Bruins trade categories: Who stays and who goes in the chase for cap space?

Don Sweeney is a finalist for the NHL General Manager of the Year Award after being relatively hands-off with his roster last summer. Aside from welcoming back Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, Sweeney’s only major transaction was acquiring Pavel Zacha.

Sweeney may have to be more active this offseason to be in GM of the Year contention once more. The trick Sweeney has to pull off is reloading for another Stanley Cup run in 2023-24 with only pennies left to do so.

Consider the following: Let’s take 20 players under team control who are locks or possibilities to make the 2023-24 roster. Their total cap commitment is just shy of $75 million.

Of these 20, four players will be restricted free agents (Jeremy Swayman, Trent Frederic, Jakub Lauko, Marc McLaughlin) due for raises. If the cap only rises by $1 million to $82.5 million, it will be impossible for Sweeney to fit them under the ceiling.

That’s because the GM is operating with less headway.

The Bruins are responsible for carrying a $4.5 million overage penalty in 2023-24 because of the bonuses due to Bergeron and Krejci. So assuming an $82.5 million cap, the Bruins’ true number is $78 million.

You can see, then, that Sweeney requires breathing room to round out the roster. So as much as it might weaken the Bruins, the GM may have to execute multiple trades in the name of cap relief. Here is the breakdown:

Not going anywhere

Hampus Lindholm 

No-move clause … Seven seasons left on his eight-year, $52 million contract … Was the Bruins’ best all-around defenseman in 2022-23.

Charlie McAvoy 

Does not have no-move protection, but trading the 25-year-old would not make the Bruins better … Seven seasons left on his eight-year, $76 million contract … Possible future captain.

David Pastrnak

No-move protection … Will be starting the first season of his eight-year, $90 million deal … Hart Trophy finalist could be the future captain.

David Pastrnak. (Winslow Townson / USA Today)

Listening, but it wouldn’t make sense

Brandon Carlo

Four years left at $4.1 million annually, which is a good sum for a dependable defensive defenseman … Will never be an offensive catalyst, but there is a place for a stout five-on-five and penalty-killing defender … Known chemistry with Lindholm … Team could already be down a right-shot defenseman if Connor Clifton hits the market.

Charlie Coyle

Team is not in position to trade a center, especially a do-everything one like Coyle … Still, his $5.25 million AAV is considerable for three more seasons … At 31, how much more growth remains in his game?

Trent Frederic

Even if he triples his previous $1.05 million average annual value, the 25-year-old would be a relatively moderately-priced third-line forward … While he enjoyed playing right wing, the 2016 first-rounder will be more valuable in the middle … Still room to grow as an offensive player … Only way he’d be on the move is if negotiations get sticky.

A.J. Greer

On the books for one year at $762,500, which is a sweet price for a No. 4 left wing … Is who he is: a 26-year-old who can play physical and pop goals here and there … Would not solve any cap issues by sending him out the door.

Jakub Lauko

Should be re-signed for relative peanuts as his entry-level contract expires … Energetic and likable 23-year-old can play both wings … Should return this fall with more confidence to make plays.

Brad Marchand

Partial no-trade protection, 35 years old, team-friendly $6.125 million AAV could encourage Sweeney to move on … That said, the left wing was the No. 2 scorer coming off double hip surgery … Obvious choice for captain if Bergeron says goodbye … Trading No. 63 would damage team chemistry.

Marc McLaughlin

Versatile RFA forward will be re-upped at a cheap price … Could be in the mix to replace Tomas Nosek as No. 4 center.

Oskar Steen

Has yet to make an NHL breakthrough. But his $800,000 AAV will afford the 25-year-old right-shot forward every opportunity to stick … Could replace Garnet Hathaway as fourth-line right wing.

Pavel Zacha

Partial no-trade protection … Carrying a $4.75 million AAV, but that could be a bargain given how the boy raised to be an athlete could be the No. 1 center in 2023-24 … Could very well improve upon his career-best 21 goals in 2022-23 because of his heavy shot and quick release … Struggled with a lack of confidence at times in New Jersey, but has no reason to be down on himself, especially with Pastrnak on his right side.

Jakub Zboril

Became a perpetual healthy scratch because of unassertive play in 2022-23. But his status was also because of the Bruins’ good health and depth on the left side … One year left at $1,137,500 before reaching unrestricted free agency, so motivation should not be an issue … Price makes him a good fit on the No. 3 pairing.

Listening more seriously

Jake DeBrusk

Forward is the deficiency, and trading a top-line wing would not help matters … But with the 26-year-old’s contract expiring after 2023-24, whether the 2015 first-rounder is worthy of a long-term investment is difficult to say … Speed, grittiness, versatility and playoff pedigree would be of interest on the trade market.

Jeremy Swayman

Comparables put the RFA-to-be in line to make $4 million annually … If the Bruins can’t meet that price, teams might be interested in a 24-year-old with No. 1 potential … This would make Ullmark the clear-cut No. 1 in 2023-24. Would he be ready for that kind of workload?

Linus Ullmark

If the Bruins meet Swayman’s ask and see him as a future ace, Ullmark and his $5 million AAV could be on the move … Whether the Vezina Trophy favorite and backflow expert can replicate his performance in future seasons is unknown … Five years older than Swayman … Could the Bruins trust Brandon Bussi (zero games of NHL experience) as the backup?

Let’s talk trade

Derek Forbort

Defensive defenseman and penalty-killing specialist is unlikely to be re-signed after his deal expires after 2023-24 … As such, it would make sense to see if teams need a bottom-pairing shutdown presence … Return could be a mid-to-late-round pick.

Matt Grzelcyk

One of the Bruins’ most significant trade assets because of his high-end shot-suppression game, crisp puck movement, power-play experience and $3,687,500 AAV … Trading the Charlestown native would not make the 2023-24 Bruins better, but perhaps Zboril could supply part of Grzelcyk’s contributions … Would best serve a team that is otherwise big on the blue line … Was a healthy scratch for Game 1 against the Panthers, partly because of the team’s concerns of how his size is exploited in the playoffs.

Taylor Hall

Core contributor in 2022-23, but partly as a No. 3 left wing … In the Bruins’ cap environment, the 31-year-old’s $6 million AAV stands out because he doesn’t kill penalties and isn’t a lock to be on the No. 1 power-play unit … Partial no-trade protection … Exercised his no-movement clause in 2020-21 to facilitate the Sabres’ trade with the Bruins.

Mike Reilly

Both sides want a cleaner solution than parking the veteran defenseman in the AHL for a second straight season … Carries a $3 million AAV for one more season, but due $4 million in salary, which may make a deal difficult to execute … Turns 30 on July 13 … Could be bought out, which would produce a $333,334 sum against the 2023-24 cap, per CapFriendly.

(Photo: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)