OTTAWA – With both Adam McQuaid and Chris Kelly out for the near future, a tough-minded David Krejci playing through pain in his bruised knee and possibly Johnny Boychuk lost to a shot that hit his right leg in Friday’s practice at Carleton University, nobody would be surprised if Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was close to punching down the panic button in his current trade talks.
After all, the Bruins could ice a lineup on Saturday against the Maple Leafs that includes AHL-ers Ryan Spooner and Matt Bartkowski as well as spare players Aaron Johnson and Jay Pandolfo. With Boston smack in the middle of a battle with Montreal for the Northeast Division and a dog fight for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference, they’re admittedly not playing their best hockey over the last two weeks.
Some of that is the schedule suddenly getting very busy with 17 games during the month of March, and some of it is injuries that have robbed the Bruins of the team depth that normally overwhelms lesser hockey clubs.
Despite all of this, Chiarelli plans to maintain the course and isn’t going to make any moves simply because of the recent rash of injuries. This situation was anticipated entering the 48-game shortened NHL schedule and it’s why the Bruins fortified their depth prior to the season. Instead Chiarelli is watching a third line of Pandolfo, Peverley and Caron that’s basically become the team’s default fourth line, and still feels that is the area where can make the biggest impact on the trade market.
“We’re looking for depth. It may be a top line player and it may be a fourth liner, but we’re looking for another forward,” said Chiarelli. “I think we want to try to add a defenseman too.
“I’d be okay [if we couldn’t make a deal], but you’re always trying to improve. With Kelly down and Peverley playing the way he’s been playing, our third line has really been our fourth line. We’re going to get these players back, but we’ve been trying to fill that hole on the third line and we haven’t been able to. Jordan [Caron] has had some good games and some average games. Chris [Bourque] had some pretty good games, but he also had his struggles. That’s an area we’d like to improve.”
The plan is still to add a forward and a defenseman to the mix if the right deals are available, but Chiarelli is running into the same problem as every other general manager across the league. Every Western Conference team is at worst a three game winning streak away from a playoff spot, and every Eastern team outside of Florida and Buffalo – and perhaps Washington – is still shooting for this year’s postseason.
As of Friday, the Panthers were the only team that’s more than six points out of a playoff spot with slightly more than a month remaining in the regular season.
So there’s a very limited smattering of players available. Even names that keep popping up in rumors linked to the Bruins (Brenden Morrow, Ryan Clowe, Jarome Iginla, Mark Streit, Ryan Whitney) haven’t been made available as of yet, and that leaves GMs sitting in the checkout line waiting to pay for their groceries.
They might have to wait all the way until the April 3 deadline before they can finally put away their new groceries in the fridge. That’s a stark difference from two years ago when the Bruins acquired Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley ten days ahead of the deadline, and had plenty of time to assimilate the new parts in the Black and Gold way of doing things before the playoffs started.
“It’s as hard as its ever been or harder because of all these teams that are still in it,” said Chiarelli. “Teams feel like they only need to win three games and they’re back in it…and they are because of the condensed schedule. There’s more chatter and more talk because we were all in Toronto at the GM meetings.
“I’d like to be able to do it earlier [this month] but I might not be able to because the deal just might not be there. We hope to add [Carl] Soderberg [as well], but I don’t know if we’ll be able to. We’re trying.”
One thing that is also for certain: after talking to a large group of agents, executives and scouts over the last few weeks it’s pretty clear that the Bruins have told interested teams that young prospects Malcolm Subban and Ryan Spooner are on their “untouchable” list in trade talks. Other teams have inquired about both, but the Bruins won’t be entertaining any thoughts of dealing either one of them over the next two weeks.
Several sources have indicated to CSNNE.com that the Flames were asking for Subban as part of a potential package for Iginla as Calgary looks for an eventual replacement between the pipes for the aging Miikka Kiprusoff. But it will have to be a different set of assets discussed between Chiarelli and Calgary GM Jay Feaster that would potentially bring the Calgary captain to Boston in his search for a Stanley Cup.
Despite the injuries and the expected adversity that’s hit during the month of March, the Bruins are far from desperation mode when talking trade and Chiarelli will be patient getting the proper fit for a Black and Gold team that should have another long run at the Cup in them this spring.