The National Hockey League is entrenched in another lockout, and while we might not be watching NHL hockey for a while, there's still plenty on the minds of fans in the latest Boston Bruins mailbag.
Q. What are your thoughts on guys going overseas to play? On one hand I guess it should help with conditioning, but if I'm Chiarelli it definitely makes me nervous to have guys playing somewhere else. Also, if a guy gets hurt, do the Bruins still have to pay them when the lockout ends? -- Bill (Boston)
A. Bill, my thoughts on players going overseas is it completely contradicts the spirit of a union and the so-called solidarity the NHLPA is trying to portray. On a playing/conditional basis, I understand the need to stay in "game" shape, but, yes, if I am Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli, for sure I am nervous. But it is out of his control. As for whether they will be paid if they are injured while playing for another team during lockout: No, they will not. Instead, they are suspended without pay for duration of their injury.
Q. I know the talks have quieted down, but don't you think David Krejci's name is going to end up back in the trade rumor mill once the season starts (and yes, I am assuming there will be a season)? -- HK (The Cape)
A. HK, glad one of us is optimistic on a season at this point! But to answer your question, yes, I do think Krejci remains a regular on the trade-rumor circuit. By process of elimination and the salary cap, logic says one of the team's centers needs to go. He is the most cap-friendly, and in my eyes not as valuable as the other centers. I see Tyler Seguin as the team's No.1 center by the end of the season if there is one.
Q. Do you think a team like the Bruins that has had basically no turnover will have an advantage coming out of a lockout? -- Jake (Newton, Mass.)
A. Jake, that is a great question and I am of the belief that chemistry can never be overvalued. So, yes, I like the fact that they kept their young and veteran core intact. One must remember that this team -- and the aforementioned young core that has now been given a vote of confidence by management -- won a Stanley Cup only two seasons ago. That experience is invaluable, and to still play with the teammates they accomplished that with will be a huge advantage for them.
Q. In the last two years the Bruins have added goalies Lars Volden, Zane Gothberg, Niklas Svedberg and Adam Morrison. Oh yeah, there's now that [Malcolm] Subban kid. Gothberg just won a big award so what's the plan for him and the other goalies not named Subban? Competition is good but now with two good goalies in Boston, this is getting a little silly. -- Justin Walden (State College, Pa.)
A. Justin, as I stated about chemistry above, the goalie position can also never be overvalued. Much like pitching in baseball, if there is one position to have too much depth in, it is goaltending. While I think Tuukka Rask will prove to be a solid if not elite starter, his health and durability is still a question mark. Anton Khudobin has very good potential, but he lacks experience. So having all that talent below your NHL goalies is an asset, not a problem. I think they give the Rask-Khudobin duo at least a season to prove themselves and then go from there.
Do you think the Bruins overpaid Lucic? Also, does it limit them in the event they try to trade him? -- Chris (Southwick, Mass.)
A. Chris, this is a tricky question. In the market of the recently expired CBA, I believe the money and years given to Lucic fit right in, but with the future CBA landscape most likely having a lower salary cap, it most definitely could prove to be a problem for the Bruins. Yes, the Bruins might not have to pay as much as they signed on to pay, but they will have to deal with the cap hit, and I agree it will decrease the trade value of Lucic. All that being said though, I think this contract makes or breaks Lucic. He has the potential to be the new age power forward if he finds consistency. We shall see.
Q. Hi Jim, I read that D. Hamilton is not eligible to play in the AHL this year should there be a lockout. My first question: Is that due to a minimum age limit in the AHL? If so is it possible it will be lifted in the event of a lockout? If in the event of a lockout Hamilton plays in the OHL, would he be allowed to jump to the NHL if the lockout ended and the NHL plays a shortened schedule this year? -- Kevin (Hyannis)
A. Kevin, obviously I am reading this after the lockout was imposed and the first part of your question has been answered. As for your last question, if and when the lockout is lifted and the season begins, yes, Dougie Hamilton can be brought up to the NHL again. That rule was agreed upon between the CHL and the NHL right before the CBA expired.
Q. If there is a season, do u think the Bruins will try to trade for Bobby Ryan? I think he would fit perfectly here, especially if Horton does not fully recover? Who do u think the Bruins are willing to send over in return? I am thinking Bobby Ryan for Krejci and Spooner/Knight and a draft pick. -- Joe Personeni (Hingham)
A. Joe, I agree that Bobby Ryan would fill some needs for the Bruins and I definitely think the Bruins will revisit that if Nathan Horton can't get back to where he was before his concussions. However, I am still of the belief that they will target someone like Keith Yandle. Yes, I think Krejci could be involved, considering the cash-strapped Coyotes need a second-line center and Krejci has a cap-friendly contract.
Q. Do you think there's a real chance the season is lost? I just can't imagine the NHL losing another season so soon after the last lost season (especially when as much as the sport has gained in the last few years, it's still way behind the other 3 in terms of popularity in the U.S.). -- Barry J. (Hadley)
A. Barry, unfortunately I very much believe that a whole season could be lost. When you pit two stubborn, no-holds-barred parties like the owners/Gary Bettman/Bill Daly against Donald and Steve Fehr and the players, an extended stalemate is very possible. Playing is not their main concern. It appears the powers that be on both sides are stuck in the past, with the players wanting revenge for the last lockout and the owners wanting more money. I agree that the relevance of the NHL in the United States will decrease even more, but unfortunately, I think the owners and league will never learn because the fans will still come back.
What do you put the odds at that Tim Thomas gets traded this year? Would obviously be nice to get that money off the cap and at least have the option to spend it if the Bruins wanted to. -- Nate (Conn.)
What do you think of all the extensions the B's just made? I like them. I guess you could say they might have overpaid a bit for Marchand and Lucic (to me, Seguin's deal was basically set in stone as soon as Skinner re-signed in Carolina. Skinner has been more productive through two seasons, but based on what Seguin did last year, there's no way they were re-signing him for less than Skinner got), but I still like both of them. I'd rather pay for guys I know than take a chance on free agents from other teams. -- Billy J. (Worcester, Mass.)
A. Billy, I completely agree with you. They got market value on Seguin and arguably even on Marchand and Lucic. But the point you make about paying for what you know is exactly right. These three players have won the Stanley Cup and know Julien's system. Why throw all that money at someone who very well could struggle in this system and might not fit your needs? It's ironic how the Bruins were always bashed for not spending enough to keep their stars, and now when they do, they get criticized. But those critics will most likely change their minds when the NHL returns.