BOSTON — The NHL trade market was thin this season when it came to defensemen, but the Bruins still were able to add at least one piece when they landed Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers.
Boston acquired Meszaros for a third-round draft pick shortly before Wednesday’s NHL trade deadline in a move that adds depth to a Bruins defense corps suffering through its share of injuries this season. While Meszaros never will be confused for a Norris Trophy candidate, the Slovakian import brings some valuable assets to the Boston lineup.
Meszaros’ size — he’s 6-foot-2 and 223 pounds — is one of his most valuable assets. He’s a left-handed shot, which the Bruins have plenty of on the blue line, but he can move to the right D-spot if needed.
“He’s a big defenseman, a thick defenseman,” Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said at a news conference Wednesday after the trade deadline passed. “I’ve had a history with him. He’s played international with Slovakia. He plays both sides. He’s heavy on the puck. He’s more apt to push the puck than to defend, but he can defend. And he’s heavy.”
Meszaros has had injury problems, with surgeries on his back and his left shoulder. He also ruptured an Achilles tendon. Those injuries cost Meszaros not only games but, Chiarelli believes, also conditioning.
When Meszaros is in the lineup, though, he has shown the ability to log some pretty good minutes. He’s averaging 17:22 of ice time per night (also about a minute of power-play and shorthanded time per game), and he has scored five goals to go along with 12 assists in 38 games this season.
“He’s a strong player,” Chiarelli said. “He’s not a swift player, but he’s a strong skater. He sees the ice well. He likes to push the puck. He likes to push the puck in the defensive zone, the neutral zone and the offensive zone. So that’s an evolution of what I’ve seen over the years.
“I’ve watched him for a number of years. For whatever reason, probably because of the injuries, he’s probably slowed down a bit because he hasn’t got the proper conditioning when he’s had the injuries. I don’t know. But his play has picked up as of late.”
One thing Meszaros must deal with is a change in defensive system and philosophy. As Chiarelli pointed out Wednesday, the Flyers play a man-to-man defensive system, whereas the Bruins are more zone-oriented. So that might take some getting used to, which isn’t anything new for defenseman acquired or called up in season. Chiarelli hopes, however, that Meszaros’ ability to play both sides of the ice will allow Bruins head coach Claude Julien to use the veteran blueliner in a variety of situations.
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