The Boston Bruins are in a bit of a tricky situation.
Coming into the postseason with the NHL‘s best record, Boston was unceremoniously bounced early by the rival Montreal Canadiens. The Bruins knew they had to make some changes on their roster in order to improve their chances of hoisting another Stanley Cup. However, the salary cap is not exactly their best friend at the moment.
As it stands, Boston has just about $1.6 million of cap space. They already have 18 players on the books for this upcoming season, and still have young restricted free agents like Reilly Smith and Torey Krug to resign. The Bruins were interested in retaining free agent Jarome Iginla after a successful season last year, but the Colorado Avalanche swooped in with an offer Boston just didn’t have the space to match.
The first few days of free agency have come and gone without the Bruins making any noise, but even if they plan on passing on signing new players, they still need to clear up some space on the roster. The most viable option is to do so via trade, and there appears to be at least one candidate whose name is popping up in the rumor mill: defenseman Johnny Boychuk.
One of the reasons the popular d-man could be on the block is simply because Boston has a lot of depth at the blue line. It’s something GM Peter Chiarelli is more than aware of, along with the fact that said depth means he’ll likely have to move at least one of his defensemen.
“There are nine defensemen we have — NHL defensemen — so we can’t go into the year with nine NHL defensemen,” said Chiarelli. “But [Dennis] Seidenberg will be back healthy. [Adam] McQuaid will be back healthy. At some point, I have to do something there, but I’m in no hurry. It may be that we see how the preseason goes, with who’s mixing, who’s matching with whom.”
Unfortunately for Boychuk, his current deal makes him a prime candidate to be moved. He has just one year remaining on his contract, at a $3.36 million hit. Though McQuaid and Dougie Hamilton are both on the final years of their respective deals as well, McQuaid’s is a smaller cap hit and Hamilton is not likely going anywhere any time soon. Boychuk’s contract makes him attractive for interested trading partners, while also potentially clearing up more room on Boston’s salary cap.
Making things a little complicated, though, is Boychuk’s increasing role with the team. When the Bruins lost Seidenberg due to injury midway through last year, it was Boychuk who stepped up as the team’s no. 2 defenseman behind Zdeno Chara. He put forth his best season as a pro, with career highs in assists (18) and points (23). A fan favorite among the Boston faithful, the loss of Boychuk wouldn’t sit too well with Bruins supporters.
Such is life in the NHL, though. Even though Boychuk is a key contributor on the blue line, Boston simply has too many defensemen on their hands. Meanwhile, the Detroit Red Wings are looking to fill a need for a right-shot defenseman, making them potential partners for a deal.
Does it mean Boychuk is as good as gone? Not necessarily. As Chiarelli mentioned, he doesn’t feel the need to do anything right away, and if he does, it doesn’t mean Boychuk would have to be the guy drawing short straw.
Still, the remaining cap space the Bruins are dealing with is minimal, and they need to make some moves to help create more room. If a few more teams start kicking the tires on a potential trade for Boychuk, don’t be surprised if Chiarelli is forced to pull the trigger.