Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman, in line for a big pay boost as a restricted free agent, has filed for salary arbitration, which could affect how the club conducts business around the upcoming free agency period that begins Tuesday.
The action by Wideman, confirmed this afternoon by a source with first-hand knowledge of the on-going negotiations between the Bruins and the defenseman, allows the club not to be concerned about buying out players prior to Monday’s deadline.
The arbitration process, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, allows clubs to revisit potential buyout plans for a 48-hour window after each arbitration award. Wideman’s arbitration hearing cannot be held earlier than July 20, nor later than Aug. 4.
All of which means the Bruins, if they are interested in buying out a roster player or two, now will have at least an extra three weeks to make that decision. Whatever the amount of Wideman’s arbitration award, the Bruins will have two days after it has been rendered to decide if they need to shed a contract or two (three maximum) to make room for the young puck-moving defenseman’s salary.
Veteran winger Glen Murray, who is due to make $4.15 million in 2008-09, remains the likeliest candidate to be bought out.
Meanwhile, the move by Wideman, who is represented by agent Larry Kelly, the former business partner of Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli, could make the Bruins more inclined to spend slightly higher than planned for free agents. With their buyout option now pushed out by at least three weeks, they could be more willing to exceed the 2008-09 cap figure — set by the league at $56.7 million — knowing they have salary relief at their disposal, if necessary, later in the summer.
Currently, the Bruins are carrying some $49.5 million in cap commitments for the upcoming season. Under league rules, they can exceed the cap by 10 percent (to $62.37 million) during the summer, but must trim back their obligations to no more than $56.7 million by their first regular-season game of 2008-09.
Chiarelli, reached in this afternoon, again offered ‘‘no comment’’ when asked about Wideman’s decision to go to arbitration or how it could impact the club’s plans during and around free agency.
Forwards Zach Hamill and Joe Colborne, Boston’s top picks in the last two respective amateur drafts, will attend the club’s development camp, July 8-12, at the Ristuccia Arena training facility in Wilmington.
The other five members of the Bruins 2008 NHL Draft class — Maxime Sauve, Michael Hutchinson, Jamie Arniel, Nick Tremblay, and Mark Goggin — also will attend the camp.
In addition to the draftees, recently acquired prospects Jeff LoVecchio (Western Michigan University), Jeff Penner (Alaska-Fairbanks University), and Matt Marquardt (Baie-Comeau Drakkar) will make their first appearances at a Bruins camp.
Other camp participants from the 2005, 2006, and 2007 drafts include: Andrew Bodnarchuk, Adam Courchaine, Tommy Cross, Alain Goulet, Jordan Knackstedt, Mikko Lehtonen, Brad Marchand, Adam McQuaid, Levi Nelson, Kevin Regan, and Denis Reul.
The on-ice portion of the camp again will be led by Don Sweeney, Geoff Ward, and Providence coaches Scott Gordon and RobMurray. The off-ice portion will be led by strength and conditioning coach John Whitesides.