Threat of trade could push Bruins forward

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Threat of trade could push Bruins forward

BOSTON -- The Bruins have gone through the many different stages of recovery when it comes to the Stanley Cup hangover thats dropped them into last place in the Eastern Conference.

There was denial, avoidance and self-medication through portions of the summer and early fall, but now it appears that blame, anger and change for changes sake have arrived at the door of the Black and Gold.

Just days after saying he wasnt ready to start tinkering with the roster that proved championship-worthy last spring, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is working the phones looking for a deal. It remains to be seen if hell find anything on the trade market this early, but lets not forget the Bruins waved goodbye to Chuck Kobasew less than 10 games into the season two years ago.

Claude Julien clearly supports the GMs search for whatever will help the current plight, but an argument could be made that sitting an under-performing forward like Nathan Horton or Milan Lucic would be more effective as a short term solution for a hockey team spinning its wheels.

Names like Kyle Turris, Ray Whitney and Rene Bourque have been tossed around when it comes to the whispers around the trade rumor mill, but it appears that any potential moves can be avoided if the team pulls out of their post-Cup funk.

Last night was probably the worst executed game from the second period on that weve played all season long. It wasnt pretty to watch, said Julien. But the first two games of the playoffs were similar to that as well, but we went back, we regrouped and hopefully it happens again.

We need to be realistic and acknowledge this is happening, and as a group we need to turn it around.

Would a trade or the specter of a trade looming over their heads -- benefit a team that has slumped to start?

Those are all questions that I think will be answered by our play, said Claude Julien. Its just one of those things where when you see the team react youll know whether rumors have an impact or not. Time will have to tell because I cant answer it for you.

Youre asking for my opinion. Im always going to support my general manager. We talk a lot. Whether it happens or it doesnt happen those decisions are made as a group. Certainly never second guess because once a decision is made were all on board.

From our end of it as coaches whether its line changes or practices and what youre trying to bring into them. Its trying to find solutions, but weve always said is that its a two-way street. You have to players that follow up, and we have a group were confident they will because theyve done that in the past. The quicker, the better.

The Kobasew deal never really sparked a team that went through Kessel withdrawals all season long without a true No. 1 line right wing, but that hasnt stopped Chiarelli from pursuing some deals in all corners of the NHL. Thats what happens when a team staggers to 3-6 out of the starting gate, and has the embarrassing distinction of answering phone calls on Causeway Street as your last place Boston Bruins rather than your Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The Bruins players understand that trades and personnel changes are part of the business, but it carries a little more sting when the hockey nucleus has gone through something as meaningful as winning a Stanley Cup. For anybody that wants a refresher course on getting traded away from a team destined for good things, Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart are available for interviews in Winnipeg about watching their former team celebrate a Stanley Cup win in Vancouver last spring.

These things happen. Its part of sports. When a team isnt reaching its full potential then obviously changes need to be made, said Chris Kelly. Peter is going to do what he thinks is best for the team. Hopefully we can rectify things soon. You cant worry about things like that because theyre out of our control.

Heres a quick primer on the players most likely to be discussed if things get real in trade talks with another team like Phoenix or Calgary:

David Krejci is the single most valuable chip that the Bruins could offer, and it makes sense on some levels given the teams surplus of top-six centers and Tyler Seguins expected price tag several years down the road. The Bruins and Krejci have had some level of contract talks and its expected that the playmaker will command a 5 million per year contract extension in the same neighborhood as Patrice Bergeron.

The Bruins have to make a determination if theyre willing to pay a player that can disappear out on the ice at times during the season, and has seemingly hit his limit as a 65-point per season center. Krejci is heading into restricted free agency and could yield a bona fide scoring winger in return, but hes also routinely Bostons point leader on a yearly basis and moving No. 46 would significantly alter the structure of the team.

Johnny Boychuk has been mentioned in some circles as a player the Bruins would be willing to move in the final year of a two-year contract with the Bs. There's certainly a willing trade market out there when it comes to serviceable NHL defensemen. But trading Boychuk means that either Matt Bartkowski or Steve Kampfer would be thrust into a top-six role for the Bruins, and the early season indications were that neither blueliner was ready for 15-20 minutes per night.

Trading Boychuk would amount to shaking up the team for changes sake, but it makes little to no sense for a player thats been good thus far this season and played a pivotal role in one of the teams few wins this year. The Bruins should be reaping the performances of players with something to prove in the last year of their contract rather than flipping them to other teams. Besides all of that, it remains to be seen how much No. 55 would bring back in return.

Tuukka Rask is a player that has experienced a difficult time serving in a backup role to Tim Thomas, but its hard to envision the Bruins not riding Thomas into the sunset for as long as he wants to play hockey after last years playoff performance. That leaves Rask playing once a week and pining away for a chance to establish himself as a starter elsewhere.

Teams remember how good Rask was two years ago when he led the NHL in goals against average and save percentage, and like Krejci his value would be high on the trade market for a team madly in search of goaltending. Rask would net the Bruins some serious talent up front, but the question remains whether the Bs are willing to mortgage their goaltending future for the scoring upshot they might receive by peddling their Finnish goalie off to the highest bidder.

Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

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Rask: Last season 'something to rebound from' personally

BRIGHTON, Mass. – While David Pastrnak, Tuukka Rask and David Backes are back from competing in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, that doesn’t mean you’ll see those players on the ice over the next couple of days. Perhaps the trio will practice on Monday in the fourth on-ice session at main training camp, but Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed that none of those returning players will suit up against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the B’s preseason debut at TD Garden on Monday night.

“Yeah…absolutely,” said Sweeney when asked if those three players have been ruled out for Monday night. “They’re going to get through the weekend here. Next week, we’ll evaluate [them] when they get on the ice. But, all those guys will not be on the ice until next week.

“It might be case-by-case for each guy. Those guys have been playing for a while at a high level. It’s unique for David Backes coming into the organization, so he’d like to integrate himself. I talked yesterday with all three of them just to get a read of where they’re at. But, sometime first of next week, they’ll be on [the ice].”

Both Pastrnak and Rask have checked in with the Bruins media over the last couple of days after returning from Toronto, and the Bruins goaltender, in particular, has plenty of motivation coming off a down statistical season. The 2.56 goals against average and .915 save percentage were well below his career numbers, and people like B’s President Cam Neely have pointed to Rask as somebody that needs to have a better season for Boston to rebound back into the playoffs this year.

“There were a couple of years where the standards pretty high, so obviously when they go down there’s something to rebound from. You kind of know where you can be. That’s where I try to be every year and I’m working on being there this year, and taking us to the playoffs and moving forward,” said Rask. “But every year is a new year where you’ve got to work hard, and set your goals to be at your best. More often than not you hope [being at your best] is going to happen, and I hope this year is going to be a great year for us.”

Clearly Rask wasn’t alone in his struggles last season behind a mistake-prone defense that allowed plenty of Grade chances, and that could be a repeating phenomenon again this season for the Bruins unless the defense is substantially upgraded along the way.

As far as the other three B’s players still taking part in the World Cup, it could be a while for Patrice and Brad Marchand as Team Canada has advanced to the final best-of-three series that could also feature Zdeno Chara if Team Europe is victorious. 

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece.