Monday, July 28, 2008

Breaking down the Bruins' cap situation

Last week I referred to the Bruins' unenviable salary cap situation. Let's open the books and see just how the money will work out this season:

The NHL salary cap for 2008-09 is $56.7M
The Bruins currently have $53.4M locked up in actual payroll.
Add a $1.4M penalty for Glen Murray's buyout, plus some other jibber-jabber, and the "cap payroll" stands at $55.4M.
Therefore we have $1.23M of flexibility, should an opportunity come along to add a quality player, though probably not an impact player at that price (Andrew Alberts makes $1.25M this season).

The upside of this situation is that the Bruins have a very stable roster and there ought to be little temptation to go out and spend money on a "rental" player like Forsberg or Sundin. The downside is that there is very little flexibility to change the roster significantly.

Looking ahead to training camp, the biggest salary question mark for the Bruins is in goal. Tim Thomas ($1.1M) is coming off a career season, one in which he seemingly earned a lock on the starting position. But Manny Fernandez would make a pretty expensive backup ($4.3M), and hasn't really had the opportunity to fight for the starting role due to last year's early-season injury. Then there's phenom Tukka Rask, who appears ready to make a trial run in the NHL -- but Rask's $3.2M salary means that either Thomas or Fernandez would need to hit the road in order to keep the team cap-friendly. If one of the vets stumbles out of the gate, or Rask starts to get itchy feet in Providence, something will have to give. Such is life when your top defenseman is making nearly $8M a year.

Fortunately there is relief on the horizon -- the Bruins have only $43M locked up for the '09-'10 season, with most key players already signed on. That will provide some pretty significant elbow space to work out the situation in goal. It'll also likely mean that this is the last season we see the underachieving P.J. Axelsson, who at $1.8M is something of a burden. Phil Kessel should be playing with a fire under his ass this season as well, since he's up for a raise after the year is done.

Later this week: previewing the Bruins' young talent.

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