As the Stanley Cup Final reaches it’s boiling point with Game 6 on the horizon, the NHL offseason starts to come into view. Although the focus of Boston and St. Louis at this point is undoubtedly at winning hockey’s greatest prize, decisions are looming at hand for general managers Don Sweeney and Doug Armstrong.
The Bruins are obviously a strong team and with that comes a high cap number. Boston already has a large amount of money tied up next year, including a combined nearly $33 million towards David Backes, Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.
Moving on from Backes, who would be entering the fourth year of his five-year agreement, is certainly an option that seems enticing. A trade seems to be the route there, where perhaps the move would be packaging Backes with a number of prospects or picks to a team where he is willing to go and can take on the salary.
A Backes buyout would not save the Bruins much off their cap in 2019-20. The real savings comes for the 2020-21 season, where Boston would have an extra $2.3 million to work with. The two seasons after that, a Backes buyout, if done this offseason, would cost them more money than if they were to just ride out the contract.
Thus, at the very moment at least, a buyout seems nearly off the table. The Bruins are likely stuck with Backes’ contract, and it may just be best to ride it out unless a perfect fit comes up.
Boston also has to pay some high-quality restricted free agents this summer. Coming off their entry-level contracts, Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy are both due for official contracts. McAvoy will likely extend anywhere up to $6 million per season, whereas Carlo should top out around $2.5-$3 million.
It does not seem like much on paper, but for a cap-stretched teams, players moving into higher contracts off of rookie deals can be back-breakers. Just ask the Toronto Maple Leafs about that.
As for other players needing contracts, Marcus Johansson will probably be hitting the open market. Steven Kampfer is not too much of a concern either.
The other big name that stands out is Danton Heinen. The 116th overall pick in 2011 has carved out a formidable NHL career for himself in Boston’s middle-six, but the price to keep him may extend too high for what he brings to the table. He had 34 points in 77 games this season, down from 47 in the same amount of time in last season, but he has been plagued by less than desirable play for long stretches in his career.
As a young center, turning 24 years old in July, Heinen would certainly be in demand by a number of teams. Heinen’s potential number off the booms would give Boston a bit more wiggle room to add more depth in free agency and can be something which Sweeney looks into.
As for the Blues, their situation is slightly better than the Bruins’, albeit still not ideal.
The Blues have to re-sign Jordan Binnington, and that will be an interesting contract to say the least. Personally, I could see the parties agreeing on a two-year bridge deal around $3.5 million per, but it is impossible to call. The Blues certainly do not want to be strapped with a situation like Andrew Hammond from a few years ago.
For other players, Ivan Barbashev, Sammy Blais, Robby Fabbri, Zach Sanford, and Oskar Sundqvist are all restricted free agents. None of these players should break the bank, but the small contracts do add up eventually. The Blues also have to worry about trying to keep Patrick Maroon, an unrestricted free agent, around, but he may take another hometown discount.
The most intriguing name on that list is Fabbri. He missed most of two seasons with an unfortunate set of injuries after an impressive rookie campaign in 2015-16. Mind you, Fabbri has potential, as he was drafted 21st overall in 2014.
This season, though, Fabbri has struggled to regain form. In only 32 games played, he had six points. In 10 playoff games, he has one lone goal. He even saw some time in the AHL this year.
It has not been an easy road for Fabbri, and it cannot be easy watching his team make this run largely without him.
Although his contract will not be large going into next season — it will likely be a “prove it” deal — Armstrong could still give one of his former highly-touted prospects a fresh start. Plenty of teams would take a flyer on Fabbri, depending on the price of course, and the money saved would give the Blues close to enough to bring back Maroon. It is definitely a situation to keep an eye on.