When Cam Neely sat down with each of the candidates for the Bruins’ general manager job, he started with an issue that partially led to the firing of former GM Peter Chiarelli: the salary cap.
“There was a lot of conversation about where we are with our cap,” Neely said on Wednesday, after the team announced Don Sweeney as its new GM. “That took a lot of the conversations during our interview process. When you reach out and ask to speak to a candidate and they do their research, every candidate to a T, we started with the cap issues.
“So that was the bulk of the conversation at the start and then you hear — they don’t really have a good understanding, maybe the complete player payroll, contracts. I think that has a lot to do with CapGeek not being around anymore.”
The Bruins do not have much room under the expected $71.5 million cap for next season, especially with big money likely needed for restricted free agent Dougie Hamilton’s next contract, and with David Krejci’s $7.25 million extension kicking in.
The Bruins have $59,466,667 committed to 15 players for 2015-16.
“There’s a difference between cap compliance and cap management, and I think we need to make sure that we’re very cognizant of the latter rather than the former,” Sweeney said, emphasizing that the Bruins need to find flexibility under the cap.
That was an issue in recent seasons, leading to the trade of Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders before the start of the 2014-15 season. Even with the long-term injury exemption for Marc Savard’s deal, the Bruins would have had nearly zero room to maneuver with Boychuk remaining with the club for the final year of his deal.
This season, the team will be rid of the nearly $5 million in overage penalties that hamstrung it last season because of the Jarome Iginla deal and various bonuses. That will help, but more needs to be done.
Part of that comes down to drafting well, another issue that cropped up in the Chiarelli era, when the team missed on first-round picks in 2007 (Zach Hamill), ’08 (Joe Colborne), and ’09 (Jordan Caron).
“I think it’s paramount,” Sweeney said of drafting and development. “It’s a lifeline to sustaining the level of play that you want to as an organization and not have dips. At times we had a stretch where we didn’t do it very well. I think we’re pointed back in the right direction.
“We want to draft players that are identified as NHL players first and foremost, that are impact guys up and down our lineup. We have to be able to integrate. When we’ve done it well, when we’ve developed players — be it [Torey] Krug, [Adam] McQuaid, Boychuk, I could go up and down, [Tuukka] Rask — generally we’ve allowed them the proper time it takes to develop into an NHL player.
“But they’re not ready-made players when they get here. It’s not plug-and-play system. That’s where the impatience comes in at times and we’ve made some mistakes and allowed some players to leave this organization that we might regret.”
Sweeney did not specify who those players might be — though both Boychuk and Tyler Seguin immediately come to mind.
Pick from Oilers
As per their right, Neely confirmed that the Bruins are seeking draft pick compensation from the Oilers after Edmonton hired Chiarelli to be the team’s president and GM. The Bruins are able to seek the compensation because Chiarelli remained under contract to them after he was fired.
The Bruins will get a second-round pick in one of the next three seasons from the Oilers, with the Oilers getting to choose which season to give up the pick.
Asked if that would happen in the upcoming draft with the Oilers’ No. 33 pick, Neely said, “I would assume not.”
Decisions on UFAs
Neely said there have been no further decisions on potential unrestricted free agents, beyond already saying Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille would not return. Carl Soderberg, McQuaid, and Matt Bartkowski also are unrestricted . . . With Sweeney having to cede some control over the Providence Bruins — he was their GM this past season — Jay Pandolfo could step into a bigger role with the AHL club. “Will Jay’s role expand?” Sweeney said. “To be determined in that regard. But it was a big addition.”