Ray Whitney Could Be ‘Perfect Addition’ for Bruins and Other Offseason Thoughts

Ray Whitney Could Be 'Perfect Addition' for Bruins and Other Offseason ThoughtsWhile the Kings and Devils battle for this year’s Cup, last year’s champions continue to put together their plans to try to win back that prize next season.

The Bruins’ lengthy offseason has produced plenty of questions, and I’ve tried to answer a few of them here in this week’s edition of the Bruins Mailbag.

As always, I’d like to thank all the readers 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 to help get everyone through the long summer ahead.

Was wondering if maybe the Bruins might go after Ray Whitney come free agency time or if they lose [Gregory] Campbell maybe try to sign John Madden for their fourth line at a reasonable price or maybe even [Zenon] Konopka?
– John Paul, St. Brieux, SK

Whitney could be a perfect addition for the Bruins, and there was interest in him before the trade deadline but obviously he never became available as Phoenix stayed in playoff position and eventually won the Pacific Division. The concern with Whitney would be his age (he turned 40 on May 8) and his contract demands (he made $3 million last season in the final year of a two-year deal and could be looking for a raise and a multi-year deal despite his age). But he is obviously still capable of producing (24-53-77 totals last year while playing in all 82 games for the Coyotes) and like Mark Recchi, Whitney would add valuable leadership and experience, having won a Cup with Carolina (alongside Recchi) in 2006.

Perhaps most importantly, Whitney could help in one vital area that has been Boston’s Achilles’ heel in recent years. He’s been a very productive power-play performer, posting 8-12-20 totals on the man advantage last year. Since the lockout, he has 43-118-161 totals on the power play, never tallying fewer than 19 power-play points in a season over that span. By comparison, Zdeno Chara led the Bruins with 18 power-play points last year, while Tyler Seguin was the top forward with just 15.

For the fourth line, I don’t think Madden offers much at this point in his career. He’s 39 but has not aged as gracefully as Whitney. He didn’t look like he had much left in the tank last season with Florida, managing just three points in 31 games while posting a minus-4, followed by no points and a minus-3 in seven playoff games. I’d pass on him.

Konopka is more intriguing. He obviously more than replaces Campbell’s toughness, as Konopka is one of the most willing fighters in the NHL (92 career fighting majors in 250 games, including 76 in the last three seasons alone). He’s not a true heavyweight by any means, but he’s also not a one-dimensional goon. He’s annually among the best faceoff men in the league (winning 58.9 percent of his draws last season), responsible defensively and even capable of contributing on the penalty kill. But he doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, certainly not close to what Campbell has given the Bruins (Konopka’s 11-16-27 career line is less than the single-season totals Campbell has posted in two of the last four years).

Other than in terms of toughness, it would be a considerable downgrade to go from Campbell to Konopka, but the Bruins could do a lot worse for the fourth line if they can’t re-sign Campbell, and Konopka would certainly be a hit in Boston. He’s been loved by his teammates and fans everywhere he’s played, and would become a cult hero almost immediately at the Garden.

Doug, Ales Hemsky played on a line with David Krejci at the IIHF World championships. Do you think the Bruins might sign the UFA? Also, is the Bruins draft position set for the upcoming draft?
– James Paul, St. John’s

Hemsky was scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but signed a two-year extension with the Oilers just before the trade deadline in late February. He got a deal keeping him at $5 million a year, so even with some past chemistry with Krejci I don’t know that he would have been worth that cap hit to the Bruins, especially coming off a 10-goal, 36-point season.

As for the draft, the Bruins are picking 24th in the first round. That slot is locked in. The only questions left on the draft order are the 29th and 30th picks depending on whether the Kings or Devils win the Cup. Both of those picks have some added wrinkles as well. Columbus is owed a Kings first-rounder to complete the Jeff Carter deal. The Blue Jackets can take either that 29th or 30th pick this year or Los Angeles’ first-rounder next year. They will almost assuredly pass on this year’s and take their chances that the Kings won’t reach the Final against next year and the 2013 pick will be higher.

The Devils have to surrender one of their first-round picks in the next three years as a penalty for trying to circumvent the cap with Ilya Kovalchuk‘s initial deal in 2010. They would probably be best advised to give up this pick, as the following years are likely to be better picks unless they can run off a streak of appearances in the Final.

Jiri Hudler is UFA. He would fit in great in Boston. Any chance the Bruins go after him? Hudler had 25 goals and 25 assists. I’d rather him than giving up a lot for [Rick] Nash. Hudler comes from a winning team. I think he’d be great.
–  Nick via Twitter (‏@Puck_Nik)

Like Whitney, Hudler is an intriguing possibility. He’s much younger, in the prime of his career at 28, and because of that he could be more expensive to sign and will certainly be looking for a longer term deal. He had a $3 million salary and a $2.875 million cap hit last year, and he’ll be in line for a raise after his best season since putting up 23-34-57 totals back in 2008-09. He signed in the KHL after that year, but returned to Detroit in 2010-11.

Hudler doesn’t offer a lot of size (he’s generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 186 pounds) and isn’t an exceptional skater, but he is versatile. He’s a left-handed shot but can play either wing and played in all situations for the Red Wings, seeing time on both the power play and penalty kill. He won a Cup in 2008 and coming from a solid system like Detroit’s definitely helps. I’d say he is certainly worth kicking the tires on come July 1, but I also think he may be a bit out of Boston’s price range considering his age, production and the lack of scorers available on the market this summer.

The Bruins will not get Rick Nash obviously. They’d need to give up Tuukka [Rask], [David] Krejci, [Milan] Lucic and some picks. Not happening. More realistic guy: Jarome Iginla -– one year left on his contract, a team looking to shed some salary. I’ve also heard Tim Thomas for Patrick Sharp rumors. Any truth to either?
– Steve Simonelli via Facebook

Well, first off I agree that I don’t foresee the Bruins making a deal for Nash. The cost, both in terms of the assets they would have to give up and the impact his addition would have on their salary cap situation, make such a move very unlikely.

But I don’t know that a deal for Iginla is any more likely. He would have to waive his no-movement clause for any deal, and the only way he’d likely do that is if the Flames commit to a complete rebuild. New coach Bob Hartley stated in his introductory news conference Thursday that was not the plan, so Iginla is much more apt to remain the centerpiece of the Flames than be asked to accept a trade. If the Flames’ strategy changes and he becomes available, the Bruins are sure to have some interest, but it would require a hefty price to acquire him as well. Boston would also have to find a way to squeeze Iginla’s $7 million salary into their cap, though he has just one year remaining on that deal so that is a more manageable problem than Nash’s $7.8 million cap hit through 2017-18

As for Thomas, with his no-trade protection expiring on July 1 and Tuukka Rask waiting in the wings, there is going to be plenty of speculation about Thomas being dealt this summer. Peter Chiarelli has stated he is not inclined to trade Thomas at this point, but that could certainly change. If it does, I wouldn’t expect to get someone of Sharp’s stature back in return. As good as Thomas was in Boston’s Cup run in 2011, his play did slip a bit this past year, he’s signed for just one more season and he is 38, not to mention the off-ice baggage he brings with him with the controversy his political stances created this season. Sharp is in his prime at 30, signed through 2016-17, albeit at a hefty $5.9 million cap hit, and is coming off back-to-back 30-goal seasons. With Marian Hossa recovering from a serious concussion and Patrick Kane raising some concerns with his off-ice antics, I can’t see the Blackhawks trading Sharp, and certainly not for Thomas unless the Bruins are willing to add some very significant other parts to the deal.

Have questions for Douglas Flynn’s mailbag? Leave them in the comments section below, send them to him via Twitter @douglasflynn or send them here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week. Be sure to check back to see if your question was answered.

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