The Bruins are poised to make a move for at least one defenseman, but they’re in a holding pattern along with the rest of the NHL waiting for some of the bigger pieces to move prior to the March 5 trade deadline. That means other teams potentially in sell mode are waiting for Thomas Vanek, Matt Moulson and Andrew MacDonald to move, setting the market value for the rest of the players.
The Bruins are interested in Andrew MacDonald, per a source with knowledge of Boston’s trade deadline plans, but aren’t willing to pay the first-round bounty currently being sought by New York Islanders GM Garth Snow. Monday isn’t expected to be a day with any momentous Bruins trade deadline news, so here’s a status report on where the B’s currently sit with the deadline looming Wednesday at 3 p.m.
Andrew MacDonald: He’s probably the best player the Bruins could acquire as a second pairing left shot defenseman, but Peter Chiarelli will be balking at the first round draft pick being asked in return. MacDonald tops 25 minutes of ice time per game, has virtually no cap hit and leads the NHL in blocked shots while not shying away from sacrificing his body to win. One problem: he was a top-pairing defenseman vs. the Penguins in last year’s playoffs, and couldn’t stop Sidney Crosby from ringing up three goals and nine points in the five games. That’s exactly what MacDonald’s assignment would be if the Bruins and Penguins faced each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. He’s also not the biggest guy in the world at 6-foot, 180-pounds, and doesn’t really play any bigger than his listed size.
Chris Phillips: The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Phillips has the size, strength and grittiness that the Bruins are looking for, and a serious playoff push could be a real energizing factor for the 35-year-old veteran. The cost wouldn’t be too prohibitive (perhaps a couple of non-first round draft picks), but the Bruins are getting pessimistic that Phillips will ever be dangled in a trade offer. Instead the sense is getting great that the 17-year Senators veteran is going to resign in Ottawa, and not be dealt at all prior to the deadline. He’s at the top of Boston’s wish list, but Phillips may not be an option.
Dustin Byfuglien: His name jumped onto the scene Monday with a report that it would take a first round pick and a roster player to acquire him from Winnipeg. He’s not a match with the Bruins, however, given that he’s a right shot with the Bruins searching for a top four left shot, and his defensive shortcomings would not be a good fit for Claude Julien’s system. When you add in two more years at a $5.2 million cap hit, this makes zero sense for a Bruins team that isn’t interested.
Andrej Meszaros: He’s bounced from healthy scratch to solid performer while going in and out of Craig Berube’s dog house in Philly this season, and there’s a real question as to how much of an upgrade he’d be – if at all – to Matt Bartkowski. The cost wouldn’t be prohibitive (a draft pick in the fourth round range) and he’s got an ally in the Bruins dressing room in fellow Slovakian Zdeno Chara. But he’s the kind of defenseman that isn’t great defensively, and could get torched by good offensive players in the later rounds of the playoffs. He might get protected a bit by Claude Julien’s defensive system, but he’s more of an offensive guy that’s only playing 17:22 a game for the Flyers.
Nick Schultz: He’s a veteran option that isn’t going to cost much more than a fifth round pick, and he’ll block shots and throw his body around. But the 31-year-old Schultz has also slowed down from his Minnesota days, and is a minus-11 playing less than 17 minutes per game for the Oilers. He’s also not the biggest guy in the world at 6-foot-1, 203 pounds, but would provide good depth for the Bruins if all other options have been extinguished.
Tom Gilbert: He’s another of the Bruins options on March 5 once players start moving quickly, and he’d likely be more of a depth player than somebody that would potentially supplant Matt Bartkowski in the lineup. He’d also cost a draft pick that wouldn’t break the bank for the Bruins. He’s 6-foot-2, 206-pounds and playing 21 plus minutes per game for the Panthers in what’s been a pretty solid season for the 31-year-old bought out of his contract with the Minnesota Wild last year.
Henrik Tallinder: He’s 35 years old and not the most stalwart defender in his own end, but the Swedish defenseman is 6-foot-4, 209-pounds with plenty of experience while still playing 19:02 of ice time per game for the Sabres. He’d also cost the Bruins draft picks and/or “B” prospects once Tim Murray starts dealing his assets in earnest, but he’s probably one of the last options for Boston that’s available as a rental.
Christian Ehrhoff: Beyond the rental market is players like Ehrhoff, who is signed to a front-loaded contract with Buffalo that will carry a $4 million cap hit from now until eternity. He plays 24 minutes a night, is a viable offensive performer and plays the left side where the Bruins are looking for a veteran. He’s also not a rental, so the German defenseman would start costing the Bruins more in terms of quality draft picks, top prospects or roster players. If the Bruins don’t go for a rental, he’s a pretty realistic option.
Alex Edler: He’s signed at $5 million per year through 2018-19, and is a brutal minus-24 for the Canucks this season. But he’s 27 years old and extremely talented, and the kind of player that would make the Bruins a better team if they were willing to pony up the assets needed to acquire him. As with Ehrhoff, Edler would cost the Bruins top draft picks, prospects and roster players to make the salary cap numbers work. Ehrhoff comes a little more affordable than Edler, and would be the first option if the Bruins decide to really sell out for a defenseman with term on his contract.
Other names that are more fantasy than reality for the Bruins: Keith Yandle, Ron Hainsey (not sure all has been forgiven after his outspoken act during the lockout), Mark Fayne, Mark Giordano (Calgary doesn’t appear to want to trade their captain) and Mark Stuart.