The draft, the early days of free agency and the development camp are now history, and the dog days of summer are coming at us fast.
But unlike past years, when most hockey business would be done by now, there’s still a lot of work to complete — for the Bruins and other teams, in particular ones chasing Ilya Kovalchuk.
There’s no better time that right this second to take stock of where the Bruins stand and look at a few questions they need to answer before they set their roster for training camp.
1. Are they going to keep or trade Marc Savard?
The notion that the Bruins would waive Savard and see if they could get him out from under the salary cap is preposterous. For the club to do that to a player they signed to a lifetime deal just eight months ago would send a message that dysfunction reigns on Causeway Street. It’s more likely the Bruins will wait and see where Kovalchuk lands and then try to make a deal with one of the teams that doesn’t land the superstar Russian. Or they could convince Los Angeles that Savard would be the perfect setup guy for Kovalchuk in a reunion of former Thrashers and try to pry away one of the Kings’ prized defensemen in a deal. That last notion might be only dwarfed in it’s long-shot status by the idea of waiving Savard.
2. Why do the Bruins want to trade Savard?
We all know it’s about cap space, but the team has hopefully taken these couple weeks since the trade rumors heated up and cooled off during the draft to realize that there are better ways to make cap room. First, they could start by waiting until Tim Thomas proves he’s healthy in camp and then deal him somewhere he’s willing to go. The other is to give Michael Ryder no more than a week of training camp to prove he has re-dedicated himself, or otherwise you drive to Providence and bury that $4 million in the minors. Of course, that would take a major commitment from ownership, which has approved that sort of move with Shawn McEachern and Peter Schaefer in the past. But neither of those washed-up forwards was making $4 million.
3. Does it make sense to trade Tim Thomas?
Most of the better back-up-type netminders on the free-agent market have been bought up already, so the pickings could be slim should Boston deal Thomas and not get a goaltender in return. That would put a huge burden on Tuukka Rask not only to match or surpass last year’s second-half performance, but to stay healthy and increase his workload. I don’t think anyone’s counting on Nolan Schaefer swooping in to save the day. However, the Bruins made this mess with Thomas by granting him such a long extension at an advanced age with a no-movement clause, and now they have to live with it or clean it up. To me, if the Bruins are going to deal from one of their strengths, I would trade Thomas instead of Savard. Of course, if they could clear the cap space another way, I would keep both.
4. What’s Blake Wheeler going to make and who will it affect the team?
The Gregory Campbell arbitration ruling, if it goes to a hearing, isn’t going to break the bank. However, Wheeler’s award could make things even tighter than they are. I’ve already broken down the comparables, and if Wheeler gets a $2 million or more award, that might force Boston’s hand as far as trading someone for next to nothing. Unless Boston is planning to just walk away from a hefty award — an idea that’s been brought up in some circles but makes little sense considering the type of asset Wheeler could be in trade talks — their best move would be to make sure they’re in control of what he makes before letting an arbiter determine that for them.
5. Will there be any buyouts?
The second buyout period could be another chance to send Ryder packing. It would save the club $2.7 in cap space this season, which is nothing to sneeze at considering the team’s troubles. If the Bruins were impressed enough by some of the other kids at development camp to determine at least one, other than Tyler Seguin, will be ready for the NHL this fall, a buyout wouldn’t be the worst thing (especially if there’s no way ownership allows a $4 million player to be demoted to the AHL).
A lot of questions will be answered as we move closer to August. It seems that Kovalchuk’s signing, if and when it happens, will set the dominoes falling. And then we’ll find out just what the 2010-11 Bruins are going to look like.