Ranking the 5 Worst Boston Bruins Trades in the Peter Chiarelli Era so Far
With the NHL’s roster freeze set to let up this Sunday, Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli’s respite from scrutiny is raring to run out. That is, if he was entitled to such a thing to begin with.
Inaugurated, as it were, in July of 2006, Chiarelli is approaching the eight-and-a-half-year mark in his current post. With everything he has done for the franchise so far, he warrants nothing less than the ongoing pressure that comes from the rampant trade talk.
For the first time in recent memory, the Bruins are no lock for the postseason. Part of that is due to a couple of questionable decisions their GM has made in the last year-plus. Lately, the sacrifices have ceased to differ from the gains for the better, which has arguably translated to the team’s current record of 18-14-3.
On the whole, Chiarelli has clearly made more favorable trades than not since taking office in Boston. With that said, his tenure could be at a crossroads because some of his latest swaps rank among his least successful.
Here is a look back at the five biggest blemishes on Chiarelli’s transcript, some of which have directly put him in his current need for redemption.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via NHL.com.
5. Joe Colborne, Rickard Rakell for Tomas Kaberle
Most of Chiarelli’s shopping in mid-February 2011 yielded pieces of instant gratification at its finest.
Granted, Ottawa import Chris Kelly has not made the same ripples lately as he did in the 2011 playoffs or 2011-12 regular season. Likewise, Blake Wheeler, sacrificed for Rich Peverley, has benefited his new employer in Winnipeg in the long run. But Kelly and Peverley formed enough chemistry to give the Bruins crucial depth in their successful Stanley Cup run.
That championship, however, was more or less in spite of Tomas Kaberle. Game 7 of that year’s final round was Kaberle’s final twirl with Boston, after which he changed crests two more times before 2011 gave way to 2012.
The veteran pivot came from Toronto in the other winter deal in exchange for then-AHLer Joe Colborne and a pick for the next entry draft.
In a separate deal, the Maple Leafs gave that pick to Anaheim, which used it to take Rickard Rakell at 30th overall. Now in his first full NHL season, Rakell has chipped in eight points in 25 games, doubling his 18-game output from last year.
Meanwhile, despite missing half of the schedule so far, the late-blooming Colborne has nine points for Calgary through 18 games played in 2014-15.
On an alternate path, perhaps the Bruins would have fostered one or both of these young forwards into the kind of depth strikers they need right now. Instead, they effectively relinquished both for a relatively uneventful rental of Kaberle, championship aside.
4. Kris Versteeg for Brandon Bochenski
Although he had yet to debut in the NHL, Kris Versteeg was better than a point-per-gamer with Providence at the time of his export to the Hawks. By the time he was ready for full-time NHL duty, Chicago was ready to launch its powerhouse persona as everyone knows it today.
Versteeg posted back-to-back 20-goal regular seasons for the Blackhawks in 2008-09 and 2009-10. With his help, both of those seasons culminated in a journey to the conference final, including a Stanley Cup victory in 2010.
In exchange, the Bruins imported Brandon Bochenski, who has never played more than half of a full-length NHL schedule. He logged an 11-goal, 11-assist, 31-game sugar rush down the stretch of 2006-07, but that was the extent of his impact in Boston.
Bochenski would see action as a Bruin, a Duck and a Predator in 2007-08, then split the next two seasons between Tampa Bay and Norfolk of the AHL. By the time the Bruins finished their multiyear journey from the cellar to the summit, Bochenski was carrying on his career overseas.
3. Tyler Seguin to Dallas
This deal could rank higher on a list like this. Chiarelli expressly dealt Tyler Seguin in a July 2013 blockbuster due to the young striker’s modicum of discipline. It had reached a point where the team had issued the last mulligan, and a change of scenery was the player’s best bet.
Even so, the return pieces on the right wing still have yet to give Boston the same offensive spark that Seguin could have. The lack of a suitable replacement for the player they gave up is what really sours this trade for the Bruins.
There is still time for that aspect of the swap to change for the better. Reilly Smith and Loui Eriksson can both establish consistency and cement a sound second and third line going forward.
With that being said, the current problem lies within the uncertainty on the first-line right wing, which was bound to become Seguin's spot from the start. For what it’s worth, the former No. 2 overall draft pick entered the post-Christmas weekend at the top of the league leaderboard with 25 goals and second in points with 42.
Could he have delivered the same data in a different dynamic as a Bruin? Not necessarily, but he would be a more comfortable option than the current rotation of rookies (e.g., Seth Griffith, Craig Cunningham, etc.).
2. Brad Boyes for Dennis Wideman
In the years after their Feb. 27, 2007 trade, Brad Boyes and Dennis Wideman joined a resurgence in St. Louis and Boston, respectively. The former, however, made a more visible impact on the Blues than the latter made on the Bruins.
Boyes tallied a career-high 43 goals in 2007-08, then followed up with a career-high 72 points in 2008-09, when the Blues ended a five-year playoff drought.
Boyes’ productivity briefly receded in 2009-10, but the Bruins were simultaneously sore with Wideman’s shortcomings. Consider what head coach Claude Julien said in late January 2010, per Matt Kalman, then of ESPNBoston.com:
First of all, he’s got to bring his intensity up. He's got to have a better compete level. And that's what makes him a great player. He should be easily a top-two, three at worst, defenseman for us, and he’s not close to that right now. He knows it, we know it, and he's got to pick up his game.
As it happened, that was as good as a point of no return, for Wideman’s tenure in Boston would last four more months. After the Bruins lost in the second round of the playoffs for the second year in a row, they dealt him to Florida. Odds are everyone remembers what happened the next season.
1. Johnny Boychuk to the NY Islanders
As is the case with the Seguin deal, the repercussions of this year’s Johnny Boychuk trade are liable to fluctuate. With that being said, it likewise reeks of a subpar return from the other party.
This had the look of a hasty, ill-advised choice of salary dump from the start. Furthermore, fate did not take long to tug the second-guessing strings.
Per Caryn Switaj of the Bruins' website, Chiarelli explained at the time, “This deal was born out of couple things: one, our cap situation, two, as I said, trying to be proactive on team planning.”
While the Bruins needed breathing room on their payroll, there were surely other ways to attain that at the end of training camp.
They did not need to resort to shedding a top-four stay-at-home defenseman and exemplary leader, who, as CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty noted, was serving as an alternate captain during this past preseason. They could have accomplished Chiarelli’s expressed objective, and fetched the same paltry return of second- and third-round draft picks, by parting with less momentous pieces.
With their acquisitions from the Islanders, Boston gained literally nothing to make Boychuk’s loss worthwhile in 2014-15. By uncanny coincidence, Boychuk’s first visit to TD Garden as an Islander saw minute-muncher Zdeno Chara go down with an injury.
The Bruins captain would miss exactly seven weeks of game action. Later on, seasoned stay-at-home rearguard Adam McQuaid sustained his own protracted ailment, which has sidelined him since Nov. 19.
Translation: Boston was unable to turn to Boychuk’s on-ice assets and intangibles when it just might have needed to the most.