Written by Grant Cumming who can be found on twitter @TheRealG_Rant
For the Boston Bruins, the chemistry is set. The team that launched duck boats through the streets of Boston last June is primarily still intact. Save for the retired Mark Recchi , now Dallas Star Michael Ryder and the suddenly well-traveled Tomas Kaberle, the team is primed to start the playoffs with a very similar look to that of the 2011 Cup Champions. Only Joe Corvo and Benoit Pouliot are new to the B’s this season, supplying them with the depth required after losing the three veterans mentioned.
Last season GM Peter Chiarelli swung February deals that brought Rich Peverley, Chris Kelly and Kaberle to Boston, shoring up on depth which proved to be very valuable to the team down the stretch. This season however the Bruins appear to be approaching the deadline with less urgency. Caution being the operative word.
“That’s probably my priority when I look to add something,” Chiarelli said. “I do want to add something, and I’d like to help the team. I’d like to add to our depth. But that’s a priority. It’s a fine balance with chemistry and you have to be careful.”
Adding to the depth of the Bruins likely entails acquiring a bottom 6 forward and a 6th or 7th Defenseman. One situation they will have to monitor leading up to the deadline is the health of first line winger Nathan Horton. He has been sidelined since suffering a concussion on Jan 22 in Philadelphia. Horton scored two game 7 series clenching goals last spring before suffering a season ending concussion (this current setback now being his second in seven months) in game 3 of the Stanley Cup finals.
“I expect him to be back. He’s progressing, and I would think he’d be back,” Chiarelli said of Horton. “In the back of my head, it’s that he may be something that we have to replace, but I would expect him to be back. But we look at players and say, ‘Hey, maybe this player could add to our depth, but maybe he’d have to play a certain spot, too,’ like Horton’s spot.”
Complicating matters more is the loss of speedy winger Rich Peverley, who is out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks after injuring his knee in Montreal Feb 15th. If it’s determined that the B’s need secondary scoring help, Chiarelli may have to look at adding a scoring winger. Easier said than done however with so many teams still believing they have a shot at the playoffs. With asking prices set high, the B’s may be wise to not overspend and count on a healthy Horton and Peverley returning before April.
Losing Perverley will hurt the Bruins well balanced attack. Though not a big time goal scorer, Peverley does bring speed and some slick stick work to whichever line Claude Julien assigns him. He has spent time on the B’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd lines this year, along with power-play duty. Though he should be back before the playoffs begin, the moves the Bruins execute in the coming days may be a direct result of this injury.
Anyone thinking the Bruins will trade Tuukka Rask or Tim Thomas before February 27 is grasping at ideas. The goaltending duo are the backbone of the team and with the Bruins on a win one – lose one stretch, either goalie could take over the starter job heading into the playoffs. The idea of trading Rask to Columbus in an attempt to land Rick Nash should be forgotten. Rask is the future goalie in Boston and trading him away with only one year left on 37 year old Tim Thomas’ contract would be a critical error by Chiarelli and Co. He isn’t going anywhere. Tim Thomas may not like the White House, but he sure loves to compete. I anticipate Thomas once again at the helm of the Bruins net when the playoffs begin.
As of Monday February 27, the Bruins will have $ 13,222,371 in cap room. Plenty for the team to work with if they choose to add scoring help with the likes of a Ray Whitney or Teemu Selanne. Both would bring veteran leadership the team lost when Recchi called it a career. Both huge maybe’s when it comes to being available at all however. With Marc Savard on the LTIR, the Bruins have the right dollar figure to be active and even land a big name. The question is do they give up the assets to obtain such an impact player. My guess is no, since most teams would inquire about defenseman Dougie Hamilton whom the bruins drafted last summer with the final draft pick obtained from Toronto in the Phil Kessel trade. He is expected to challenge for a roster spot next year and has an excellent mentor named Zdeno Chara waiting to introduce him to the NHL. Along with Rask and Tyler Seguin, Hamilton will be part of the Bruins future and won’t be moved.
Possible players on the Bruins list (some teams have said certain players are not available, but I included them anyways as things may change): Ray Whitney and Adrian Aucoin of the Coyotes, Teemu Selanne of the Ducks, Ryan Smyth of the Oilers, Ryan Malone and Pavel Kubina of the Lightning, Bryan Allen and Jaroslav Spacek of the Hurricanes and Mike Knuble of the Capitals.