Boston Bruins

Bruins now turn to finding a defenseman

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Bruins now turn to finding a defenseman

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON Now that the Bruins have found themselves a center to stabilize their forward group in Chris Kelly, the focus shifts solely to defenseman for the Bruins.

General manager Peter Chiarelli met with the media at 11:15 p.m. on Tuesday night to discuss the deal that sent a 2011 second-round pick a draft pick acquired in the deal with Minnesota last season for Chuck Kobasew to the Ottawa Senators for the gritty center, and revealed that the Bruins have nine defensemen on their board that seriously interest them.

Atop the list of available defenseman is Tomas Kaberle, who would lead all Bs defensemen with 37 points and 22 power-play assists and has been the subject of trade overtures from Boston in each of the last three years. He was nearly acquired in a draft-day deal for Phil Kessel two years ago in Montreal and then again last summer when the Bs were shopping Marc Savard to either the Senators or the Maple Leafs.

Now Kaberle is approaching unrestricted free agency following another lost year in Toronto, and the Bruins are once again in the market for the puck-moving defenseman capable of running the power play with surgical precision.

The Bs could have used Kaberle while going 1-for-4 on the power play and getting little oomph out of the man advantage in a 4-3 loss to the Maple Leafs in a frustrating game at TD Garden that had Bs coach Claude Julien spitting nails after the game.

We had four power plays. One-for-four, and there is a time where we could have maybe put the game in a different direction, changed momentum with the power play, said Chiarelli following the loss to Toronto. Thats been a recurring theme.

I think its just a solid defenseman that were looking for that can log some minutes. There are some out there like that, solid two-way defensemen. There are other defensemen also, different types of defensemen. Its hard to find a match as far as a team that is willing to maybe trade just for futures. There are different routes to get to that defenseman, but there are some decent options.

Both Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke and Bruins president Cam Neely admitted to 98.5 the Sports Hub that the two teams were talking about a deal, and Kaberle is the clear players being talked about. While Sportsnet.ca indicated that Kaberle would be amenable to a trade to Boston should that work out, hockey sources told CSNNE.com that the Leafs defenseman hasnt been approached about waiving his no-trade clause.

Until Kaberle is asked to waive his blanket no-trade clause, a deal between the two teams really isnt all that close to happening. Regardless of whether or not the deal is close to fruition, the 32-year-old Kaberle seemed to be warming up to the potential idea of playing in Boston and getting to the playoffs for the first time in five years.

I would think so. Obviously they have a pretty good team and good goaltending, said Kaberle. I have played a lot of games against them and they are always tough to beat. We will see what is going to happen.

For sure it is always nice when you have a chance to play in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Obviously I havent played in them in five years. Right now it is tough on me and my teammates in Toronto. We dont want to have a distraction.

There were plenty of trade whispers, fake twitter accounts announcing phantom deals and rampant speculation that Kaberle would be getting dealt while Toronto was visiting in Boston, but that certainly didnt happen. Instead the Bruins will keep talking to Toronto, who sources told CSNNE.com was asking for a bit too much of a return for a strict rental player like Kaberle.

Who are some of the other defenseman that the Bruins are considering in potential deals alongside the seemingly perfect of Kaberle?

Here are some of the other names among the nine tossed out there by Chiarelli:

Chris Phillips the 32-year-old defenseman is a minus-7 with a single assist in his last 10 games, and hes passed 20 minutes of ice time per game only four times over that period of games. There are plenty of rumors about Phillips coming to Boston, but he should be nothing more than a fallback option.

Jon-Michael Liles Even worse than Phillips, perhaps, is Liles. He has one assist in his last 11 games with a minus-17 to show for it, and had a horrendous game against the Bruins in Colorado when he was stuck with a minus-4. Liles has a good offensive resume, but hes been awful for the Avs.

Joni Pitkanen Hes possibly the best combination of affordable and available defensemen should Carolina fall out of the ice, and Pitkanen become available on the trade market. As it is right now, Pitkanen isnt being offered around as the Hurricanes battle for playoff contention, but he does have eight assists in his last 10 games.

Zach Bogosian a 20-year-old defenseman who was a No. 3 overall pick three years and apparently wants out of Atlanta after underachieving thus far. Bogosian would cost the Bruins a No. 1 pick, Mark Stuart and Blake Wheeler in a costly deal that might not help them win this season.

Brian McCabe The 35-year-old McCabe is out of action for the Florida Panthers with a jaw injury and hasnt played for a playoff team in a long, long time, but hes got plenty of offensive spark and power play juice to help the Bs.

Eric Brewer The 31-year-old has averaged upwards of 20 minutes of ice time per game throughout his career and has been healthy this year for the first time in three years. Brewer is on a pace for 12 goals and 20 plus points this season, and isnt the dream defenseman for the Bruins. But hed do nicely.

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

Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

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Morning Skate: Star players must get more involved in CBA negotiations to make Olympics a reality

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while marveling that we’re just now learning about the massive rap skills of the brotherly duo of Andrew and Pete Frates. 

 

*Ken Campbell from the Hockey News says that if influential players, like Connor McDavid, want to go to the Olympics then they need to get more involved in the CBA negotiations

 

*Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang shows what a class act he is by taking the Stanley Cup to a children’s hospital in Montreal.

 

*PHT writer James O’Brien has the Minnesota Wild looking to find long term deals for both restricted free agents Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter. That was pretty clear when they chose to deal off Marco Scandella in order to clear up some cap space to afford both of them. 

 

*The Edmonton Oilers are going to face higher expectations for next season, and are willing to embrace that kind of pressure.

 

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance wonders aloud whether there will be any offer sheets coming for restricted free agents. I appreciate Craig wanting to add a little more intrigue to the NHL’s offseason, but it isn’t going to happen as long as GMs are treated like they have small pox once they go that route with an offer sheet. Take a look at the future job prospects for general managers that went with offer sheets in the past, and you’ll see why GMs simply don’t do them. This is why the Bruins are uncomfortable with David Pastrnak sitting unsigned as a restricted free agent, but not overly concerned that he’s going to sign a mega-offer sheet elsewhere.  

 

*The CCM hockey brand is apparently changing hands from its former home at Adidas

 

*For something completely different: Speaking of Pete Frates, MLB has announced a fundraising drive for ALS research in his name. 

Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

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Haggerty: Spooner deal represents his last chance with Bruins

The Bruins and Ryan Spooner wisely came to a contract agreement on a one-year, $2.825 million deal just prior to the start of Wednesday’s arbitration hearing. Don Sweeney hasn’t yet taken a B’s player to arbitration during his three years running the Black and Gold, and it could have grown unnecessarily contentious with a player like Spooner if they’d been forced to point out his flaws as a player in the uncomfortable setting of an arbitration hearing.

“It’s a fair deal for both sides in our opinion,” said Spooner’s agent Murray Kuntz to CSN after the one-year contract had been agreed upon. 

Now that Spooner has been signed to the one-year deal, it represents the last chance for the 25-year-old to show some growth as a player if he wants to be a member of the Bruins for much. Spooner has averaged 12 goals and 44 points over the last two seasons as Boston’s third line center, and has amassed 35 PP points while serving as the trigger man on Boston’s power play from the right-side half-wall. 

But he dropped from 49 points two seasons ago to 39 points last year, and didn’t exactly flourish under the more offensive-minded coaching of Bruce Cassidy. 

Spooner is an excellent special teams player and has been one of the key ingredients in Boston finishing with the NHL’s 7th ranked power play in each of the last two seasons. But he tailed off badly late last season after suffering a concussion, and showed so much tentativeness in his overall game that he became a healthy scratch by the end of Boston’s first round playoff series against the Ottawa Senators. Spooner also continues to sit under a 40 percent success rate in the face-off circle, and shows little consistent interest in winning one-on-one battles anywhere along the ice.

The work on the draws is something, in particular, that comes down to hard work and diligence at practice, and should be an area Spooner can become at least average while practicing every day against a face-off maestro like Patrice Bergeron.  

All of this might be easier to overlook if he consistently utilized his excellent skating speed and considerable skill level to create offense during 5-on-5 play, but that hasn’t been the case enough over the last couple of seasons. A one-year deal for $2.85 gives Spooner one last opportunity to show some growth in those areas with the Bruins, and if he doesn’t then it should be fully expected the Bruins will rekindle trade discussions around Spooner. 

His situation is unmistakable: Spooner isn't going to be a top-6 center with the B's because Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are firmly entrenched at this spots, and Spooner really doesn't have the right skill set to be a fourth line center. So it's third line center or bust for Spooner as the internal competition grows around him. 

Spooner is now 25 years old and should no longer be viewed as a young player that’s still in the development phase. He should be close to a finished NHL product, and may not get demonstrably better in any area of his game if he doesn’t show it this upcoming season. He was one of the main pieces discussed when the Bruins talked trade with the Minnesota Wild prior to them dealing Marco Scandella to Buffalo, and there is clearly trade value for the former second round pick. 

But the Bruins also have a potential third line center replacement in Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson after signing him out of Boston University at the end of last season. Forsbacka Karlsson may need some AHL time to start this season after looking overmatched in his only NHL appearance late last season, but he’s the eventual two-way center replacement for Spooner in the long term. 

Forsbacka Karlsson may not be as fast or as flashy as Spooner, but he projects to be better on draws, better at winning battles and puck possession and better at being more difficult to play against while boasting his own set of offensive skills. 

It’s now up to Spooner to win that training camp competition with Forsbacka Karlsson for his current third line center position, and protect his own spot on the B’s roster by playing like his very job security depends on it. If he doesn’t show that kind of urgency and hop to his game right from the start of training camp, then it’s only a matter of time before he becomes trade fodder at a salary cap number ($2.825 million) that should be easy to move.

It’s no hyperbole to say that Spooner is entering his final chance with the Black and Gold after avoiding arbitration, and it’s wholly up to him to dictate exactly how long it lasts for.