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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    Hitchcock believes Blues’ Allen is ‘locked up mentally’

    NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 08: Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes the third period save against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 8, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Things were already rough for the St. Louis Blues and their goalies (particularly still-pretty-newly crowned No. 1 Jake Allen) heading into Thursday, but the Washington Capitals really highlighted those issues in a 7-3 thrashing.

    Blues fans and management must be wondering, then: what’s wrong with their goalies, especially with Allen? Head coach Ken Hitchcock seems resigned to allowing him to fight through it, if nothing else.

    “There’s a lot going on right now. … He’s kind of locked up mentally and he’s going to have to fight through this,” Hitchock said, according to Lou Korac of NHL.com. “What we see at practice, we like. That’s why we put him in quite frankly.”

    Alex Pietrangelo did the typical deflecting thing, nothing that this is a “team” and that there are “no individuals.”

    Still, Hitchcock’s longer press conference makes you wonder how much trust there is in Allen and Carter Hutton.

    From Hitch’s perspective, it sure sounds like he believes that the Blues are over-correcting to try to limit “goals, shots.” By trying to do too much, they might be putting themselves in bad positions. And that might stem from a lack of confidence in the guys in net, or in the team’s work in their own zone overall.

    Let’s be honest. As much as we can play chicken-or-the-egg as far as a defense’s impact on a goalie, it’s tough to explain away save percentages under .900 in the modern NHL. At some point, your team needs more stops.

    With the races for the lower spots in the Western Conference’s playoff picture seemingly tightening up, the Blues don’t have a ton of time to figure this out.

    Capitals shine glaring light on Blues’ goalie woes

    ST LOUIS, MO - MAY 23:  Jake Allen #34 of the St. Louis Blues makes a save during the first period against the San Jose Sharks in Game Five of the Western Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Scottrade Center on May 23, 2016 in St Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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    If you’re reaction to the headline “Something is off about the St. Louis Blues” was “Yeah, their goaltending,” then Thursday only emboldened that opinion.

    It wasn’t just that the Washington Capitals bombarded the Blues by a score of 7-3. It’s that they really didn’t need to fire a whole lot of shots on goal to get to seven.

    Here’s a harsh rule of thumb: when both of your goalies play in a game and each one barely makes more saves than goals allowed, that’s an awful night. Take a look at what Jake Allen and Carter Hutton went through:

    Allen: six saves, four goals allowed in 25:11 time on ice
    Hutton: five saves, three goals allowed in 35:49

    Allen got pulled from the contest twice, by the way. He’s been pulled from four games since Dec. 30. Woof.

    Even before these horrendous performances, the Blues goalies have been shaky. Hutton came into tonight with an ugly .898 save percentage; Allen wasn’t much better with a .900 mark.

    Those are the type of numbers that would make Dallas Stars fans cringe, or at least experience some uncomfortable familiarity.

    Now, is it all on Hutton and Allen? Much like with the Stars’ embattled goalies, much of the struggles probably come down to a team struggling in front of them.

    Even so, if you assign more of the blame to Allen and Hutton, nights like this Capitals thrashing definitely strengthen your argument. Yikes.

    Rangers overwhelm Leafs, make life pretty easy for Lundqvist in win

    TORONTO, ON - JANUARY 19:  Henrik Lundqvist #30 of the New York Rangers faces a shot in the warm-up prior to play against the Toronto Maple Leafs in an NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on January 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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    Heading into Thursday, many were wondering how the New York Rangers will handle Henrik Lundqvist‘s struggles. Instead, the focus shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ difficulties, perhaps specifically in dealing with Morgan Rielly‘s absence.

    The Rangers handily won this one 5-2, at least giving Lundqvist the win. He wasn’t especially busy, stopping 23 out of 25 shots, so you can probably file his story under “To be continued.”

    Lundqvist wasn’t oblivious to his team’s impressive overall play.

    Really, it was all about the waves of attackers the Rangers can send at opponents and the trouble that caused for the Maple Leafs. It wasn’t the easiest night for Frank Corrado, in particular, who took a couple costly penalties.

    The Rangers’ next two games come in a road contest vs. the Red Wings on Sunday and a home game against the Kings on Monday. Perhaps those matches will serve as a better barometer for where Lundqvist’s really at, as he passed tonight’s test … but it wasn’t a particularly difficult one.

    So, is Mike Condon actually really good? He certainly was against Columbus

    OTTAWA, ON - JANUARY 8: Mike Condon #1 of the Ottawa Senators stands at the bench during a break in a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Canadian Tire Centre on January 8, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
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    Considering their numbers heading in, many were perplexed when the Ottawa Senators essentially replaced Andrew Hammond with Mike Condon. Now many are perplexed by just how strong Condon’s often been for Ottawa.

    Thursday might stand as the prime example that this guy could be better than many expected.

    The Columbus Blue Jackets dominated much of the play, generating a 42-28 shots on goal advantage, but Ottawa ended up winning 2-0 tonight.

    Condon already came into tonight with a solid save percentage (.915 before this shutout), and he’s now won four of his last five games. Three of his four career shutouts have come this season.

    Ignoring his one relief appearance with Pittsburgh this season for the sake of simplicity, just consider his tough times with Montreal last season. He went 21-25-6 with a shaky .903 save percentage.

    This marks just his 21st start and 23rd appearance of this season, so it’s not a guaranteee for future results. Still … it’s another example that goalies are as just about as unpredictable as they are crucial to a team’s fate.

    More and more, it seems like Condon might just be a difference-maker, and in the positive sense this time around.