Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli appeared on Thursday morning’s installment of Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub, the team’s flagship radio station. In his 16-minute chat, he brought the hosts and their listeners up to speed on players’ health, Tim Thomas’ unorthodox move and how those impact plans for summer transactions.
Chiarelli indicated that he plans to counteract Thomas’ cap hit by placing Marc Savard on long-term injured reserve. Meanwhile, another leaned-on forward, Nathan Horton, is ostensibly going to come back from his concussion in time to resume making an impact at the start of next season.
With Horton in the equation and all of the free-agent re-signings up to this point, the Bruins officially have a quorum of 12 forwards, six defensemen and two goalies under contract and raring to play in 2012-13.
A spare skater at each position, especially an established NHL forward, is still desirable with or without Horton. And if Chiarelli is true to his word from late April, he will seek to add to the offense without substantial subtraction.
That, and the two other priorities he must tackle in the coming months are as follows:
A year after defying their shortage of special-teams proficiency en route to the Stanley Cup, the Bruins conspicuously ailed from the departures of Mark Recchi and Michael Ryder. The retired Recchi had led the team in the 2010-11 regular season with 17 power-play points, while the free agent Ryder tied Zdeno Chara with eight man-up goals.
Without those two, the Bruins posted 43 power-play goals for the second straight regular season. In seven playoff bouts with Washington, they reaped two measly conversions en route to an overtime loss in the rubber game, the seventh straight one-goal decision.
And even when they had Recchi and Ryder in 2011, the Bruins were clearly missing Savard, who supplied 80 goals and 212 assists on the power-play in 807 career NHL games.
Anything the Bruins can get that is remotely close to a bona fide replacement for Savard would serve them well. It would not only embolden the man-up brigade, but also allow them to restructure the depth chart and keep the likes of Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley on the third line, where they will have more realistic expectations.
The Providence Bruins have missed each of the last three Calder Cup playoffs. In each of those three years, no one has tallied more than 23 goals or 50 points for them and the development of such players as Jamie Arniel, Carter Camper and Max Sauve has been stunted.
One part of the problem has been an incessant injury bug. Another part was a defensive corps that was young, even by AHL standards. But for the Bruins organization as a whole, as evidenced by what happened when that same injury bug bit in Boston, the parent club needs a more dependable stock of prospects to dip into when emergencies arise.
Even if some of the new minor-leaguers are not necessarily projected to graduate to The Show, they can at least be relied upon to make their Providence teammates better, and therefore, better prepared to offer reinforcement in times of need.
Chiarelli has already made one promising move by swapping out Zach Hamill to Washington in favor of Chris Bourque. But it will take more than one individual move to create a more stable farm system.
Even if he does not execute, let alone disclose this by the end of the summer, finding a way to relieve his organization of the Thomas troubles should be a priority for Chiarelli.
Thomas could stick to his word and take the 2012-13 campaign off before attempting a return to the league. Or he might, at some point, decide to try to step back in earlier, whether that would be at the start or in the midst of the coming season.
There is plenty of time for any new developments, so Chiarelli needs to be prepared for anything and he needs to take a stand, for the betterment of the team, to impose the snooze-and-lose adage on Thomas. He needs to look into potential deals that will relieve the team of the goalie’s $5 million cap hit and his growing inclination to pose a distraction.
If another team is comfortable taking on Thomas and pleasing all parties concerned, the Bruins ought to receive at least a minor (no pun intended) reward. Chiarelli might be able to tackle the Thomas issue and the AHL issue all at once.