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.

Wednesday, May 25: Are you #TeamHaggs or #TeamFrich?

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Wednesday, May 25: Are you #TeamHaggs or #TeamFrich?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wrapping my brain around exactly what the heck the Bruins are doing.

-- In the shameless self-promotion department: Fred Toucher and yours truly did battle this morning over the $10 million contract that the Bruins handed out to Kevan Miller. Are you #TeamHaggs or #TeamFrich?

-- What do the Dallas Stars need in the 2016 NHL Draft, with the combine and draft both coming up just weeks away.

-- A nice tribute from Hockey Night in Canada to the Tragically Hip as their front man battles through terminal brain cancer.

-- Damien Cox puts together his Team Canada list for the World Cup of hockey. Check out Brad Marchand's line: He plays left wing with Jonathan Toews and Tyler Seguin. That would be very fun to watch.

-- With the Bruins signing Kevan Miller to a bloated four-year, $10 million contract, similar defensemen like Eric Gryba will be lining up at the trough.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Kurz weighs in on the Sharks run to within one win of the Stanley Cup Final, and what a player like Joe Pavelski has meant to them in the postseason.

-- For something completely different: It sounds like things are getting a little strange with Marco Rubio.

Haggs and Fred Toucher debate signing of Kevan Miller

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Haggs and Fred Toucher debate signing of Kevan Miller

Fred Toucher and Joe Haggerty disagree about the new deal the Boston Bruins gave Kevan Miller and got in a heated debate Wednesday morning on Toucher & Rich.

Haggerty says the Bruins would be better off with "players on entry level deals" over Miller for the money he'll received.

Miller signed a four-year deal worth $10 million on Monday.

As for Toucher? Watch the video above for his response. Then comment below with your thoughts on the deal.

Felger: Bottom's always up with Bruins

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Felger: Bottom's always up with Bruins

Peter Chiarelli may be long gone from Causeway Street, but his spirit lives on. 

If someone can explain to me the Bruins' fascination with bottom-of-the-roster veterans with average talent, then I'd love to hear it. I used to think it was the problem of Chiarelli, the B's former general manager. But now I have to wonder if it's just in the water down there. And current GM Don Sweeney is chugging it.

I have no other explanation for the team's decision to sign defenseman Kevan Miller to a four-year (four!) extension worth $10 million yesterday. Miller is a nice role piece. But how that translates to four guaranteed years when he will turn 29 early next season and the Bruins have massive holes throughout their roster is beyond me. 

What's more, the B's already have nearly the identical player in Adam McQuaid, who is roughly the same age, same size, same shot (right), same injury history (poor) and plays the same role (bottom pairing, right side). McQuaid is a little less skilled than Miller, so of course, using Bruins logic, he makes a little more ($2.75 million). But McQuaid also got four years when he re-signed prior to last season.

Certainly, contracts worth $2-3 million annually aren't going to ruin your cap in a vacuum. But start adding them up you see how the Bruins got into trouble in the first place. Combine McQuaid and Miller's hits and you have $5.25 million of valuable space chewed up against the cap. Basically, that's the price of a solid, top-4 defenseman, which the Bruins need ten times more than a depth piece.

Scary. The Bruins currently don't have a No. 1 or a No. 2 defensemen. (Sorry, Bruins writers, Zdeno Chara belongs on a second pairing right now.) Yet they have decided to lock themselves up with a pair of No. 6 guys who basically duplicate each other. Again, why do the B's continue to overpay the bottom of the depth chart when the top is so lousy?

It's one thing for Chiarelli to overcommit to the likes of Chris Kelly, Rich Peverley, Dan Paille, Greg Campbell, Dennis Seidenberg, etc. Those guys at least helped you win a Cup and get to another final. From an emotional standpoint, you can explain those mistakes. But Miller? He's been a part of one of the worst defense corps in the league the last few years. He's been on a team that has failed to make the playoffs two consecutive seasons. How do you fall in love with that guy?

Please don't tell me that Miller would have gotten that contract on the open market. I mean, it's true; he probably would have. But what does that matter? Does that mean it's a good deal? Just because Colorado was willing to pay Carl Soderberg just under $5 million a season, does that mean the B's should have paid the middling centerman that money last year? Of course not. Use your head. Just because someone else gets stupid doesn't mean you have to.

You shudder to think what's coming next. Loui Eriksson is still out there as a pending free agent. Ditto for Torey Krug. On a good team, the former is a third liner and the latter is another third-pairing guy. Neither have been good enough to lift the B's above the playoff line the last two years despite playing prominent roles. Both are about to get overpaid on the market . . . unless the B's step in first and insist on being the team that gets stupid and overcommits first.

Given what we've seen with Miller, how can anyone be confident that the B's will be smart enough to pass? My confidence level on this is somewhere around 0.0.

Which is exactly how much cap space the B's will have left with this approach.

Email Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays, 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on CSN.