Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has now said a couple times since he completed the Marco Sturm trade over the weekend that he’s going to lay low and see how the team fares over the next few weeks.
That means he’s not in a rush to get another trade done before Sunday’s NHL holiday trade freeze.
Of course, once Chiarelli turns up the heat in pursuit of trades, everyone expects him to be in the market for help on defense. There have been several potential trade partners speculated about in various reports over the last several weeks, so I decided to look at the defense depth and cap situations of a few of those teams to see what could await the Bruins between the end of the roster freeze and the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
What I found was that for the Bruins to add an NHL defenseman and stay cap compliant (they’re right up against the ceiling), they’re going to have to take a risk on a down-trending player that they consider has potential for a turnaround, or part with someone off their roster they probably don’t really want to deal (particularly up front). Basically, they’re going to need courage.
I ruled out the availability of a prime-time, $4-million-per-year puck-mover based on teams rarely trading those guys in-season and the amount of cap space the Bruins would have to clear.
As always, all contract numbers are courtesy of the Chiarelli-endorsed CapGeek.com.
There are all kinds of reasons why I doubt Keith Yandle would really be in play. I won’t devote a lot of space to them, except to say that talks for Yandle would probably start with Phoenix asking for David Krejci and they’d probably end there.
Now the only other two defensemen I see in the desert that might be available are Adrian Aucoin and Sami Lepisto. Aucoin makes $2 million and has one more year left on his deal, while Lepisto makes just $800,000 and is RFA this season. Aucoin has struggled this year after a bounce-back last season but is 37. Lepisto would give the Bruins yet another undersized back-liner.
Bottom line: You’re not parting with a top-six forward for Aucoin or Lepisto, unless Phoenix really thinks Daniel Paille has been untapped. Maybe Phoenix would want to do a swap of Lepisto for someone like Jeff Penner or Andrew Bodnarchuk. The trade trail goes kind of cold in the Valley.
We’ve heard Matt Niskanen’s name tossed around a ton. He has three points this year after suffering a 20-point drop-off last season. Basically, he’s Dallas’ Matt Hunwick. Only the Bruins can’t pick him up for a middle-range prospect because of the cap. Dallas would have to be interested in Paille or a trade would have to expand to include other players and the money would have to be almost even.
Trevor Daley would make more sense to me, if the Bruins would be willing to let him freelance a bit to punch up the offense. He’s a UFA after this season and carries a $2.3 million cap hit.
Bottom line: If Dallas is ready to give up on Niskanen, I could see the Bruins getting him — but would he help? The Stars’ ownership situation probably precludes them from adding payroll, so I wouldn’t expect them to be able to take on a Michael Ryder-type contract for someone like Daley.
It seems like Kevin Bieska permanently lives on the trading block. He’s a UFA after this season and makes $3.75 million, so he seems to be the most expendable of the Canucks’ defenseman, especially once Sami Salo returns. With that cap hit, you know what that means — out of Boston’s league. Even with a prospect for sweetener, the Bruins would have a tough time doing this move. The Canucks are also right up against the cap, so they’d be looking to shed some salary.
Bottom line: Salo is still a ways away. With Vancouver so deep, I still haven’t figured out why the Canucks would want to deal Bieksa — unless they’re scared off by his production drop-off.
St. Louis Blues
Veterans Eric Brewer or Barrett Jackman, with a cap hit of $4.25 and $3.75 million, respectively, might be able to help the Bruins. The Blues are always reportedly interested in Blake Wheeler to add to their solid stable of young forwards. But both Brewer and Jackman have no-trade clauses. It’s highly unlikely either waves his. The oft-injured Carlo Colaiacovo would fit the bill for Boston if they’re willing to pay $2.125 million this year and next for a young guy who’s always in and out of the lineup. Roman Polak might’ve been an interesting trade chip were he not out indefinitely after wrist surgery.
Bottom line: The Blues would probably have to decide they’re not going for it (a playoff berth) in order to part with a backliner that’d help the Bruins in exchange for someone the Bruins would be willing to deal.
This is just a sampling of the teams that always come up when you discuss Bruins and trades. The pickings are slim. Personally, I might focus my attention more toward two divisional rivals as the trade deadline gets closer. Should Ottawa and/or Buffalo decide they’re not in the playoff hunt, maybe Chris Campoli or Steve Montador (in a return engagement) could provide some veteran insurance for the stretch run and postseason. Campoli carries just a $1.4 million cap hit, while Montador is at $1.5. Those are additions the Bruins could make simpler than anything mentioned above.
Or the Bruins could stand pat and hope that with a healthy Mark Stuart and with Adam McQuaid and Steve Kampfer gaining NHL experience, they have enough on their back end to play within the system and make a march through the playoffs.