Mailbag: Thinking about the salary cap, Sturm, Savard and more

MK: PCL, there’s no doubt head coach Claude Julien and his staff spent plenty of time hunkered down in the video room coming up with ways to spark the worst offense in the league from last season. They realized that they added some new offensive weapons with Nathan Horton and Tyler Seguin, but their defense corps still lacked a Shea Weber- or even Brian Rafalski-like puck-mover on the back end. That meant continuing to pass the puck out a lot more often rather than carrying it.

The best way to make that approach more efficient was by getting the forwards to support more and making sure there were multiple options for the defensemen. You’ll still see the pass back, but it’s not automatic. Imagine now, if you will, the Bruins acquiring a stud puck-mover to open things up even more. Ok, now stop dreaming, because it’s not likely to happen. But Boston should be able to continue to overcome its back-end deficiencies by better utilizing its depth up front.

Nick wrote:

If this Bruins teams is as good as I think it is, they could be a real contender (a 1-3 seed in the playoffs). Along with a lot of folks, I think their biggest need is a puck-moving defenseman. Looking ahead to the 2011 trade deadline, do you see any quality players being available? Anyone on a bottom-tier team who is in the last year of their contract?

MK: Those puck-moving defensemen obviously don’t grow on trees. And with the Bruins’ cap situation, they’re not likely to be able to add one in-season. Considering how they’ve held down the fort without Johnny Boychuk, they might be able to make do with what they have. That being said, when the Bruins hit the ’09 trade deadline as a top-tier team, they added Steve Montador as an eighth defenseman, which came in handy when injuries hit down the stretch and in the playoffs. That could be the way to go again. Jordan Leopold, now in Buffalo, has often been a player of interest in the Bruins’ circles. Right now, it’s too early to tell which teams will be far enough out of contention to sell off its parts beyond the club from Western New York. This picture will get clearer around next month.

Anthony A .wrote:

Any chance you could give us a recap of the cap situation the Bruins are in. Earlier in the year I knew we had to clear 4 million once Sturm is back. Do we need to shed anything once Savard comes back? I know with Caron making the team it might have mixed things up a bit.

MK: This is the $59.4 million question that I received in one form or another from about one dozen readers. Clearing cap space after activating two players from LTIR is a complicated formula that includes, as general manager Peter Chiarelli explained it, the players’ pro-rated salary accumulated on a daily basis, etc. It’s not as simple as clearing the $7 million-plus and moving on. For a convoluted explanation, check out CapGeek.com.

That being said, Caron making the team doesn’t have too much of an impact. Caron, like Seguin, counts just as much as his base, entry-level salary and any bonuses he reaches will go toward a penalty against the Bruins’ cap for next season. Boston had a penalty this year mostly from Tuukka Rask’s bonuses from last season.

Working in generalities, a couple players have to go to make room for Sturm and Savard, who by the way are probably still both at least a minimum of a month away from returning. Basically it’s going to take the Bruins jettisoning some combination of two or three players from the list of usual suspects, including Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler, Matt Hunwick or Daniel Paille. Depending on the market, Mark Stuart could be tradeable, while Brad Marchand could be sent to the minors without waivers. Adam McQuaid and Brian McGrattan could also provide some relief by being assigned to Providence after clearing waivers.

If the Bruins keep playing this well, Chiarelli is going to have some hard decisions to make. But those are the type of decisions – or so they say – GMs like to have on their agenda.

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