Failing a setback, Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard will return to the team's lineup later this month or early in December. Meanwhile, Marco Sturm isn't far behind and hopes to rejoin the Bruins by mid-December at the latest.
Combined, Savard and Sturm represent a $7.5 million cap hit, which would put Boston about $2 million over the $59.4 million cap.
Multiple transactions may be required; trades are an option, but it's not GM Peter Chiarelli's only play.
There are vultures circling - the Toronto Maple Leafs being one - but no offers have been presented and Boston would rather waive players and assign them to the AHL than make a rival stronger.
Veteran forward Michael Ryder eats up $4 million in cap space and is a candidate for demotion, while defenceman Andrew Ference, who's a $2.25 million cap hit, is a trade target as well.
Keep in mind that the Bruins own Toronto's first round Draft pick in 2011 via the Phil Kessel trade, so Boston has no interest in helping the Leafs get better. Toronto will have to focus on New Jersey, Philadelphia, Vancouver and Calgary -the NHL's other cap challenged clubs - or budget-sensitive teams like Phoenix, Dallas, Florida or Atlanta in hopes of luring the big centre they're seeking.
The staggered returns of Savard and Sturm will buy Chiarelli time to help manage the process, but this still only delays the inevitable.
The Bruins are now just days away from having to make difficult decisions.