The Bruins have seven defensemen under contract for next season. (Winslow/Townson/USA Today Sports)

Cap future, team needs point to Bruins needing Vegas to take a defenseman off their hands

Ty Anderson
June 07, 2017 - 3:30 pm

For months now, though I have to admit that it’s felt like years, we’ve talked about the upcoming expansion draft in which the Vegas Golden Knights will pluck one player from every organization, and what that plucking means for the Bruins. Right now, with the protection list not due for another week and change, it’s all just a bunch of hot air.

But at some point, both the Bruins and Golden Knights will have to pick a direction, and it’s the Bruins that are probably going to have to do their part to nudge Vegas in their desired direction in some manner.

That direction would probably include the Golden Knights taking a defenseman, one with term left on his current deal, off the B’s hands.

That’s nothing new, of course.

With a rather limited group of expected unprotected forwards in terms of attraction and price for production from that player, logic seems to point towards the Knights nabbing one of the seven defensemen — and with at least four exposed, excluding youngsters Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy, as the B’s will protect three with the seven-forward, three-defenseman, one goalie protection plan — they have under contract for the 2017-18 season.

But here’s the other, probably pretty important thing about that: The Knights don’t have to take a defenseman from the Bruins.

As experienced and/or promising as the B’s defensemen at the league’s 31st team’s disposal may be — and it’s believed that at least two of Adam McQuaid, Colin Miller, and Kevan Miller will have to be left exposed by Bruins general manager Don Sweeney — the Bruins are not the only team with appealing defensemen. In fact, teams like the Ducks, Wild, Sharks, Panthers, and Islanders have their share of stronger defensemen (perhaps not literally, of course, as Kevan Miller may actually benchpress cars for fun) that could be selected. That could be four of five NHL-proven defensemen already drafted onto their big league depth chart — and potentially expensive ones at that — thus limiting their need for one of the aforementioned three Boston defenders.

And although it’s been said before: Kevan Miller has played his way into protection talk. McQuaid has been honest and said that he doesn’t really wanna go to Vegas, which could be an obvious turnoff for the Knights (why draft somebody that doesn’t wanna be there?), and the 24-year-old, high-ceiling Colin Miller is still looking to prove himself as an everyday NHLer.

They’re good players, but don’t kid yourself into thinking this is a Murderers’ Row of available defensemen for Vegas.

It would probably actually make more sense for the Golden Knights to nab Malcolm Subban, as troubled as the start to his pro career has been, as the organization’s third goaltender. A first-rounder with a name people remember thanks to his older brother P.K. The selection would also allow Subban to get a fresh start in a new organization (which is something he desperately needs), and Vegas general manager George McPhee has always worked his best to stack his organizational goaltending depth.

But that doesn’t help the Bruins much. Or at all, really.

In an offseason that will likely be headlined by the club’s quest for additions on the left side — both on defense and on the wing — the failure to ditch a defender (or a heavy contract up front, such as Matt Beleskey or Jimmy Hayes, for that matter) via the expansion draft will force the Bruins into the trade market, where they’ll have to manage moving salaries while also obtaining fair value for the player moved. That’s all without considering an extension for David Pastrnak, of course. And let’s just say that an extension projects him at about $5.75 million per season, that would leave the Bruins with less than $4 million in cap space left to fill out their roster with at least two more forwards and also make those desired upgrades to their roster.

I don’t need to tell you that it’d be awfully hard to add a valuable left wing for peanuts and even harder to add an impact left defenseman when you already have seven defensive bodies under contract for next season.) But take a McQuaid ($2.75 million per year) or Kevan Miller ($2.5 million per season) out of the equation and off to Vegas, and that’s instead over $6 million left to work with for the Black and Gold. In a hard-cap world, those savings are invaluable.

Oh, it’s also worth noting that the NHL salary cap is not expected to increase, so this is what the B’s have to work with.

So this is where it gets interesting for the Bruins.

Instead of making deals to have Vegas not take a valuable piece off their roster, they could be in a situation where they’re OK with the Knights taking Subban or a similar player — such as a depth, fringe NHL d-man or forward from the AHL ranks — if it means that one of their defensemen, or overpaid bottom-six forwards for that matter, is going with him. Because, quite simply, he has to.

At least if Sweeney and the B’s will have a real chance at acquiring those players on their summertime wishlist.

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