It’s getting to that time of year when North American-wide media outlets compile their lists of potential available player for the Feb. 28 trade deadline.
We all know that when Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli gets back into the trade market, he’ll be looking for help on defense. The pickings might be slim because so many teams could still be alive for playoff position and the Bruins won’t have much cap space to work with without moving a major salary off their own cap.
Over at ESPN.com, Pierre Lebrun compiled a top 10 list of players that are likely to become available as the trade deadline nears. If you ignore the urge to consider the Bruins reigniting their pursuit of Toronto’s Tomas Kaberle, the only other defenseman on Lebrun’s list is Carolina’s Joni Pitkanen.
Here’s what Lebrun writes:
There has been a lot of attention on Kaberle, but here’s a top-four blueliner who had 46 points last season. Earning $4 million this season, he’s UFA on July 1. He’s the type of puck-moving, power-play blueliner that’s always in demand. Of course, he’d only be available if the Hurricanes aren’t close to a playoff spot come Feb. 28.
I’ve had it suggested to me by numerous readers and colleagues that the Bruins should attempt to add Pitkanen. I’ve never been a huge fan and think his decision-making would be a problem in head coach Claude Julien’s system. But I could also see where he might be an upgrade. Obviously, any trade for a player of Pitkanen’s stature and cap hit would require moving Michael Ryder and picks/prospects to sweeten the pot. And also, the Hurricanes would have to fall out of contention. I think they’re a playoff team, and right now they’re just four points back of the Bruins for eighth in the Eastern Conference.
Bottom line: Lebrun’s list leaves the Bruins with nothing under their tree come late-February.
Over at AOL Fanhouse, Chris Botta obviously has an aversion to even numbers, as he has compiled nine players that could be on the block pretty soon.
Of those nine, three are defensemen: Florida’s Bryan McCabe, Edmonton’s Jim Vandermeer and New York Islanders obscene-gesturer James Wisniewski. All three are going to be UFA next summer.
Last season while he was still with Anaheim, Wisniewski’s name came up in some rumors connected to the Bruins. Now $3.25 million, plus whatever assets you give up, is probably a steep price to pay for a guy that stands at minus-22. However, the Islanders are the type of team that might be able to take back salary because they have to stay at the salary-cap floor. That could make them a Ryder landing spot if Wisniewski is deemed a solid fourth or fifth defenseman who has been victimized by playing for the laughingstock of the league.
Vandermeer is hurt right now, but is a plus-3 for a young Edmonton team that doesn’t have much of a defensive reputation. He carries a $2.3 million cap hit. After his return, Vandermeer will be the type of player many contending teams will be interested in. So the Oilers might be able to coax a little bit of a bidding war (albeit nothing astronomical), which would probably leave the Bruins either out of the running or surrendering too much than they’re usually willing to part with for a depth defenseman.
All you need to know about McCabe is this: $5.75 million cap hit. It’s too bad. For all the knocks against him as a one-dimensional offensive defenseman type, McCabe has rounded into a solid veteran who takes care of his own end and can even throw the body around a little bit. Chiarelli and Florida counterpart Dale Tallon, who are not averse to making big deals together, would have to really put their heads together to get something done involving McCabe. Those types of deals rarely come together in-season anymore because of the cap. And Boston wouldn’t want to do too much to alter its roster and risk a chemistry crisis.
Bottom line: Botta’s list is a bit more intriguing. Should the Bruins decide one more veteran is necessary on the back end, Vandermeer could land on their radar.