The Boston Bruins have a lot of options to consider before the April 3 trade deadline, but given general manager Peter Chiarelli's history of deadline moves, we can expect the Northeast Division leaders to make a deal or two.
The question is: Will Chiarelli make a move for a superstar player or a small deal to add depth? He's done both in the past with mixed results.
During the Bruins' championship season of 2010-11, he made a big trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs for Tomas Kaberle, but the veteran defenseman did not make the kind of impact offensively that was expected of him.
Chiarelli also made two separate trades for third-line forwards Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley in 2011. Both players have excelled in their roles since arriving in Boston and signed contract extensions last season.
With not much available at last year's deadline, Chiarelli made a few small moves instead of acquiring a top-six forward to replace injured winger Nathan Horton, and the Bruins were upset in the first round of the playoffs.
Since the Bruins are a favorite to win the Eastern Conference this season, one trade could help the team win its second title in three years. With a possible $12 million in salary cap space available to the Bruins (if Marc Savard is put on LTIR), there are so many moves the team could make to strengthen its roster for the playoffs.
"It doesn't mean we'll go out and get somebody now because we have cap space," Chiarelli said last week. "But if there are good deals that come early, you have to be in the ballgame. We're in the ballgame now. That was the proactive approach that we wanted to take here."
Let's analyze the moves that Chiarelli could make at the deadline, and determine which ones makes the most sense.
Acquire a Star Forward
The Bruins' 28th ranked power play needs a boost, and acquiring a star forward with strong play-making and goal-scoring skills would help Boston become more dangerous with the man advantage.
This team doesn't need a top power play to be successful (a mediocre one would be a huge improvement), it just can't be one of the worst in the league.
The Bruins' power play won't get better until they add another elite player to the roster because head coach Claude Julien has tried so many different line combinations and strategies, with none of them producing successful results on a consistent basis.
Two players that come to mind that may be available before the deadline are Anaheim Ducks star Corey Perry and Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla, both of whom are wingers in the final years of their contracts.
Perry is eight years younger, and has started the season slowly with one goal and five assists in 12 games. However, he is a world-class talent and has averaged 35 goals over the past five seasons. In addition to his incredible offensive skills, Perry kills penalties, excels in a physical style of play and will drop the gloves and fight if needed.
Iginla is a player who is often linked to the Bruins because he's a power forward, and someone who could leave his current team in pursuit of a Stanley Cup championship—similar to what former Bruins defenseman Ray Bourque did with the Colorado Avalanche in 2000.
The Flames star has not played well this season with just one goal in 11 games. He's also not playing with the same high competitive level and intensity that we normally see from him. Iginla has been a second-half player his entire career, but Perry would be a better option for the Bruins because he brings more speed and offensive skill to the ice.
TSN's Pierre LeBrun shared his own thoughts regarding any possible interest between the Bruins and Iginla on Wednesday.
Perry is the kind of player who the Bruins may consider re-signing at the end of the season if they trade for him because he's in the prime of his career, and one of the top two-way wingers in the league. If Iginla hit free agency, it would be surprising if the Bruins were the highest bidder since Chiarelli is responsible for deciding which veterans to give "big money" to.
With that said, Perry is the Bruins' best option if they want to acquire a top-six forward before the deadline.
Acquire an Offensive Defenseman
The answer to the Bruins' power-play struggles might be found on the blue line, and since the team lacks an elite offensive defenseman, acquiring this kind of player should definitely be an option for Chiarelli to consider.
Boston's most talented offensive defenseman is rookie Dougie Hamilton, whose performance has declined a bit following his strong start to the season. He has zero points and a plus/minus rating of minus-three in his last six games.
Finding a puck-moving defenseman who can help the Bruins' transition game and quarterback the power play should be a priority for Boston if someone like Perry is unavailable or the asking prices for top-tier forwards are too high.
There are two options for the Bruins if they want to search for a blue-line upgrade. They can pursue a young star such as Keith Yandle of the Phoenix Coyotes, or a veteran like Ryan Whitney of the Edmonton Oilers.
Yandle is an elite offensive player whose vision and shot from the point would be valuable additions to the power play.
It would probably take several quality assets to acquire Yandle from Phoenix, so it's unlikely that the Bruins would make a deal for the 26-year-old unless they parted with a player such as David Krejci, which wouldn't be smart.
The best option for the Bruins if they want to add a defenseman at the deadline is to acquire Whitney, who, like Yandle, was born in Massachusetts. Whitney has been a healthy scratch a few times over the last two weeks due to his poor performance at both ends of the ice, but he is a good skater and passes the puck well in all three zones.
The 29-year-old veteran has zero goals and three assists through 10 games, but a change of scenery would probably benefit him. Going from a young and inexperienced team that isn't a real contender to a veteran squad that is a favorite to win the Stanley Cup would give Whitney plenty of motivation and incentive to play at a high level.
Acquiring Whitney would likely cost a lot less than trading for Yandle, so if the Bruins want to add depth to their blue line for the playoffs, the Oilers defenseman is a good player to target.
Acquire a Depth Player
The Bruins may not be able to trade for a star forward, and since defenseman will be coveted by so many teams near the deadline, acquiring a depth player might be Chiarelli's only option to improve his roster.
The third-line left wing spot needs an upgrade since Chris Bourque has failed to impress this season, tallying only one goal and an assist through 10 games. He's also made little to no impact on the team's power play.
Ryan Clowe (San Jose Sharks), Derek Roy (Dallas Stars) Stephen Weiss (Florida Panthers) and Ales Hemsky (Edmonton Oilers) would all be good fits on Boston's third line, and only Hemsky has a contract that doesn't expire this summer.
If the Bruins choose not to make a major trade, upgrading the third-line left wing position would be the most effective way to strengthen the roster.
Keep Current Roster Intact, Use Cap Space to Re-sign Upcoming Free Agents
The Bruins have a few key players eligible for free agency this summer, so don't be surprised if Chiarelli doesn't make a major move at the deadline so he can re-sign some of his upcoming free agents.
Here is a list of Bruins players who can become free agents on July 5:
|Player||POS||2012-13 Salary Cap Hit||Age||FA Status (UFA/RFA)|
|Andrew Ference||D||$2.25 million||33||UFA|
|Nathan Horton||RW||$4.0 million||27||UFA|
|Tuukka Rask||G||$3.5 million||25||RFA|
Rask and Horton will cost the Bruins at least $4.5 million to re-sign, and both players could make well over $5 million, especially Rask since he's a legitimate No. 1 goaltender and only 25 years old. Chiarelli talked about re-signing his starting netminder last week.
"If you’re asking me will we do an extension on Tuukka during the season, I don’t comment on that stuff. But, we’ve extended guys before during the season, I’ll leave that at that."
The Bruins signed quite a few players in the middle of last season, including defenseman Johnny Boychuk and forward Rich Peverley. This is a smart strategy because allowing players to hit the open market or sign offer sheets increases your chances of losing them.
Don't be surprised if the Bruins decide to re-sign their own players instead of making an impact trade at the deadline, which isn't a bad idea because the salary cap will go down about $6 million next season when the ceiling is set at $64.3 million.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. He has also covered the Boston Bruins since the 2010-11 season. Follow him on Twitter. All quotes obtained firsthand. Salary information courtesy of Capgeek.