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The Boston Bruins salary cap problems, a short-term headache needing a fix

Aug 4, 2010, 12:49 PM EDT

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Thumbnail image for neely-chiarelli.jpgWhile the Bruins have had a solid off-season adding a scoring winger in Nathan Horton and adding depth to their forwards with Greg Campbell as well as the signing of Tyler Seguin, there’s one glaring weakness remaining for the Bruins to get settled: Their salary cap situation. We’ve talked a lot here about the Bruins and their potential for big problems with the salary cap this season, but ESPN Boston’s Jimmy Murphy looked at things a bit closer.

The Bruins once again pointed out that when the season begins, they can at least use the $3.5 million from Sturm’s salary for cap relief until he returns in what Chiarelli still believes will be mid- to late-November. Between the first drop of the puck and then, however, he can at least evaluate what possible changes need to be made.

“We’re over the cap right now but we have a player in Marco Sturm that we can put on long-term injury,” Chiarelli said when asked if the current roster is cap-compliant. “At some point we’d have to make some changes when Marco’s ready to come back, but that’s the reason you have long-term injury, that you can go in excess of the cap and see how your team unfolds while your injured player is rehabbing and recuperating.”

Until training camp, though, Chiarelli said he is confident in the players he has.

“We have the ability to ice a team and a good team, and if that’s all we do [signing Seguin] between now and the start of camp, I’d be very happy,” he said.

Oddly enough, having that cushion with Marco Sturm on LTIR is saving the Bruins a lot of trouble immediately. If Sturm were healthy right off the bat, a move would need to be made before the start of the season to free up cap space. Instead, they’ll get a couple months reprieve from needing to make a move. That gives the Bruins hope that perhaps in that two months $4 million winger Michael Ryder can play well enough to convince a team they’d like to trade for his services.

Ryder is in the last year of his contract and playing exceptionally well would go a long way towards helping him earn another nice contract in the off-season. It could also help save him the ignominy of being sent down to the AHL to help save the Bruins that money on the cap. I’m sure the Bruins would rather not pay Ryder $4 million to play for the Providence Bruins in the AHL, but if no one is willing to trade for him it seems almost certain that that’s what will happen once Marco Sturm is ready to come off of long-term injured reserve.

For the Bruins though, this is just a one-year problem to have as there’s a lot of money coming off the cap after this season with Sturm, Ryder, Patrice Bergeron, Mark Recchi, Zdeno Chara and Mark Stuart all becoming unrestricted free agents after this year. Sturm and Ryder alone represent $7.5 million of cap space by themselves. Surviving this year in salary cap hell will be tricky for the Bruins but they’re poised to still be very good and perhaps the pain of the cap can be rewarded. It worked for the Blackhawks last year after all.

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