have a third-line center that we’re comfortable with,” Rutherford said. “Whether it’s one of those guys on the list or one of the guys that I could go and get right today.”

Rutherford (jokingly?) said that he had a list of “hundreds of names” as options, although it’s difficult to top Mackey’s suggestion of Phil Kessel‘s buddy, Tyler Bozak. After all, Bozak is a competent player who carries a $4.2 million cap hit that Pittsburgh could comfortably absorb (and the Toronto Maple Leafs might need to shed). It doesn’t hurt that Bozak’s contract expires after 2017-18, so the Penguins wouldn’t be on the hook if things don’t work out.

Of course, Matt Duchene is another name worth considering. It almost feels a little strange to ponder that speedy Avalanche forward being a “third-line center,” especially if Pittsburgh would want to get the most out of him.

MORE: Duchene might begin next season with the Colorado Avalanche

After that, though … the pickings could be much slimmer than Rutherford indicated to Mackey.

Shallow pool

Take a look at this current list of forwards who are unrestricted free agents.

There are some potential bargains here (P.A. Parenteau, Jiri Hudler, anyone?), but the situation gets significantly shakier if you’re picky enough to look only at centers. The likes of Daniel Winnik and Ryan White are reasonable roster additions, but the drop-off from Bonino could be pretty drastic.

What about other trade possibilities?

That’s a shaky group, too, especially if you apply Bozak-like terms as far as guys who only have one year left on their current contracts.

Honestly, the Penguins’ best bet in looking at that list would probably come down to an in-season move with a team that realizes it’s not a contender or simply understands that a player won’t be back.

Maybe the Calgary Flames would want to cut bait on Matt Stajan or (less realistically) Mikael Backlund? Would the Ducks move speedy, versatile sometimes-center Andrew Cogliano? There are other remote possibilities, such as the Leafs instead trading Leo Komarov (or especially unlikely moves in Paul Stastny or Tomas Plekanec).

Even if the above list seems enticing, how many of those teams would really want to move those players now, especially the bigger difference-makers?

If you’re the Penguins, you’re probably hoping that a Bozak deal could take place. And maybe you’re sweating this situation more than you let on.

(Note: There’s also the slight possibility that the Penguins might identify a replacement from within, though a contending team like Pittsburgh might not be so comfortable with that approach.)

Blues have ‘wiggle room’ after locking up Parayko

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The St. Louis Blues didn’t break the bank to keep Colton Parayko for five more years, and that’s important since they don’t believe the NHL’s salary cap will rise significantly in the next little while.

Parayko’s cap hit came in at a manageable $5.5 million, as the two sides narrowly avoided an arbitration hearing that was scheduled for today.

“You like to have as much wiggle room as possible,” GM Doug Armstrong said, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Now we view the cap will stay flat for the foreseeable future. We’re content with the space we have. We’ll move forward and get ready for training camp.”

The Blues now have a number of key players locked up long term, including Parayko, Alex Pietrangelo, Vladimir Tarasenko, Alex Steen, Jaden Schwartz, Patrik Berglund, and Jake Allen.

For Armstrong, the next big decision could involve Paul Stastny, the 31-year-old center who can become an unrestricted free agent next summer.

But a decision on Stastny doesn’t need to be made now, or even before the season starts. It’s the trade deadline that could be the real pressure point, akin to the Kevin Shattenkirk situation this past year.

Per CapFriendly, the Blues have just over $3 million in cap space, with one roster spot left to fill.

‘Highly unlikely’ Suns will pursue shared arena with Coyotes

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The Arizona Coyotes appear to be on their own in pursuit of a new arena in the Phoenix area.

That’s because Robert Sarver, the owner of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, says it’s “highly unlikely” he’ll pursue a shared arena with the Coyotes.

Instead, Sarver is focused on upgrading the Suns’ current home (and Coyotes’ old home) in downtown Phoenix, Talking Stick Resort Arena.

From the Arizona Republic:

Sarver said building a new arena would have “maybe made more sense” four or five years ago when the cost estimate was $450 million to $500 million. The costs now, Sarver said, are “significantly higher.” Thus his focus on upgrading Talking Stick, which soon will be the second-oldest arena in the NBA.

“I think it’s the most economically viable alternative for the city and us,” he said. “I like downtown Phoenix. That’s my first preference. I think the NBA is more of an urban game. That’s our demographic.”

Talking Stick Resort Arena, formerly called America West Arena when the Coyotes played there, was designed for basketball and isn’t ideal for hockey. In that way, it’s a lot like Barclays Center in Brooklyn, which hasn’t been a great fit for the Islanders.

The Coyotes recently hired a new president and CEO, Steve Patterson, whose top priority is finding the team a new home in the Phoenix area.