Bruins identify needs as trade deadline approaches


Bruins identify needs as trade deadline approaches

By Joe Haggerty

WILMINGTON, Mass. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has pinpointed needs on his hockey club he hopes to address before the NHL trade deadline comes to pass on Feb. 28.

But a couple of things are making things difficult for Chiarelli with slightly more than three weeks leading up to that deadline. First is the fact that one of the needs identified by the hockey club manager is that of a top-four defenseman able to relieve some pressure on a 22-year-old youngster like Steve Kampfer thats playing upwards of 20 minutes a night with plenty of pressure on his shoulders.

Not to mention getting some Andrew Ference insurance. Ference has been outstanding this season while playing solid, reliable, spirited hockey from his defenseman position and posting 9 points and a plus-19 in 49 games.

The problem: Ference has already played 49 games this season in a relatively healthy year, but hasnt played more than 59 games in any of the last three seasons while battling through groin and hernia issues among other assorted aches and pains.

An NHL general manager cant simply expect that a 22-year-old rookie is going to sail through his first stretch run and playoff experience without a few moguls on the mountain, and shouldnt expect Ference to make it through the next 30 games and playoffs without something cropping up health-wise.

That means the Bruins need to add another defenseman to the mix moving forward, and Chiarelli said as much while chatting with the media following practice at Ristuccia Arena on Friday afternoon.

Id like to try and get a defenseman that could help our group, said Chiarelli. I think our defense has played very well, but were trying to ease some of the minutes off of our players.

Theres clear and obvious Bruins interest in defensemen like Sergei Gonchar and Tomas Kaberle given their skill sets as puck-moving defensemen and their availability while playing on God-awful NHL teams. Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Joni Pitkanen is another player that would fit in nicely with the Bs should be exposed to the trade market this month.

Both all of those players come with their own issues, however. Kaberle hasnt played a relevant NHL game in years, and some believe that the puck-moving blueliner is content to the point of dulling his competitive edge. Gonchar is a 35-year-old defenseman with two years at big money left on his contract, and any club taking him on is assuming all of the risk that goes along with it.

Theres a good chance Pitkanen wont ever make it to market as the Hurricanes catch up to the Thrashers in the Eastern Conference, and potentially push themselves into the playoff conversation.

But Chiarelli said that he expected any deal for a defensemen to be consummated with a Western Conference team, which really is at odds with the whispers that the Bruins were highly interested in Senators blueliner Chris Phillips.

Chiarelli called the market tight at this point in the month of February as so many Western Conference teams are still in striking distance of a playoff spot with 30 games or so remaining in the season and only four points separates the fifth place through 12th place teams out West.

That means there arent many sellers aside from the Edmonton Oilers, the Columbus Blue Jackets and perhaps the Blues now that injuries have slashes their season into ribbons.

Were not going to replace Savard because that guy is not available, but you can replace bits and pieces of it while things fall on the shoulders of some of our other players, said Chiarelli. Right now things are very, very tight. You hear that from me every year a month before the deadline and its even truer now.

The standings are very tight. You look in the West and things are tight, and usually if youre going to make a move itll be in the Westusually. I think teams 4-12 is like five points separating them. So a lot of the players we like arent available because their teams are still in it.

The other problem: the Bruins must come to a conclusion about Marc Savard and his concussion problems after suffering the fourth serious brain injury of his NHL career two weeks ago. Placing Savard on LTIR would certainly open up some flexibility for the Bruins, and dealing a spare defensemen with value around the league like Mark Stuart who several teams including the Atlanta Thrashers have expressed interest in -- would further open up the options for Chiarelli and Co. to make some roster improvements.

Chiarelli would only say that the team needs to be creative when thinking about finding a solution for filling the absence of Savard due to injury. The Bs GM admitted that there isnt anybody on the trade market thats likely to give the Bruins exactly what theyre missing in the form of No. 91 both on the power play and five-on-five but they never really saw the full 100 percent healthy Savard at any point this season anyway.

It certainly gives us more flexibility, so it allows us to do some other things, said Chiarelli. Were just not going to be able to replace Savard because that skill just isnt going to be available in trade. Were going to have to get creative.

Chiarelli would love to go shopping with the Bruins for a player list thats been pared down, tabulated and approved, but it appears hell be waiting things out along with the rest of the NHL as teams decide their buyer or seller status. The good news: the Bruins are tops in goals against average, among the best offensive teams in the East and dont come from anywhere the kind of desperate straits they did last season.

Chiarelli captured Mark Recchi two years ago and Dennis Seidenberg last season at the trade deadline, and it doesnt much appear the GM will hesitate to pull the trigger again over the next few weeks.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Tuesday, Oct. 25: Carlo for Calder?


Tuesday, Oct. 25: Carlo for Calder?

Here are the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while having watched the Curious George Halloween special about eight times over the last three or four days thanks to my three-year-old son.

*Bob McKenzie with a great story in former NHL defenseman Mike Commodore talking a shift as an Uber driver as his hockey work has dried up.

*Alex Radulov is earning some early respect for his play from his Habs teammates and the fickle Canadiens fans, but let’s see how the whole season plays out for the notoriously combustible Russian winger.

*Zach Werenski has taken an early lead among his NHL rookie peers for the Calder Trophy, but it looks like it’s going to be a crowded field this year. Just a couple of weeks in, Brandon Carlo certainly looks like he could be in the conversation as well.

*Pioneering female goaltender Shannon Szabados has been cut from the Peoria team in the Southern Pro League.

*The Chicago Blackhawks have plenty of advice for the Chicago Cubs about playing in the big games as the Cubbies get ready for their World Series close-up.

*A more mature David Perron is having greater success the second time around with the St. Louis Blues while contributing in many different areas.

*For something completely different: a really fun story of a Hollywood Reporter contributor recording the reactions of her 7-year-old son watching Empire Strikes Back for the first time. I was around the same age when Empire came out, so I’m sure my reactions were pretty similar to his at different points in the movie.

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

Injuries have created a muddled picture with Bruins goaltenders

It’s hard to believe that it’s already come to this, but it might just be Malcolm Subban between the pipes for the Bruins on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild, and perhaps again on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden.

The 22-year-old Subban has been pulled from two ineffective starts for the P-Bruins in four AHL starts this season (.846 save percentage and a 4.50 goals against average in four games) while coming back from last year’s fractured larynx injury. He's also a player the organization was uncertain enough about that they signed veteran backup Anton Khudobin to a two-year deal on the July 1 open of NHL free agency.

Subban attributed his start to a slow opening few weeks with a new P-Bruins roster of players, but that hasn’t stopped fellow P-Bruins goalie Zane McIntyre from putting up excellent numbers between the pipes in the early going.

But Khudobin went down with an injury mere minutes into Monday morning’s Bruins practice at Warrior Ice Arena, and Tuukka Rask been battling a nagging leg injury since the season opening win against the Blue Jackets.

So Subban was the last goalie standing on Monday as an emergency recall from Providence, and could be in line to play Tuesday night against the Wild if the Bruins medical staff can’t perform some Mr. Miyagi-style healing techniques on Rask or Khudobin.

“Khudobin got injured and couldn’t practice with us, but I haven’t heard anything yet [on an update],” said Julien following practice. “This is hockey. We deal with it on daily basis with the injuries. We wait for the news and then it’s about doing your job as it’s required. If we have to make some adjustments and have to have some different personnel, then we’ll deal with it when we have more of an update. Tuukka is still day-to-day, so nothing is changed there.

“We’re in a situation here where we’ll see what happens, and if [Subban] needs to go in goal then he’ll go in goal. It’s as simple as that. As a coach, there’s one thing that worries me and that’s ‘stop the puck.’ I’m not a goalie coach, so I’m just demanding on making the saves.”

Subban, of course, hasn’t been making the saves down in Providence early in the going there this season, and is entering the stage of his career where he needs to begin showing signs of being a potential No. 1 guy at the NHL level.

Fellow goalies from the 2012 NHL draft class like Andrei Vasilevskiy, Joonas Korpisalo, Matt Murray, Connor Hellebuyck and Frederik Andersen have all begun making their mark in the league, and Subban was selected higher than all of them except for Tampa’s Vasilevskiy. So in the final year of his entry level deal it’s high time for the 22-year-old to begin showing signs he can play in the league, whether it’s in Boston or elsewhere.

He admitted on Monday he might have been putting too much pressure on himself down in Providence while watching the injury issues play out with Tuukka Rask in Boston.

Subban was worried about the big picture of stringing together saves so he was the guy called up if the Bruins needed a goalie, and instead should have been focusing more on the present opponents at the AHL level.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself. I think anybody that knows me well knows that. I don’t like to let in goals no matter what happens, whether it’s breakdowns or not it’s my job [to stop the puck]. If there were no breakdowns then you wouldn’t need a goaltender,” said Subban. “I want to make every save and get a shutout every game. I think the biggest thing is just relaxing and playing, and knowing that it’s okay to let a goal in every once in a while.

“So I think in my position right now I’m supposed to be playing really well down there, and I think that go in my head a little bit. I was trying to get a shutout every game rather than going game-by-game and shot-by-shot. I was overthinking it too much. But collectively as a team we’re a new team and we were trying to get the chemistry together, and once we do that the D-zone will be better and the offensive zone game will come.”

If Subban does indeed get the emergency start on Tuesday night against the Wild, the Bruins just have to hope that it’s a better outing than getting pulled in his NHL debut against the Blues two seasons ago after allowing three goals on three straight shots to start the second period. They also have to hope that Rask or Khudobin get well quick given Boston’s shaky situation on defense in front of the goaltender, and the stretch they’re in of playing six straight opponents that qualified for last spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

If not then watch out below because every hockey person knows there’s no quicker way for a hockey club to really begin imploding than if the goaltending starts to become a major problem whether it’s because of injury, inconsistent performance or simply because of being a straight-up sieve.