The Boston Bruins didn't upgrade their lineup in a profound way Monday by trading right winger Danton Heinen to the Anaheim Ducks for left winger Nick Ritchie, but the salary cap savings for the B's could be quite valuable.
Heinen is a better offensive player than Ritchie, even though he's been disappointing for Boston with 22 points in 58 games this season. Ritchie is a bottom-six player, but he will give the Bruins more size and toughness for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs. But the most important aspect of this trade is how it gives the Bruins more financial flexibility.
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Heinen is signed through the 2020-21 season with a salary cap hit of $2.8 million, per CapFriendly. Ritchie also is under contract through next season with a team-friendly $1,498,925 cap hit. So, the Bruins save about $1.3 million in salary cap space with this trade.
Why does the savings matter?
It gives Bruins general manager Don Sweeney additional room under the salary cap this summer to re-sign some of their free agents.
The Bruins are expected to have just under $24 million in cap space this offseason after the Ritchie trade. This is a pretty good amount of room under the cap, and it should be enough to address several of the team's most important free agents.
Here's a look at the top five Bruins players eligible for unrestricted or restricted free agency on July 1.
1. Torey Krug, D, UFA
2. Zdeno Chara, D, UFA
3. Jake DeBrusk, LW, RFA
4. Jaroslav Halak, G, UFA
5. Matt Grzelcyk, D, RFA
The most important free agent the Bruins have to consider re-signing is Krug. The 28-year-old veteran is one of the best offensive defensemen in the league, and he's also one of the team's leaders and a fan favorite. Krug is tied for ninth in scoring among defensemen with 42 points (eight goals, 34 assists) in 55 games. His power play ability is also among the league's best. Krug has tallied 25 of his points with the man advantage, and the Bruins have had a top-four power play in the league over the past three seasons with him running the No. 1 unit.
It's possible that Krug's annual average salary in his next contract could hit $8 million or more, especially if he hits the open market. Krug and St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo are the top defensemen who could be unrestricted free agents this summer. However, Krug said in September that taking less money to remain in Boston is "something I'm interested in."
This Ritchie trade is unlikely to impact the Bruins in a significant manner on the ice for the rest of this season, but opening up more than $1 million in salary cap space definitely will help in the offseason. Every little bit of cap space helps, especially when you're a team like the Bruins constructing a roster to win the Stanley Cup in the short term.