How many of you were able to watch Game 6 of the Boston–Montreal playoff series this year? If you watched the game like I did, and you’re a huge Bruins fan like I am, you were probably as excited and thrilled as I was.
It would be hard to find anyone that thought the Bruins would be able to take even one game in the series, much less three. The Bruins made the Habs sweat. Personally, I think that fact hurt the Canadiens in their next series against Philly.
Unfortunately, Game 7 went to the dreaded Canadiens and the Bruins were sent home for the summer. A lot was accomplished, especially for a team that many picked dead last in the Eastern Conference. The biggest question facing the Bruins going into next season is where do they go from here?
There’s been a lot of talk about the resurgence of the Boston Bruins. Throughout the 2007-2008 season, the Bruins seemed to be a team that kind of “straddled the fence.” They’d have a five- or six-game winning streak, looking formidable and difficult to beat. Then, they’d follow it up with a five- or six-game losing streak, barely able to score a goal.
At times, they were exciting to watch; other times, I had to turn away because their lack of scoring was too painful to bear. The one thing that truly stands out in my mind about this years Bruins is that they absolutely never gave up. The heart was there, the will to win was there, the fight was there.
However, the lack of scoring talent was painfully apparent at times. These are my thoughts on where the Bruins will go from here.
Going into the offseason, one name is being mentioned more than any others; Marian Hossa. Would it be nice to see Hossa in a B’s uniform? Absolutely. Is it going to happen? Unfortunately, I don’t think so. Personally, I don’t want the Bruins to bring Hossa to Boston and the reasoning for that can be summed up in one word: finances.
Very few teams in the NHL have more than one or two players earning in excess of $5 million. Some have three. Detroit has Lidstrom, Datsyuk, and Rafalski; Anaheim has Scott Niedermayer, Pronger, and Giguere. Some teams have two; the Rangers have Drury and Gomez; the Lightning have Lecavalier and St. Louis.
If the Bruins were to sign Hossa for what’s expected to be between $6 and $7 million, they’d have three players over $5 million; Chara, Savard and Hossa. Compounding the problem for the Bruins is that they already have three other players over $4 million; Bergeron, Fernandez and Murray.
Simply put, they can’t afford him at this time. Barring trades, the Bruins would have to do too much (buy out Murray, possibly buy out Schaefer and Fernandez), to put Hossa in a Bruins uniform.
What do I think the Bruins should do? For starters, buy out Murray. Right wing is a weakness for the Bruins, but Murray seemed lost this year without Bergeron setting him up. Take the cap hit of $1.4 million each year for the next two years.
Many people have said they’d like to see the Bruins buy out or trade Fernandez. It’s time to admit that’s just not going to happen. Fernandez was brought to Beantown for one reason; to be the No. 1 goalie.
Tim Thomas has done an outstanding job, but if Manny comes back healthy and ready to play, he opens the 2008-2009 season as the starter. Auld is gone as a free agent. Unless he shows without a doubt that he’s ready for the parent club, Rask will be in Providence one more year.
Peter Schaefer was a disappointment this season, but I think he’ll be back. I don’t think Chiarelli brought him in to get rid of him after one year. When he was the assistant GM, Chiarelli had Schaefer in Ottawa. His play improved towards the end of the year; I think he’ll be given another chance to prove he can bring something to the team.
Many have been calling for the Bruins to trade Kessel and his $2.2 million contract (base salary plus expected bonuses). He’s 20 years old and has a bright future. Now’s not the time to trade him. Be patient, let him grow. How many years did it take for Joe Thornton to finally take off? Give Kessel some time.
I hate to say it, because I’d love to see the Bruins make a big splash in free agency, but I’d like to see them do exactly what they did at the trade deadline: stand fast. When you look at the list of unrestricted free agents, the pickings are really kind of slim outside of Hossa.
They can identify one or two key free agents, guys they know will be able to help immediately. They should wait for the following year, when the free agent market will have much more available talent.
The following Bruins become free agents after the 2008-2009 season (shown with their salary):
Fernandez - $4.75 million
Murray (if they don’t buy him out) - $4.15 million
Axelsson (if they don’t buy him out) – $1.85 million
Alberts - $1.4 million
Thomas - $1.1 million
Hnidy - $760,000
That’s $14 million that comes off the books next year. The salary cap this year will be between $55 and $56 million. If it goes up to $60 million or so next year, and being freed up from some of the salary shown above, the Bruins would be in great shape to pick up some outstanding free agents.
Now, just look at the list of players that can hit the open market next year; Vinny Lecavalier, Marian Gaborik, Henrik Zetterberg, Alex Tanguay, Erik Cole, Brian Gionta, Ales Kotalik, the Sedin brothers, Mike Comrie, Maxim Afinogenov, Tim Connolly, Ryan Miller (if they need a goalie).
Marian Hossa wearing a spoked B next hockey season would be outstanding. Waiting a year to try to pick up some of the talented names above may be even better.