There’s only one move that general manager Peter Chiarelli could make that would not only improve his team’s chances at winning the Stanley Cup and raise the Bruins and the city’s Q rating.
And he should really do all he can to make this happen: trade for Ottawa center Mike Fisher, who’s one half of hockey’s biggest-name celebrity couple along with country music star Carrie Underwood.
Today CapGeek.com explained that the Bruins will have about $4 million of cap room at the trade deadline to replace Marc Savard now that the star center is on LTIR. And Chiarelli acknowledged that he is going to be looking to make some moves that will fill Savard’s spot as best as the team can.
“I’ve said this on numerous occasions, we’ve built the team down the middle, or strength down the middle with our centermen. Obviously, there’ll be a gap now,” said the GM. “So we’re going to have to look to fill that gap. We’re not going to be able to replace Marc. So we’re going to have to be a little more diligent and see what’s out there. Right now, we’re looking at Zach Hamill up the middle. [We] don’t know if he’s the answer or not. We want to go far in the playoffs and we want some experience too, so … we’re obviously going to have some flexibility now with replacement players so we’ll, in the next few weeks prior to the trade deadline, we’ll be busy.”
Let me start by saying we don’t know for sure that Ottawa would deal Fisher, who is 30 and holds a partial no-trade clause. The team is definitely looking to move veterans. But they’re more apt to move some of their older, potential unrestricted free agents (Chris Phillips for example) in an attempt to rebuild than move a cornerstone player like Fisher. That’s why the Bruins should put the Senators in a position where they can’t say know to dealing their hard-working center.
With a $4.2 million cap hit and a contract that extends two more seasons after this, Fisher might be a tight fit, especially beyond this season. But there are so many reasons why he’s worth the risk involved in giving up assets for him and having him on your payroll beyond this year.
This season, Fisher has been victimized by playing on a dreadful Ottawa team that has spent a large chunk of time without No. 1 center Jason Spezza. Fisher’s 14 goals (24 points) in 53 games are off his pace of a year ago, when he set a career high with 25 goals and 53 points. He’s also a minus-15. Put this guy on a team with the Bruins’ depth, and those numbers would get right back on track.
The great McKeen’s Hockey Pool Yearbook tells you all you need to know about Fisher and why he’d fit into Boston’s short-term and long-term plans like a hand into a glove. This line from the McKeen’s scouting report sums it up:
“Speedy, gritty workhorse inspires teammates with his unparalleled work habits and consistent physical presence.”
Sure, he’s not the power-play point-producer that would replace Savard one for one, but that’s where David Krejci and Patrice Bergeron would have to continue to elevate their games. With the way he’s been scoring lately, Bergeron deserves less of a defensive burden, which Fisher could take on.
Many still think the Bruins should still direct their attentions on the trade market to the defense corps, and there’s no doubt they still need to sure up things back there. But there’s no reason why they can’t both upgrade on defense and fill in for Savard with something better than a combination of Zach Hamill, Blake Wheeler and Tyler Seguin. They have plenty of draft picks and prospects to dazzle would-be partners.
The Senators aren’t going to part with Fisher cheaply. They’d probably want two prospects and a high draft pick, or two picks and one prospect. Heck, Hamill could already be auditioning for the Sens and the rest of the league. With the window for the Bruins to make a Cup run while many of their players are peaking and other teams are dealing with their own questions marks (Philadelphia’s goaltender) and injuries (Pittsburgh’s missing centermen — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin), Boston has to consider trading any of the draft picks they own for next season other than Toronto’s first-rounder, and maybe even a prospect they’re high on. Guys like Joe Colborne, Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight and Max Sauve have been impressive at their individual levels of development, but the Bruins have to start think more of the here and now rather than 2013.
While it might seem like overkill to have Fisher signed beyond this season, think about the Bruins if Savard doesn’t come back. Or maybe Savard returns, and suddenly you have a glut of centerman. At least the Bruins can say they took their best shot to win in ’11 and then just make a trade in the fall to clear the pile-up at the position.
Even if Fisher were married to Joan Rivers, pursuing his services would be more than worth it for Boston’s title chances. That he would come to Boston with a wife who almost automatically takes over as the town’s best-looking babe is just another perk of the trade.
For everything he could do to help the Bruins this season and beyond, on and off the ice, Mike Fisher should be the team’s target No. 1.
Here’s a look at some other centers skating for teams that should be sellers between now and the trade deadline:
Chris Kelly, Ottawa
$2.125 cap hit this year & next
The consolation prize if you can’t land Fisher, Kelly doesn’t have as much offensive upside (or bring as great a spouse). However, he’s a responsible defensive player with a solid work ethic.
Jason Arnott, New Jersey
$4.5 cap hit, UFA this summer
The veteran has dealt with his share of injuries the last several years and his production has dropped off. But he has won a Stanley Cup and would add the size Boston’s missing down the middle (he’s 6-foot-5, 220 pounds).
Stephen Weiss, Florida
$3.1 million cap hit, plus two more seasons
Would a reunion with his old Florida running mate inspire Nathan Horton? The Bruins might be willing to find out. Panthers general manager Dale Talllon strikes a hard bargain though, and he might be looking at Weiss as a guy he’s going to continue his rebuild around.
Brad Richards, Dallas
$7.8 million cap hit, UFA this summer
This is the guy that would take the most to acquire, and I’m talking the Stars would ask for a David Krejci or Tyler Seguin in return — and that defeats the purpose of trading for a center, especially one that’s a free agent after this season. The longer the Stars stay near the top of the West, they less likely they are to move Richards anyway.
Tim Connolly, Buffalo
$4.5 million cap hit, UFA this summer
Everything Fisher is, Connolly isn’t. He’s always been a crafty playmaker and solid power-play producer when healthy. He’s probably too soft and deficient defensively to fit into the Bruins’ lineup, especially considering what Buffalo would ask for in return.