To be sure, Tyler Seguin made a fantastic impression on the Boston faithful when he took to the ice at the Bruins’ development camp earlier this summer. As a chiseled and speedy center who skyrocketed up the draft ranks in the past year, why wouldn’t he have?
But how much of the 2010 second overall pick can B’s fans expect to see next season? It’s starting to look like a question that will come down to dollar signs rather than X’s and O’s.
The Bruins are very much in cap hell right now and Blake Wheeler’s $2.2 million arbitration decision doesn’t help matters (though it didn’t damage them any further, either). Because the gifted Seguin is under an entry level contract laden with bonus opportunities, his cap hit would most likely mirror No. 1 pick Taylor Hall’s $3.75 million in Edmonton. That’s a problem.
Naturally, Seguin is not guaranteed a roster spot on the Bruins, anyway; he’ll have to earn it this fall, just like everyone else. But for the sake of argument, if Seguin is good enough, money may dictate his ultimate fate for the year.
I would say a highly palatable scenario is for Seguin and Boston to follow the Alex Pietrangelo route in St. Louis – have the rookie play nine NHL games, with perhaps some healthy scratches mixed in to both elongate his stay in the bigs, plus allow Seguin to soak up some knowledge from the press box. Then, send him back to the Ontario League to tear it up for a couple months before heading to the World Junior Championship, where he can represent Canada and challenge for a gold medal. After that, he focuses on winning an OHL title and potentially a Memorial Cup (made slightly easier this year because Mississauga is hosting, giving the OHL two berths).
If Plymouth, his current team, doesn’t want to make a go of it and load up at the trade deadline, maybe the Whalers deal Seguin to a contender in exchange for future goodies. The same thing happened last season when Pietrangelo went to Barrie from Niagara.
In this scenario, Seguin gets a taste of the NHL and doesn’t get too antsy in major junior because there’s always something immediate to chase. For the Bruins, playing Seguin in just nine NHL games means they don’t burn a year on his entry level deal and they install some good faith in their golden child in the process.
Still, it’s possible Seguin simply plays too well to send down, which creates a problem – albeit a somewhat pleasant one – in terms of creating cap space for Boston. The Bruins have contracts to shed, but with goaltending options still readily available, I find it hard to believe there would be any takers for Tim Thomas’ $5 million per year stipend for the next three seasons (plus Thomas has a no-movement clause).
A more viable (and talked about) option is premier center Marc Savard. He plays the same position as Seguin, David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, so the B’s have the depth to move him. His concussion history will frighten some teams, but will be worth the gamble when certain other squads stumble out the gate and realize they currently don’t have the playmaker necessary to score consistently. The fly in the ointment is that Savard also has a full no-trade clause for 2010-11, but bigger obstacles have been overcome and the 33-year-old has reported already suggested he’d be willing to waive for the right locale.
While the injury history will dent Savard’s trade value, the Bruins are still playing with house money; loaded up front, a Norris Trophy winner in Zdeno Chara on the blueline and a breakout star in net named Tuukka Rask. I still maintain that had Mike Richards not broken Krejci’s wrist in Game 3 of the Philly series, Boston would have swept the Flyers instead of crumbling in seven games.
Sure, Seguin wants to play 82 games as an NHL rookie, but the salary cap is a harsh reality and if he even gets a taste of the big leagues, it will be beneficial for all involved.
Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column – The Straight Edge – every Friday.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.