Both parties concerned, the Boston Bruins and Columbus Blue Jackets faithful alike, should be grateful that the talk of a Tuukka Rask-Rick Nash swap has vanished as quickly as a snowflake in above-freezing temperatures.
The latest widespread reports have Columbus general manager Scott Howson affirming that his captain and leaned-on puckslinger is staying put. Just as well, for a deal like the one suggested around the time of Thursday’s Boston-Columbus bout would frankly have proved inconvenient for both teams.
Perhaps Columbus could make good use of Rask, but the unadulterated benefits would end right there.
It makes little sense for the floundering Blue Jackets to seek solutions by parting with their former first overall draft choice and two-time 40-plus goal scorer. And even if they did make such an ice-shattering swap with anybody, it would likely require more than one personality in return.
For the Bruins, Rask alone is too much to give up. And regardless of whom they could reel in as compensation for the younger half of their reliable goaltending tandem, the loss and the gain alike would all but certainly come off as an attempt to fix what is not broken.
Besides the need to scramble for a readily certifiable insurance policy to go along with Tim Thomas in the crease, discharging Rask and integrating a player of Nash’s caliber would mean an overwhelming overhaul on the depth chart.
Should Boston wish to make any deals designed to modify its offense, the only way to go is to find somebody who could logically and willingly accept an assignment to the third or fourth line. To proclaim the obvious, Nash is not that breed of player.
There is simply no sense in altering Boston’s top-six landscape at this time. Not with the youthful and fruitful Tyler Seguin-Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand unit just in its burgeoning phases and the Nathan Horton-David Krejci-Milan Lucic troika still holding out hope of consistency.
The latter line, in particular, should be allotted more time to put forth a formula with a longer shelf life. Horton and Krejci have only just dissipated the aftermath of their respective injuries and the entire unit appeared a little stale in the latter half of a protracted homestand that ended on Thursday. The same held true for Seguin and the forthcoming road trip could be the key to a prompt reawakening.
If there is anything the Bruins do still want to shore up, it would be, drum roll please...their power play. With a 10-for-61 (16.4 percent) conversion rate and much of that production coming against the league’s most flawed penalty-killing brigades, a new special teams contributor likely could not hurt.
Accordingly, the most ideal acquisition would be one who could simultaneously assume a reasonable assignment to the lower echelon of the depth chart and be ready to step up on a man-advantage.
Of those whose names are still circulating in NHL trade talk, two players have the means to fit that description. Both Calgary’s Rene Bourque and the Blue Jackets’ Derick Brassard have logged respectable power-play output over the last two seasons.
Last year, Bourque and Brassard both tallied six extra-man goals, a bushel outweighed by only two Bruins in defenseman Zdeno Chara and departed free-agent forward Michael Ryder. Among Boston’s 2010-11 roster, their 15 and 16 power-play points, respectively, were met or exceeded only by Chara and the now-retired Mark Recchi.
It should be cautioned, though, that there is no telling how much Bourque’s and Brassard’s numbers can be attributed to their respective alliances with the genuinely celestial Jarome Iginla and Nash.
Bourque’s size and seasoning are also particularly enticing, giving him an upper hand on Brassard. His 6'2", 213-pound build could make him an effective checking-liner and a space-maker in all situations in the attacking. And as he approaches the age of 30 on Dec. 10, the veteran of 411 NHL games is more mature than the bulk of the Boston strike force, yet his brightest days are not likely behind him.
The exact impact that either Bourque or Brassard could make is tough to gauge. Most likely, if a deal were made meticulously enough, the worst-case scenario would be no effect.
With that being said, making a move in the near future or later in the season ought to depend, first and foremost, on the cost. If it means sacrificing one or two Providence players, a couple of established Bostonians who are not exactly minute-munchers or a combination, it has potential.
But if any proposition means relinquishing Rask or a top-half forward or blueliner, general manager Peter Chiarelli should veto it.
There has been some talk that Krejci will not be a career Bruin with Seguin looking at a long-term future as a pivot. But for the here and now, namely at least the balance of the 2011-12 season, Seguin has too good a foundation as a winger on his line with Bergeron and Marchand.
Likewise, to reiterate, Krejci ought to have a chance to foster his potential with Horton and Lucic.
As for the power play, improved results may ultimately require nothing more than persistent work with all of the top six forwards and their associate point patrollers.
For the better part of his Boston tenure, Chiarelli has repeatedly handled prospective trades with outstanding diligence, making the absolutely necessary transactions and eschewing gross breaches of his ecosystem.
That approach has enabled the Bruins to go from affirming their status as bona fide playoff contenders in 2007-08 to championship contenders in 2010-11.
Where they are now, with a fresh banner on the ceiling and the worst of their hangover behind them, there is no sense in Chiarelli deviating from his character trait now.
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