One year removed from their Presidents' Trophy 2013-14 campaign, the Boston Bruins are dealing with excruciating cap crunch this summer that has limited their ability to augment the roster.
The Bruins' cap situation also cost the club veteran forward Jarome Iginla, who scored 30 goals a year ago and met most of his bonuses which exacerbated the club's cap issues, and Shawn Thornton (leading to inane questions about the club's toughness). Bruins coach Claude Julien isn't fretting though.
"We don’t feel like we're in a real tough situation," the veteran head coach told Jess Isner of BostonBruins.com. "We’ve lost Jarome, but as you’ve probably heard, I think Loui Eriksson is a player that can be even better than he was last year. I think we started seeing that at the end of the year, and he could be a replacement for Jarome as a possibility."
This isn't the first time the Bruins coach has invoked Loui Eriksson as the answer to the club's vacancy in the top-six. Eriksson is a recent 70 point forward and a top-of-the-lineup caliber piece, but he dealt with concussion issues and struggled to acclimatize to life in the Eastern Conference in his first tour of duty as a Bruins winger.
Eriksson is the front-runner to replace Iginla on David Krejci's wing next season, though he'll have competition for that spot according to Julien.
"But at the same time, Chris Kelly will be coming back [from a back injury]," Julien said. "So are we going to look for somebody to be a third liner, or are we going to look for somebody who’s going to be replacing Iggy?"
Kelly can be a useful depth piece, but has only hit 20 goals in a season once and has never surpassed 40 points in his career.
In addition to losing Iginla and Thornton in free agency, the Bruins lost long-time assistant coach Geoff Ward this summer. Ward, who took a head coaching job with Adler Mannheim of the DEL, is credited with reinvigorating the long dormant Bruins power-play. One of Ward's most effective units prominently featured the departed Iginla, whose right-handed shooting may be tough to replace.
"There may be a couple of players moving around to have the right format," said Julien of replacing Iginla's contributions on the ice and Ward's on the x's and o's side. "But we have a good nucleus.
"You know, we adjust. We make adjustments to power plays, to our play throughout and so on and so forth," continued Julien. "So I think just because Jarome is gone doesn’t mean that we have to blow everything up. But certainly, I think we have a good nucleus here to continue to have a good power play."
In addition to replacing Iginla and figuring out how to replicate Ward's success coaching Boston's unorthodox man-advantage unit (which featured 6-foot-9 defender Zdeno Chara in a net front role), the Bruins still have to re-sign restricted free agent and power-play quarterback Torey Krug. And top-six forward and restricted free agent Reilly Smith.
Smith and Krug have limited leverage, but the Bruins have already exceeded the upper limit of salary cap by over $800,000 per capgeek.com. The club will get some cap relief once forward Marc Savard goes on long-term injured reserve, but it's going to be snug under the upper limit of the salary cap for a Bruins team from whom much is expected this coming season.