By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
With Charlie McAvoy finally signed to a new three-year deal to keep him in Boston, allowing the Bruins to breathe a sigh of relief after a gridlocked summer of restricted free agent silence, general manager Don Sweeney really didn't want to focus on the team's final final restricted free agent hurdle, defenseman Brandon Carlo.
"Today’s Charlie’s day, you know?" Sweeney said when asked for an update on Carlo. "As I said, we have a lot of communication and we’re trying to continue to do the same thing with Brandon. Every deal takes its time, and that’s my intention is to go back and work and get Brandon back in the fold as well."
But Sweeney did offer a nod and a yes when asked if the Bruins, who have a projected $3.2 million in available cap space, have enough leftover cap to sign Carlo without having to subtract from the Black and Gold's roster.
Depending on what he means by that, that's a potentially major development for Sweeney and the Bruins.
Assuming the best, perhaps Sweeney believes that he can get Carlo re-signed for less than $3.2 million. It would be another solid win for Sweeney, too. Be it to the right of Zdeno Chara or as the G.T.F.B defensive complement to Torey Krug's offensive wizardry, Carlo has remained an effective top-four defender and penalty killer since breaking into the NHL as a teenager, and has logged the 80th-most time on ice in hockey since making that jump to the NHL.
Much like they handled the McAvoy situation, it's believed that the Bruins are looking to go with a shorter term deal with Carlo, too, as they would prefer to have Carlo remain a restricted free agent at the conclusion of his second deal.
But it could also mean that the Bruins will begin the season with both Kevan Miller and John Moore on the team's long-term injured reserve. Moore is working back from a shoulder injury he played through on a limited basis during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, while Miller is trying to come back from a twice-broken kneecap. Neither skater is expected to be ready for opening day (the Bruins are being ultra, ultra-cautious with Miller), and placing them on the long-term injured reserve would free up their cap hits (Miller makes $2.5 million, while Moore is on the Boston books at $2.75 million per year). The Bruins would not be able to put them on the LTIR until the first day of season, and they would count against the B's cap upon their return, but it's an option that remains on the table, according to Sweeney.
"It depends on the terms of the [Carlo] deal," Sweeney said of the possibility to free up those cap hits via LTIR to begin the season. "We have obviously the opportunity to do that if we need to, because [Moore]'s not going to start the season. Kevan [Miller] won’t start the season either. If we need to."
While I'm not an official capologist, maximizing the long-term injured reserve benefits of Miller and Moore and a new deal for Carlo would probably require a little bit of trickery from the Bruins in the form of careful maneuvering of the daily cap. But it's something the Bruins have done before when in similar cap squeezes in the past.
One of the more unfortunate meanings, on the other hand, could be the Bruins waiving David Backes and sending the veteran leader down to Providence, which would free up a $1 million in additional cap space. (The league got rid of simply 'burying' contracts in the AHL in the most recent CBA, which essentially prevented players from getting Redden'd down to the minors by cap-squeezed teams and freeing up a large chunk of their salary.) Doing that would leave the Bruins down a respected voice in their locker room, even if they (most likely) view him as a 13th skater.
But what it means begins and ends with that number Sweeney and Carlo's camp land on to get No. 25 back on the ice.
The 22-year-old Carlo is coming off a two-goal, 10-point 2018-19 season that also featured career-highs in plus/minus (plus-22), shots (116), and time on ice (20:55 per night) in 72 games.