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Tuesday, August 3, 2010
Bruins must address salary-cap dilemma

By James Murphy

On Tuesday, the Bruins officially signed second overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft Tyler Seguin to a three-year entry-level contract that will pay him the maximum base salary of $900,000 per season, and bonuses that could max out at $3.75 million annually. Combining that with the signing of Blake Wheeler to his one-year arbitration award contract worth $2.2 million, Boston is now not only over the 2010-11 NHL salary cap of $59.4 million but also the “summer cap” that allows them to go up to $65.3 million or 10 percent over the season cap until one week before the season begins.

According to capgeek.com, the Bruins’ cap hit currently stands at $66.28 million, which as general manager Peter Chiarelli acknowledged means that despite a 7.5-percent bonus buffer that applies Seguin’s bonuses to the 2011-12 cap until Seguin meets them and the Bruins' plans to put injured forward Marco Sturm on long-term injury reserve, another roster move could be right around the corner.

While Chiarelli said he is happy with the current roster, he realizes that in this salary-cap-era things are likely to change before training camp arrives, as the Blackhawks -- only two months removed from a Stanley Cup -- proved Monday when they walked away from goalie Antti Niemi’s arbitration award of one-year, $2.75 million.

"It’s a roster that I am very happy with right now -- there are some spots for young players to earn spots -- but you’re never done with your roster,” he said. “There’s always things that crop up. We just saw a Stanley Cup-winning goalie become available on the free market. So things happen, things crop up, and it’s never done until the opening-day roster is filed. Things come up and you’re never filing your final roster until you file your final roster. I might expect another move.”

The Bruins once again pointed out that when the season begins, they can at least use the $3.5 million from Sturm’s salary for cap relief until he returns in what Chiarelli still believes will be mid- to late-November. Between the first drop of the puck and then, however, he can at least evaluate what possible changes need to be made.

“We’re over the cap right now but we have a player in Marco Sturm that we can put on long-term injury,” Chiarelli said when asked if the current roster is cap-compliant. “At some point we’d have to make some changes when Marco’s ready to come back, but that’s the reason you have long-term injury, that you can go in excess of the cap and see how your team unfolds while your injured player is rehabbing and recuperating.”

Until training camp, though, Chiarelli said he is confident in the players he has.

"We have the ability to ice a team and a good team, and if that’s all we do [signing Seguin] between now and the start of camp, I’d be very happy,” he said.