By Joe Haggerty
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.