With Marc Savard on the verge of returning, Boston must decide who needs to go

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Thanks to the pesky old salary cap, the addition of an elite playmaker like Marc Savard can be a curse along with a gift for a team with no margin of error such as the Boston Bruins.

As Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe points out, Savard seems like he is on the verge of a return to the team’s lineup as he finally seems like he recovered from post-concussion syndrome. The problem is that the team will then need to make room for his $4 million (and change) salary cap hit.

So, here is the burning question for the Boston Bruins: who needs to go?

Shinzawa points out the fact that the only Bruins who have no-movement clauses are Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and Tim Thomas (all players whose salaries are larger than Savard’s, by the way).

Before activating Savard, the Bruins must clear salary before reintroducing the center’s $4.007 million annual cap hit. So sometime before early next month, when Savard could be ready for game action, Chiarelli will create the required space, either via trade or AHL assignment.

“I’ve got a pretty good idea of what I want to do,’’ said Chiarelli.

It may not be a seamless transition. There is no guarantee, according to Chiarelli, that Player X can be traded on the eve of Savard’s return. An opposing GM could insist on acquiring a player — Michael Ryder, for example — sooner rather than later, which would require the Bruins to bridge the gap between that deal and Savard’s reentry. Chiarelli confirmed that in any trade, he would have to accept either draft picks or prospects in return instead of NHL roster players.

However, if Chiarelli turns to AHL assignments, he could clear salary immediately before activating Savard. Only Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, and Tim Thomas have no-movement clauses in their contracts, which frees Chiarelli to waive every other player without having to gain their consent. The Bruins could also bring up any demoted players for the playoffs, when the salary cap is not considered.

Shinzawa also points out the fact that the Bruins could call up a demoted player like Ryder once the playoffs begin without salary cap implications.

Now, I don’t have all the details, but here is what I would do.

1. Make sure Savard is actually ready to play.

At least if Chiarelli plans on making a trade to clear space. You’d hate to move a valuable piece for a draft pick only for Savard to hang up the skates for the rest of the season after playing for a handful of games.

2. Don’t trust Marco Sturm.

There are some players whose injury prone natures so blindingly clear that it outweighs whatever impact they could have on the ice. Sturm is pretty talented and very fast, but he gets injured on a Marian Gaborik rate (maybe even worse). I wouldn’t move a healthy, productive player for him.

3. Consider demoting rookies, including Tyler Seguin.

I like Seguin’s potential, but I think the Bruins would have been wise to demote him before burning one of his entry-level years. His $3.55 million cap hit could be combined with a cheap rookie to make room for Savard.

But even with a year burned, the Bruins could let Seguin beat up on lower level competition and then bring him up during the playoffs for fresher legs. It’s at least worth considering.

4. Be careful with Ryder.

On one hand, Ryder is inconsistent. He scored only two goals in his last nine games. Yet before that stretch, he scored 10 points in 12 games.

The question remains: is he good enough to keep him with the team in the minors/at the NHL level or would it be worth it just to get quarters on the dollar with a trade?

Boston faces some tough questions coming up, with the problem within a blessing involved with the returns of Savard and/or Sturm. So, what would you do if you were their GM? Let us know in the comments.

Raffl coverts PTO into one-year, $575K deal with Jets

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There’s another Raffl in the NHL.

On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.

Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.

“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.

With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.

For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Flyers to start season with seven d-men; MacDonald sent to AHL

Andrew MacDonald, Matt Calvert
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Seven defensemen will comprise the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening-day roster, which the club finalized today.

Those seven are Radko Gudas, Michael Del Zotto, Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Brandon Manning, Mark Streit, and Evgeny Medvedev.

Not on the list? Andrew MacDonald, who has cleared waivers and been assigned to AHL Lehigh Valley. (That move allowed the Flyers to keep both Manning and youngster Scott Laughton.)

Also not on the list were prospects Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Sam Morin, Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim. The first three will start the season in the AHL. The last two have been sent back to junior.

But the opening-day roster is not where this story ends. How the Flyers’ defensive mix changes as the season progresses will be worth watching.

They’d no doubt love to move Schenn, a pending unrestricted free agent with a $3.6 million cap hit. He could also end up in the AHL, a la MacDonald.

Medvedev, the 33-year-old who came over from the KHL and put up five points in five preseason games, is another pending UFA. The club could either look to re-sign or flip him.

Might 37-year-old Streit be a chip worth cashing in at the deadline, especially if the Flyers aren’t in a playoff position on Feb. 29? He’s only got two years left on his contract.

Meanwhile, GM Ron Hextall will be watching pending restricted free agents Manning and Gudas closely. Are they part of the future?

So, lots of decisions to make in Philly as the blue line continues its much-needed transition.