This is a critical week for the Bruins, who are holding their offseason pro and amateur scouting meetings. Those talks will help general manager Don Sweeney & Co. map out a path to competitiveness after their all-in season ended in grave disappointment.
Trading someone seems like one of the options.
As of Wednesday, according to CapFriendly, the Bruins had approximately $6 million in salary cap space for 2023-24. Among their returning players with significant NHL experience, the Presidents’ Trophy winners have nearly $73 million in financial commitments to seven forwards, seven defensemen, and one goalie. They also have $4.5 million in bonus overages carried over from last season’s sweetheart deals for Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci.
A roster that size — 14 skaters and one goalie — would be considered healthy at Hockeytown in Saugus on a random weeknight, but not on opening night at TD Garden. That $6 million in cap space won’t stretch far enough, even with cheap help from Providence.
Even if the salary cap rises $2 million beyond its $83.5 million projection, as some national NHL insiders have speculated, it seems certain that Sweeney will have to offload someone to make room.
Maybe “make room” isn’t appropriate, given that the Bruins have filled just 28 of their 50 player contract slots. There’s plenty of space, just not a lot of money to throw at it.
What follows is a power ranking of the players the Bruins have under contract, in order of how much they could fetch in a potential trade. This is not a list of players who want out of town, mind you, since we don’t believe anyone under contract does.
We are exempting two star players — leading scorer David Pastrnak and defenseman Hampus Lindholm — because they have no-movement clauses. They cannot be dealt without their permission. While players have waived NMCs if asked (Patrick Kane on the way out of Chicago, to name a recent example), there is no reason to believe either player or the Bruins would broach that subject.
Also not included are unrestricted free agents-to-be such as Bergeron, Krejci, Tyler Bertuzzi, Dmitry Orlov, Nick Foligno, Tomas Nosek, Garnet Hathaway, and Connor Clifton. Some of them could be considered for contracts if the Bruins move money out, but they would not be part of trades.
Let’s also leave aside restricted free agents Trent Frederic and Jeremy Swayman. The Bruins have negotiating rights to both until July 1 and could trade them, but it is far more likely for both contracts to be extended. Jakub Lauko and Marc McLaughlin, two young roster hopefuls, are also RFAs.
Also not included: high draft picks. The Bruins won’t pick in the top two rounds until 2025, and they own 13 of their 21 potential draft slots in the next three years. The likeliest draft pick to move is a mid-rounder, as a potential sweetener in a deal for someone such as Mike Reilly.
Power ranking the Bruins’ top five-plus trade chips:
0 — Charlie McAvoy, D: That’s zero, as in, zero chance of happening. The do-it-all defenseman does not have trade protection, but they are not trading him.
0.25 — Pavel Zacha, C: They acquired him in a trade last July and signed him to a four-year extension (with a 10-team no-trade). He’s 26, coming off a career year (21-36—57), and plays a position of great need.
0.5 — Brad Marchand, LW: He has a 15-team no-trade list, but it would be foolish to shed an entrenched leader with Marchand’s credentials, especially given his reasonable cap hit ($6.125 million) and the lack of returning forward depth. That said, if the right offer comes …
OK, onto the players the Bruins actually might consider trading:
1. Linus Ullmark, G: Swayman’s extension could price out his partner. The likely Vezina Trophy winner has a 16-team no-trade list, which means the Bruins could field offers from half the league. Are any of those clubs interested in a soon-to-be 30-year-old goaltender who had the league’s best statistical season at the 13th-highest cap hit ($5 million)?
2. Jake DeBrusk, LW: With a 27-goal, 50-point season riding on the top line, he made his $4 million tag look like a bargain. He has one year left on his deal, which makes him attractive to both contenders (who would love him as depth) and rebuilders (who might showcase and flip him at next year’s deadline).
3. Fabian Lysell, RW: The Bruins’ top forward prospect has yet to make his NHL debut and has three seasons left on his entry-level deal. Given their financial situation, the Bruins might better use Lysell — and entry-level Providence teammates Georgii Merkulov and Mason Lohrei — for NHL auditions, not trade bait.
4. Matt Grzelcyk, D: He would be a top-four defenseman on many teams but was the odd man out after the addition of Orlov. His deal (one year left at $3.6875 million) makes him a viable option for the haves and the have-nots.
5. Brandon Carlo, D: Large, stout defender who can skate and is signed at a perfectly acceptable $4.1 million. He fits well here. If some team blows back Sweeney’s hair with an offer, then by all means.
Honorable mention: Taylor Hall, LW (a luxury item on this past season’s team, good 200-foot player, but the $6 million tag is a bit rich given his production); Charlie Coyle, C (if he becomes a legit top-six center, the $5.25 million hit looks better); Derek Forbort, D (expiring $3 million contract; could be a deadline deal for a draft pick if the Bruins are fading next February); Jakub Zboril, D, and A.J. Greer, LW (need them to step into larger roles, not as trade bait).