Provided John Tavares can be landed for a contract of around $10 million a year, plus/minus $24 worth of beads and trinkets, the Bruins theoretically have the money to add the veteran center to their cap-squeezed roster.
General manager Don Sweeney, team president Cam Neely, and coach Bruce Cassidy traveled to Los Angeles to make their pitch to Tavares Tuesday, and now they wait to find out whether the 27-year-old pivot would like to make the Hub of Hockey his home for the next seven years.
The longtime Islander, who is considering five other clubs for his new home, is expected to make a decision about his future place of employment on or before Sunday, the start of the NHL’s free agent period.
If Tavares chooses Boston, then Sweeney will have to make some roster/money decisions, which would be all the easier if he could move David Krejci and/or David Backes, who are on the books for next season at a combined cap hit of $13.25 million.
The problem with moving either of those thirtysomething vets is that both have full no-trade clauses for the upcoming season. If approached by Sweeney, they could agree to waive that protection, but that is highly unlikely without some incentive being offered either one.
A standard incentive for a player to forfeit his no-trade would be the offer of a contract extension by another club, but Krejci’s pay (three more seasons at $7.25 million) and Backes’s pay (three more seasons at $6 million) already are considered heavy, if not onerous, for players of their age (Krejci is 32, Backes 34) and current offensive output level. None of the other 30 NHL teams, even those struggling to reach the cap floor, would be looking to add term to those contracts.
The no-trade clauses change for both players next summer, according to CapFriendly.com. In Krejci’s case, the Bruins can request that he submit a list of 15 clubs to whom he would accept a trade. For Backes, he can OK a list of eight teams next summer, and then 15 teams in the summer of 2020. There’s no guarantee that they get moved even then, but there’s a far better chance than today, with Tavares house hunting and lining up home inspections.
Per CapFriendly, the Bruins have some $12 million in cap room, thanks in part to last week’s announcement that the cap was lifted from $75 million to $79.5 million for the upcoming season.
However, Sweeney has yet to sign a backup goaltender, and it appears last year’s understudy, Anton Khudobin, will not return. Per sources around the league, Khudobin has been looking for something around $2.5 million per season on a two-year contract, and the Bruins have yet to be interested at that figure — a posture that could change if Tavares nixes Boston from his shopping list.
Sweeney also has not come to contract terms with lineup regulars Sean Kuraly (restricted free agent), Tim Schaller (UFA), Riley Nash (UFA), or Rick Nash (UFA). A $10 million acquisition of Tavares could eliminate the chance of most, if not all, of them being signed.
More likely, Sweeney would look to shed salary in the form of trades, with defensemen Adam McQuaid ($2.75 million cap hit) and Torey Krug ($5.25 million) the likeliest trade chips.
McQuaid can be moved without restriction and would be welcomed by many teams, be it for a prospect or pick. Krug, the club’s top-scoring defenseman in recent years, has a modified no-trade clause — one that allows Sweeney to trade him to 22 of the NHL’s other 30 clubs. He, too, should be an easy move, and a club eager for back-end offense could be willing to yield a high draft pick (possibly a first-rounder) for his services.
Meanwhile, the Islanders, with whom Tavares has played nine seasons and collected 621 points, for now have a slight advantage over the rest of the field in retaining their franchise player. Per the CBA, they can offer him an eight-year deal, while anyone else can sign him for seven years at most. However, that edge for the Islanders disappears once July 1 strikes and Tavares officially becomes an unrestricted free agent without compensation.
The others clubs, beyond the Islanders, on Tavares’s list: Tampa, Dallas, San Jose, and his hometown Toronto.