Even facing the perils of the dreaded cap jail, B's general manger Peter Chiarelli won't blink in the face of financial adversity.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Chiarelli reiterated what has previously been surmised, that the B's will not use either of their two compliance buyouts this off-season in an aim to eliminate money off the top of the salary cap and free up more space to work with as they attempt to retool the hockey club. Instead, they will go forward with the financial situation as is and will let the buyouts expire on June 30.
|Opportunity gone? If the Bruins bought out Chris Kelly, his $3 million salary could be used elsewhere (via NHL.com)|
Chris Kelly has often been mentioned when it comes to a potential target for a compliance buyout, where his $3 million salary could be wiped clean with no ramifications on the salary cap, giving the Bruins some much needed wiggle room to put that money elsewhere in free agency. Kelly is halfway through a four-year, $12 million extension he signed before the 2012-13 season, as he was coming off a 20 goal, 39 point season, prompting Chirelli to give the 33-year-old a rather large extension for a third line role player.
Why the Bruins and Chiarelli are so quick to dismiss the option of using a compliance buyout on Kelly or another player is something I can't quite wrap my head around in terms of where this team is right now, being so far up against the cap as they are. The Bruins have pressing needs when it comes to maneuvering the cap to re-sign the players they cannot allow to walk, with Torey Krug and Reilly Smith being chief among them. Jarome Iginla is the other free agent to deal with, but the cap situation has proven it difficult to make his return an easy affair.
It must be noted that there is some grey area when it comes to buying out players that are injured, as Kelly recently underwent back surgery to repair a herniated disk he suffered in the final week of the regular season, an injury that ended his year. However, players have been bought out before even when injured, with the latest example being Chris Drury of the New York Rangers in 2011.
Kelly has missed his fair share of games the past two seasons due to multiple injuries, including the herniated disk and a broken fibula suffered back in December of last year. Nevermind the wear and tear on his body, Kelly's production has dropped significantly, as he recorded only nine points (three goals, six assists) in a lockout-shortened season in 2013 and just 18 points (nine goals, nine assists) in 54 games this season.
But as we've seen, both Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien are extremely loyal to their players, sometimes to a fault. This is one of those times.
Kelly holds his weight at the face-off dot and is a terrific penalty killer, but you have to wonder where he fits into the Bruins roster this upcoming season. I think it's a safe bet to say Carl Soderberg is not going anywhere from his spot as the third line center, and neither is Loui Eriksson on his wing. Could Kelly slot back on the other side of Soderberg and rekindle the original flame that saw the third line explode post-Olympic break?
As good as that trio was from the end of February until mid-April, it was the rotating duo of Justin Florek and Matt Fraser who excelled in Kelly's place on the line, and in a series vs Montreal where Boston's best players did not produce, it was the retooled third line that was the best offensive weapon the Bruins had through the seven games played.
And the rumblings from the Garden have been constant and buzzing: the Bruins want to become a faster, quicker and more agile team. Last week, Chiarelli thanked Shawn Thornton for all he did and sent him down the road to find employment with another franchise. Re-signing Thornton would have taken up valuable cap space spent on a talent that simply didn't fit what Boston has in mind going forward. Insert some youth into the bottom two lines. Give the kids in Providence a chance to establish themselves in the NHL and give the B's a breath of fresh air when it comes to making them a more formidable and dynamic team.
Could the Bruins still move on from Kelly in a trade? Kelly holds a no-movement clause in his contract, so going down that road would provide even more of a tricky scenario to work over.
The only thing that remains is for the Bruins to move other pieces off their team in order to free up cap space. Will that be Brad Marchand or Johnny Boychuck? It remains to be seen. But if the Bruins go through with a heavy trade that dumps money off the books and sends quality players out the door, we can all be sure to thank our lucky stars that Chiarelli has decided to hold onto Chris Kelly's $3 million per year contract instead.