Ranking the 5 Best Boston Bruins Trades in the Peter Chiarelli Era so Far
It is as simple as this: Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli should expect to field trade questions until a deal happens. Either that, or he can hope for the less likely event of a season-twisting hot streak by his current cluster of employees.
On the final day of the NHL’s roster freeze, the Bruins dropped a 6-2 decision Saturday night in Columbus. That lopsided setback barred them from achieving their first three-game winning streak in five weeks and their first set of consecutive regulation victories since Nov. 18.
The chronic inconsistency only emboldens the notion that the ninth-year GM needs to spring for an upgrade up front. As quoted by weei.com beat writer DJ Bean this past week, Chiarelli admitted, “I’ve been trying to bolster the forward group, and players are hard to come by. Certainly I’m not going to force any deal. I mean, it’s slow.”
Come what may, he has a maximum of two months to determine and obtain the necessary additive before the March 2 trade deadline. To put it another way, he has two months left to revive the vintage Chiarelli, who built the Bruins to their modern high point with a slew of solid deals.
Although Boston is not a likely threat for the 2015 Stanley Cup, most of its core can still form a championship-caliber nucleus in the near future. The short-term objective should be a minimum sacrifice for a new, established skater to mold around that nucleus.
The following five trades from earlier in Chiarelli’s tenure are his measuring pole for the present.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com
5. Johnny Boychuk for Matt Hendricks
In the summer of 2008, Providence was still the only place for Bruins buffs to tap into any Grade-A postseason excitement. Forward Matt Hendricks was a key part of that in his lone season with the organization, tallying 52 points in 67 games in 2007-08.
But since Chiarelli sent his rights to Colorado, Hendricks has failed to translate his prolific pace to the NHL. He has scored no more than 25 points in a single season with four different teams.
Boston’s compensation in the Hendricks trade, defenseman Johnny Boychuk, has never saturated scoresheets in the NHL, either. This despite rounding out his development with a 66-point campaign and the Eddie Shore Award as the AHL’s best blueliner in 2008-09.
By the time he became a full-time Boston rearguard, however, it did not matter. Boychuk blossomed into a classic stay-at-home specialist, trading in goals and assists for bushels of body-checks and blocked shots.
Along with Adam McQuaid, Boychuk went from keying Providence’s run to the 2009 Eastern Conference Final to lending Boston the defensive depth it needed to win the 2011 Stanley Cup. He, at times, joined Zdeno Chara on the top pairing and was never anything less than a top-four caliber from his first full NHL season onward.
4. Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell for Dennis Wideman
Two of the final additives to Boston’s eventual championship team came via Florida barely less than a year before the clinching game.
After the previous winter and spring reeked of signs that his Bruins days were numbered, defenseman Dennis Wideman became a Panther on June 22. For the price of him, along with two draft picks, Chiarelli reeled in a first-line winger in Nathan Horton and a fourth-line center in Gregory Campbell.
The latter acquisition marked the formation of the Merlot Line, with Campbell centering Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton. Although that arrangement had a limited shelf life, it worked long enough to give Boston sufficient grit and depth for two Stanley Cup Final appearances in three years.
Horton had no small part in those two four-round marathons himself. An NHL playoff neophyte before 2011, he tallied three game-winning goals, including two overtime and two series deciders, as part of an 8-9-17 ride in 21 ventures.
Horton missed Boston’s title defense, which ended in a first-round letdown, due to a midseason concussion in 2012. But he rebounded in 2013, when he tallied three more game-clinchers and 19 total points in 22 games en route to another final appearance.
3. Andrew Ference, Chuck Kobasew for Wayne Primeau, Brad Stuart
Two-thirds of the subpar return package in the infamous Joe Thornton trade would last less than 15 months in Boston. The first trade Chiarelli oversaw that changed the Bruins for the better sent Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart to Calgary on Feb. 10, 2007.
Though far from top-tier talents, the two imports each played a role in the team’s return to relevance over the next two-plus years.
The club improved from playoff no-shows in 2007 to first-round underdogs in 2008 to first-round winners in 2009. Perhaps not so coincidentally, Chuck Kobasew eclipsed the 20-goal mark in both 2007-08 and 2008-09, his lone two full-length seasons in Boston.
Defenseman Andrew Ference, however, made the steadiest long-term impact on either party in the deal. Consider nesn.com columnist Mike Cole’s assessment when Ference returned to the TD Garden last winter as a visitor with the Edmonton Oilers:
His leadership was on display in many ways during his time with Boston. Often times it was through what he said in the locker room. Other times, it was his calming demeanor on the ice and in games that rubbed off on teammates. And then there were times like in the playoffs when his creativity helped bring the team together as evidenced by his playoff player of the game awards.
For the record, Ference played 69 postseason games with a franchise that went through four years free of playoff action beforehand.
One of those games culminated in a Cup parade, while another appearance in the final round marked the end of his six-year tenure in New England. Salary-cap constraints sent him to the 2013 free-agent market after the Bruins lost to the top-dog Chicago Blackhawks.
2. Mark Recchi for Martins Karsums, Matt Lashoff
By the time of the March 4, 2009, trade deadline, a surprising surge had allowed the Bruins to practically coast to first place in the division and conference. Still, Boston’s burgeoning core needed to add more seasoning to ensure any postseason ripples without delay.
Chiarelli made that happen by keeping the NHL roster intact and dangling two minor-league mainstays to land Mark Recchi from Tampa Bay.
At the time, 23-year-old winger Martins Karsums and 22-year-old defenseman Matt Lashoff were still taking shape as professionals. Recchi, on the other hand, was already 41, yet he had more left in him than what Tampa obtained for him.
By the end of the 2009-10 regular season, Recchi had logged more games as a Bruin (99) than Karsums and Lashoff would ever combine for with any NHL team (98). He played 81 more in 2010-11, following that with a productive postseason as a 43-year-old second-liner, opposite Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Per Bob Mackin of the New York Times, Bergeron made the following confession after Game 7 of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final: “I talked to Recchi last night and I was feeling nervous and I asked him to give me some advice. He told me to relax and go out there and play the game and to do it for him.”
Bergeron said that on the heels of scoring the icebreaker and a shorthanded dose of insurance. With Marchand matching his output in that night’s 4-0 victory, Recchi’s line accounted for all of the offense in Boston’s first Cup clincher of this century.
1. Dennis Seidenberg, Matt Bartkowski for Byron Bitz, Craig Weller
Precisely 52 weeks after nabbing Recchi’s services, Chiarelli secured the better gain in another deadline deal with the other Sunshine State franchise on March 3, 2010.
To land established blueliner Dennis Seidenberg and then college-based prospect Matt Bartkowski, the Bruins dealt forwards Byron Bitz and Craig Weller to Florida. Weller has not seen NHL action since 2008-09, while Bitz logged 17 more appearances with the Panthers and Canucks before retiring in 2012.
Seidenberg made an identical 17 appearances in Boston attire before the 2010 playoffs even began. While his injury-induced absence throughout the playoffs was hardly the sole factor in the team’s second-round collapse, it hardly helped.
The next spring, when he got his belated chance to embark on a postseason with the Bruins, Seidenberg emboldened his image as a difference-maker. Partnering with Chara, he suffocated the top lines of each opponent for the better part of the tournament.
Consider this: Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin had but one goal while his twin brother, Daniel, mustered three points in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final. Despite his stay-at-home specialty, Seidenberg had three assists in the series, including two in Game 7 as part of the 4-0 championship clincher.
Since then, Seidenberg has similarly stood out in other high points, including his part in Boston’s upset sweep of the Penguins in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final. On the flipside, he missed another second-round flameout in 2014 after sustaining a season-ending injury almost exactly a year ago.
Meanwhile, Bartkowski has since established himself as a suitable spare defenseman. And as the aforementioned DJ Bean implied during a recent television spot on Comcast Sportsnet New England, he could make decent trade bait in the here and now.
If the Bruins were to, in fact, dangle Bartkowski to address their current flaws, this nearly five-year-old trade with the Panthers could, in a way, get slightly better.