Sweeney admits roster changes are coming: 'We're not going to be the same team' originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
The Boston Bruins roster could look a lot different to begin the 2023-24 NHL season in October.
Sure, there are some impressive franchise cornerstones in place, with superstar right wing David Pastrnak and No. 1 defenseman Charlie McAvoy atop that list. But a quick glance at the roster ahead of free agency in July shows more than 10 players who are eligible for unrestricted or restricted free agency during the offseason.
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And there are some pretty important guys in that group.
Bruins captain Patrice Bergeron and second-line center David Krejci are the most notable names. All three of Boston's trade deadline acquisitions -- left wing Tyler Bertuzzi, right wing Garnet Hathaway and defenseman Dmitry Orlov -- are in that mix, too.
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With so many quality players looking for new contracts and not much salary cap space to work around, the Bruins are in a tough spot. The only certainty is that change is coming to the roster.
Specifically with Bertuzzi, Hathaway and Orlov, do the Bruins want to make offers to these players and can they even make realistic offers to them given the team's salary cap challenges?
"I couldn't just categorically sign those players today," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said Tuesday during the team's end-of-season media availability. "Our cap situation we leveraged a little bit -- everybody knows our overage at $4.5 million -- so we have some constraints, as do several teams around the league. Our goal this season was to put the absolute best roster we could put together and try to take a legitimate run, and we failed, no question.
"We have to pay that forward a little bit. That might mean we're instituting younger players, it might mean roster changes which we would like to make. That might mean I might be able to sign one of those three players (acquired before the trade deadline) or other unrestricted players. We have to address the two RFAs in Trent Frederic and Jeremy Swayman, which we'll do. Roster changes are likely coming. We're not going to be the same team."
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The salary cap is projected to increase by only $1 million for the 2023-24 campaign. The Bruins, as Sweeney mentioned, have $4.5 million in overages that will count against next season's salary cap. Those overages come from the bonuses in Bergeron and Krejci's contracts. Simply put, there's just not enough cap space to re-sign everyone for the salary they deserve.
Incorporating younger players into the lineup will be important for the Bruins in the short term as they work to create more salary cap flexibility in the coming years. This means promoting some of the team's prospects into NHL roles, especially on the third and fourth lines. These players typically are on entry-level contracts with NHL cap hits below $1 million.
The Bruins will be a playoff-caliber team next season even if they lose most of their upcoming free agents. There's still a ton of high-end talent on this roster. But it might take a while for the front office to build a roster with as much depth as the 2022-23 squad enjoyed.