Threat of trade could push Bruins forward

564246.jpg

Threat of trade could push Bruins forward

BOSTON -- The Bruins have gone through the many different stages of recovery when it comes to the Stanley Cup hangover thats dropped them into last place in the Eastern Conference.

There was denial, avoidance and self-medication through portions of the summer and early fall, but now it appears that blame, anger and change for changes sake have arrived at the door of the Black and Gold.

Just days after saying he wasnt ready to start tinkering with the roster that proved championship-worthy last spring, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is working the phones looking for a deal. It remains to be seen if hell find anything on the trade market this early, but lets not forget the Bruins waved goodbye to Chuck Kobasew less than 10 games into the season two years ago.

Claude Julien clearly supports the GMs search for whatever will help the current plight, but an argument could be made that sitting an under-performing forward like Nathan Horton or Milan Lucic would be more effective as a short term solution for a hockey team spinning its wheels.

Names like Kyle Turris, Ray Whitney and Rene Bourque have been tossed around when it comes to the whispers around the trade rumor mill, but it appears that any potential moves can be avoided if the team pulls out of their post-Cup funk.

Last night was probably the worst executed game from the second period on that weve played all season long. It wasnt pretty to watch, said Julien. But the first two games of the playoffs were similar to that as well, but we went back, we regrouped and hopefully it happens again.

We need to be realistic and acknowledge this is happening, and as a group we need to turn it around.

Would a trade or the specter of a trade looming over their heads -- benefit a team that has slumped to start?

Those are all questions that I think will be answered by our play, said Claude Julien. Its just one of those things where when you see the team react youll know whether rumors have an impact or not. Time will have to tell because I cant answer it for you.

Youre asking for my opinion. Im always going to support my general manager. We talk a lot. Whether it happens or it doesnt happen those decisions are made as a group. Certainly never second guess because once a decision is made were all on board.

From our end of it as coaches whether its line changes or practices and what youre trying to bring into them. Its trying to find solutions, but weve always said is that its a two-way street. You have to players that follow up, and we have a group were confident they will because theyve done that in the past. The quicker, the better.

The Kobasew deal never really sparked a team that went through Kessel withdrawals all season long without a true No. 1 line right wing, but that hasnt stopped Chiarelli from pursuing some deals in all corners of the NHL. Thats what happens when a team staggers to 3-6 out of the starting gate, and has the embarrassing distinction of answering phone calls on Causeway Street as your last place Boston Bruins rather than your Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

The Bruins players understand that trades and personnel changes are part of the business, but it carries a little more sting when the hockey nucleus has gone through something as meaningful as winning a Stanley Cup. For anybody that wants a refresher course on getting traded away from a team destined for good things, Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart are available for interviews in Winnipeg about watching their former team celebrate a Stanley Cup win in Vancouver last spring.

These things happen. Its part of sports. When a team isnt reaching its full potential then obviously changes need to be made, said Chris Kelly. Peter is going to do what he thinks is best for the team. Hopefully we can rectify things soon. You cant worry about things like that because theyre out of our control.

Heres a quick primer on the players most likely to be discussed if things get real in trade talks with another team like Phoenix or Calgary:

David Krejci is the single most valuable chip that the Bruins could offer, and it makes sense on some levels given the teams surplus of top-six centers and Tyler Seguins expected price tag several years down the road. The Bruins and Krejci have had some level of contract talks and its expected that the playmaker will command a 5 million per year contract extension in the same neighborhood as Patrice Bergeron.

The Bruins have to make a determination if theyre willing to pay a player that can disappear out on the ice at times during the season, and has seemingly hit his limit as a 65-point per season center. Krejci is heading into restricted free agency and could yield a bona fide scoring winger in return, but hes also routinely Bostons point leader on a yearly basis and moving No. 46 would significantly alter the structure of the team.

Johnny Boychuk has been mentioned in some circles as a player the Bruins would be willing to move in the final year of a two-year contract with the Bs. There's certainly a willing trade market out there when it comes to serviceable NHL defensemen. But trading Boychuk means that either Matt Bartkowski or Steve Kampfer would be thrust into a top-six role for the Bruins, and the early season indications were that neither blueliner was ready for 15-20 minutes per night.

Trading Boychuk would amount to shaking up the team for changes sake, but it makes little to no sense for a player thats been good thus far this season and played a pivotal role in one of the teams few wins this year. The Bruins should be reaping the performances of players with something to prove in the last year of their contract rather than flipping them to other teams. Besides all of that, it remains to be seen how much No. 55 would bring back in return.

Tuukka Rask is a player that has experienced a difficult time serving in a backup role to Tim Thomas, but its hard to envision the Bruins not riding Thomas into the sunset for as long as he wants to play hockey after last years playoff performance. That leaves Rask playing once a week and pining away for a chance to establish himself as a starter elsewhere.

Teams remember how good Rask was two years ago when he led the NHL in goals against average and save percentage, and like Krejci his value would be high on the trade market for a team madly in search of goaltending. Rask would net the Bruins some serious talent up front, but the question remains whether the Bs are willing to mortgage their goaltending future for the scoring upshot they might receive by peddling their Finnish goalie off to the highest bidder.

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Haggerty: Reports of Seidenberg's demise were greatly exaggerated

Hindsight is always 20/20, of course, but it appears the Bruins made a mistake buying out veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg from the final couple of years of his contract. 

Seidenberg just finished up a wildly successful stint with host Team Germany at the IIHF World Championships, where he was named Directorate Best Defenseman (the tournament’s best defenseman) after leading all D-men with a goal and eight points. This came after Seidenberg, at age 35, posted 5 goals and 22 points in 73 games for the Islanders, with whom he signed after being cut loose by the B's, while averaging a shade under 20 minutes per game.  Seidenberg also had an excellent World Cup of Hockey tournament for Team Europe last summer (where he was teamed once again with Zdeno Chara), thus managing to play at a high level from September all the way through May.

A faction of Bruins fans thought he was on the serious decline after the 2015-16 season and, clearly, the Bruins agreed, opting to buy him out with two more years still left on a sizable contract extension. (They owe him $2.16 million next season and then will be charged $1.16 million on their salary cap over the next two seasons.) But the B's could have used a durable, defensive warrior like Seidenberg in the playoffs, when they lost three of their top four defensemen against the Ottawa Senators. A rejuvenated Seidenberg, able to play both the left and right side, would have been a better option than Colin Miller.

The Bruins made a conscious decision to hand things over to younger defensemen like Miller, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo and Joe Morrow in cutting ties with Seidenberg. But they also perhaps miscalculated how much Seidenberg still had left in the tank after his best season in at least three years. 

“Well, at the time we felt like [Seidenberg's] game had really dropped off to where we thought he couldn’t contribute, and we wanted to see if some younger players could come in and help us out,” Bruins president Cam Neely said at the end-of-the-season press conference earlier this month. “I’ve got to say he played well this year for Long Island. But at the time we thought it was the right move. You can’t envision us having three of our top four D’s get hurt [in the playoffs]. We went through a lot of D’s in the postseason. You can’t predict that.”

Neely is referring to the decision made after Seidenberg’s second straight minus season in Boston, when back injuries and a major knee injury had seemed to slow him down a bit. It seemed the only way to properly evaluate some of their other, younger defenseman was to cut Seidenberg loose, but one has to wonder if the Bruins would have possibly done it had they known he was still capable of playing like he did this season for the Islanders. 

Either way, the buyout of Seidenberg is an extremely legitimate second guess of Bruins management in a year where they did a lot of things right. 
 

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Monday, May 22: Senators all out of playoff magic?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like we’ll be getting a Pittsburgh/Nashville Stanley Cup Final, which I suppose would be the best possible outcome at this point.

*You hear the name and it just gets you angry all over again if you grew up watching the Bruins. Ulf Samuelsson is in the running for an assistant coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks, according to a report.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Chris Johnston says it appears that the time is running out on a Cinderella season for the Ottawa Senators.

*A taste of winning at the world championships with Team Sweden could fuel Alex Edler’s desire for a change from the rebuilding Vancouver Canucks.

*Interesting piece on a former can’t miss goaltending prospect with the Nashville Predators that ended up totally missing, and what he’s been up to in life since then.

*Guy Boucher explains to Pro Hockey Talk why he kept changing goaltenders in the Game 5 blowout loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

*Don Cherry explains that he hates afternoon hockey during his Coach’s Corner from Hockey Night in Canada in the Game 5 blowout between the Penguins and Predators.

*A good piece from FOH (Friend of Haggs) Alex Prewitt on the Nashville Predators, and the evolution of the franchise into a team on the verge of a Stanley Cup Final appearance.

*For something completely different: What a win by the Boston Celtics in Game 3 in Cleveland, and quite an interesting, fired up interview with Al Horford afterward.