Boston Bruins

Five Players Bruins Could Trade in NHL Offseason to Create Salary Cap Space

Five players Bruins could trade in offseason to create salary cap space originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The Boston Bruins went all-in during the 2022-23 NHL season to chase a Stanley Cup title.

They traded a ton of draft picks to acquire Tyler Bertuzzi, Garnet Hathaway and Dmitry Orlov before the March 3 trade deadline. They signed veteran centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci to one-year contracts that will result in overages applied to their 2023-24 salary cap

After a stunning first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Florida Panthers, the bill has come due for the Bruins. The roster will look different next season.

"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," Bruins general manager Don Sweeney said at a press conference Tuesday.

"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."

The salary cap is expected to rise by just $1 million to a ceiling of $83.5 million for the 2023-24 campaign. The Bruins have more than 10 players from their playoff roster eligible for unrestricted or restricted free agency this summer. Superstar right wing David Pastrnak's salary cap hit is rising from $6.67 million to $11.25 million with his eight-year extension starting in 2023-24

The Bruins have limited salary space (less than $10 million) and lots of guys to re-sign. If Bergeron and/or Krejci retire, center immediately becomes an area in need of an upgrade. 

Which players could/should the Bruins explore the possibility of trading this offseason to free up much-needed cap space? Here are five names worth considering. (All salary info via CapFriendly.)

Taylor Hall, LW

2022-23 Stats: 16 G, 20 A in 61 GP

Contract: $6 million cap hit through 2024-25

Age: 31

Hall had a fantastic first-round series against the Panthers with five goals and three assists in seven games. It was a huge luxury to have a player of Hall's caliber on the third line, which really showed the impressive depth of Boston's roster. 

Hall will be 32 years old in November. He has dealt with plenty of injuries in his career, including a lower-body injury that forced him to miss 20 games late in the 2022-23 regular season. Hall also was a little inconsistent offensively this past season and had separate goal droughts of 15, eight and seven games. He has not scored more than 20 goals in a season since 2017-18. 

It could be really tough for the Bruins to re-sign left wing Tyler Bertuzzi, who they acquired from the Red Wings before the March 3 trade deadline. He is three years younger than Hall and proved to be an excellent fit for the Bruins, especially with David Pastrnak. Bertuzzi is a quality goal scorer, an excellent playmaker, contributes to special teams and does the dirty work to win puck battles in the greasy areas of the ice. He is going to be a coveted player in a year where the free agent class isn't very strong. Moving Hall and his $6 million cap hit would give the Bruins more flexibility to potentially bring back Bertuzzi or some of their other UFAs.

Based on the fact that the Bruins have just seven forwards under contract for next season right now, trading a defenseman and not Hall would be preferred. 

Hall has a no-trade clause in his contract that allows him to submit a 10-team no-trade list in 2023-24 and 2024-25, per CapFriendly.


Matt Grzelcyk, D

2022-23 Stats: 4 G, 22 A in 75 GP

Contract: $3.687 million cap hit through 2023-24

Age: 29

Matt Grzelcyk is a very good defenseman. He's a great skater, he's good at igniting the transition up ice, he creates scoring chances at 5-on-5 and the power play, etc. Removing him from the lineup for Game 6 against the Panthers and putting Connor Clifton in his place was one of the biggest mistakes Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery made in Round 1.

The Bruins need help up front, and especially at center. The blue line is one area where the Bruins have enough depth to trade away a quality player like Grzelcyk and still be fine. Therefore, moving Grzelcyk for cap relief or as part of a package to acquire an impact forward is a deal worth considering. 

Another factor is Grzelcyk has one more year remaining on his contract. If the Bruins don't view Grzelcyk as part of their future plans, it makes sense to trade him and not risk losing the asset for nothing in free agency next summer.

Derek Forbort, D

2022-23 Stats: 5 G, 7 A in 54 GP

Contract: $3 million cap hit through 2023-24

Age: 31

Forbort is a solid defensive defenseman. He blocks shots, he takes on tough defensive assignments, he battles in the dirty areas of the ice and he was a key component of the Bruins' No. 1 ranked penalty kill last season. The PK was where Forbort really shined, but the B's showed they could kill penalties at a high rate even when he wasn't in the lineup. Boston had the league's top penalty kill (93.3 percent) during the 15 games Forbort missed to end the regular season. 

Trading Forbort for a draft pick or a prospect and replacing him with Jakub Zboril on the left side of the blue line would make sense. Zboril is not as strong defensively as Forbort but he brings more offensive skill to the lineup. The cap savings would be worth it.

Forbort's no-trade clause allows him to submit a 3-team no-trade list, per CapFriendly.


Mike Reilly, D

2022-23 Stats: 0 G, 1 A in 10 GP with Boston Bruins; 7 G, 19 A in 36 GP with Providence Bruins

Contract: $3 million cap hit through 2023-24

Age: 29

The Bruins were not able to move Reilly this past season. As a result, his contract was buried in the AHL. Now that Reilly is in the final year of his deal, maybe it will be a little easier to trade him. Reilly isn't a bad player by any means. He skates well, he can move the puck up ice and his playmaking skills are above average. Teams can do worse than Reilly on their third pairing.

Finding a new home for Reilly needs to be a priority for the Bruins this summer, even if they have to retain salary or attach a draft pick to get a deal done.

Linus Ullmark, G

2022-23 Stats: 40-6-1, .938 SV%, 1.89 GAA

Contract: $5 million cap hit through 2024-25 

Age: 29

Trade the likely Vezina Trophy winner?

It's not as crazy as it sounds.

Ullmark's stellar 2022-23 season kind of came out of nowhere. Sure, he has been a solid goaltender for most of his career, including his first season in Boston in 2021-22. But no one could have imagined that he would win the goaltending triple crown by leading the league in victories, save percentage and goals against average. 

What are the chances he replicates his 2022-23 regular season success -- or something similar -- going forward? It's possible, but the odds probably aren't great. However, the real reason to consider trading Ullmark is the Bruins cannot afford to spend upwards of $9-10 million of cap space on goaltending when they have other glaring roster needs to address.

Backup goalie Jeremy Swayman is a restricted free agent this summer. He could make around $4 million per season in his next contract. The three-year, $12 million deal that Dallas Stars goalie Jake Oettinger signed as an RFA last September is a good template for Swayman. 

If we assume Swayman's next deal includes a $4 million cap hit, that would result in the Bruins spending $9 million on their goalies. The number of teams that spent $9 million or more of cap space on their goaltenders this past season was less than five.

The Bruins have two No. 1 caliber goalies in Ullmark and Swayman. They can afford to move a player of Ullmark's caliber and still get top-tier goaltending. Swayman is no fluke. We have a large enough sample size that shows he's capable of being a top 10 goalie. Only five goaltenders have a better save percentage than Swayman since the start of 2021-22. He's also five years younger than Ullmark and fits the age timeline of the franchise's core pieces such as David Pastrnak, Charlie McAvoy, etc. 

Ullmark's no-movement clause expires at the end of the 2022-23 league year. The final two years of his contract include a no-trade clause where he can submit a list of teams (16 in 2023-24, 15 in 2024-25) he won't accept a trade to join, per CapFriendly.

If the Bruins did trade Ullmark, they would need to find a veteran backup for Swayman. Brandon Bussi and Kyle Keyser aren't ideal NHL backups given their lack of experience. Signing a cheap veteran backup would be the best way to go in that scenario. 

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