The Bruins now have a small sample size of what life will be like without Dennis Seidenberg and it looks like they might need some help.
The Bruins lost for the third time in five games since Seidenberg was lost for the season with a torn ACL/MCL in his right knee. Word on Tuesday that his surgery was successful gave little solace to his team. Instead, they were looking at a Bruins penalty kill that’s allowed a staggering seven power-play goals in 17 opportunities since Seidenberg got hurt, and allowed 14 goals in those aforementioned five games. The 2.8 goals allowed per game without Seidenberg is nearly an entire goal per game different from the 2.1 goals allowed per game the second-ranked Bruins defense has averaged all season.
Clearly, there are other things at work aside from the absence of their stalwart German defenseman. Tuukka Rask has allowed five goals in a game twice the past five games after doing it just once the first three months of the season, and has been outplayed by Evgeni Nabokov and Jonas Hiller in the past week.
The hope is the Bruins can get through the regular season with Seidenberg out and there is plenty of young defensemen depth in the organization. Still, Adam McQuaid struggled mightily while filling Seidenberg’s role on the penalty kill on Tuesday night while on ice for three Ducks power play goals. Dougie Hamilton has done reasonably well skating alongside Zdeno Chara in the top D-pairing, but there’s been a real drop-off when Chara steps off the ice for the necessary breather.
That was always Seidenberg’s underrated job: to hop on when Chara was on the bench – especially on the penalty kill, and right after the end of a power play – and stabilize things if the puck was in the defensive zone. Now the Bruins look like they’re missing one of their vital defensive appendages, and it’s becoming increasingly clear they need a little help in the trade market. It’s doubtful B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli will strike for a panic deal because the trouble signs are there for the Black and Gold. The prices are sky high little more than two months before the NHL trade deadline, but the B’s also clearly need some help outside the organization prior to the March 5 deadline.
Here are a few names to keep in mind when the Bruins get serious about a veteran defenseman on the trade market:
Dan Girardi – the 6-foot-3, 203-pound impending unrestricted free agent is the best fit for the Bruins in terms of his simple, defensive game and the size/strength department. He hits the criteria of being a unrestricted free agent, an ice time workhorse capable of 25-plus minutes and a proven commodity in high-pressure playoff circumstances, and is more than willing to block shots and throw his body around with a Seidenberg-like physicality. Only Ryan Suter, Jay Bouwmeester, Shea Weber and Duncan Keith have logged more minutes since the start of the 2010-11 season. The price is the thing with Girardi: The New York Posts' Larry Brooks indicated in a report it would take an "A" prospect, a team’s best defensemen prospect and a high draft pick to pry Girardi out of New York. Probability: He won’t be traded to the Bruins unless the price comes down on him.
Michael Del Zotto – the 23-year-old is a few years removed from the player that had 41 points and a plus-20 for the Rangers, and appeared poised to become one of the best young, puck-moving defensemen in the league. Now he’s serving as a healthy scratch for Alain Vigneault, and is regularly mentioned on the trade market. He has nine points in 34 games along a minus-6 rating. He also looked fairly disinterested last spring in the playoff series against the Bruins, and that’s a major warning sign to a team looking for somebody with Seidenberg’s competitive spirit. He’s not even close to what the Bruins are looking for in a D-man, and wouldn’t be on their radar no matter the price. Probability: not going to happen after watching some of his defensive issues in last year’s playoffs.
Mark Stuart – The 29-year-old former Bruins defenseman would seem to make sense on a lot of levels: he’s a great fit in the dressing room, he’s a rugged defender that NESN’s Jack Edwards used to marvel at for his caveman strength. He wouldn’t cost the Bruins a ton dealing with a Winnipeg team going nowhere. But Stuart isn’t really what the Bruins are looking for: he still only plays only 16:54 of ice time per night, and has never topped 17:12 of ice time in any season. He’s not a 20-plus minute horse, and he’s really nothing more than a bottom defensemen pairing for a Stanley Cup-caliber team like the Bruins. Stuart wouldn’t displace any B’s defensemen currently among the top-six on the roster, and that’s not an upgrade. Might be a nice depth deal for the Bruins, but that’s not what they’re looking for right now. Probability: it could happen if the Bruins want another veteran defenseman for a playoff run, but he’s not among their top options.
Christian Ehrhoff – This one is intriguing: what better when your German defenseman goes down than to go get yourself the next best German defenseman on the market? Ehrhoff is a minutes workhorse, has plenty of playoff experience and would become the first member of the hated 2010-11 Vancouver Canucks team to cross over to the Bruins side of the street. His numbers have fallen off the cliff since moving from Vancouver to Buffalo, but this is a guy that averaged 14 goals and 47 points a season for the Canucks over a two-year span. The problem: he’s signed for $4 million a season from now through the year 2021. That’s a tough nut to crack for a Bruins team looking for a rental. It would significantly drive down the price the Bruins would be willing to pay in trade. Think a couple of “B’ level prospects, a draft pick and something from the NHL roster to clear cap space. Probability: with his long contract, the Bruins wouldn’t be interested unless they get really, really desperate for D help this year. They’re not there yet.
Andrej Meszaros – The veteran defenseman has been in and out of the Flyers doghouse this season, and injuries/ineffectiveness have really taken a chunk out of his game the past few years. He was a top-four guy for Ottawa, Tampa Bay and his first few years in Philadelphia, and had 10 goals, 39 points and a plus-34 in his rookie NHL season. On the down side, that was back in 2005-06. On the plus side, it was with the Ottawa Senators, while Peter Chiarelli was still a member of their organization. He’s a “buy low” commodity given how his stick has fallen in Philly, but as recently as two years ago he would have seemed like a suitable replacement if Seidenberg went down. He’s still just 28 years old, so he might be somebody the Bruins can make work for the next few months as he tries to build up his value headed into free agency. Probability: this actually seems feasible if the price was a prospect and draft pick that weren’t top drawer from the Bruins.
Chris Phillips – Another member of the Ottawa Senators connection, the 35-year-old has ideal size (6-foot-3, 221-pounds), experience as a 15-year NHL veteran and he already knows several guys in the dressing room including Zdeno Chara and Chris Kelly. He’s having a pretty good season with 13 points and a minus-1 rating while averaging 20:25 of ice time per game, and is exactly the kind of smart, savvy veteran Boston could use to stabilize things in their own end. He’s played for the Sens his entire career and still has value to an Ottawa team that’s not out of the playoff race quite yet, so it remains to be seen if he’d be available. This might be the most realistic option for the Bruins given his cost, productivity and the playoff coming back to them. Probability: If I were a betting man I’d say this is one of the top guys the Bruins are targeting prior to March 5, and that it would end up costing the Bruins a couple of 2nd-3rd round picks.
Other names to consider: Kimmo Timonen, Ron Hainsey, Nick Schultz, Henrik Tallinder and Rostislav Klesla.