Trade Could Be Coming, But Bruins Unlikely to ‘Blow Up’ Core Group


Jan 26, 2010

Trade Could Be Coming, But Bruins Unlikely to 'Blow Up' Core Group Following the Bruins' embarrassing 5-1 loss to the Hurricanes on Sunday — the NHL's worst team — the issue was raised about what might happen to a team clearly spiraling out of control, and a reliable source told that "a trade is coming."

It's almost Wednesday, and there's still no deal. But there's still time left before the Bruins play at Buffalo on Friday (7:30 p.m. on NESN). Even if a trade is made, it's not likely to be for a big name like Thrashers sniper Ilya Kovalchuk. It appears more likely at this point that a deal — perhaps involving some of the five second-round draft picks the Bruins hold over the next two years — would bring the B's a complementary piece in return. But the question remains: How much of a difference will any such addition make to this team at this point of the season?

These are the issues with which GM Peter Chiarelli and his staff are dealing right now. They have made it clear that at this point both the 2010 first-round draft pick from Toronto as well as goalie Tuukka Rask are off limits, and Chiarelli has on numerous occasions told how excited he is about having so many picks both this and next June. He would be willing to use them in trades, of course, but he is waiting for the right deal to make a move.

But a bit of insight on what's going wrong might help Chiarelli to decide whether or not to make a move.

Prior to his team's 3-2 win over the Bruins last Thursday, Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock was asked what he thought has happened so far this season to young goalie Steve Mason. After winning the Calder Trophy last year, finishing as the runner-up to Tim Thomas for the Vezina and going 33-20-7 with a 2.29 GAA and .916 save percentage, Mason is 12-17-6 this season with a 3.30 GAA and .891 save percentage.

"You know obviously he's frustrated," Hitchcock said. "But when you think about it, he was a rookie last season and he's going through the ups and downs [and] the struggles he should've gone through last season as a rookie this season. The progression was kind of altered. He never had to battle through all the stuff a rookie normally would and now he is. So we're not really worried and we're just patient and working through it with him. It's a learning process that he was supposed to go through."

As Bruins' play-by-play man Jack Edwards of NESN pointed out, Mason's situation sounds eerily similar to that of this current Bruins team. Maybe last year's team forgot about that whole "learning curve" thing. Maybe the 2008-09 Bruins overachieved and skipped a step or two in their development.

It's for that reason that Chiarelli could opt for patience with the current group. And if that's the case, fans probably should not be holding their breath for the Bruins to add someone like Kovalchuk or Flames defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

While Chiarelli obviously wants to avoid blowing up the successful core of players he has put together, there still could be a shake-up trade coming if this current roster doesn't right the ship soon. Maybe the core chemistry needs to be altered and Chiarelli is not beyond admitting that some pieces of the current core might not actually be the right pieces.

There have been numerous times when players have claimed that "not everyone" is pulling his weight on this team. That's been painfully evident on the ice, too. The question is, has it been the same players too many times? If so, maybe a bigger trade involving a core player is necessary. Over the last week, for example, the Bruins have been rumored to be interested in the likes of both Phaneuf and Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney.

Bringing in Whitney would probably require a second-round draft pick, but adding Phaneuf would require Chiarelli to either relinquish one of his first-round picks or offer up a package including one of his younger core players. Such a deal would change the chemistry of this team, but if it were carefully done, it could set this team back on the path it appeared to be on last season. Obviously other cap-related moves would need to be made, but a player like Phaneuf could produce more offense and grit from the back end — pieces required to win the Stanley Cup and pieces that this current team sorely lacks.

It should be noted that Flames GM Darryl Sutter is on the record as saying he won't deal Phaneuf. But Sutter was also on the record prior to last year's trade deadline saying he would "stand pat." He then had a change of heart and traded for Olli Jokinen and Jordan Leopold.

Chiarelli will most likely make similar statements in the coming days, but it's his job to never tip his hat. His main job, though, is to bring the Bruins their first Stanley Cup in 38 years. To do so, he may have to alter the core of this team. But that can be done without "blowing it up" and while still holding onto those first-round picks that he expects to eventually become part of that core.

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