Don’t expect many changes to the roster of the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins this summer.
The Bruins currently have a little more than $52.2 million invested in 18 players for next season, with center Brad Marchand their only restricted free agent, while right wingers Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder and defensemen Tomas Kaberle and Shane Hnidy are their only unrestricted free agents.
Recchi has stated his intent to retire and the Boston media believes Ryder and Kaberle won’t be re-signed, unless they agree to one- or two-year deals for half of what they earned this season. Ryder made $4 million, Kaberle $4.25 million.
Kaberle struggled after being acquired from Toronto in February and it took him some time to improve as the post-season went on. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli recently praised Kaberle’s performance, but wouldn’t say if he’d try to bring him back or not.
The only free agent guaranteed to get a raise is rookie Marchand, who had a good regular season (21 goals, 41 points) and an impressive post-season (11 goals, 19 points in 25 games), which will result in a pay hike of around $3 million per season for the 23-year-old.
If Chiarelli decides to replace his UFAs he’ll look to his farm team as well as the summer’s free agent market, where he might find an affordable, puck-moving defenseman.
Joni Pitkanen, Christian Ehrhoff, Andrei Markov and Kevin Bieksa could be available, though it’s believed Ehrhoff and Bieksa will re-sign with the Vancouver Canucks, while Markov is reportedly closing in on a new contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
More affordable options include James Wisniewski, Ian White, Anton Babchuk and Andy Greene.
Potential UFA forward options for Chiarelli include Ville Leino, Jussi Jokinen, Simon Gagne and Alex Tanguay.
Unlike the 2010 Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Bruins won’t be gutted for salary cap reasons. With most of their roster remaining intact, the Bruins will once again be a contender.
WORK TO DO IN VANCOUVER
While Boston management will likely face a quiet summer, the same cannot be said for their Cup final opponents, the Vancouver Canucks.
GM Mike Gillis currently has more than $45.6 million committed to 13 players for next season, with eight players currently eligible for UFA status on July 1, leaving him little time for contract negotiations.
Those pending UFAs include defensemen Kevin Bieksa, Christian Ehrhoff, Sami Salo and Andrew Alberts, along with forwards Chris Higgins, Raffi Torres, Tanner Glass and Jeff Tambellini.
Center Maxim Lapierre and right winger Jannik Hansen are restricted free agents, but Gillis said he’ll be qualifying their rights shortly.
He also said he didn’t see the need to make any major changes to his roster for next season, adding he planned to retain backup goalie Cory Schneider, whom many observers consider Gillis’ best trade chit.
Although media speculation has suggested Schneider would be better off on another club where he’d have more playing time, the young netminder expressed his hope of returning with the Canucks next season.
Bieksa, meanwhile, hinted he’d be willing to consider accepting less than market value to re-sign with the Canucks.
Gillis mentioned he’d love to bring back the oft-injured Salo, who also said he’d like to return to Vancouver and admitted he’d have to accept a short-term deal for less than the $3.5 million he earned this season to do it.
It’s been suggested Gillis should move defenseman Keith Ballard’s expensive ($4.2 million per season) contract, either by packaging him with Schneider in a trade, or burying him in the minors.
Ballard had a difficult season as he was sidelined by injuries and saw little playoff action, but he’s hopeful of playing a larger role on the Canucks blueline next season.
The Vancouver Province also reported once-promising center Cody Hodgson might not have a future with the NHL squad. He’s had little success cracking the lineup, as coach Alain Vigneault appears to have little faith in him.
Hodgson, rather than Schneider, is Vancouver’s most probable trade candidate this summer.
Damien Cox of the Toronto Star believed Gillis’ first order of business should be to decide what to do with goalie Roberto Luongo. Cox wondered how the Canucks could bring back Luongo following his inconsistent performance in the Cup final.
Cox acknowledged the remaining 11 years on Luongo’s contract make him very difficult to move, unless the Canucks are willing to take another bad contract in return.
While undoubtedly many Canucks fans blame Luongo for their team’s failure to finally win its first championship in franchise history, they’ll simply have to accept that, unless he agrees to be dealt, Luongo isn’t going anywhere. Even if he did agree to a trade, his contract is almost impossible to move.
If, as expected, the salary cap increases next season to $64 million, Gillis will have nearly $19 million in available cap space to work with this summer. Bieksa’s suggestion he’ll accept a “hometown discount” is good news, but he could still seek an average salary around or even above the $4.5 million his defense partner, Dan Hamhuis, draws.
Ehrhoff said he hopes to return as well, but he should be prepared to earn no more than whatever Bieksa gets.
Assuming Gillis can get Bieksa, Ehrhoff and Salo under contract for a combined $10.5 million, it wouldn’t leave much room to re-sign other pending free agents, although fortunately the most expensive of those (Higgins) earned $1.6 million last season, so they could all be re-signed for marginal raises.
If, however, Gillis retains them all, he wouldn’t have much left to bolster his club’s toughness or perhaps add another second-line scorer to the ranks.
WEBER, PARISE NOT ELIGIBLE FOR OFFER SHEETS
Teams entertaining thoughts of sending offer sheets to New Jersey Devils left winger Zach Parise or Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber are out of luck.
Last week their respective clubs filed for salary arbitration, making the two ineligible to receive offer sheets.
The fans of those teams shouldn’t take this news as an indication contract negotiations aren’t going well with those players. Talks are ongoing between the Predators and Weber, while preliminary discussions have commenced between Parise and the Devils.
Don’t be surprised if both players are re-signed long before their cases go to arbitration.
Interestingly, the Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t filed for arbitration with center Steven Stamkos, nor the Los Angeles Kings with defenseman Drew Doughty.
If unsigned by July 1, they would become prime targets for offer sheets, but Lightning GM Steve Yzerman recently expressed confidence in getting Stamkos re-signed soon, while Kings GM Dean Lombardi remains unconcerned, having recently sent a major offer to Doughty’s agent.
Rumor Roundup appears Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Foxsports.com and Eishockey News.