UNIONDALE, NY – Michael Ryder appeared like he might have been a perfect trade fit for the Bruins this season because of his Cup-winning past history in Boston, but GM Peter Chiarelli will have to move on now that the 32-year-old has been dealt back to the Montreal Canadiens franchise where his career began. So how did a room full of Bruins players that spent three years playing with Ryder as a teammate (and many times standing in constant amusement as the Newfoundland native would find new and amazing ways to constantly be late for team functions) react to the news?
“I was surprised. I don’t pay attention to trade rumors anyway. If he’s happy then good for him, and if he isn’t then sorry about your bad luck,” said Shawn Thornton, who was pretty good friends with Ryder during their days in Boston. “I haven’t talked to him, so I don’t know what his reaction is. I know he actually liked it [in Montreal] and he had [Michael Therrien] in the minors too. So they know each other. Hopefully it works out for him, but just not against us.”
So where do the Bruins go with the NHL trade deadline looming on April 3 as some teams are already pulling the trigger on deals?
The Habs acquired Ryder from the Dallas Stars in exchange for Erik Cole, and the Philadelphia Flyers also took a page from their past by reacquiring Simon Gagne from the Los Angeles Kings. But don’t expect that to mean Chiarelli is going to get sentimental and follow the pattern by pulling the trigger on a deal that would send Colorado Avalanche forward Chuck Kobasew back to Boston as well.
Chiarelli and the Bruins are still in the market to add to their depth on the wing, and they’re looking for size, offensive ability and hopefully some veteran experience that will serve them well in the playoffs. The ideal forward could play the left wing on the third line if that is what’s required, but also have the ability to play “up” in the lineup if injuries and attrition take a bite out of the Bruins as they get ready to 32 games over the next 60 days.
So here’s an idea of the forwards that still fit the bill for the Black and Gold with Ryder scratched off the list:
The dream candidate on Boston’s list because he has played with a Bruins-style mentality throughout his entire career. The belief is that a winning situation could spark the 35-year-old’s game. He’s got power-forward size, a mean streak that will fit in well with the Black and Gold and enough offensive ability to post 32 goals and 67 points last season. There’s little doubt that he’s slowed down in the morass that is the Calgary Flames, and he’s got only three goals along with a minus-3 rating in 18 games. His former teammates have even called him out in the media while saying that he’s lost the fire that once made him great. The thought of a talent like Iginla mixing in with the rest of the Black and Gold roster is an intriguing one, but there’s also the delicate balance of adding an “NHL superstar” to an established roster. One good sign: Iginla and Zdeno Chara hit it off at least year’s All-Star game in Ottawa when the Bruins captain barked at the Calgary captain to back-check on a shift while playing for Team 'Z'. But the Bruins have the cap space to add Iginla’s $7 million hit, and he would be a perfect addition in many ways. The cost is the thing with him. It’s said to be extremely high right now as set by Calgary GM Jay Feaster, but there’s also awareness around the league that Calgary will be under pressure to deal Iginla if they’re out of the playoff picture in March and April. If the Bruins can get Iginla for a first round pick and a prospect, then Peter Chiarelli needs to pull the trigger on it and hope for the best. Also, don’t ever underestimate Chiarelli’s fondness for the 2003-04 Calgary Flames team that made it to the Stanley Cup Finals: He’s already acquired Andrew Ference, Kobasew, Stephane Yelle, Shean Donovan, Chris Clark, Dany Sabourin and Steve Montador throughout his time running the Bruins. Iginla would just add to that set of former Calgary players that have come through Boston’s doors.
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The 40-year-old Alfredsson is another Peter Chiarelli favorite after working closely with him while the Bruins GM was a part of the Ottawa Senators management team. While the Senators might not be in dealing mode if they keep adding onto their current five-game winning streak, it remains to be seen how much longer Ottawa can keep things up without Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza healthy. Alfredsson has four goals and 11 points in 19 games while still averaging upwards of 18 minutes per night, and he put up 27 goals and 59 points last season. So there’s still plenty left in the tank for the Swedish captain particularly if the Cup becomes a distinct possibility. Like Iginla, Alfredsson’s contract will run out with his current team at the end of the year, so the price tag shouldn’t include anything from Boston’s current roster of players. If it does then the Bruins shouldn’t do it, but much of it comes down to Ottawa’s trajectory over the next month of hockey.
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This is probably the most realistic of the names on the list because Weiss is not performing well in Florida. He was benched in the third period of last weekend’s game against the Bruins, and has one goal and four points along with a grotesque minus-11 in 14 games for the Panthers. The 29-year-old Weiss has averaged 23 goals and 55 points over the last three years in Florida, so the offensive ability is clearly there. But Weiss has also been a lifelong member of the Panthers organization, and that in itself is somewhat problematic. There’s a question how Weiss would perform under the pressure and scrutiny of an expected long playoff run in Boston, but at least there would be some familiar faces in Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton. And both Campbell and Horton seemed to fare well in the postseason despite only having Florida Panthers on their resume before arriving in Boston. Weiss is in the last year of a contract paying him $3.1 million and he’s in Florida’s dog house, so the price tag on him would likely be less than household names like Iginla and Alfredsson.
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There have been whispers that the high-priced, skilled Flyers forward is available as GM Paul Holmgren looks to shake up his team, and some think that the deal for Simon Gagne was a prelude to a bigger deal involving Briere. The 35-year-old Briere has 5 goals and 11 points for the Flyers in 14 games this season and holds a minus-3 rating, and he’s also been one of those players that underachieved at times during the regular season. Last season he had only 16 goals and 49 points in 70 games for Philadelphia, but Briere has always been a player that’s brought his best when the playoffs come around. He also has a $6.5 million price tag over the next two seasons after this year and is a salary cap albatross for a Flyers team that’s bumping up against the ceiling, so perhaps he can be had on the cheap. The problem becomes accounting for the $6.5 million hit over the ensuing two seasons, and then dealing with a group of Bruins forwards that won’t exactly be excited that Briere is making more money than all of them. The price shouldn’t be more than picks and prospects if it’s a deal Philadelphia is seeking for salary cap relief, and the Bruins should think long and hard about this one even if that’s all it costs them.
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RUSLAN FEDOTENKO and TYLER KENNEDY
A pair of bottom-six forwards that could help bring grittiness and a little scoring ability to the third or fourth line as well as insurance should players go down with injuries. The 34-year-old Fedotenko only has a goal and four assists this season for the Flyers, but his value comes in the playoffs where he can give a big boost with opportunistic scoring and pesky play. He was a good soldier for the Rangers over the last few seasons when it came to playoff performance. Likewise Kennedy is a third line player also capable of popping in 20 goals per season, and Penguins GM Ray Shero recently called Kennedy out as “a player that [the Penguins] needed more out of.” Kennedy scored a goal in the Penguins-Flyers game that Peter Chiarelli was scouting in person at the CONSOL Energy Center, so he certainly made a good impression on the Bruins front office. The cost for either of these players should consist of lower round draft picks or ‘B’ level prospects, and neither player would break the bank with their cap hit. The Bruins could make a move for either one of them and also keep their lines in the water for the big winger they’re fishing for.