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The Boston Bruins need to clear about $7.5 million in salary cap space for when Marco Sturm(notes) and Marc Savard(notes) return from long-term injured reserve in the near future. How near? They both skated this morning.

Joe Haggerty of CSNNE reports that the groundwork is being laid for cost cutting by GM Peter Chiarelli, who attended last night's Phoenix Coyotes' game against the Montreal Canadiens flanked with Bruins scouts. From CSNNE:

Several hockey sources indicated to CSNNE.com that the Bruins are in the beginning stages of discussing deals involving several players, including Blake Wheeler(notes) and Michael Ryder(notes). The urgency for Chiarelli and the Bruins is a need to make room for at least two forwards when Marco Sturm (knee) and Marc Savard (post-concussion syndrome symptoms) are ready to come off long-term injured reserve.

Matt Hunwick(notes) could also be in the trade mix for the Bruins if they can find a willing partner, but thus far the market hasn't quite developed for the aspiring puck-moving defenseman. Hunwick has been inconsistent over the last year-plus since a promising rookie season two years ago, but his skating ability remains unquestioned. Mark Stuart(notes) has drawn interest around the league at points over the last two seasons, but he's an integral part of the B's leadership inside the dressing room.

So who's most likely to leave? And does this have anything to do with Brian Burke's phone (which, we've always imagined, looks like a hockey glove)?

According to Cap Geek, Ryder has a $4 million hit, Wheeler has a $2.2 million hit and Hunwick has a $1.45 million hit. Ryder's a UFA next summer; Wheeler and Hunwick are RFAs. All three aren't exactly the iPhone as far marketability goes.

Wheeler's got a fan in team president Cam Neely. The Bruins would trade Ryder for a bag of last season's pucks. Johnny Boychuk's injury might affect Hunwick's availability for the next month.

Who might be a trading partner? The Coyotes are off to a so-so start (2-2-3) and have the second-fewest goals in the Western Conference (17, just ahead of Edmonton's 15); that said, is there any chance GM Don Maloney trades for Blake Wheeler considering their history? Perhaps the blue line might be a better fit.

Who else? Well, there are always the Toronto Maple Leafs and GM Brian Burke, who have made trades with, or have been rumored to make trades with, Boston for the better part of the last two years. The Leafs are finally getting trade calls, as Burke told 640 AM in Toronto (via Sportsnet):

"We're not in a position where we have unlimited funds to spend. We do have some room. We're going to wait and make the deal we think is best. We're encouraged at least that we're starting to get some action on the line. For a while there it was like ... man, everyone knows we have space and budget room and nothing was happening."

Bob McKenzie of TSN tweeted this morning that "the Leafs aren't close to making a trade. All Brian Burke really said on radio yesterday is that he's getting some calls and has cap space."

Which is to say we're in the courtship phase for teams like the Bruins and Leafs as players heal, the cap gets tighter and GMs start to plan out their options. Or, perhaps, the Bruins will just take the Lamorielloian path of perpetually convenient injuries to avoid difficult financial decisions.

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