The Boston Bruins continue to have struggles scoring and it's cause for concern for GM Peter Chiarelli. With the Bruins close to the salary cap and needed make some big decisions, Boston could be a team to watch from here on out.
The Boston Bruins' ongoing struggles has them firmly rooted in the NHL rumor mill. GM Peter Chiarelli has spent weeks shopping around for a scoring forward to bolster his struggling offense. Limited cap space and few sellers in the trade market are hampering his efforts.
If Chiarelli seeks a long-term solution to his scoring woes he must keep next season's cap space in mind. The Bruins currently have over $55.6 million invested in just 13 players, with notables like Torey Krug, Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg, Adam McQuaid and Dougie Hamilton to re-sign. Taking on a scorer with term remaining on his contract could force Chiarelli to shed salary.
The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa reports power forward Milan Lucic's consistency is raising questions about his future with the Bruins. The 26-year-old left winger has one season remaining on his contract at an annual cap hit of $6 million with a limited no-trade clause. He becomes eligible for UFA status in July 2016.
Shinzawa believes Chiarelli prefers retaining Lucic but could be unwilling to commit to a seven- for eight-year deal. The Bruins GM could prefer re-signing the winger to a three- to four-year deal for slightly higher than his current cap hit.
The problem, however, is Lucic will almost certainly attractive lengthy offers for well over $7-million annually if he tests the open market in 2016. He will be 28 and still in his playing prime. Even if inconsistency dogs Lucic through next season, rival teams will offer big money for his services.
Chiarelli doesn't have to trade Lucic this season and could open contract extension talks with the winger's agent in the off-season. If there's a sense the Lucic camp seeks more than the Bruins can comfortably pay, Chiarelli could face a difficult choice. He retains Lucic and risks his contract status becoming an unwelcome distraction next season, or peddles him in July for the best possible return.
In the meantime, Chiarelli is stuck fishing for scoring help in a very shallow pool. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports the Bruins are among several teams still linked to Buffalo Sabres winger Chris Stewart. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman linked them to Arizona Coyotes center Antoine Vermette.
Speculation earlier this month of Chiarelli scouting the St. Louis Blues gave rise to talk of the Bruins acquiring winger T.J. Oshie, but that chatter has died away since the Christmas break. They were also believed to have limited interest in Edmonton Oilers winger David Perron.
Prior to the Christmas trade freeze there were reports claiming Chiarelli was talking with Canucks GM (and former Bruins assistant GM) Jim Benning. CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty, responding to a reader's question, claims it's thought the Bruins had interest in Canucks winger Zack Kassian.
He also claims he's heard talk of the Bruins landing a package of Kassian and veteran defenseman Kevin Bieksa. It's doubtful the Canucks part with Bieksa, especially with veteran rearguard Dan Hamhuis currently sidelined with a lower-body injury.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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