Bruins, Blue Jackets cooking on a potential deal

Bruins, Blue Jackets cooking on a potential deal
March 4, 2014, 4:15 pm
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BOSTON -- The Bruins are in discussions on a number of different fronts with players, but the location of their top NHL scouts is usually pretty instructive of where the plans sit for B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli. Bruins top scout Adam Creighton, who was the B’s scout tracking Dennis Seidenberg before he was brought to Boston from the Florida Panthers, has watched the last three Columbus Blue Jackets games prior to the deadline.

The Blue Jackets also had a pair of scouts watching the Bruins/Capitals matinee on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden, and Boston’s players know anything could go down before 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

One thing is true: The Bruins and Blue Jackets have been discussing a trade that could involve at least one defenseman, and possibly a forward headed back to Boston.

“They’ve been through it every year so far, and when you look at what happened for the most part, we’re always tried to add to our team depth. We haven’t really subtracted a lot,” said Claude Julien. “So I think the players understand that and for now, for those that don’t, they’re going to have to learn that it’s part of the game.

“I don’t think it should affect our game more than it should affect any other players on any other team. It’s that time of year for everybody, so you have to act like professionals. You have to go out there and do your job, and hopefully by three o’clock on Wednesday you're still sitting in the dressing room you want to be sitting in.”

So what could the Bruins be interested in?

Defensemen Jack Johnson and Nikita Nikitin immediately spring to mind, but don’t forget that Zdeno Chara and Marian Gaborik are longtime countrymen that have played together for Team Slovakia in world competition. The 6-foot-1, 231-pound Johnson certainly has the size and the pedigree as a former top first round pick (third overall in 2005) of the Carolina Hurricanes, and he’s averaging 24:08 of ice time per game for the Blue Jackets this season.

Johnson is viewed as more of an offensive defenseman with four goals and 25 points in 61 games, and would cost the Bruins roster players and top draft picks/prospects given that he’s signed for four more years at 2017-18 at a cap hit of $4.357 million throughout the deal. He had three assists while topping 25 minutes in a win over the Panthers last week, and topped 31 minutes of ice time in a Monday night game against the Leafs while showing he can handle a serious workload.  

Nikitin is an unrestricted free agent rental with a cap hit just north of $2 million, and has the kind of size Boston is looking for at 6-foot-3, 217-pounds. He’s only averaged 17:17 of ice time this season, but looked good in 21 plus minutes of ice time against the Maple Leafs on Monday night. The price would obviously be lower for the Russian-born Nikitin than it would be for Johnson, and might only cost the Bruins a mid-level prospect or draft pick.

Finally, Gaborik is a name that Aaron Portzline from the Columbus Post Dispatch has linked with the Bruins as a player the Bruins might nab if teams like the Penguins land a big piece -- like Ryan Kesler -- at the trade deadline. Gaborik would add some good, needed speed to the Bruins forward group, and would give the Bruins scoring depth in case anybody along their frontline goes down with an injury. His $7.5 million cap hit would force the Bruins to trade somebody from their roster (Adam McQuaid, Chris Kelly etc.), but Blue Jackets management can’t be asking for much more than a high draft pick for a player that’s worn out his welcome in Columbus.

Gaborik has done exactly nothing in the last couple of games for the Blue Jackets, but there’s no denying he’d be a potentially nice offensive piece on the third line that could play in the top-six if injuries hit there.