ESPN Bottomline 2.0

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Reinforcements on the Way?

My second favorite thing to do when breaking down NHL action (after analyzing line make up) is trying to figure out trade deadline action. With the Bruins an up-and-down squad recently it seems that something in Boston has to give.

More precisely, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is going to have to give. It is the only way he is going to get help for the stretch and the playoffs.

Boston has found itself on top of the Eastern Conference standings with a strong team, but the deficiencies are starting to creep up. They could not score on the road trip (except for the 5-1 game in Carolina) and their youth might be becoming a detriment to sustained play off success.

Phil Kessel has recently rediscovered his scoring touch, but the young wing still does not play a spirited two-way game and is responsible for giving up as many goals as he scores. He may suffer from Alex Kovalev syndrome. He is quiet in the dressing room (at least with the media) and as a restricted free agent he will probably want upwards of $4 Million to stay in Boston.

David Krejci has gotten into his own head and his production has suffered, thus the Bruins have suffered. When Boston was steam rolling the league it was Krejci and veteran Marc Savard killing opponents as they butter-churned them through their top two lines. Chiarelli has said that there is no way the Bruins will trade Krejci but his fade down the stretch necessitates some extra pop in the Bruins’ top six.

A quick look on who could be traded from the Bruins that could bring in reinforcements.

Kessel – For the aforementioned reasons as well as the fact that he is Boston’s biggest chip. His youth (still only 21) makes him relatively inexpensive ($850,000 cap hit this year), thus giving the Bruins leverage is they have to eat some money in a trade. If Chiarelli is looking for the big fish, this is his most attractive piece of bait. Look for him to go only for someone like Chris Pronger or the equivalent.

Mark Stuart - I like Stuart. He is a solid defenseman and has recently eclipsed his career high for goals with five. Overall though, the Bruins have some depth on defense (with Matt Hunwick on the roster being scratched through most of February and Matt Lashoff in Providence). He is also making $1.3 Million this year, which may be a touch high for a guy who sits at fourth or fifth on the defensive depth chart.

Stuart has a brother in Atlanta (Colin), so a trip south may not be out of the realm of possibility.

I conducted an impromptu survey of the press box the other day and when I mentioned Stuart to a veteran reporter he said, “they would trade Stuart and maybe some guys in Providence if they were trying to trade three nickels and a dime for a quarter. Otherwise, I don’t think so.”

Manny Fernandez – The strength of this team all year has been in goal. Recently though, that has meant Tim Thomas, as well it should be. Fernandez is another in the locker room who seems a little moody and as an unrestricted free agent the Bruins might be wise to see what they can get for Fernandez.

At the same time, I do not think that Chiarelli would do something so stupid, unless he was blown away by a deal. Some Bruins fans have been clamoring for Tuuka Rask (who pitched a shutout in his only game in Boston this year) to back up Thomas, but I do not see it.

If we look north we find the perfect example of why the Bruins should hold onto Fernandez in the form of Carey Price. “Jesus” Price, just a little older than Rask, has crumpled under the weight of being The Man in Montreal. With the expectations of Boston higher than ever (considering the success of all the other franchises in the city, including their building mate Celtics) it would not be prudent to put Rask in a situation where his psyche could be derailed. Goalies tend to be head jobs in the first place, best not mess with them more than normal.

Peter Schaefer – Five words: Get rid of this contract. $2.1 Million this year and $2.3 next year? Chiarelli needs somebody to take this from him so he can have more flexibility for this deadline and the overall roster next year.

Chips to trade-
There is a glut of kids in Providence that have value. To name a few: Vladimir Sobotka and Martins Karsums (both of whom are actually with the Boston right now). Matt Lashoff, Zach Hamill, Kevin Regan, Martin St. Pierre.

So, who do the Bruins focus on in any potential trade. Three names to watch:

Keith Tkachuk – St. Louis Blues - Veteran leader and scorer, also a Boston legend from his times at Boston University. Provides the top six depth that the Bruins need and a left handed shot that would help the Bruins on the power play and enable them to move Blake Wheeler back to his natural side, probably paired with Patrice Bergeron on the third line.

Martin St. Louis – Tampa Bay Lightning – Almost the same type of argument as Tkachuk, except for the BU stuff. Exciting player that could really jump start the Bruins, especially with Krejci’s fade.

Pronger – I was talking with Darryl Houston-Smith from and he said, “If you put Pronger and Zdeno Chara on the same team then you could just throw each of them out there every shift and just grind teams into submission. That is how you win Stanley Cups.”

Check back on Wednesday to see analysis on any moves the Bruins make.

This article can also be found in my profile at

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