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What We Learned: Envy not the Boston Bruins’ future salary cap situation

By Ryan Lambert

Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.

By the absolute slightest of margins, the Bruins have the most cap dollars committed to players for next season of any team in the NHL.

With 23 guys under contract and another quarter-million committed to Patrick Eaves' buyout, they're at nearly $68.9 million for the 2012-13 campaign. We obviously don't know what the final salary cap limit will end up being under the new CBA, but when you are first in the league in it, you're not exactly giving yourself a ton of wiggle room.

Now, I know what the argument will be: That includes Tim Thomas' $5 million cap hit, which the Bruins should be able to unload on some team with a need to get up to the floor, as well as Marc Savard's slightly-more-than-$4 million, which will be artificially inflating the team's cap number and then coming off the books annually at the start of every season through 2016-17.

So that's a little more than $9 million, bringing the team down to a much more manageable $59.9 million or so. Very manageable, and almost middle-of-the-pack league-wide.

But that's all under the League's current salary structure, which we know the NHL would very much like to roll back, and which the Players' Association would like to keep more-or-less as is. Which is what makes Peter Chiarelli's willingness to re-up Brad Marchand for $4.5 million a year over the next four, on a deal that begins in 2013-14, a little baffling.

(Coming Up: Dustin Byfuglien, living large; the law vs. the CBA talks; Marian Hossa and the lockout; Bobby Ryan backs off trade request; Joe Sakic is the greatest; Chris Pronger still struggling; Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias are healthy; Ovie on RGIII; and a wacky Roberto Luongo trade suggestion to ... San Jose.)

That's a whole lot of money to give to a guy currently making $2.5 million, and who has 49 career goals in two seasons on a 14.1 shooting percentage. But that's not to say Marchand isn't a good player. He's very good. And even if the money on the new contract seems a little much, Bruins fans seem happy to justify it to themselves as being the same money as Buffalo is paying Ville Leino, but for two fewer years. I don't know how a contract hailed universally as being absolutely abysmal contract justifies a not-great one, but there you have it.

The real issue with the Marchand contract is that, good though he is, what he is definitely not is "as good as Milan Lucic" or "as good as Tyler Seguin." And the real sticky wicket in this: both are RFAs after next season. As it stands now, Marchand is the Bruins' third-highest-paid forward under his new deal, behind only Patrice Bergeron, understandably so, and David Krejci, bafflingly so. That's going to change in a hurry when Chiarelli has to lock down Seguin and Lucic.

The question of, "If you're paying Marchand $4.5 million, what do you give Lucic and Seguin?" isn't a very comfortable one to consider, regardless of how much is coming off the cap next season: Thomas' $5 million, Horton's $4 million, Andrew Ference's $2.25 million, and Anton Khudobin's $875,000 ($13 million in all, for those scoring at home) all come off as UFAs, yes. And Lucic's $4.08 million, Seguin's $3.55 million, Jordan Caron's $1.1 million, and Tuukka Rask's $3.5 million ($12.23 million total) all come off RFA deals. But the raises those four younger players should get will eat very heavily into that $13 million, even before new contracts for Ference or Horton are considered, and they very much should be.

If Marchand's pulling $4.5 million, does Lucic get $5.5 or 6 million? Can you convince Seguin to take a Jeff Skinner contract or does he demand a Taylor Hall deal? (Hint: He's already better than Taylor Hall.) What on earth do you give Tuukka Rask? These are tough questions, and the answer is going to greatly endanger the Bruins' ability to add salary down the road if they want to keep their guys.

(One question that's perfectly legitimate to ask is how an otherwise responsible general manager like Chiarelli lets Marchand, Lucic, Rask and Seguin all become RFAs in the same summer, but that's not one anyone seems particularly willing to pursue.)

That's not a bad problem to have, of course: They're already one of the four or five best teams in the league and won a Stanley Cup two seasons ago, plus they happen to draft extremely high-quality young players upon whom they can already rely in many situations. The issue might be whether they can replicate that kind of drafting and developmental success in the future, and certainly you don't back into having a pair of back-to-back top-10 picks while winning as many games as the Bruins have more than once in a long while.

You hear a lot these days about how this is a copycat league and everyone else tries to ape successful teams' winning formulas. The Bruins, by design or not, don't allow themselves to get involved. They will likely be forced continue their policy of staying out of the free agent market for the foreseeable future, meaning that all those worries about goalscoring or veteran, depth defense or a reliable older backup netminder will have to be put by the wayside while all the team's existing free agents are re-signed.

Continually having to give your young players fat, multi-year deals isn't exactly conducive to changing with the league and remaining flexible under whatever new salary cap situation emerges from this current labor strife. But hey, at least those young players are really good, right?

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: Remember when Bobby Ryan demanded a trade out of Anaheim? Here's what he has to say about it now: "[A]bout 10 minutes after the interview, I was like, 'Gosh, I shouldn't have done that, seeing that I'm teeing off on the 37th hole of the day after 11 o'clock.' It was kind of stupid." So there ya go. No Bobby Ryan trade. Unless the media decides Toronto needs a goal-scoring wing again.

Boston Bruins: Not surprisingly, the Bruins' rookie camp and tournament scheduled to begin soon has been canceled. Oh but hey cheer up, Chiarelli says the team still plans to hold training camp on time hahaha.

Buffalo Sabres: Because he's still 22, Luke Adam has no problem starting the season in the minors if the NHL gets locked out, which makes sense since he'll still be drawing a paycheck in North America, unlike most NHLers, who are over the age of 22.

Calgary Flames: Because of an Albertan law, the Flames and Oilers might be legally unable to lock out their players, which is just about the funniest thing.

Carolina Hurricanes: About a dozen current 'Canes are already in Carolina, waiting for the season to start. Which means they'll have plenty of time to, I don't know, eat barbecue or something.

Chicago Blackhawks: Much like Jarome Iginla and Brendan Shanahan before him, could Marian Hossa's career hit a bit of a road bump if he doesn't play during a lockout? I'd worry more about that whole "horrible concussion" thing, but that's just me.

Colorado Avalanche: Joe Sakic, who now serves in an advisory role to team management, will be honored as the greatest hockey player in British Columbia's history later this season at a Vancouver Giants game. Overlooked again, Byron Ritchie.

Columbus Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets now have a new paperless ticketing system for season ticket holders, which allow them to swipe a card to gain access to the building. The real upside is that it's way easier to cut up a credit card than a book of tickets.

Dallas Stars: Here is a headline about Cody Eakin worthy of NHL.com.

Detroit Red Wings presented by Amway: Tomas Holmstrom says he'll take his time deciding whether he'll come back to the Red Wings, but he's a UFA. If Ken Holland has any sense at all he'll say, "Thanks but no thanks."

Related Links

Edmonton Oilers: Devan Dubnyk is gonna get a ton of work this season, and that's fine because he had the fifth-highest save percentage in the league in the second half of last season. Please forget that he couldn't wrestle a starting job away from Nikolai Khabibulin in the first half.

Florida Panthers: Erik Gudbranson seems to have injured his shoulder in workouts this past week and that could be very bad news indeed for the Panthers going forward. Oh wait they won't even play until the end of November so he'll probably be fine by then unless it's real bad.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings recently signed prospect Nikolai Prokhorkin. Not bad for a kid who was taken in the fourth round this year.

Minnesota Wild: Pretty much all of the Wild's top prospects will at least start their seasons in the AHL, lockout or not. Which means that early money should probably be on Houston being really, really good.

Montreal Canadiens: Oh and like the Flames and Oilers, it might technically be illegal for the league to lock out the Canadiens. If these are the only three teams playing, that's gonna make for one terrible league.

Nashville Predators: Nashville's penalty kill ran at 89.3 percent after they acquired Hal Gill, up from their full-season average of 83.6. One wonders how much losing Suter is going to affect that, but still, pretty damn impressive.

New Jersey Devils: Ilya Kovalchuk and Patrik Elias will both be healthy for the start of the season, even if it begins on time. Well good, someone's gotta score goals for them.

New York Islanders: The Islanders' Travis Hamonic hasn't made it out to Long Island yet to begin training with his teammates because he's driving there, and doesn't want to haul ass from Winnipeg to Nassau only to find out he won't be playing for two and a half months.

New York Rangers: Glen Sather on the basis for his optimism that the league will start on time: "It's probably based purely on stupidity." Love it.

Ottawa Senators: Reason for the league not to cancel this season: It sure sounds an awful lot like Dany Alfredsson would hang 'em up if it did.

Philadelphia Flyers: Sad to hear Chris Pronger is still getting headaches regularly and that his condition is more or less the same as it's always been.

Phoenix Coyotes: Today is Day No. 31 since Jude LaCava of Fox 10 in Arizona said Greg Jamison would have the deal for the Coyotes sewn up within the next five days. And here's why you don't use public money to fund a hockey rink, specifically in non-traditional markets.

Pittsburgh Penguins: The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins have a new third jersey that looks one hell of a lot like those of the Pittsburgh Hornets, an AHL team from the World War II era. And also the Red Wings' old Winter Classic jerseys.

San Jose Sharks: For some reason, Sharks fans and news outlets seem to be talking more about Shane Doan agreeing in principle to a deal with Phoenix than any Coyotes supporters.

St. Louis Blues: The Blues trotted out Vladimir Tarasenko for an introductory press conference late last week, but he can apparently already speak English fairly well. First minus-2 game with no shots on goal I bet he forgets it all real quick.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Mathieu Garon is "healthy, ready to play" but one suspects that he won't get much of a chance to do that since Yzerman went out and got a goalie who may or may no be pretty good. We already know Garon isn't. Guy Boucher is already calling them "Nos. 1 and 1a," which doesn't really help matters since usually it's 1a and 1b.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Anyone wanna take bets on what happens to Ben Scrivens this season? No one?

Vancouver Canucks: Manny Malhotra recently trained with the MLS's Vancouver Whitecaps, though it was probably all nepotism. He's married to Steve Nash's sister, and Steve Nash is a part owner of the team.

Washington Capitals: Alex Ovechkin offered some advice to the Redskins' Robert Griffin III, and I bet a lot of it had to do with not calling your coach a "fat [expletive]."

Winnipeg Jets: Holy hell, Dustin Byfuglien. And the scary thing is, that's not Photoshopped.

Gold Star Award

Raffi Torres says he's going to change his style of play, presumably by getting the same Ludovico treatment the league gave Matt Cooke. "At the end of the day, the hit was a little late and it was a little high," he said, indicating that he also needs to re-learn the definition of "a little."

Minus of the Weekend

Bill Daly says the two sides in the labor war are "a long way apart" which I guess isn't surprising but we're under the gun here so…

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User "Hi-wayman" is living up to the first part of his name.

To San Jose: Roberto Luongo & Alex Edler (Canucks replace Edler's spot with Ballard)

To Vancouver: Patrick Marleau & Ryane Clowe

Great stuff.

Signoff

Draaaaaaainage.

Ryan Lambert publishes hockey awesomeness almost never over at The Two-Line Pass. Check it out, why don't you? Or you can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter if you so desire.

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