Opening Night Roster Decisions Important for the Bruins

When it comes to the online community, Travis is someone I consider a friend and has been a long-time supporter, so when he asks, I try to deliver.

With 45 players currently under NHL contracts, another still to drop, and handful on AHL deals, General Manager Don Sweeney is going to have some roster decisions to make as we head towards the 2021-2022 National Hockey League season. Not to mention that the Prospect Challenge in Buffalo is less then a month away and there surely will be some invites to that tournament, and if someone impresses enough to warrant a deal – Sweeney will do just that. But that is still to be determined.

We’re going to leave that story for the coming weeks. What Travis wants to know is the intricacies of the cap and how even a small move can set them up for later in the season – such as trade deadline.

Let’s look at the cap situation as it stands today:

The first thing, as everyone knows, is that the Bruins are limited to a 23-man roster. Above, you will see 24 players on the roster. With John Moore currently on injured reserve you can exceed the limit to a 24-player roster. As a player who finished last season in injured reserve that is his offseason status.

Both Sweeney and Coach Bruce Cassidy have stated that Moore will be ready to go by training camp. If that is the case, then by opening night one player needs to be sent down to Providence. This is assuming there are no other deals or signings between now and then.

Most lineup projections have the Bruins lining up as shown. Trent Frederic is no longer waiver exempt for the first time in his career and is virtually guaranteed a spot on the fourth line or as the thirteenth forward. The Bruins will not risk exposing him to waivers.

If you believe that the above is the projected lineup, then it comes down to Karson Kuhlman or Chris Wagner as the sacrificial lamb. That’s because Sweeney prefers to have eight defensemen on his NHL roster, and if last season was any indication, he will need them and more. Many have asked what difference it makes and this is what Travis has asked me to explain.

First thing to look at is “Deadline Space”. Every move made effects that amount. Since the cap is calculated daily, every day you are below the cap that cap space is being ‘banked’. The Deadline Space is a player(s) total AAV that can be added and remain under the cap at season’s end. That is calculated by dividing the Projected Cap Space by 39 (days remaining in the season after trade deadline) and multiplying by 186 (total days in an NHL season).

Let’s begin with Wagner. Most people reply back with “just buy him out.” Well, that’s poor cap management. You can bury a cap hit in the AHL up to $1,175,000 so sending Wagner to the AHL would have the balance of $175,000 count towards the cap. A buyout on the other hand would carry a cap hit of $245,833 in the first year and $770,833 in the second year. Not to mention $420,833 for a third and fourth year. The first image shows Wagner with a buyout followed by a second image showing him in Providence.

As you can see, the difference is rather miniscule, but burying his contract is more beneficial than a buyout, especially when it comes to years two through four of a buyout.

When you compare that to sending Kuhlman to the AHL, well the difference is huge.

The Bruins would gain about $2.1 million more in deadline cap space by sending Wagner to the AHL over Kuhlman meaning they could add a $2.1 million player or combined players with AAV’s adding up to $9.9 million versus $7.8 million. And since there is no roster limit after trade deadline, as long as the team remains cap compliant, they wouldn’t have to move any bodies out.

This is by no means suggesting that this is what the Bruins will do. But questions need to be asked. What is in the team’s best interest? What if there is an injury to in the top nine? Who is better suited to fill in on the third line and adjust the top two accordingly? What if Frederic doesn’t take the next step, then who fills in? As a local guy, would Sweeney even consider sending Wagner down (I believe Sweeney would if it was necessary).

What if Jack Studnicka makes a case for being on the roster? Well, if that is the case then the Bruins would be looking at demoting two players.

Because Studnicka’s cap hit is slightly larger than Kuhlman’s, the deadline cap space is slightly less then if they were to send Wagner down and keep Kuhlman with the big club.

Decisions to be made.

Published by Dominic Tiano

Following the Ontario Hockey League players eligible for the NHL Draft. I provide season-long stats, updates and player profiles as well as draft rankings.

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