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: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery

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Morning skate: Devils win NHL Draft Lottery

Here are all the links from around the hockey world and what I’m reading while continuing to marvel at the strength and character of Isaiah Thomas. 

*PHT writer Cam Tucker has Barry Trotz and the Washington Capitals doing major damage control after going down 0-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins in their series. 

*Dion Phaneuf is finding exactly what he needed with the Ottawa Senators and is going past where he’d been before in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

*The New Jersey Devils won the NHL Draft Lottery, and will get the No. 1 overall pick in this summer’s draft with a team badly in need of some star power. 

*On the other hand, the Colorado Avalanche were the big losers dropping all the way to the fourth overall pick after being a dumpster fire all season. I guess there is some hockey justice left in the world. 

*Larry Brooks says that the word on the street is that the Lightning are going to shop Jonathan Drouin this summer for a stud top-4 D-man. They should be getting the pick of the litter by making the skilled forward available. 

*Ron MacLean and Don Cherry talk Big, Bad Oilers and the decline of Corey Perry during Coach’s Corner on Hockey Night in Canada. 

*For something completely different: Manny Ramirez hitting home runs in Taiwan is a beauty and a joy forever

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

Bruins will add assistant coach, tap Bradley to run draft board

While the Bruins technically operated, and operated well, short one coach once assistant coach Bruce Cassidy replaced Claude Julien behind the Boston bench, that’s not expected to continue for the upcoming season.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney confirmed this week that the B’s will be retaining the current assistant coach group of Joe Sacco, Jay Pandolfo and Bob Essensa to work under Cassidy as full-time head coach, and that they’ll be looking to add one more person to his staff.

“I think our staff did a very good job jumping in and picking up, because we didn’t add to it at the time [of Cassidy’s promotion] when we subtracted from the group. It will stay as is,” said Sweeney. “We will also be looking to add to it to complement that group. Bruce and I have already spoken briefly about it, but we haven’t identified yet and we’ve already received some people that would have some interest. We’ll pursue that accordingly.”

Sacco handled the defensemen and the penalty kill in the final few months of the season, and Pandolfo worked with the forwards in his very first season as an NHL assistant coach following a stint in player development. Essensa, of course, worked with the goaltenders and as the “eye in the sky” from the press box once Pandolfo moved to the bench following the coaching change. So the natural assumption would be that the Bruins would hire another former defenseman to work with the D-men given the backgrounds of Sacco and Pandolfo as forwards.

“We haven’t gotten too far out in front of it. But, Joe Sacco moved from the front of the bench to the D, and did a terrific job [while playing a] big part of the penalty kill all year. Jay [Pandolfo] came down from the press box, worked with the forwards, which he had worked with all year. But now he’s in the heat of the battle. They were terrific. We were a true staff,” said Cassidy. “Goalie Bob [Essensa] became a little bit more of an eye in the sky for us up there. We had Kim [Brandvold], who was our skating coach, helped a lot with the practices, with the pace we were trying to establish. I can’t thank them enough.

“Going forward, we’re going to meet and decide what’s the best fit for us [as an assistant hire]. Obviously those two have a forward background, I have a defense background, so maybe that’s an area we have to look at, what’s the best complement. But we’d be getting ahead of ourselves if I said today that we’re pinpointing an exact thing. We’ve got to look at it and say, ‘OK, who’s the best fit. What makes us the most successful?’ We’ll go from there with the candidates we get.”

The situation automatically leads one to wonder if P-Bruins head coach Kevin Dean would be a possible candidate as a longtime Cassidy assistant at the AHL level, or if Dean wants to continue on his track as a head coach. If not Dean then perhaps Providence Bruins assistant coach and former Bruins D-man Jay Leach might also be a strong candidate after his first season working with the young P-Bruins at the AHL level.

While it’s clear the Bruins still have some discussions before potentially making a move on hiring an NHL assistant for Cassidy’s staff, they have made a determination about their scouting staff. The B’s never replaced the head of amateur scouting position when Keith Gretzky was hired as an assistant general manager with the Edmonton Oilers, and it will instead be Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley that will run Boston’s draft board in June.

“Scotty Bradley has stepped back into that role, which he’s very comfortable doing. He holds the title of Assistant General Manager and he’ll oversee the draft. We’re very comfortable with the people he’s worked with in recent years that have been a big, big part of our recent drafts. Our meetings went well,” said Sweeney. “They were just at the U-18s and had other subsequent meetings, so there will be some banter in the upcoming [scouting] meetings, in terms of where we end up finalizing our list. Scotty will oversee that.”

It’s not exactly foreign territory for Bradley, who previously held the head scouting position with the Black and Gold and played an instrumental role in drafting players like Milan Lucic, Phil Kessel, Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci. But there’s also some question as to how big a role Gretzky played in drafting the massive wave of talented prospects now pushing their way through Boston’s system, and how much his presence will be missed at NHL Draft weekend moving forward.