The NHL offseason has officially begun, thanks to the Kings’ win over the Rangers in yet another awesome overtime game between those two teams. Finally, it’s no longer the season where the Bruins somehow lost to the Habs on home ice in a Game 7.
As every Bruins fan knows but doesn’t want to admit, this offseason will be crucial for the B’s for the next 2 or 3 years, because many members of this core won’t be nearly as productive, or maybe not even in the league, after 2 or 3 years. I think that the Bruins will contend for many more years with Bergeron, Rask, Hamilton, many others, and a smart front office, but contending once guys like Chara, Seidenberg, and Iginla If He Comes Back retire — and after Soderberg likely leaves next year for more ice time — isn’t a sure thing. It is a sure thing is that the B’s are contenders now, and they’re gonna need to make smart moves right now to maximize that space. So here are some factors to look for in the NHL offseason, heavily focused on the Bruins.
- People do not realize how much Jarome Iginla’s contract affects the entire league and free agency period. Here are the lists of top end UFA forwards, assuming that all of these guys even reach free agency and aren’t signed by their own team before July 1: Jarome Iginla, Thomas Vanek, Marian Gaborik, Paul Stastny, Ryan Callahan, Mike Cammalleri, Daniel Alfredsson, Dany Heatley (HA). After Iginla, who’s really left? Vanek can be great, and Gaborik can be lethal, but both aren’t exactly the Bruins’ type of player, and both will get way more money than they’re worth this summer. After them, there’s a huge dropoff. Ryan Callahan would be a great fit for the Bruins, but if Glen Sather thought he cost too much, Peter Chiarelli likely will, too. Mike Cammalleri? Only if he falls through and can be had for a 1 year, dirt cheap “prove it” deal.If the B’s don’t get Iginla, they’ll either have to trade for someone of his caliber or abandon their strategy of trying to have a RW good enough to make Reilly Smith and Loui Eriksson the 2nd and 3rd best RWs on the team. That means that they’ll likely go for more depth signings, maybe beefing up the 4th line and the wings on the 3rd line. If they don’t get Iginla, their strategy will really change, and that means that it’ll change for every team. All of the other teams will definitely be watching what the Presidents’ Trophy winners will do and act accordingly, if for no other reason than that the pickings are slim in 2014.
- Extensions for Krejci, Boychuk, and possibly Paille and Campbell will be very interesting, but, for the most part, we know how they’ll work out. Krejci will get a lot of money, definitely upwards of $5 million if Ryan Callahan wants 6×6 and NMC/NTC, but will Krejci demand more than Bergeron? I kind of doubt that. Saint Patrice obviously took less because he’s Bergy, but I think that’ll be the unofficial line in the sand. Krejic will get about $6.25 for 6 years. Boychuk will get more than Seidenberg’s 4×4. How much more is unsure. I hope he doesn’t get more than $5 mil, but the B’s would make a colossal mistake by not extending Boychuk this summer. In the summer of 2015, some team who needs a playoff proven, tough 2 or 3 defenseman will pay Chuk so much that he won’t be able to turn it down, even if he does like Boston. Chiarelli needs to prevent that.I’d want the Bruins to resign Danny Paille and not Gregory Campbell. Campbell and Paille are both 30, but Paille just seems like he’ll have more of a shelf life. Campbell already isn’t what he was in 2011, and Paille was an NHL late bloomer who might stay at his peak for 3-4 more years. Also, the B’s have a ton of centers like Spooner and Khoklachev. I’d be fine with Campbell being let go next year, but I would like to see Paille get locked up. Having a speedy, penalty killing 4LW who is good enough to play 3LW is a luxury that is worth keeping for the B’s. Remember, none of these extensions will affect the 2014-2015 season, but they will show which direction the team is going.
- Extensions that will affect next season are the deals with RFAs Reilly Smith, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski, Justin Florek, Matt Fraser, and Niklas Svedberg. Of course, the last 4 aren’t as important as the first 2. Bartkowski won’t make much after his terrible playoffs, probably not more than Kevan Miller’s $800k. I’m fine with that as the going rate for a 6th-7th defenseman. Florek’s and Fraser’s contracts only matter in terms of how much they’ll cost on the cap next year if and when they’re actually on the NHL roster (hopefully a lot for Fraser). Svedberg’s deal only matters in terms of how easy it will be for the Bruins to trade him. They really should try to do so, as he’ll already be 25 without having played and NHL game. He was the AHL goalie of the year in 2013, meaning that the B’s should capitalize on that value, especially with Malcolm Subban in the system. Trade him this summer for something that might help this year — maybe attach Adam McQuaid to the deal to get his contract off the books.For Smiddy and Krug, every Bruins fan needs to root hard for Chiarelli to play hard ball, at least for this year’s cap hit. The B’s will not have much space, and they can’t afford to give either of these guys a lot. I’m hoping for Smiddy and Krug to only bring in about $2 million a year each, which might be reasonable given that PK Subban only got a little under $3 million in early 2014. The B’s should deal with the risk of having these guys play out of their minds and then deserving a ton of money on their next contracts, simply because they need cap space now. Present the deals to Smiddy and Krug as great chances to improve upon themselves and earn a lot the next time they’re free agents.
- Around the league, what the San Jose Sharks do will be huge. Most teams will probably keep their core in tact this summer because teams always do that. If the Sharks decide that they need to blow up a team that always loses in the playoffs, then wherever those guys go will be not only interesting but also important. Watch out for that.
- The Penguins have a lot of cap space… but not as much as you think. For a team that is seeing their 2LW, 1RW injury replacement, everyone in their bottom 6 except Beau Bennett and the immortal Craig Adams, and 2 top 4 defensemen all hit free agency this summer, you’d think that they have more than $15 million in space. The New Ray Shero will have to find creative ways to get some depth around Crosby and Malkin, because Shero was note exactly an expert at that.
- Ryan Callahan will be a microcosm for the free agency period. If he makes a ton, it’s because everyone is willing to spend, and everyone will convince themselves (maybe correctly) that a two way, smart, gritty right winger at the end of his prime will be worth the money. If the market is slow, no one will convince themselves of that, and we’ll all laugh at Callahan for not taking Glen Sather’s offer.
- There is no reason for Buffalo not to get Ryan Callahan at whatever cost. Callahan is from Rochester, and would be a home town hero. One could logically point out that Sabres fans come to the games no matter how much their team sucks, because they really are that great of fans. But Callahan is a good leader, as any NBC hockey person will tell you 6 times over, and the Sabres will need that kind of leadership for their young guys and all of the top draft picks they’ll have coming up, especially with the Ryan Miller trade. Just sign him, amnesty Ville Leino, and overspend on an RFA or 2, as long as they’re still cheap, in order to use their cap space for something that might actually work out.