St. Louis

St. Louis

The Boston Bruins should definitely be looking toward Tampa Bay in an effort to make a trade.

And prying away a Lightning forward should definitely be their top priority.

But it’s not superstar center Vinny Lecavalier Boston should be targeting. No, the man the Bruins should covet usually skates off to Lecavalier’s right and is a much better fit for the Black and Gold.

The Boston Bruins should do what it takes to trade for Martin St. Louis.

Everything about St. Louis makes him more appealing for Boston, especially in contrast to Lecavalier, who’s signed for too much money and too many years, requires an acquiring team to deplete its talent stable, and plays a position that the Bruins have plenty of capable NHL stars and up-and-coming prospects to fill.

Before I get to fitting St. Louis into the Bruins’ payroll and what it would take to save him from the lowly Lightning, let’s look at why he’d be an ideal Bruin.

First off, even at 33 years old, St. Louis is having a better all-around season than Lecavalier. He leads the Lightning with 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) and is a club best plus-9 on a club that’s among the worst in the NHL in goal differential. So not only does he still have top-notch hands and speed, but he’s responsible to fit in head coach Claude Julien’s system. With just four penalty minutes on the season, St. Louis also exudes discipline.

In addition, he’s a left-shooting right-winger – an element the Bruins lack. They’ve had tons of success with Blake Wheeler playing his off wing, and Chuck Kobasew has even had some success on the left side. If you added St. Louis and put him on a line with Kobasew and Patrice Bergeron, in essence that would be your third line – imagine that. St. Louis would also help make up for the club’s sudden shortage on the right side while Phil Kessel is out sick.

St. Louis is a well-respected with great leadership qualities and Stanley Cup-winning experience. A team with goals as lofty as the Bruins’ can never have enough players that can relay the wisdom of a Cup-winner, and St. Louis could join in with Stephane Yelle, Aaron Ward and Shawn Thornton in that regard.

Now onto the nitty-gritty. St. Louis is carries a cap number (according to hockeybuzz.com) of $5.25 million for this season and the next two – a little steep, but reasonable in comparison to that $7.27 million and change Lecavalier’s employer is on the hook for well into the next decade.

The Bruins have $3.5 million of Marco Sturm’s LTIR space to play with along with a little bit of room currently under the cap. So fitting St. Louis would require just dealing one reasonably compensated roster player and then maybe keeping just 12 forwards around on a regular basis rather than having a spare player around weighing on the cap. Beyond this season, when Sturm’s money is back on the cap, the Bruins could deal with the situation in any number of ways, including possibly dealing Sturm or St. Louis. They don’t want to commit too much to salary for next season with Kessel and David Krejci both due healthy raises as restricted free agents, but this is a rare chance to strike while the iron is hot and go for the Cup.

If we know one thing for sure, it’s that the Lightning will be looking for players that fit in two  categories – young and inexpensive. The Bruins have plenty of that to offer, and any deal would probably have to start with the inclusion of Mark Stuart, with a cap hit of $1.3 million this season and next. Based on St. Louis’ age and the Lightning’s dire financial straits, it’s might not take more than that. Maybe a second- or third-round pick. Maybe a mid-level forward prospect such as Byron Bitz or Martins Karsums. Perhaps instead of defense, the Lightning would want better forward, and Zach Hamill or the rights to Joe Colborne could land onthe table. Maybe they would take Matt Lashoff in Stuart’s place. But trading from their top six would make it easier for the Bruins once Andrew Ference and Ward are healthy. That’s also probably why you wait until the March 4 deadline and you’re 100 percent Ward and Ference can be around for the long haul before making a deal.

A bigger deal involving Manny Fernandez going to a third team, Olie Kolzig (just a $2.5 million cap hit for this season only) coming to the Hub from Tampa with St. Louis and the Lightning pulling in even more young talent and draft picks is just too grand for me to digest. And the Bruins would be foolish to break up the Tim Thomas-Fernandez duo … but that’s a topic for another column.

All the Bruins have to do is wait until the timing is right and then play “Let’s Make a Deal” with Tampa Bay. Only they have to divert their eyes from the direction some want them to look and go after St. Louis glance to the right where St. Louis resides.