The Bruins finally snapped out of their midseason doldrums with a solid win at Washington on Sunday. Now it's just a matter of showing that they really have turned a corner by maintaining that level of play as they head down the stretch, and proving that it wasn't just a one-game tease of their old form.
Even if they have put that mini-slump behind them, the recent dip does show that the Bruins could use some help and a few minor tweaks to bolster their roster heading into the playoffs. That idea certainly hasn't escaped the attention of our readers, who flooded this week's Bruins Mailbag with inquiries about potential trade targets.
I got to as many as possible, though I would implore that next week maybe we can mix in some questions that don't revolve around the trade deadline. The guys the Bruins actually have on the roster now can be as fun to talk about as the players around the league you'd like to see join them.
As always, I'd like to thank all the readers, as single-mindedly trade-obsessed as they may be this time of year, who sent in questions and apologize in advance if I wasn't able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I'll answer as many of them as I can as we head down the stretch run of the season.
What do you see for the Bruins come trade deadline, small moves or do you see them trying to make a splash?
— Chris Mila, Woburn
It depends on how you define "making a splash." I don't see the Bruins making a major shakeup of their roster and giving up the assets required to land a big "name" like a Rick Nash (see below), Jarome Iginla or Bobby Ryan, even if any of those players become available (which I personally doubt will happen). But I do think the Bruins will make a couple of more moderate deals to add some veteran depth both up front and on the blue line. Those deals might not seem as exciting, but they can certainly still "make a splash" when it comes to helping the Bruins make another long playoff run.
Look at Peter Chiarelli's track record at the deadline in recent years. Players he added like Mark Recchi, Dennis Seidenberg, Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley didn't generate a ton of buzz when those deals occurred, but each of those players played vital roles in last year's Cup run. The Bruins will likely try to land a couple players at that level to round out their roster heading into the playoffs, which I think is more than enough of a splash for a team whose talent pool is already pretty full.
Hi, do you think a player like Rick Nash or Ray Whitney could help out the Bruins?
— Donald Kelley, Woburn, Mass.
Could they help? Absolutely. Even though Nash is having a bit of a down year on a struggling Columbus squad, it's hard to believe that he wouldn't be rejuvenated with a move to a contender and contribute quite a bit. But I'm not convinced that the Blue Jackets are ready to move him even though he has reportedly stated he wouldn't block a deal with his no-trade clause. He's still the face of the franchise, and Columbus really doesn't have much else to market that team around. They'll likely hold onto their lone All-Star caliber player with the All-Star Game coming to Columbus next year.
Even if they did put him on the market, the price would be astronomical and I can't see Peter Chiarelli breaking up the current roster, which has already proven it can win a Cup, by giving up the kind of pieces that would be required to land Nash. And Chiarelli would have to jettison even more current players in future years to fit Nash's deal, which runs through 2017-18 with a $7.8 million cap hit, into their salary cap.
Whitney is a far more reasonable option who appears to be a perfect fit. He's on an expiring contract, so there are no issues with the deals Boston needs to sign with its key players in the next couple of summers. He's still productive, currently leading the Coyotes with 49 points in 54 games. And he's got plenty of playoff experience, including winning a Cup with Carolina in 2006. The biggest issue would be whether Phoenix will be willing to put him on the market, as they are tied in points with Minnesota for the last playoff spot in the West, though the Wild currently hold the tiebreaker.
As a longtime B's fan and an optimist that they'll repeat, what do you think the Bruins would have to give for [Tuomo] Ruuttu and is he what they need? I think he'd fit perfectly.
— Redge Cole, Edmonton, Alberta
I like Ruutu's game a lot and think he would fit in well here. He's not an elite scorer, but he can contribute in a scoring role, plus he adds some grit with a big-hitting game. I spoke with Dennis Seidenberg about him when the Hurricanes were in town recently and Seidenberg, who played with Ruutu in Carolina, raved about him both as a player and as a person. How a player fits into the locker room when he joins a new team is the element that often gets overlooked in trades, but is particularly important for a team like Boston that based much of its success last year on its chemistry and camaraderie.
Unfortunately, I think the price will be pretty high for Ruutu. Even though he's slated to be an unrestricted free agent after the season, reports out of Carolina have the Hurricanes looking for a first-round pick and a top prospect for him. I could see the Bruins parting with the first-rounder, which is likely to be very late in the round anyway, but I don't know if I would give up a Ryan Spooner, Jared Knight or Alexander Khokhlachev for a few months of Ruutu. If the Bruins could get him for just picks, picks and a lower prospect or even a young current player like Steven Kampfer, I would be fully on board. But I don't know if that will be enough if they're bidding against other teams as well. Also, Carolina GM Jim Rutherford plans to meet with Ruutu this week about his future, and it's possible he could re-sign with the Hurricanes and be off the market like defenseman Tim Gleason.
Are the Boston Bruins thinking about trading Adam McQuaid?
— Emma, Cranston
McQuaid doesn't figure to be in the "untouchable" class of the likes of Tyler Seguin or Tuukka Rask among Boston's young players, but I think it would take quite a deal to get the Bruins to include McQuaid in any package leaving town. They re-signed him this past summer a full year before he even reached free agency, which gives you an idea the kind of value they see in him considering all the other pending free agents who remain without extensions. McQuaid has proven a reliable defensive defensemen (note how often Claude Julien puts him on the ice for key defensive zone faceoffs late in games to see the trust he has in McQuaid). McQuaid is also a physical force on the blue line and has even shown some hints of offensive ability jumping up in the attack.
Will he ever be a No. 1 defensemen? No. But he is an extremely valuable guy on the second or third pairing capable of playing in key situations, all on a reasonable $1.57-million cap hit for the next three seasons. That's not an asset the Bruins are looking to get rid of. Instead, they are looking to add depth on defense, and losing him would seriously weaken their back end.
Any realistic chance the Bruins make a push for [Ryan] Suter at the deadline? [Zdeno] Chara can't play forever.
— Chiggs7 (Conor Higgins) via Twitter
Well, maybe not forever, but the Bruins are counting on Chara playing quite awhile longer. They re-signed him before the start of last season to a seven-year, $45.5-million extension. This is just the first year of that new deal, which carries a cap hit of $6.916 million a year through the 2017-18 season. As enticing as the idea of a blue line with both Chara and Suter may be, I don't see any way it happens.
The Bruins can't tie up the cap space it would take to re-sign Suter, who will likely draw a contract similar to Chara's when he hits the open market this summer. The Bruins have cap space this year, but going forward they have too many key players to re-sign in the next couple of years to add a player like Suter long-term. I suppose it could be conceivable to acquire him strictly as a rental, but the price for a couple months of his services would be prohibitive, as the Bruins would have to bid against teams hoping to add him and sign him to a new deal. And that's assuming that Nashville even puts him on the market. The Predators are contenders in the West and may just hold on to both Suter and Shea Weber (who's scheduled to be a restricted free agent after the season) to try to make a run this spring. The chance at a Cup may be worth risking losing Suter with no return next summer.
Also, don't forget that as far as the future of the Boston blue line goes, the Bruins do have a pretty promising kid coming along in 2011 first-round pick Dougie Hamilton. He could make the leap to the NHL as soon as next year, and even if he's a couple years away, he projects to be an impact defender in the not-too-distant future. It might not be as good as having Suter skating alongside the big guy, but Chara and Hamilton should be a pretty formidable 1-2 punch themselves in the coming years.