BOSTON -- Despite recent Chicken Little reactions for a Bruins hockey team thats been under .500 since a rematch against the Vancouver Canucks on Jan. 8, the Bs dont have many roster holes.
Thats always subject to change, of course, and the nagging concussion issue holding Nathan Horton out of the lineup could alter Bostons course significantly at the upcoming trade deadline.
But the Bruins arent planning on any major moves this season. Theyd like to ideally have any new additions in place just before they embark on an 11-day road trip starting next week just as they had Tomas Kaberle, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley on board for a six-game road trip through Western Canada in late February last season.
For those with short memories the Bruins went a perfect 6-0-0 on that road trip with their newly acquired players and really gelled as a unit while away from the friendly confines at TD Garden.
The Bruins are hoping for lightning to strike twice in terms of making complementary depth moves and affording their team a chance to bond on a road trip St. Louis, Winnipeg, Buffalo and Ottawa among other stops.
So what are the Bruins looking for?
Listening to Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli tell it, the Bs are looking in a couple of very specific areas for potential upgrades.
Id like to add a defenseman and a forward, without subtracting anything, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told 98.5 The Sports Hubs Toucher and Rich earlier this week. Right now the market is very, very slow. Races are so tight. I say this every year, but it seems slower this year. The gaps between the 12-13 spots for the playoffs are small.
Its been tough sledding this year, I know we have 2-3 weeks, but well see how it goes.
The players would most likely be brought in as depthcompetition for the spots currently filled by Benoit Pouliot and Joe Corvo on Bostons roster.
Pouliot has a slew of game-winning goals and the sweetest 1-on-1 offensive move pulled off this year by a Bruins player, but hes been inconsistent. Theres also the fear that Pouliot is just one bad penalty waiting to happen in the postseason. Stressing the point with his own play Pouliot has two assists and a zero plusminus rating in his last 13 games, and has been something akin to invisible. Meanwhile Corvo has been exactly the defensive liability the Bruins assumed they might be getting headed into the season. The problem: Corvo hasnt provided the kind of offense to offset his D-zone shortcomings. Corvo's heavy shot and puck-moving capabilities have been spotty through the season, and hasn't brought goal-producing acumen like B's management had hoped for. He's on pace for five goals scored -- a figure that would be his lowest total in the NHL since his rookie season with the Los Angeles Kings in 2002-03.
So the Bruins are first and foremost in the market for a defenseman to give Claude Julien options where he doesnt currently have them. With those two positions as the most pressing to fill assuming Horton is going to be fine headed into the playoffs there are interesting options. One thing that wont be a problem: cap space. According to capgeek.com the Bruins could take on roughly 14 million in cap space at the trade deadline if they move Marc Savard to long term injured reserve in exchange for the cap relief.
Here are the most likely trade targets for the Bruins:
Tuomo Ruutu The roughneck forward is exactly the kind of skillsandpaper player the Bruins love for their third line roles, and hed fit in perfectly with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. The Bruins are interested in Ruutu and have several former Hurricanes players on the Bs that have given their recommendation on the scrappy Finn. Unfortunately two major stumbling blocks stand in the way: it appears Carolina is going to sign him to an extension just as theyd done with Tim Gleason. The price for Ruutu is a first-round pick plus some kind of prospect.
Ray Whitney the crafty forward has been in Bostons sights before at the trade deadline, but he seems to be a veteran intent on carefully picking his landing spot. Who can forget the Los Angeles Kings trade that was blown up because Whitney started demanding a three-year extension before agreeing to go there? Whitney is still a crafty playmaker and a guy that could certainly give the Bruins an offensive shot in the arm, but hes got some very serious no-trade provisions that would have to be worked through. Hes also proven in the past that hell attempt to leverage any potential deadline deals into something financially beneficial for him as well. The Bruins wouldnt be looking to make any contract guarantees until they see what kind of fit an impending free agent like Whitney would be with their team. Indications are that San Jose and the New York Rangers are also interested, but the Coyotes are also right in the thick of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Whitney wont move as long as the Desert Dogs have a chance at the postseason. A pick andor a prospect would be the going rate for Whitney as it was two years ago.
Shane Doan The Coyotes Captains name has been kicked around as available given the possibility that Phoenix could be relocated to Seattle or some other willing NHL wannabee market next year but dont bet on Doan going anywhere. Doan will want to ride off into the sunset with the Coyotes franchise, and once again no move is going to be made as long as Phoenix is perilously close to the playoff bubble.
Jeff CarterRick Nash The Bruins have had scouts at the Blue Jackets home games and presumably its because they are one of the few franchises that will undoubtedly be sellers at the trade deadline. The Bs have discussed Jeff Carter in the past dating back to a one-for-one trade possibility for Phil Kessel back when both players were just starting out, and Nash is obviously a special player that would require a high cost in players and picks. Either player would require the Bruins to move an affordable young asset on their team or a prospectpick package that would hurt (Dougie Hamilton) the long-term health of the franchise.
Ryan Smyth the blood-and-guts Edmonton Oilers forward is the exact kind of veteran presence that could give the Bruins a facsimile of the skill set and net-front presence that Mark Recchi brought to the table. Smyth is said to be hesitant to waive his no-trade clause this month, but the Bruins are definitely interested in the aging hockey player. It would likely cost the Bruins a high draft pick to bring on Smyth, who also commands a cap hit over 6 million.
Jarome Iginla the Flames Captain has a no-trade clause and says hes sticking it out with the Calgary Flames. Iginla would fit in perfectly with the Bruins temperament and style if he did decide to relocate anywhere for a playoff push, and came away impressed with Zdeno Charas leadership skills after the defenseman barked at the Flames superstar during the third period the NHL All-Star game. Iginla would cost the Bruins a first-round pick and a talented young player if he were available and it truly appears that hes staying put in Calgary.
David Jones Hes cheap, hes having a down year and hes on a team in the Colorado Avalanche that might just be waving the white flag on the season. The Bruins would catch plenty of flack if Jones was their big deadline move, but the guy did score 27 goals last season, right? Thats got to count for something.
Bobby RyanRyan Getzlaf Another pair of marquee name forwards from a lost Anaheim hockey bunch that couldnt put it together despite a good collection of hockey talent. Ryan was already kicked around once this season as a trade target just prior to Bruce Boudreau taking over as the Ducks head coach, but he may truly be gone by the trade deadline. There are warning bells when a player like Ryan doesnt seem to take well to the coaching staff entrenched in place. But the cost would be prohibitively too high for the Bruins in terms of a contract extension and the roster spot hed hold on the team. Getzlaf was a physical beast at his best, but it looks like hes slowing down in a major way. If thats the case the Bruins wouldnt be trading for a player well on the way to the back nine of his career. Both players would require draft picks, a young nucleus of NHL caliber talent, prospects and anything else the Bruins could provide.If Anaheim getshot enough to dealeither of these two high-profile forwards, they'll get a high return on the investment.
Hal Gill Its not going to happen and hes not the kind of defenseman the Bruins are in the market for, but the 6-foot-7 blueliner is going to help somebody with his interior strength, toughness and leadership capabilities in the dressing room.
Johnny Oduya The 3.5 million cap hit would turn off some teams, but hes the kind of veteran defenseman that could fit into the Boston mold nicely after years of experience in the New Jersey system.
Ryan SuterShea Weber The proverbial home run target for the Bruins if they truly decide to go for it during the trade deadline, but it will cost them dearly in prospects, young NHL roster talent and draft picks. Suter is a little less hyped for his defenseman skill set, but hes a highly capable two-way defenseman that would finally give the Bruins the complement to Zdeno Chara that theyve always been looking for. Weber is a little flashier and a little more of a household name, and the thought of Weber and Chara blasting away from the point spots with this 105-mph and higher slapshots is patently unfair to everybody else. Its a two-man race for the Norris Trophy between Chara and Weber, so that lets people know all they need to about the Nashville defenseman. The cost for either player would be more than the Bruins are hoping to spend, but theyd be worth it provided they were willing to discuss locking things in on a long term deal.
Lubomir VisnovskyNicklas GrossmanPavel Kubina A trio of veteran defensemen on mid-level or bad hockey teams capable of handling themselves offensively while adding something to their teams transition game. There are at least five additional defensemen that could be added hereif the B's make asimple depth move.None of the aforementioned players would cause the Bruins to wholly compromise their large storage closet of salary cap space heading into the deadline, and all would be an upgrade over Joe Corvo over the final few months.