Following the Feb. 7 announcement that Bruins star center Marc Savard would be done for the season and that the Bruins could use his remaining salary cap space, we looked at what the Bruins might try to do before the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
After watching the Bruins get dominated by the Detroit Red Wings in a weekend home-and-home set, the needs remain the same -- a puck-moving defenseman and scoring depth up front -- but the urgency to get something done is higher.
Some may argue that the tight standings in the Western Conference and uncertainty surrounding injuries make it too difficult to get what you want two weeks away from the deadline. But if a general manager knows what his team needs and has targeted certain players -- which most have by now -- then why wait?
As we pointed out last week, the Bruins have some attractive trade bait in young roster players, prospects and draft picks. And with general manager Peter Chiarelli letting it be known that he is willing to trade Toronto’s 2011 first-round pick (acquired in the Phil Kessel trade), he is basically saying, “Let’s make a deal.”
The thinking here is that with the Eastern Conference wide open right now and with the Penguins possibly major players in the trade market, the race is on for the big fish that are available.
The Bruins’ power play has been better as of late with five goals in their last 10 attempts, but their five-on-five play looked over-matched against Detroit and it is still painfully clear that this team needs a defenseman who can move the puck up ice and create offense (as the Red Wings’ blueliners can). While Boston’s forwards should not be let off the hook for failing to come back to help the defense and for poor forechecking, a puck-moving defenseman must be the top priority for the Bruins.
Maple Leafs defenseman and impending unrestricted free agent Tomas Kaberle seems to make the most sense for Boston. Kaberle, who will turn 33 on March 2, has a clause in his contract that allows him to submit a list of 10 teams to whom he would allow a trade. According to a league source, Kaberle has not submitted such a list, but could be willing to accept a move to an Eastern Conference team. The source also said the Bruins and Philadelphia Flyers have shown interest in Kaberle.
We’ve also suggested that the Bruins look into 20-year-old Thrashers defenseman Zach Bogosian, and still think it’s worthwhile despite talk that Atlanta won’t deal the young blueliner. But Kaberle may make more sense because of his experience and the fact that he’d likely come a good deal cheaper than Bogosian.
Bogosian, who will be a restricted free agent, likely would cost the Toronto pick, a prospect, a young roster player like Blake Wheeler and possibly defenseman Mark Stuart, who was a healthy scratch for eight straight games before Sunday and is available, according to multiple league sources. That price tag is based on talks with numerous NHL scouts and executives, and makes sense because Bogosian has the potential to be a foundation-type player.
There is strong sentiment that Bogosian isn’t available, but Bob McKenzie of TSN said last week that the defenseman’s fractured relationship with assistant coach John Torchetti and the Thrashers’ depth on the blue line have fueled talk that he could be had for the right price. That being said, such a deal seems more likely to happen at the NHL draft.
If the Bruins can’t land Bogosian or Kaberle, what other defensemen may be available? The pickings appear to be slim, but if this scribe were running the show (and there’s good reason he's not!) he’d inquire about Brent Burns (Minnesota), Joni Pitkanen (Carolina), Bryan McCabe (Florida), Kurtis Foster (Edmonton) and possibly John-Michael Liles of the Avalanche. All have been mentioned by numerous scouts as being available.
For those who have inquired about the Bruins and Blackhawks talking about a deal that would send Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook to Boston, consider this from ESPNChicago.com colleague Jesse Rodgers. “After a spate of silly Internet rumors about an impending trade,” Rodgers wrote, “general manager Stan Bowman put that all to rest on Thursday and Friday in various interviews, declaring Seabrook a Hawk through the 2011 playoff chase.” Not going to happen, folks.
As far as scoring depth up front, a league source said the Bruins kicked tires on Kris Versteeg but decided the price was too high. Toronto dealt Versteeg to the Flyers on Monday for a first-round and third-round pick in the 2011 draft.
While Kaberle still seems to make the most sense, there’s no guarantee he will be available. Either way, the Bruins would be wise to get a trade done for a puck-moving defenseman as soon as possible. The demands will only go up, and since the Bruins are in a solid position to make some noise in the Eastern Conference, they shouldn’t wait and take a chance of letting the big fish get away.