BRIGHTON, Mass – With a bit more than $10 million in salary cap space after the July 1 open of NHL free agency and Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo and Danton Heinen still unsigned, the Bruins are locked in a tight salary cap space.
It would appear that the Bruins will need to make at least one salary cap space shedding deal in order to sign all three young RFAs to second contracts, and that the negotiations could push on for a while between B's general manager Don Sweeney and each of the player's camps. Still, Sweeney indicated that the Bruins are confident they have the resources to sign all three of their restricted free agents and didn't seem overly concerned by an offer sheet like the $42.27 million one that Montreal just laid out for Carolina forward Sebastian Aho.
"It depends on where those deals land and the terms, obviously, [but] we feel comfortable where we're at, you know, from our current cap space," said Sweeney. "We don't foresee any problems reaching deals with players, depending on the terms.
"I've been patient in terms of where we're looking going forward. We've always said we're going to introduce newer players. We've committed to it, and now we'd like to keep them. We'd like to continue to develop and see them grow with us as impactful players. I think we've had several of those that are starting to come along those same lines. You have to prepare for that."
Clearly all three players (McAvoy, Carlo and Heinen) are going to command significant raises from their entry level deals, and that is part of the reason the Bruins were quiet in free agency aside from adding depth forwards in Par Lindholm and Brett Ritchie.
But McAvoy has also missed 47 games with an assortment of injuries and medical issues over his first two seasons was a mid-first round pick and averaged seven goals and 30 points over those first two NHL seasons.
The most comparable contracts for McAvoy would not be Aaron Ekblad and his eight-year, $60 million contract: Instead it would be the six-year, $31.5 million deal for Hampus Lindholm, the six-year, $32.4 million contract for Sabres D-man Rasmus Ristolianen and the six-year, $34.8 million deal for Dallas Stars D-man Esa Lindell. If the Bruins are offering just shy of $6 million per year on a six-year deal and McAvoy's camp is expecting $7.5 million per year on an eight-year deal, then they are understandably far apart in contract negotiations.
The 6-foot-5 Carlo had a strong third NHL season with two goals and 10 points in 72 games and was strong in the playoffs as a top-4 D-man averaging 21:31 of ice time during the first 24 Stanley Cup playoff games of his career. Carlo won't, however, be getting the same kind of payday as McAvoy, and is looking at something more along the lines of $3-4 million per season on a shorter term deal for his second contract.
While not a perfect comparison, the two-year deals handed out to Edmonton's Darnell Nurse ($3.2 million per year) and Winnipeg's Josh Morrisey ($3.15 million per year) last summer should be in Carlo's neighborhood with the B's this summer.
Maybe Carlo gets closer to $4 million per season (like $3.5 or $4 million per season) or another year or two in term, but it's not going to be a salary cap-busting kind of contract.
The pathway for Heinen is a little more interesting because his 27 goals and 81 points over the last two seasons are strong, but the 23-year-old also took a big step back this past season with just 11 goals and 34 points in 77 games. Kasperi Kapanen just signed a three-year deal worth $3.2 million per season and Andreas Johnsson signed a four-year deal worth $3.4 million per season with the Maple Leafs. Both those players hit 20 goals last season for the Leafs, but Heinen has better numbers than them over the course of the last two seasons. Perhaps Heinen gets a little less in term than the two Leafs forwards, but he's tracking to right around $3 million per season on a 2-3 year deal.
Add it all up and it's somewhere in the neighborhood of $12.5 million in cap space for next season and the Bruins will need to free up at least a couple of million dollars somewhere along the way, and probably more if they want any breathing room with their cap space. The good news is that it doesn't seem like Sweeney is all that stressed out about it with a solid three-plus months before the Bruins start suiting up for regular season games again.
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