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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.

Sabres extend Larsson: one year, $950,000

BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 22: Johan Larsson #22 of the Buffalo Sabres warms up before the game against the Detroit Red Wings on January 22, 2016 at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Tom Brenner/Getty Images)
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BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) The Buffalo Sabres have re-signed forward Johan Larsson to a one-year contract.

Larsson was eligible to become a restricted free agent once his contract expired this summer. The Swedish-born player is coming off a season in which he set career bests with 10 goals, 17 points and 74 games. He also finished tied with rookie center Jack Eichel in scoring five game-winning goals.

Overall, he has 16 goals and 21 assists in 142 games for the Sabres.

Buffalo acquired Larsson in a trade that sent former Sabres captain Jason Pominville to Minnesota in April 2013. The Wild selected Larsson in the second round of the 2010 draft.

Contractual details, per the Buffalo News:

Burke: Once a team picks first overall, no more drafting first overall (for a few years at least)

Calgary Flames' President of Hockey Operations & acting GM, Brian Burke speaks to the media as team members show up for NHL hockey season-end activities in Calgary, Alberta, on Monday, April 14, 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Larry MacDougal)
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Brian Burke isn’t trying to pick on the Edmonton Oilers — no really, he isn’t — but Calgary’s president of hockey ops doesn’t believe any team should get to draft first overall as much as his northern rivals have done the past few years.

“If you’re a team that picks first overall, you shouldn’t be allowed to pick first overall for some specified period … three years or five years, whatever … or even the top two teams, pick in the top two,” Burke told the Flames’ website.

“You could still pick four or five, still get a good player, but you can’t get rewarded for continued failure, or continued luck.”

The Oilers, of course, picked first overall in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2015. And after yet another dismal season in 2015-16, they have a 13.5 percent of winning’s tomorrow’s lottery and getting the same privilege again

“Everyone thinks when you talk about the draft having flaws, that you’re picking on Edmonton,” said Burke.

“There are a lot of teams that have followed this path and have repeated high, high picks for a number of years. Chicago did it. Florida’s done it. Buffalo’s done it. You can argue we did it in Toronto, certainly by not any effort of ours. We were just not successful in the lottery. This is not an indictment of any one team and it’s not an indictment of the system.

“This is saying, ‘Okay, if 30 reasonable people got into a room and said, how do we best award amateur talent in the draft without having abuses,’ I’m not sure this is the system we’d come up with. That’s all I’m saying.”

And many would agree with Burke.

In fact, many would go a lot further, suggesting the entire system should be rethought.

But the question will remain, what’s a better system? The current one incentivizes losing, and so some teams tank. They may not use the word “tanking,” but they’re sure not trying to win. Not in the short term.

Now, is it a good look for the NHL when teams are built to be bad and we see fans openly rooting for losses? No, it’s not a good look.

But would it be preferable for each team to have the same odds of drafting first overall. Even the Stanley Cup champion?

Imagine for a moment a system that didn’t take the standings into account. You just know there’d be some poor franchise that was chronically unlucky, year after year after year. And you just know there’d be some ultra-lucky franchise, too.

The fact is, as long as the NHL wants to maintain its competitive balance — and remember, there’s nothing the NHL is prouder of than its precious parity — losing teams will be rewarded in the draft.

Burke is fine with that.

All he’s saying is the current system could use a few tweaks.

And if the Oilers win the lottery tomorrow, you can bet there’ll be some.

After firing Boudreau, Ducks GM unloads on core players

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When the Ducks were struggling this season, GM Bob Murray took some not-so-thinly veiled shots at the team’s core players.

And after the club’s disappointing first-round playoff exit to Nashville, he was at it again.

The juicy stuff, from today’s presser following the Bruce Boudreau dismissal.

(Video here):

“Let’s face it: I’d like to know where they heck they were in Games 1 and 2. The players are going to have to answer that the next four or five days. Where were they? They showed up in Game 7, but where was the passion, the controlled emotion? Where the heck was that? They’re going to have to be held accountable, too.

“There’s definite concerns in that area, and I think the core has to be held responsible, and they have to be better. Maybe I haven’t been hard enough on them in the last few years, but they’re going to hear some different words this time.”

Murray then shared a few of those “different words” with the assembled media.

If you’re looking for one of the core guys Murray may be referring to, consider Corey Perry.

Having just wrapped the third of an eight-year, $69 million deal with a $8.625M cap hit (that’s a long-term contract, right?), Perry failed to score over the seven-game series against the Preds, and had a team-worst minus-7 rating.

Say what you will about the merits of plus-minus, but minus-7  is minus-7. It’s not good. Hard to see how it could be viewed positively.

Of course, there’s no doubt other core guys are in Murray’s crosshairs. But it’s not just about core guys making big money and failint to produce in crunch time. It’s also about core guys making big money, failing in crunch time and not going anywhere.

Because that affects the futures of the players around them.

Some of Murray’s anger — justifiably — comes with the long-terms deals he’s got on the books, and how they’ll likely hamstring the Ducks this summer. He’s already on record saying this will be an “interesting” offseasonHampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Rickard Rakell and Frederik Andersen are all RFAs, and it’s quite conceivable one or two won’t be with back in Anaheim for the start of training camp.

Had the Ducks made a legit playoff run, it would’ve taken the sting away from (potentially) losing players.

But now?

Consider what Murray said about retaining Rakell, who finished fourth on the team in scoring.

“In keeping certain people, other people may have to go,” he explained, per the Associated Press. “That’s what you get forced into. A couple of big contracts get signed, and you end up following because that’s what you get pushed into, and that’s what they expect.

“We are all guilty of that.”

Blues, Capitals to play exhibition game in Kansas City

Pedestrians walk past the Sprint Center, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. The city was preparing for the third round of the NCAA college basketball tournament at the arena after the region received 6-10 inches of snow overnight. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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Kansas City is going to host another NHL exhibition game.

The St. Louis Blues announced today that they’ll take on the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 at Sprint Center. Both Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Ovechkin will be there, at least according to the press release.

The Blues last played in K.C. a couple of years ago when they took on the Stars in exhibition play. In 2011, a sellout crowd watched the Penguins and Kings at Sprint Center.

A market once considered a candidate for expansion or relocation — particularly after Sprint Center opened in 2007 — the NHL-to-Kansas City buzz has since died down. Last year, there was no interest from Kansas City when the league called for expansion applications.

Sensing an opportunity to make their team a favorite of all Missourians, not just the ones in St. Louis, the Blues have said they’d like to cultivate their fan base across the state in Kansas City.