As NHL training camps open, the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks still remain above the $69 million salary cap. Questions persist over how they'll address the issue.
The Blackhawks must shed more than $2.2 million to become cap compliant before the season begins in October. For months it's been speculated defenseman Johnny Oduya ($3.38-million cap hit) or fellow blueliner Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) could be moved in a cost-cutting trade.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman believes Leddy could be odd man out, citing the $3.4 million it'll take to qualify his rights next summer. He speculates the Blackhawks could prefer keeping the defense pairing of Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson intact for a Stanley Cup run this season.
CSN Chicago's Tracey Myers notes Michal Rozsival ($2.2 million) will also be eligible for unrestricted free agency in July. Given his age (36) and injury history, Myers doesn't expect much interest in Rozsival from rival teams.
If the Blackhawks trade Leddy this month, they also risk Oduya's departure via free agency next summer. As they're unlikely to retain an aging Rozsival, the Blackhawks risk losing three regular defensemen, creating a huge hole on their blueline. Retaining the 23-year-old Leddy makes the most sense for the long term.
The Bruins, meanwhile, are perched over the cap by nearly $810,000. Placing concussed center Marc Savard ($4.03 million) on long term injured reserve will provide cap relief, but not sufficient room to re-sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith. The Boston Herald's Steve Conroy reports Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli once again acknowledges he'll have to move one of his nine NHL-worthy defensemen.
Friedman notes much of the Bruins trade speculation surrounds blueliners Matt Bartkowski ($1.25 million) and Johnny Boychuk ($3.37 million). He claims the Bruins and Edmonton Oilers discussed Boychuk earlier this summer but the talks fell through. The Bruins appear keen on retaining Boychuk for one more Cup run, but Friedman wonders if perhaps that's changed.
Moving Boychuk – to the Oilers or anywhere else – not only frees up sufficient room to re-sign Krug and Smith but could also fetch a decent return. His modified no-trade clause expired at the end of last season, meaning the Bruins can now ship him anywhere without his consent. Given his UFA eligibility next summer, however, interested clubs might seek assurances of his willingness to commit beyond this season.
Moving Boychuk would weaken the Bruins defense this season. Captain Zdeno Chara is aging, Dennis Seidenberg is returning from knee surgery and Adam McQuaid is frequently sidelined. It could be too soon to put more responsibilities upon promising Dougie Hamilton, while Krug is known more for his offensive skills than his defensive abilities.
Boychuk's preference is to re-sign with the Bruins. But as they currently have more than $54 million invested in only 11 players for 2015-16, it could prove difficult keeping him off the UFA market. Retaining Boychuk for this season, however, gives Chiarelli time to consider his options for re-signing the defenseman.
SENS WAIT AND ‘C’ WITH BOBBY RYAN
Don't expect the Ottawa Senators to have Bobby Ryan re-signed to a new contract before the start of this season. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports Senators GM Bryan Murray claims Ryan wants to determine the role and importance he has with the club. Murray believes they'll revisit talks in October or November.
Ryan, 27, could also be waiting to see what kind of season the Senators have before deciding to commit to a long-term deal. If he hits next summer's free-agent market he will attract considerable interest from playoff contenders seeking scoring depth.
It seems a given that Ryan will be the Senators first-line right winger this season. Plus, with Jason Spezza dealt to Dallas, Ryan could take over more of a leadership role. Given his UFA status next summer, they probably won't make him captain. Having lost one captain to free agency (Daniel Alfredsson) last summer and traded away another in Spezza this summer, the Senators will undoubtedly select someone to wear the ‘C’ who's signed beyond this season.
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 Bleacher Report, Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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