Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve heard both Boston Bruins General Manager Don Sweeney and Coach Bruce Cassidy say that the door remains open for both Goaltender Tuukka Rask and Second Line Center David Krejci to return to the Bruins.
When it comes to Rask, it was pretty much a given that if his rehab following hip surgery went well, that we could be looking at a February return. As for Krejci, well the comments caught everyone off guard and of course, everyone is assuming it’s for the 2021-2022 season.
Naturally, the immediate question that most ask is “how can they possibly make the cap work?” But first, let me correct some misinformation out there regarding waivers.
It’s been reported the Rask and Krejci would both require waivers to return to action. While that could be the case with Krejci, not so with Rask.
Section 13.23 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) states:
In the event a professional or former professional Player plays in a league outside North America after the start of the NHL Regular Season, other than on Loan from his Club, he may thereafter play in the NHL during that Playing Season (including Playoffs) only if he has first either cleared or been obtained via Waivers. For the balance of the Playing Season, any such Player who has been obtained via Waivers may be Traded or Loaned only after again clearing Waivers or through Waiver claim. This section shall not apply to a Player on the Reserve List or Restricted Free Agent List of an NHL Club with whom the Player is signing an NHL SPC or is party to an existing SPC with such NHL Club.
In layman’s terms: If an unrestricted free agent plays in even one game in Europe once the National Hockey League season begins, Krejci would be required to clear waivers before he could suit up for the Bruins.
There was an amendment to that in the Memorandum of Understanding agreed to by the NHL and NHLPA:
CBA 13.23 amended such that it shall continue to apply to another Club’s RFA but it shall not apply to UFAs who play for a club outside North America after the start of the NHL Regular Season through and including December 15.
In other words, ‘start of NHL season’ is changed to ‘December 16’. If Krejci were to play a game in Europe on December 16, 2021 or later, then yes, he would require waivers to return to the Bruins. But this does not apply to Rask as he sits at home recovering.
Now, onto the complicated matter. The cap! Everyone’s first option is to go to CapFriendly and check out the situation, and there is nothing wrong with that because it’s an excellent recourse. When you know how to read it. Buy visiting their site, you’ll see that they show the Bruins with $1,089,326 in cap space and there is no way you can fit both Rask and Krejci in under the cap.
But we need some context with that.
Firstly, CapFriendly is operating as though they are working with a 23-man roster and they are correct because that is the roster limit. They have John Moore on injured reserve which clears a spot but not the cap hit.
Secondly, they have only Linus Ullmark listed as a goaltender with Jeremy Swayman in Providence because he is on a two-way deal and does not require waivers. We already know Swayman will be in Boston so you have to deduct his $925,000 cap hit leaving you with just $164,326 in cap space.
Thirdly, on opening night they must be down to the 23-man roster. We know that Sweeney likes to carry 8 defensemen on the roster and that Cassidy and Sweeney both have said Moore will be ready for opening night. With Moore healthy and Swayman on the roster that will put the Bruins at a 25-man roster. That means two of either Anton Blidh, Karson Kuhlman or Chris Wagner would have to be sent to Providence. In Wagner’s case, they would get a cap relief of $1,175,000 on his $1,350,000 cap hit.
For the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume Blidh and Kuhlman are sent to the minors. That leaves them with $1,639,326 in cap space on opening night with emphasis on opening night.
The cap space on opening night is not the same as it would be on say, trade deadline. There is no need to sign Rask today. Once he is healthy, he could get on skates and get into shape – say keep him out until trade deadline and sign then.
By that time, the Bruins will have banked enough cap space to the tune of $7,818,324. That is calculated by taking the projected cap space of $1,639,326 and dividing by 39 (days remaining in the NHL season after trade deadline) and multiplying by 186 (days in an NHL season).
That means you can add contracts with an AAV totaling roughly $7.8 million. The Bruins could sign Rask to a 2-year, $10 million contract and his $5 million cap hit would fit because it would be prorated.
For Krejci, under that scenario, that would mean that he could sign a one-year deal to a maximum of $2.8 million. But Krejci is a little different. As a 35+ contract, he would be eligible for bonuses and the Bruins could make them easily attainable bonuses and they could exceed the cap and have those bonuses carry over to 2022-2023 where they will have a little more leeway with the cap.
As long as the Bruins don’t go through the type of injuries they did last season, the cap isn’t a problem. It is very doable.
The problem with Krejci is at that point he would require waivers to return. There just may be a GM out there that would put in a claim just to keep him off the Bruins roster. Can the contract be structured in such a way that other GMs can’t afford to do just that? Evan Gold is a master at balancing the cap and the CBA for the Bruins.
I trust he can figure that out.