ST. LOUIS, MO – Those expecting Rich Nash, Ryan Suter or Zach Parise to strut through the door with a hockey bag slung over their shoulder ready to play for the Bruins at the NHL trade deadline are likely going to end up slack-jawed and crestfallen.
Those throwing out the idea of Boston trading for Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban might have been hanging out with Puff the Magic Dragon for far too long.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is working the phones while potential trade pieces are being dealt to other teams with needs around the NHL. So there is work being done to consummate a deal, but Chiarelli has also deliberately stressed over the last month that there aren’t an overwhelming number of names on Boston’s big board of players available via trade.
“There’s a lot of players that are locked up [with contracts],” said Chiarelli. “I have all the names on my board of potential UFAs, and it’s not a real big list.”
In a perfect world players like Pavel Kubina and Dominic Moore might have been useful pieces for a Bruins team in need of some healthy, energetic bodies. But they went elsewhere with the B’s no longer holding their own second and fourth round picks in this summer’s draft.
There’s also a flat refusal to entertain trade talks centered on Tuukka Rask or the rights to potential franchise defenseman Dougie Hamilton – a pair of players that would be the centerpieces to any deal with Columbus for Nash. The Blue Jackets are a team in dire need of talented, young goaltending, but they won’t be getting it from Boston.
The Bruins aren’t exactly loaded with prospects at the AHL level this season, either. That’s been another impediment toward potentially making a deal for any players still available on the trade market. Carter Camper will get a chance to show his potential value now that he’s been recalled to the NHL level on Monday, and that along with a pick may be enough to get something done if he flashes offensively.
But nobody around the NHL envisions Zach Hamill, Anton Khudobin, Matt Bartkowski or Craig Cunningham as potential answers for their team.
That’s just the way it is.
There are still deals to be made for a team that’s gone 7-9-1 over the last 17 games and now finds themselves only two points ahead of the streaking Ottawa Senators for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.
The Bruins look like a tired bunch getting beaten to the punch in the third periods of games. They’re getting out-muscled in all phases of the game in the intimidation department that’s been their bread and butter for the last five years.
The Bruins are missing two of their most offensively gifted right wingers in Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, and that opens up a major need for a talent infusion.
The Capitals continue to flounder in the Southeast Division, and Washington GM George McPhee insists embattled Caps veteran Mike Knuble isn’t going to be traded – but that might just be one of those little white sports lies that executives tell when subterfuge is the name of the game.
Columbus Blue Jackets winger Antoine Vermette isn’t prolific. But he’s a potentially solid depth acquisition, and he does all of the little things correctly. He could help the Bruins if he’s willing to show the same versatility Peverley did upon arriving in Boston last year.
More importantly he wouldn’t be an expensive “get” and he’s a close friend of Patrice Bergeron while serving as his main off-season workout partner in Quebec during the summer.
One name you can summarily cross off the list is Ray Whitney.
The Phoenix Coyotes are 7-0-1 in their last eight games and they’ve become buyers in the trade market rather than sellers. Phoenix GM Don Maloney has gone on record saying that he won’t be trading any of his desirable commodities leading up to the deadline.
That’s been big part of Chiarelli’s challenge: too many teams with valuable commodities are still heavy in the thick of the playoff hunt.
There’s still a chance the Bruins will pay the premium price of a first round pick and a prospect for Carolina Hurricanes winger Tuomo Ruutu, who still hasn’t signed any kind of extension with the Canes while sitting out injured.
None of the Eastern Conference teams on the bubble are in a hurry to improve a Bruins team that’s already proven they pound most everybody else into submission when things are going well. The teams that are way out of contention have been retaining their players rather than casting them off in a strange departure this year.
That makes for a difficult landscape to net a significant deal ahead of the trade deadline, and all of those factors make it nearly impossible when Chiarelli correctly refuses to part with anything making up the nucleus of a Stanley Cup-winning club.
Right now the Bruins appear to be battling through the heavy legs of fatigue, Perhaps they’re even going through a second Cup hangover phase after they’d seemed to escape it following the first 10 games of the season.
But the B’s have still earned the right to defend their Cup with minor nips and tucks in lieu of the extreme roster makeover necessary to pave the way for the showy hockey household names being tossed around as available.
Nash, Suter, Parise and Subban aren’t walking through those doors, and if they did they’d be coming at a player asset cost the Bruins would be crazy to bankroll.