After today, it’s becoming apparent that the Boston Bruins have hit rock bottom in what is quickly becoming a disappointing season. Fresh off an emotionless loss to the Ottawa Senators on home ice, the B’s took to the ice of the RBC Center for the first time since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals for a battle with the NHL-worst Carolina Hurricanes. Looking at this contest as yet another “must win”, the Bruins came out flat in what’s becoming normal fashion and lost by a final score of 5-1.
Demoralized and beginning to lean towards the panic button, NESN’s James Murphy is reporting that the Bruins are in fact closing in on a trade. While the tweet doesn’t delve into specifics (hey, it’s pretty hard when you only have 140 characters to play with), it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Bruins realize their backs are perhaps at their closest to the wall all season long, sitting just two points away from 13th in the Eastern Conference.
Unwilling to trade away the Toronto first rounder along with Tuukka Rask according to Joe Haggerty of CSNNE, the idea of Kovalchuk coming to Boston is nearly impossible without at least one of those pieces being in play, making Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney the next best, and likely, choice to be donning the black-and-gold.
Posting 17 goals and 39 points in 49 games this season, Whitney has all the qualities of the top-six forwards the Bruins desperately need. The 37-year old Whitney, still ripe with a goal-scoring touch, is in the final year of a contract that pays him 3.5 million dollars and has expressed a desire to get a contract extension from any team he’s traded to.
Along with a top forward, the Bruins have also displayed their interest in adding another blue-liner to their roster. Despite rumors of Dion Phaneuf, Sheldon Souray, and even Jordan Leopold, could the Bruins be ready to bring back veteran defensemen Aaron Ward as part of a package to get Whitney to Boston? On a blue-line struggling to find its identity due to injuries to Andrew Ference, along with inconsistencies from Matt Hunwick, Mark Stuart, and a horrendous campaign from Dennis Wideman, the 37-year old Ward could stabilize the constantly changing Boston defense. Already placed on waivers this season, Ward has eight assists with a -16 in 50 games for the ‘Canes this season, and was B’s captain Zdeno Chara’s other half on Boston’s top defensive pairing for nearly two and a half seasons, putting up 26 points along with a +17 in 150 games for the Bruins.
Realizing that Whitney may in fact be the next biggest available name next to Ilya Kovalchuk, what will the Bruins have to throw in to make a deal with the ‘Canes work?
Besides the aforementioned obvious untouchables such as Rask, and the 2010 Toronto pick, Bruins centers Patrice Bergeron, Marc Savard, and David Krejci have to be considered out of the question in a trade. Locks to remain on the Bruins also include Tim Thomas, Zdeno Chara, and Milan Lucic. Unfortunately for the Boston cap, Marco Sturm is also a lock to remain with the club thanks to his no trade clause that he plans on utilizing in any trade involving him.
Err, so who’s available?
Boston’s best name in any deal could in fact be sophomore Blake Wheeler, who appears to have woken up from a near year-long coma, with nine points in 11 games this month. The towering 23-year old is in the final year of an entry-level deal with the Boston Bruins and could be on the out’s in the Hub given the Bruins’ mounting cap issues. Along with Wheeler, the Bruins may look to move streaky winger Michael Ryder in a cap-crunching effort for next season while getting something of equal (or better) value in return to finish the 2009-10 season.
However, the Bruins may be hesitant to move Ryder given his relationship with head coach Claude Julien.
Potential names from the blue-line that could be moved include Matt Hunwick, arguably overpaid at nearly two million dollars per season, free-agent to be Andrew Ference, and the struggling Dennis Wideman. Given the struggles to produce, stay healthy, and produce at a healthy rate by all of these players, their values may ultimately be too low for the trading partners, putting the Bruins in a position to move some prospects and draft choices.
Possible prospects that could be looked upon as deal-breakers could include 2008′s first round choice Zach Hamill, or AHL all-star Mikko Lehtonen. The 22-year old Hamill simply hasn’t lived up to expectations in the Bruins organization and has just 22 points in 43 games in his second full-season down in the AHL and one has to believe the patience with Hamill’s ability to grow is wearing thin while Lehtonen seems to be looked upon as a borderline NHL quality player.
Besides the bodies, the Bruins could look to shop their first round pick in the upcoming draft, or perhaps offer a conditional pick to the ‘Canes much like the one given to the New York Islanders by the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for forward Bill Guerin near last year’s trading deadline.
Do the Bruins pull the trigger for a trade before Friday’s contest with the division leading Sabres? Or does Peter Chiarelli continue to play the waiting game and pray that the return of some notable names such as Marc Savard and Marco Sturm will spark the team?
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About the Author: Ty Anderson ran the Chronicles From The Garden blogspot account during the 2008-09 NHL season before joining HockeyIndependent as the Bruins Blogger. He is a Seinfeld enthusiast, self-admitted Star Wars nerd, Vezina-quality street-hockey goaltender, and can be found in Balcony 314 of every Bruins home game. Follow him and his tweeting madness on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/_TyAnderson or send him an e-mail at TAndersonBruins@gmail.com.