The Boston Bruins, 3-4 thus far in the young season and struggling to find their identity, made a trade Sunday night, dealing forward Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild.
In exchange, the B's got a second-round draft choice in 2011, the rights to unsigned draft pick Alexander Fallstrom and forward Craig Weller.
Boston also recalled forwards Guillaume Lefebvre, Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka from the Providence Bruins and placed forward Milan Lucic on long-term injured reserve.
While these moves may appear to have been made to send a message or as a wake-up call to a team that has underachieved so far this season, they were also made for salary cap reasons. According to NHLnumbers.com, the Bruins were flat up against the $56.8 million salary cap — with only $726,000 in cap space remaining — prior to this trade. When Lucic was temporarily ruled out with a broken finger, the Bruins were unable to make the logical call-ups of players like Marchand and Sobotka, who if not for a lack of cap space, may have made the parent club out of training camp.
Several sources told NESN.com on Sunday night that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli has been shopping Kobasew for some time now. They said that while Kobasew's gritty, two-way game fits right in with head coach Claude Julien's system, Chiarelli and the Bruins felt that they had enough depth in their system — in the form of Marchand and Sobotka, among others. The combination of the Kobasew trade, placing Lucic on the long-term IR and the call-ups from the farm will currently save the Bruins around $1.15 million on the cap.
Certainly, Kobasew will be missed, but the Bruins must believe that they need that cap flexibility going forward in case of emergency. They'll also be in better position to pull the trigger should another trade be deemed necessary. In addition, two deserving prospects may now get a legit chance to prove themselves in the NHL and help a team in need of a youthful spark.
Also, this deal, if only a bit, frees up space for next summer when Chiarelli will be faced with the daunting task of re-signing Marc Savard (who is set to hit unrestricted free agency), Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and Tuukka Rask (who will all be restricted free agents).
Also of note in this deal — and sure to fuel more trade speculation — is the fact that Chiarelli added another draft pick to his suddenly loaded stockpile. With the 2011 first-round pick the team acquired for Phil Kessel last month, the Bruins now have a combined total of nine picks spread over the first two rounds of the 2010 and 2011 NHL drafts.
Don't be surprised if Atlanta sniper and unrestricted free agent-to-be Ilya Kovalchuk (who has already been mentioned as a possible trade target of the Bruins) becomes linked even more closely to the Bruins in the coming months.