Notes: Mark Stuart draws interest on trade front

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Notes: Mark Stuart draws interest on trade front

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

RALEIGH, N.C. Hockey sources here indicated to CSNNE.com that theres strong interest on the trade front in defenseman Mark Stuart, and that dealing the rugged defenseman might be an option for the Bruins over the next four weeks if the team needs to clear salary cap space for a roster move.Stuart has served as a healthy scratch for the Bruinsin each of the last three games leading up to theNHL All-Star break, and hasn't played since a Jan. 20 loss to the Buffalo Sabres -- only his second game back from a broken right hand that kept Stuart out for a month. Adam McQuaid has played inStuart's place while the Bruins defenseman has sat on the bench, and represents a similarly physical defensemanfor less than athird of Stuart's cap hit (1.675 million).IfStuart is dealt before the Feb. 28 trade deadline,it will be purely for salary capreasons as Stuart heads into unrestricted free agency after the current season is over. His leadership and toughness around the net are valued assets, and the reason he's garnering interesting around the NHL -- includingan Atlanta team that listened to a package involving Stuart for Ilya Kovalchuk at lastyear's trade deadline. With his fifth All-Star appearance in the book, Zdeno Chara looked just as excited as he must have been the very first time around.

The 33-year-old defenseman is an NHL team captain, a Norris Trophy winner. As a 6-foot-9 defenseman with a 105.9 mph slap shot, he has every reason in the world to take another NHL All-Star weekend in Carolina for granted.

But Chara knows his elite playing days wont last forever, and he basked in it all: his fourth straight hardest-shot title and the 20-plus minutes on the ice as Team Staals top defenseman in an 11-10 loss to Team Lidstrom at the RBC Center.

Its an honor. Youre here to represent your team, said Chara. Its one of those things where some guys might say Oh, Id rather have the days off,' but at the same time these memories and times cant really be replaced with vacation or time off.

It stays with you. There are only so many opportunities that youre going to get to play in these All-Star Games and meet all of these players in your career. You have to enjoy it and be happy about being invited, and I definitely am. Ive very humbled by this.

Chara finished with 21 minutes of ice time, had a pair of assists and a plus-1 in a game that featured 21 goals and tons of offense, and said afterwards that teammate Tim Thomas might have been the difference when it came right down to it. Thomas made 11 saves in the third period to capture his third consecutive victory, but Chara couldnt help but note that his great goaltending teammate might have been a little lucky.

We had some great chances. Everybody knows Timmy is very competitive, said Chara. We had some great shots and he made some big saves. He made one on me when he got kind of lucky and it hit off the knob. But thats the way it goes

A southern TV reporter asked with curiosity why Chara owner of the NHLs hardest shot didnt wind up and blast one of his 105.9 mph heat-seeking missiles during the exhibition game.

In a normal situation I would do that, but its an All-Star Game and its for fun, said Chara. Its kind of an unwritten rule that you usually dont shoot slappers.

Thomas was asked about the importance of the game against Carolina coming out of the All-Star break, and immediately went into a refrain hes sounded a few times this year about making too much out of regular season games.

What, are we going back to making all of these games like theyre Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals? said Thomas with mock indignation.

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

Haggerty: Trade flurry makes Bruins' road to the playoffs more slippery

Haggerty: Trade flurry makes Bruins' road to the playoffs more slippery

Don Sweeney and the Bruins aren’t expected to be big players Wednesday at the NHL trade deadline, understandable since they've won six of seven under interim coach Bruce Cassidy.

But they might be feeling a little more pressure to do something as many Atlantic Division teams -- and Eastern Conference ones, for that matter -- are making moves.

The biggest headline-grabber occurred out of division as the Washington Capitals shipped a first-round pick, two forwards and a conditional second-round pick to the St. Louis Blues for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and a young goaltender. Shattenkirk will turn the already explosive Capitals into a strong Stanley Cup contender, maybe even the favorite. And the pressure's on for them to deliver, since it’s expected the 28-year-old All-Star will head to the New York Rangers in free agency this summer. 

Shattenkirk had been linked to the Bruins in the past but they weren’t about to pay that exorbitant a price for a rental, not while they're still more rebuilder than contender even as they push for the playoffs. Moreover, the Bruins weren’t going to do a sign-and-trade for a player who's going to command a seven-year, $49 million deal on the open market and would ostensibly be blocking the top-4 development of both Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy as stud, right shot D-men. 

Instead, expect the Bruins to invest heavily over the next year in a potential top pairing left-side defenseman who could eventually step in for Zdeno Chara. 

The highest impact moves that concerned the Bruins during Monday’s flurry of activity, however, were the divisional teams they’re competing with direction for playoff spots:

-- The Maple Leafs made a sneaky big move in shipping out a second-round pick to Tampa Bay for gritty, battle-tested, third-line center Brian Boyle, who will bring size, sandpaper and character to a young Toronto team pushing for the playoffs. 

-- Ottawa sent a prospect to Vancouver for bad boy Alex Burrows, whose claim to fame is biting Patrice Bergeron during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals. The Senators and Bruins wplay each other three times in Boston’s final 20 games in the kind of matchup that could dictate the playoff fate for both clubs, and Burrows' cheap-shot antics will undoubtedly make the Sens a tougher team to play down the stretch. 

-- The Canadiens shored up their defense group by adding Dallas D-man Jordie Benn in exchange for young defenseman Greg Pateryn and a fourth-round pick. They did so before pulling off an important, come-from-behind win over the Devils on Monday night. 

The Bruins woke up Tuesday morning still holding their third-place spot in the Atlantic Division and still very much in control of their own destiny. But there’s no denying Boston’s competitors have all improved themselves. The gauntlet has been passed to Sweeney and the Bruins to do something smart for the long haul, but to also improve right now if the right deal presents itself. 

That could mean dealing off veteran players like Matt Beleskey or John-Michael Liles if there’s an interested party. It could mean picking up a cheap rental like Radim Vrbata or Dmitry Kulikov if the price is right. Or it could mean standing pat and not messing with a team playing its best hockey of the season. 

One thing is clear: Monday's moves have increased the Bruins' degree of difficulty for ending their two-year playoff drought. 
 

Bergeron: Julien to Habs 'definitely a surprise'

Bergeron: Julien to Habs 'definitely a surprise'

Patrice Bergeron said Tuesday on Toucher & Rich that he sent Claude Julien a text congratulating him on getting a new job with the Canadiens. Asked then by Fred Toucher whether he secretly celebrated that Julien might ruin Montreal’s season, Bergeron opted not to respond. 

Jokes aside, Bergeron said that while he figured that Julien would get a head-coaching job after his dismissal from the Bruins, he was surprised to see it happen in Montreal.

“It was definitely a surprise, especially that quickly,” Bergeron said. “I knew he was going to turn around and find another job somewhere in the NHL. I didn’t know if it was going to be, I don’t know if it was a week or less than a week.” 

Julien coached Bergeron for parts of 10 seasons in Boston. He is 3-2-0 thus far in his second stint with the Habs. 

“I was surprised, but at the same time, I wish him all the best,” Bergeron said. “At the same time, it’s tough to do when it’s in Montreal.”