The Boston Bruins salary cap problems, a short-term headache needing a fix

Thumbnail image for neely-chiarelli.jpgWhile the Bruins have had a solid off-season adding a scoring winger in Nathan Horton and adding depth to their forwards with Greg Campbell as well as the signing of Tyler Seguin, there’s one glaring weakness remaining for the Bruins to get settled: Their salary cap situation. We’ve talked a lot here about the Bruins and their potential for big problems with the salary cap this season, but ESPN Boston’s Jimmy Murphy looked at things a bit closer.

The Bruins once again pointed out that when the season begins, they can at least use the $3.5 million from Sturm’s salary for cap relief until he returns in what Chiarelli still believes will be mid- to late-November. Between the first drop of the puck and then, however, he can at least evaluate what possible changes need to be made.

“We’re over the cap right now but we have a player in Marco Sturm that we can put on long-term injury,” Chiarelli said when asked if the current roster is cap-compliant. “At some point we’d have to make some changes when Marco’s ready to come back, but that’s the reason you have long-term injury, that you can go in excess of the cap and see how your team unfolds while your injured player is rehabbing and recuperating.”

Until training camp, though, Chiarelli said he is confident in the players he has.

“We have the ability to ice a team and a good team, and if that’s all we do [signing Seguin] between now and the start of camp, I’d be very happy,” he said.

Oddly enough, having that cushion with Marco Sturm on LTIR is saving the Bruins a lot of trouble immediately. If Sturm were healthy right off the bat, a move would need to be made before the start of the season to free up cap space. Instead, they’ll get a couple months reprieve from needing to make a move. That gives the Bruins hope that perhaps in that two months $4 million winger Michael Ryder can play well enough to convince a team they’d like to trade for his services.

Ryder is in the last year of his contract and playing exceptionally well would go a long way towards helping him earn another nice contract in the off-season. It could also help save him the ignominy of being sent down to the AHL to help save the Bruins that money on the cap. I’m sure the Bruins would rather not pay Ryder $4 million to play for the Providence Bruins in the AHL, but if no one is willing to trade for him it seems almost certain that that’s what will happen once Marco Sturm is ready to come off of long-term injured reserve.

For the Bruins though, this is just a one-year problem to have as there’s a lot of money coming off the cap after this season with Sturm, Ryder, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, Zdeno Chara and Mark Stuart all becoming unrestricted free agents after this year. Sturm and Ryder alone represent $7.5 million of cap space by themselves. Surviving this year in salary cap hell will be tricky for the Bruins but they’re poised to still be very good and perhaps the pain of the cap can be rewarded. It worked for the Blackhawks last year after all.

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    Can there be parallels drawn between the 2016 Ducks and 2014 Sharks?

    Anaheim Ducks center Ryan Kesler (17) takes the puck up ice on a breakaway with San Jose Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, center, and Ducks center Nate Thompson, right, trailing on the play during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
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    The Anaheim Ducks might not have suffered a reverse sweep at the hands of one of their biggest rivals, but they seem to have reached a breaking point when it comes to playoff disappointments.

    After firing head coach Bruce Boudreau, GM Bob Murray was highly critical of the team’s core, even noting that at this point he’s not a fan of long-term contracts. That was perhaps a swipe at how he feels Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf‘s eight-year $69 million and $66 million contracts have worked out thus far. Meanwhile Ryan Kesler‘s six-year deal worth roughly $41 million is about to begin.

    After San Jose suffered its first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings in 2014, Sharks GM Doug Wilson said they were now becoming a “tomorrow team” and they began a cultural shift that included Joe Thornton losing the captaincy.

    There are differences of course between the two situations. One notable one is that the Sharks’ guard was already starting to change hands in 2013-14. Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau were entering their mid-30s, but Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture were on the rise. Anaheim’s core of Getzlaf and Perry is significantly younger, but while Anaheim also has some promising forwards like Jakob Silfverberg, that generation of players doesn’t seem ready to carry the torch for the Ducks.

    “We don’t have a lot of young guys in the lineup. … Today’s a much different feeling leaving the rink,” Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said, per the Los Angeles Times. “In those [previous] years there’s been a sense of hope. Today, there’s zero feeling like that.”

    Perhaps the Anaheim Ducks will find hope by watching the rest of the 2016 playoffs. If the San Jose Sharks continue to succeed, they will be an example of a team that once underachieved, hit a critical low, but then managed to fix that in a relatively short time without a massive turnover in terms of on-ice personnel. While we’re at it, you could make a similar argument for the Washington Capitals.

    Maybe Murray will look to those franchises for inspiration as he moves forward.

    Capitals, Penguins nearly perfect at stopping third period comebacks

    Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) and Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen (2) chase down the puck during the first period of Game 2 in an NHL hockey Stanley Cup Eastern Conference semifinals Saturday, April 30, 2016 in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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    Pittsburgh only won by a single goal in Game 2 on Saturday and that deciding marker came with 4:28 minutes remaining in the third, but that contest had the potential to be far more one-sided.

    The Capitals were outshot 28-10 through 40 minutes and were consequently leaning on goaltender Braden Holtby to keep things close.

    “First two periods, I thought they were way better than us,” Washington coach Barry Trotz told CSN Mid-Atlantic. Or has Justin Williams put it, the Capitals “were getting embarrassed out there” during the first 40 minutes.

    Washington did rebound in the third period, though it wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from evening this series at 1-1. That puts the pressure on Washington to take at least one game in Pittsburgh before the second round’s over.

    Starting the game off strong is always going to be important, but that’s particularly true when talking about the Penguins and Capitals. Pittsburgh was 39-0-0 in the regular season when leading after 40 minutes while Washington was 37-0-1. So far in the playoffs, both teams are 4-0-0 when they have the lead after two periods.

    Hemsky finds his groove on third line

    DALLAS, TX - APRIL 11: Ales Hemsky #83 of the Dallas Stars handles the puck against the Nashville Predators at the American Airlines Center on April 11, 2015 in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Glenn James/NHLI via Getty Images)
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    When the Dallas Stars inked Ales Hemsky to a three-year, $12 million deal, the hope was that he would be a valuable secondary scorer and help round out their top-six. Things haven’t gone as predicted, but Hemsky has emerged as a significant player for Dallas lately.

    Hemsky is now playing on the third line with Radek Faksa and Antoine Roussel and he’s gone on to record 15 points in his last 16 regular season games as well as another four points in seven playoff contests.

    “We had hard conversations about how I felt the game needed to be played, where I felt his game needed to go,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. “Did it always go his way? No. But from his defensive responsibilities to really buying into shooting the puck a little bit more, I think he’s been a real good asset for us this year.”

    The Morning News goes into much more detail about Hemsky and his resurgence, but taking a step back from that, having a third line that’s both impactful without the puck and capable of chipping in offensively is important, especially as we get deeper into the playoffs. There’s no question that the Stars have big time players on their roster, but that’s obviously not all you need in the playoffs.

    A lot of the time when talking about the Stars’ areas of concern, their defense and goaltending come up and understandably so given that Dallas allowed more goals in the regular season than any other team that made the playoffs. But the value of a strong bottom-six shouldn’t be understated and perhaps Hemsky’s recent resurgence will play a role in the Stars having that going for them throughout the playoffs.

    Dallas has taken a 1-0 lead over St. Louis in the second round and has an opportunity to build on that in Game 2 this afternoon (3:00 p.m. ET).

    NHL schedules hearing with Orpik over Maatta hit

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    Brooks Orpik‘s late hit in Game 2 on Saturday might keep him out of Monday’s contest.

    At the very least, the NHL Department of Player Safety intends to discuss the matter with Orpik today, per the department’s Twitter feed.

    The incident occurred early in the first period when the Capitals forward smashed into Olli Maatta. The Penguins blueliner collapsed and needed some assistance getting off the ice. He didn’t return to the game.

    You can see that hit below:

    “I thought it was a late hit,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

    The Penguins didn’t have an update on Maatta’s condition immediately following the contest.