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The Bruins’ “ample” cap-space: How not to spend it

September 2, 2011

Benoit Pouliot and Gregory Campbell.

For the first time in several years, the Bruins have a some extra head-room between payroll and the ceiling. The events of this post-Cup summer, which included not resigning Michael Ryder or Tomas Kaberle, and presumably will include shifting Marc Savard to long-term injured reserve in the coming weeks, will have granted the Bruins well over 10 million dollars of cap room. It is astonishing for a team that just won the Cup and managed to not strip its roster thereafter that this is the case. Not to mention how the Bruins were scraping the ceiling a year ago at this time.

The extra space has many Bruins watchers salivating at thought of how that extra money could be spent in the name of bettering the team. In the name of the venerable Financial Times’ “How to Spend It,” the bi-monthly Saturday insert which advises the very wealthy on how to blow all the money they’ve made with wild abandon, I want to talk about “How Not to Spend It.”

Firstly, I applaud Chiarelli and the gang for sitting out free agency this summer, save for the savvy Benoit Pouliot signing, which was low-risk, high-reward (one year, one million). Huge money was tossed around to the likes of Ville Leino, Tim Connolly, Christian Ehrhoff and a raft of others. It wasn’t just the money, but the terms being inked–which in many instances seemed in excess of two to three years too many. Chiarelli didn’t tinker with a successful team, didn’t need to reach the cap floor, obviously, and he made a single smart signing for Pouliot and trade for Joe Corvo to replace Kaberle on the blueline while avoiding rushing prospects.

Second, Chiarelli made a half dozen extremely shrewd moves from the summer of 2010 to the deadline. Bringing Horton and Campbell to Boston should go down in the annals of hockey trades as one of the smartest moves. Trading Hunwick to Colorado, bringing in Rich Peverley for Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler, grabbing Chris Kelly, and finally, securing Tomas Kaberle, were all Cup-building moves. Of course, Kaberle is a Cane now, and he wasn’t the power-play quarterback we all longed for, but that matters not: the Bruins won a Stanley Cup, and there were no pretensions he had to be more than a rental. Peverley and Kelly were significant contributors in the playoffs and were instrumental in providing the offense the Bruins sorely lacked at times. They were low-risk, high-reward players. Again, Chiarelli didn’t have to act this off-season: he’d already done what he needed to do during the season. Yes, it’s easy to throw praise at GM that’s just won the Stanley Cup, but he made some good moves.

And lastly, that brings me to the present, with camps opening in a few weeks and some money in the Bruins’ pockets. Brad Marchand needs to be signed, and that will cost in the ballpark of $3 million. That still leaves the Bruins with a good chunk of money, and absolutely no one to spend it on. Bryan McCabe? Alexei Yashin? Chris Campoli? I highly doubt the Bruins will be takers. But what do they do when the season begins? Is there someone they could trade for? I could absolutely see the Bruins looking around for big-time scoring winger with a contract that it’s a bit rich for the team paying it, in exchange for someone like Johnny Boychuk and a prospect or pick. But which winger? And whose spot would he take? Barring an injury or something going wrong, I don’t see the Bruins adding to the existing log-jam at forward. And it’s not in Chiarelli’s make-up to take on bad contracts anyhow. So, scratch that.

I am going to go out on a limb and urge caution and conservatism in times like these, when the Bruins have space. I think the existing team is the team that starts the regular season. If, at the trade deadline, it’s apparent the Bruins are lacking in a certain department, then they can and should make a move and will have the space to make it. Consider the present cap-space an investment for the future. And it’s worth pointing out right now that David Krejci will need an extension for next summer, and Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton will too, the summer after that. I think the Bruins’ first line’s youth and meshing this season, they are a trio that the Bruins should plan to keep intact. They will only improve with time. And they will need more money to stay, so, the Bruins can and will keep that in mind as they plan for this year. Add on Tuukka Rask, and the Bruins won’t have quite so much money next year.

Not making moves now makes for a brighter future. Don’t spend it.

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