Bruins identify needs as trade deadline approaches

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Bruins identify needs as trade deadline approaches

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON, Mass. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has pinpointed needs on his hockey club he hopes to address before the NHL trade deadline comes to pass on Feb. 28.

But a couple of things are making things difficult for Chiarelli with slightly more than three weeks leading up to that deadline. First is the fact that one of the needs identified by the hockey club manager is that of a top-four defenseman able to relieve some pressure on a 22-year-old youngster like Steve Kampfer thats playing upwards of 20 minutes a night with plenty of pressure on his shoulders.

Not to mention getting some Andrew Ference insurance. Ference has been outstanding this season while playing solid, reliable, spirited hockey from his defenseman position and posting 9 points and a plus-19 in 49 games.

The problem: Ference has already played 49 games this season in a relatively healthy year, but hasnt played more than 59 games in any of the last three seasons while battling through groin and hernia issues among other assorted aches and pains.

An NHL general manager cant simply expect that a 22-year-old rookie is going to sail through his first stretch run and playoff experience without a few moguls on the mountain, and shouldnt expect Ference to make it through the next 30 games and playoffs without something cropping up health-wise.

That means the Bruins need to add another defenseman to the mix moving forward, and Chiarelli said as much while chatting with the media following practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday afternoon.

Id like to try and get a defenseman that could help our group, said Chiarelli. I think our defense has played very well, but were trying to ease some of the minutes off of our players.

Theres clear and obvious Bruins interest in defensemen like Sergei Gonchar and Tomas Kaberle given their skill sets as puck-moving defensemen and their availability while playing on God-awful NHL teams. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen is another player that would fit in nicely with the Bs should be exposed to the trade market this month.

Both all of those players come with their own issues, however. Kaberle hasnt played a relevant NHL game in years, and some believe that the puck-moving blueliner is content to the point of dulling his competitive edge. Gonchar is a 35-year-old defenseman with two years at big money left on his contract, and any club taking him on is assuming all of the risk that goes along with it.

Theres a good chance Pitkanen wont ever make it to market as the Hurricanes catch up to the Thrashers in the Eastern Conference, and potentially push themselves into the playoff conversation.

But Chiarelli said that he expected any deal for a defensemen to be consummated with a Western Conference team, which really is at odds with the whispers that the Bruins were highly interested in Senators blueliner Chris Phillips.

Chiarelli called the market tight at this point in the month of February as so many Western Conference teams are still in striking distance of a playoff spot with 30 games or so remaining in the season and only four points separates the fifth place through 12th place teams out West.

That means there arent many sellers aside from the Edmonton Oilers, the Columbus Blue Jackets and perhaps the Blues now that injuries have slashes their season into ribbons.

Were not going to replace Savard because that guy is not available, but you can replace bits and pieces of it while things fall on the shoulders of some of our other players, said Chiarelli. Right now things are very, very tight. You hear that from me every year a month before the deadline and its even truer now.

The standings are very tight. You look in the West and things are tight, and usually if youre going to make a move itll be in the Westusually. I think teams 4-12 is like five points separating them. So a lot of the players we like arent available because their teams are still in it.

The other problem: the Bruins must come to a conclusion about Marc Savard and his concussion problems after suffering the fourth serious brain injury of his NHL career two weeks ago. Placing Savard on LTIR would certainly open up some flexibility for the Bruins, and dealing a spare defensemen with value around the league like Mark Stuart who several teams including the Atlanta Thrashers have expressed interest in -- would further open up the options for Chiarelli and Co. to make some roster improvements.

Chiarelli would only say that the team needs to be creative when thinking about finding a solution for filling the absence of Savard due to injury. The Bs GM admitted that there isnt anybody on the trade market thats likely to give the Bruins exactly what theyre missing in the form of No. 91 both on the power play and five-on-five but they never really saw the full 100 percent healthy Savard at any point this season anyway.

It certainly gives us more flexibility, so it allows us to do some other things, said Chiarelli. Were just not going to be able to replace Savard because that skill just isnt going to be available in trade. Were going to have to get creative.

Chiarelli would love to go shopping with the Bruins for a player list thats been pared down, tabulated and approved, but it appears hell be waiting things out along with the rest of the NHL as teams decide their buyer or seller status. The good news: the Bruins are tops in goals against average, among the best offensive teams in the East and dont come from anywhere the kind of desperate straits they did last season.

Chiarelli captured Mark Recchi two years ago and Dennis Seidenberg last season at the trade deadline, and it doesnt much appear the GM will hesitate to pull the trigger again over the next few weeks.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Don Sweeney: Bruins 'lost a good player' in Colin Miller

Don Sweeney: Bruins 'lost a good player' in Colin Miller

CHICAGO – Don Sweeney said the Bruins knew and expected they were going to lose one of three players in the NHL expansion draft, and it’s pretty clear it was going to be Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller or Colin Miller leaving the team. The B’s took Kevan Miller out of the equation by leaving him on the protection list after a strong season while also playing some of his best hockey in the playoffs.

That left McQuaid and Miller with each of the two D-men standing an equal chance of getting selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, and the 24-year-old puck-moving Miller going to Vegas for the time being. It remains to be seen if Miller sticks with the Golden Knights, or if there is an eventual plan to flip him elsewhere like perhaps an interested party in Toronto.

Sweeney said the Bruins didn’t want to lose a player with potential like Miller, but it’s also true that he would have been stuck behind younger, better D-men on the depth chart with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo as better right-handed options.

“It was an interesting process to go through. It was hard at times because you felt like other teams were able to find deals to keep their team together while you felt vulnerable in that regard,” said Sweeney at the B’s team hotel in Chicago during a Thursday availability with the media. “You knew you were going to lose a good player. You knew they had targeted three players on our team that we felt they would target, and unfortunately we’re losing a good, young player.

“We thought highly of Colin. He was part of a big trade for us and we wish him well moving forward. We thank for him doing his part with the organization. We lost a good player.”

Clearly, the Bruins lost a defenseman with skills and youth on his side, but it’s also a young guy that hasn’t put it all together yet while never posting more than 16 points in each of his two seasons with the Black and Gold. Perhaps he will put together the offensive package at his next landing spot after showing flashes in Boston over the last two years, but that unknown factor while no longer being considered a prospect is the reason he didn’t find himself on the protected D list along with Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug.  

Bruins' 2017-18 schedule has three Habs games in eight days

Bruins' 2017-18 schedule has three Habs games in eight days


The Bruins released their schedule for the 2017-18 season Thursday, with their campaign beginning at TD Garden on Oct. 5 against the Predators. 

Two things stand out in Boston’s schedule. Eleven of their final 15 games are on the road, and they don’t play the Canadiens until mid-January.  

Then, when the B’s and Habs do finally meet, they play three times in an eight-day span. The rivals face each other Jan. 13 in Montreal, Jan. 17 in Boston and Jan. 20 in Montreal. The Bruins’ final regular-season meeting with the Habs is March 3. 

To see the full schedule, click here.