Bruins GM Don Sweeney made no secret that he’s made inquiries into shoring up his goaltending depth, and that could be the one move that Boston definitely makes ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline.
The Bruins have kicked the tires on New York Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak, who is currently dominating in the AHL for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers after getting shipped to the American Hockey League earlier this season. The 31-year-old Slovakian is 14-2-1 with a .933 save percentage and a 1.91 goals against average for Bridgeport after posting a .904 save percentage and 3.23 goals against average in 21 games for the Islanders this season, and the B’s talent evaluators have had a long look at Halak in plenty of head-to-head matchups with Providence over the last couple of months.
Sweeney didn’t confirm the interest in Halak while speaking with reporters on Tuesday night ahead of the deadline, but one can connect the dots knowing there aren’t many goalies on the trade market at this point in time.
“Anton [Khudobin] has played well for us in the last couple of starts,” said Sweeney. “I think it’s an area…it was certainly an area of concern for us. I’ve had some discussions [about trades for backup goalies], yes.”
According to NHL Network analyst Kevin Weekes, the Oilers and Flames are also interested suitors for Halak’s services while similarly looking to upgrade their NHL goaltending situation. So why won’t Halak ultimately move to Boston if it doesn’t happen? Well, for one Khudobin has won back-to-back games and started straightening out his game after struggling this season while getting bounced between the NHL and AHL earlier this season.
There’s also the odd fact that the Islanders and Bruins are pitted in competition for a potential wild card playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and Garth Snow may not easily give out a helping hand to Sweeney and the Bruins in this case. So the Bruins would probably have to overpay in terms of assets for a goalie in Halak that would only be useful for the final 19 regular season games of this season, and then Boston would also be on the hook for him all of next year as well.
That’s a potentially high price to pay if the Bruins believe that Khudobin has turned a corner, and they may be able to get through the rest of this season without being forced into calling up Zane McIntyre or Malcolm Subban again this season before they’re ready.
BOSTON -- Matt Beleskey committed to the Boston Bruins when he signed a five year, $19 million contract with the Bruins a couple of summers ago, and that hasn’t changed even as he’s been a healthy scratch more often in the last few weeks. There are light trade rumors swirling around a player having a tough year in Beleskey with two goals and seven points along with a minus-10 in 35 games, and he was aware of those ahead of Wednesday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline.
“It’s that time of year. There’s nothing that I can do about it, so I’m trying not to think about it” said Beleskey, when asked about the trade whispers following Tuesday’s bag skate as part of being a healthy scratch against the Coyotes. “We bought a house here. We’re having a baby here. This is where we want to be, but it is what it is. You really have zero control over things aside from the six teams on the modified no-trade list.”
The simple fact is that the Bruins are going to find trading Beleskey a difficult scenario with three years remaining on a contract for a player having a down season. There is Boston interest in Arizona winger Radim Vrbata, according to sources around the league, and Don Sweeney may be trying to sell a team like the Coyotes on the idea of taking on Beleskey to replace an expiring contract in Vrbata. But the simple truth is that teams across the NHL aren’t taking on players with term on their contract when they would then have to turn around and protect them in the expansion draft, or risk losing them after giving value for them at the trade deadline.
“It might just be the timing to tell you the truth,” said Sweeney. “You’ve got an expansion draft coming up and teams may just want to figure that out later on [after the trade deadline].”
As for Beleskey now, he stands ready to get back into the lineup and provide the kind of brute physicality and occasional offense that made him an effective player for the Boston Bruins last season. A knee injury this season really got in the way of his momentum, and some major third line struggles to start this season didn't help either. So Beleskey needs to find a way to make a bigger impact on the wing when he does draw back into the Black and Gold fold.
“He’s worked hard trying to get back into game shape, but [Beleskey] is not in the lineup every night and that’s tough to do when you’re not playing. We get that,” said Cassidy. “We’ve tinkered with the lineup even though we’ve won some games, and we’ve been up front about that. We’re trying to put the best 20 guys out there every night and we’ll continue to do that. When he gets back in there the message to any of those guys is ‘don’t allow me to take you back out.’ It’s as simple as we can make it.”
One thing Beleskey knows for sure is that he won’t be making any waves about not playing when the team is as hot as they’ve been winning seven of their last eight games since Bruce Cassidy took over the coaching reins. The 28-year-old just hopes he gets another chance down the stretch with the Black and Gold provided he’s still with the team once the dust settles on the trade deadline on Wednesday afternoon.