It's Your Move, Pete: Bruins Prepare for Trade Deadline
The hub of hockey is a bit trigger-happy these days.
Since the first week of hockey season back in October, Boston has been at the center of trade rumors. These rumors range from 'possible' through 'unlikely' all the way to 'ridiculous'.
However, fans have the right to be jumpy. Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli has been rather conservative in the last couple of seasons when it comes to trades, most notably opting to keep the Bruins' locker room intact over acquiring a "rental" at last season's deadline.
Beyond the front office's decisions, the Bs are battling their way out of a slump while staying in contention for a deep playoff run. This has all Bruins fans cautiously optimistic. Does this team have all the right tools in place to bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston?
Sifting through the dozens of blogs about possible trades is a task that I wouldn't wish upon a Habs fan. So, I'll break it down into three categories: possible, unlikely, and ridiculous.
Marco Sturm's absence has become apparent as of late. His left-handed shot has been missed on the power play, not to mention his leadership.
It's no secret Boston has been looking to fill that role until Sturm comes back next season. Chiarelli has said he is open to the idea of acquiring a late-season "rental" if the price is right.
"It's something we look at long and hard, especially since there are players out there that can give you an immediate impact in certain situations." Chiarelli elaborated.
So, who have the Bruins set their sights on? The two main contenders are Erik Cole and Keith Tkachuk.
Cole hasn't really fit into Edmonton's system, filling only the "underachiever" role in his time there, while Tkachuk has expressed interest in returning to his home state.
For these deals to work, the Bs could be parting ways with the likes of Vladimir Sobotka, Matt Lashoff, Jeremy Reich, or Petteri Nokelainen, as well as a draft pick.
With Byron Bitz fitting into Boston's system quite well, Nokelainen has become expendable. Reich and Sobotka are both having trouble recapturing their play of last season, while Lashoff just hasn't panned out as expected.
Reports are saying that Cole is telling friends he expects to be a Bruin soon, while others are reporting a Tkachuk deal is more likely. Whatever the end result, it's an interesting scenario to watch unfold.
Unlikely Scenario: Manny Fernandez
Back in the season's first few months, the one-two punch of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez was stopping anything that came within 10 feet within the crease. Since then Thomas has (once again) established himself as the Bs starter, and many fans are calling for a Fernandez trade.
This will not happen and Chiarelli has reiterated this fact, as recently as Monday.
"I'm happy with our goaltending duo right now," Chiarelli said. "I think it's a position of strength as we go forward in the playoffs."
When a team has a goaltender as acrobatic and entertaining as the 34-year-old Thomas, the risk of injury is higher than most teams. If Fernandez is out of the picture, then the Bruins are one awkward dive away from 21-year-old Tuuka Rask leading this team into the playoffs.
We all know Rask has a bright future in the NHL. His shutout against the Rangers in late January proved that. But his playoff collapse in the American Hockey League last season isn't the most comforting set of statistics.
Every season there seems to be analysts whose main source is their Playstation. But for whatever reason, people buy into their "insights" and add fuel to the fire.
Chiarelli will not be trading Phil Kessel. Nor will we see Marc Savard depart Boston. Kessel was a projected part of a deal that would have brought Marian Hossa to Boston last season. But Chiarelli thought better of the situation, realizing the potential the 21-year-old has, and opted out of it.
That was a good move, as Kessel has 25 goals, and 20 assists in 55 games. If Chiarelli didn't trade him last year (when his 82 game totals were 19 goals and 18 assists), why would he throw a wrench in the Bruins' offense by doing so this year?
And despite what Harry Sinden says, Marc Savard is one of the most important figures in Boston's offense. With 67 points thus far, any scenario where Savard is traded is a loss for the Bruins.
What to Expect
Bruins fans can expect to see a trade this year, but nothing major.
Boston basically just needs a slight tune-up to make a serious push for the Stanley Cup. Trading younger players and a pick for a seasoned veteran with playoff experience could turn out to be a great move for Chiarelli and the Bs.
As the calendar approaches March 4, you can expect the Garden's war room to be a high-stress enviornment. But, if there's anything Bruins fans have learned in the last few seasons, it's that in Chiarelli we trust.
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