Haggs Bag: Which defenseman will B's move?

Haggs Bag: Which defenseman will B's move?
August 14, 2014, 4:15 pm
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Welcome to another week of fresh questions, bold statements and frenzied ramblings from that social media underworld that we commonly refer to as Twitter. I like to call it the Hagg Bag, and these are real questions, emails and tweets from loyal followers, fervent haters and people that just really dig hockey and the Boston Bruins.

On with the bag, and as always send your questions to my twitter account (@HackswithHaggs) or email them to jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com:

Joe, got a question for your blog. Which D-man do you predict they will move? Thank for your time, Ralph Melkonian

JH: You got it, Ralph. Thanks for watching and reading. If I had to put odds on I’d say that David Warsofsky and Adam McQuaid are the favorites to be moved when Peter Chiarelli pulls the trigger on dealing away some of his surplus defenseman. Warsofsky is similar to Torey Krug in many ways, and McQuaid is essentially a higher-salaried Kevan Miller. Both Warsofsky and McQuaid can play in the NHL, but they’re caught in a numbers game in Boston. Once McQuaid proves he’s back to full health in training camp, I could easily see both D-men getting dealt to teams that have either A) suffered a few injuries in camp that have challenged their defensemen depth or B) come to the conclusion that their young defenseman aren’t ready for prime time.

It’s smart for Chiarelli to play the waiting game, and see if any desperate teams comes calling for the services of Warsofsky, or McQuaid. The other possibility is the Bruins dealing Johnny Boychuk to gain some salary cap relief given their well-documented cap problems entering the season. I don’t think Peter Chiarelli has to do this, however, to field his current roster heading into the season, and Boychuk isn’t the kind of hard-nosed, tough competitor that a playoff team is looking to deal midseason. They may be hard-pressed to sign JB as a free agent after this season is over given the kind of UFA money he can command, but he’s too big a piece to remove from the team’s core right now.

What does @MikeGiardi smell like? Tanning oil feels too obvious. Maybe apricots. #HaggBag

JH: Giardi smells like dyed wool leather wrapped in bacon-flavored peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, with a hint of scented anti-bacterial soap for good measure. It really is intoxicating man musk.

Question on David Krejci. He could be looking for Paul Stastny-type money this off-season. If cap doesn't go up much Bruins may not be able to afford him, and may have to go with Soderberg as the cheaper option.

I don't want to lose Krejci, but is this possibly it for him here in Boston

JH: Krejci is already on a contract that sees him making $5.25 million per season, so a raise to $7 million per season like Stastny isn’t out of the question. A great playoff performance last spring would have made it a little easier to give him a wheelbarrow full of money, but that kind of contract is market value for a No. 1 center that turns into a point-producing stud in the playoffs.

I don’t happen to think that Carl Soderberg is No. 1 center material given what I saw last season, and his real lack of NHL experience when it comes to things like player tendencies and faceoff ability. Don’t forget he wasn’t facing top forward lines most of the time last season when he produced a very encouraging rookie season, and he also had Chris Kelly backing him up defensively for most of the season.

The Bruins system is based on having two front line centers on the roster, and both Krejci and Patrice Bergeron fill that role. That’s a formula for success all across the NHL. Both players will be in Black and Gold until they have a suitable replacement, and I don’t think the Big Swede is that guy.

When they traded Tyler Seguin to Dallas a year ago, the Bruins front office was essentially saying that Bergeron and Krejci are their guys until further notice.

Any news on Kevin Hayes?

JH: I know the former first round pick and Boston College superstar won’t be signing with the Chicago Blackhawks this week, and will become an unrestricted free agent following the same path Blake Wheeled did six years ago. There is some level of mutual interest between Hayes and the Bruins, and he would be on a fairly cheap entry level contract. But people close to Hayes told me a couple of weeks ago that the Colorado Avalanche and the Nashville Predators were the two heavy favorites for his services. So stay tuned to that one.

Hi, Should the bruins consider moving Soderberg for young nhl ready wingers and open a spot at center for spooner or Koko while filling third line and 4th line left or right wings? It seems like they'll have trouble re-signing him. Perhaps a team that needs a center who is on the cusp of breaking through and would value the cheap cap hit. To Minnesota, for Jason Zucker and or Alex Tuch?

Joe McLaughlin

JH: Hey Joe…I think Soderberg is in a great spot as the third-line center terrorizing bottom pairing defenseman and bottom six forward with his strength, size and fearlessness around the net. There’s no reason to deal him, and nobody is going to be forking over big money to him unless he makes another major step of improvement this season to, let’s say, 20 goals and 50 points. I think Ryan Spooner and Alex Khokhlachev will both get looks at center on the fourth line as the Bruins tinker with a younger, faster and more offensively viable option for their bottom line. The chances one, or either, would be good enough right off the bat to make Soderberg expendable is just about impossible.

Soderberg gives the Bruins the forward depth they covet at the center spot and they waited seven years for him to finally make up his mind about playing in the NHL. Why on earth would they deal him away so quickly?

Will you encourage Finn to be as into Star Wars as you are? #C3P0controller

JH: Yes. He has a Batman shirt with a detachable cape on the back, he’s got an A-Z Star Wars alphabet blanket in his play room and he’s got a Max Rebo Band concert poster framed in his nursery. He’s also got a Nerf Bruins hockey stick that he swings around like a nut, and that you can’t take out of his hands. He’s going to love superheroes and Star Wars, and sports…and a lot of other cool stuff. Lucky kid.

Hags - love your stuff.

As a big Bruins fan please help me understand why we should not be concerned that the guy who TRADED AWAY TUUKA is now Director of Player Personnel for the Bruins. I don’t see anything HE has done to identify or develop top talent. Help me understand the attraction.

Thanks for your thoughts and enjoy the rest of summer.

Phil Bunsick

JH: The “He” that Phil is talking about is John Ferguson Jr., who was hired by the Bruins this summer once Jim Benning left to manage the Vancouver Canucks. There’s no doubt that Ferguson has his chorus of critics in Toronto during a rough run as a rookie GM, and he was a big part of the Andrew Raycroft-for-Tuukka Rask deal that has had quite an impact on both the Bruins and Maple Leafs organizations.
Part of a good talent evaluator’s job at the NHL level is being aware of what kind of talent is in your own ranks along with evaluating players from other teams that might be available.

I can tell you from personal conversations with Ferguson Jr. that he knows his stuff hockey-wise, and that he has a good relationship with Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli. He’ll be a trusted advisor that Chiarelli can bounce things off in an organization that is always about consensus and inclusive decision-making.

I think there is also an untold story in Toronto about pressure from ownership that was influencing Ferguson’s decisions, and the natural challenge of a rookie GM trying to succeed in an unforgiving market. He spent a lot of money on aging free agents with the Leafs, and part of that is certainly the pressure to compete immediately rather than take lumps while building a winner.

The Leafs media chewed up and spit out a much more experienced Brian Burke to a degree after Ferguson, and the pressure up there is awfully high for somebody learning their craft. There’s little doubt Ferguson learned a lot of tough lessons while in Toronto, and he spent the last few years helping bring talent into the fold for the San Jose Sharks.

I say give Ferguson another chance, and let’s see what kind of an asset he can be for the Bruins organization.

And thank him for giving the Bruins Tuukka if you run into him at a P-Bruins game this season.

Hi Joe,

I check Comcast’s web site every day to read your columns on the Bruins. I enjoy the GM off season work that goes into putting a team together. A few quick thoughts….

- Erikson is a bust. Trade the bum. I don’t see what Chiarelli sees regarding him. He is trying to save face on the trade to Dallas. Erikson is not tough, loses 8 out of 10 puck battles, chokes on ½ his opportunities, is so scared he can’t catch a breakout pass from his own D, he is not going to get Krejci the puck in front of the net. Move his cap #.
- Trade Bartkowski soon. Has offensive skills….sort off. Is a defensive liability…..and was in the playoffs. Has bad luck in critical moments.
- Keep McQuaid. He’s big and has a nasty streak. You need big D in the playoffs who can protect the goalie…..he can fight if he has too.
- Get Soderberg some help on the wing. He has big time potential with a couple good wings. Good passer, big body, nice quick release, learning the Bruins game, needs more ice time.
- Sorry about the spelling.
Thanks Dewey, Nantucket

JH: I’ll apologize to the editors for the spelling Dewey...No problem. Thanks for reading, and I’ll take your statements one-by-one.

--I’m not willing to hate on Eriksson just yet. He took a couple of extremely brutal hits last season, and was a much better player once he was able to put a few healthy months together in the second half. He goes to the front of the net, and has the ability to finish under the bar. The one concern I have about him is that he does tend to get a little invisible when the intensity ratchets up during games, but give him a second season to prove himself in Boston. He was a 30-goal scorer in Dallas, and I’d like to see what he can do playing with David Krejci on a regular basis.

--I think Matt Bartkowski might actually be a very valuable guy as a seventh defenseman should the Bruins deal David Warsofsky and Adam McQuaid. A team like the Bruins can always use somebody like Bartkowski that can skate, and he proved over the last two seasons that he could still be effective after sitting for stretches of time.
His decision-making isn’t always up to par, and that’s one area where he needs to continue gaining the complete confidence of the B’s coaching staff. But to your point, he would definitely have some value as a trade chip given his skating speed, the size and strength to hold up under attack in the defensive zone and the fact he proved he could survive as a top four NHL defenseman last season.

I do sense some frustration from Bartkowski when he has to sit up in the press box as a healthy scratch, though, and ultimately the Bruins need to find a permanent spot in the lineup for him, or trade him to a place where he can realize his potential. It may not be in Boston, but there is value there for sure.

--I like McQuaid as much as anybody, and a big, strong, mean D that can drop the gloves would always have a spot on my team. It’s also why he will be valued by other teams once he shows he’s over the lower body issues in training camp. But Kevan Miller plays the same kind of game, is almost as big and perhaps even stronger than McQuaid. You could keep both players, but I’m just not sure there’s a need to given Boston’s salary cap concerns. When you have Miller ($800K cap hit) and McQuaid ($1.56M cap hit) essentially playing the same kind of role, you have to go with the more cap-friendly player. That’s just life in the cap era of the NHL.

--I agree on Soderberg, and I’m interested to watch Matt Fraser get paired with him during training camp. The Big Swede could set him up for one-timers all day long, and Fraser has the best release and shot of anybody on the Bruins’ NHL roster. That’s a big statement, but Fraser will score in any league if he gets some room to shoot the puck. This is where a guy like a Kevin Hayes could fit in if the Bruins went in that direction, or a David Pastrnak should the Bruins want to see how those flashy skills currently translate in the NHL from the 18-year-old.

Who is more likely to make The Bruins roster Pastrnak, Knight, or Spooner?

JH: I think Ryan Spooner is most likely to make the roster out of those three players. It’s his time to make it, or break it. He got a big taste of the NHL last season, and he showed flashes with the speed and playmaking last season. But he also showed that he needs some work physically and mentally to handle the NHL grind, and that’s something he’ll get a chance to prove this year.

The Bruins want him to play at a high pace and really inject that speed into a lineup that’s very average in the skating speed department. Pastrnak is going to be fun to watch and he definitely could make it he handles the physical pounding in training camp, and doesn’t get discouraged from making plays. His combination of speed, shot and playmaking ability is special.

Jury is out on Jared Knight. He really needs to start showing something after experiencing some challenges in the first couple of years. His first season was a washout because of a hamstring problem, and last year he managed just five goals in almost 60 AHL games before getting shut out in the playoffs. That all happened after he came into training camp in the best shape of his life. It’s time for Knight to step up and show what he’s got after the B’s used a second round pick on him.

Guys are passing him on the organizational depth chart, and that’s not a good thing for a young player.