There are realistic targets for the Bruins in terms of both necessity and salary-cap space and there are some specific targets to consider targets at this point.
After looking Monday at those options who make the most sense right now, let’s consider some trade possibilities that might take some creativity on the part of Boston general manager Peter Chiarelli.
Ilya Kovalchuk, forward, Atlanta Thrashers
Kovalchuk is commonly linked to the Bruins because of their offensive woes and the plethora of draft picks they have at their disposal for trading. But at this point, it will take a lot to get him out of Atlanta, and word is that Chiarelli isn’t about to alter the core of his team or sell the farm for a rental player. Barring the signing of an extension, Kovalchuk will be an unrestricted free agent in July, and the belief is he will either test the free-agent waters or head back to Russia for a more lucrative tax-free contract.
Chiarelli has gone on record saying he won’t trade the 2010 first round pick he acquired in the Phil Kessel trade with Toronto and has also made it clear that Tuukka Rask is off limits as well. Chiarelli, though, still has plenty of picks left to deal and with the way some current Bruins have underachieved this season, he could come up with a package that includes some of the roster-ready talent that Atlanta GM Don Waddell supposedly wants. According to various reports, the Thrashers want one or two quality, young roster players, some prospects and a first-round pick.
With the right cap creativity, the Bruins could put together such a group, but Waddell would seemingly have to back away from Toronto’s first-round pick. At this point, he reportedly hasn’t done that.
Another factor that makes this deal less likely is the group of other teams coveting Kovalchuk and the kinds of packages they can offer. On that note, keep an eye on the Los Angeles Kings. A source told NESN.com on Monday that they are on the verge of landing “two impact players.” TSN and NBC analyst Pierre McGuire also told the Team 990 in Montreal on Monday that the Kings already offered a “potpourri of young studs” and a first-round pick for Kovalchuk.
Andrew Cogliano, forward, Edmonton Oilers
Cogliano had a sensational rookie season with 45 points in 2007-08, but since then, the 25th pick overall in the 2005 NHL draft has apparently fallen out of favor with the Oilers. Cogliano was part of a package to send to Ottawa for the then-Senators winger Dany Heatley over the summer but Heatley didn’t invoke his no-movement clause. Sources claim that the Oilers, who are looking to revamp the core of their team, are listening to offers for the 22-year-old restricted free agent and there are some who believe the Bruins could be suitors.
But even though Cogliano is a free agent this summer, he will cost more than veterans like Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen or Aaron Ward entering unrestricted free agency because of his age and the hope that he can still fulfill his potential. The good thing is that the Bruins have plenty of what Edmonton will be looking for — prospects and draft picks –and could put together a nice package. But that package will have to be monumental and could also mean a change of scenery for some the current youngsters on the Bruins.
That leads us into another possible target for the Bruins: a puck-moving defenseman — something the Oilers have available — for the right price.
Lubomir Visnovsky, defenseman, Edmonton Oilers
Visnovsky will be the most-coveted Oilers blue-liner, and the slick defenseman still has a prorated portion of $7 million remaining on his salary for this season, $6 million in 2010-11, $5 million in 2011-12 and $3 million more in 2012-13, the final season on his current contract. Acquiring the 33-year old Slovakian, who has 29 points this season, would require moving out some hefty salaries currently on the Bruins payroll. In this market, that would be very difficult.
Tomas Kaberle, defenseman, Toronto Maple Leafs
Last June at the 2009 NHL draft in Montreal, the Bruins and Maple Leafs reportedly had a deal in place that would have seen Phil Kessel dealt to Toronto for Kaberle along with picks going each way. For whatever reason, the deal fell apart. But with Toronto’s recent acquisition of defenseman Dion Phaneuf, Kaberle could be the odd man out if he waives his no-trade clause. The Bruins could be the first in line with an offer for the 31-year-old if they could move some money out themselves. Kaberle, who leads the Leafs in scoring with 43 points, is due $4.2 million next season. But that is the final year of his contract which makes him a bit more cap-friendly than some of the names on this list.
Cam Barker, defenseman, Chicago Blackhawks
After locking up the likes of Patrick Kane, captain Jonathan Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith earlier this season and signing star Marian Hossa to a 12-year megadeal last summer, the Blackhawks will be up against it cap-wise this coming summer, and it’s well known that they will be looking to unload salary. The question is this: If they can get rid of some big-money players by the trading deadline, would they be willing to tinker with the current chemistry that has them poised for a Stanley Cup run?
If so, Barker is a defenseman who could be available. And with the Bruins openly saying they would like more from their blue line, Barker could be a solution. But like Visnovsky, he would require some cap maneuvering and, again, the current trade market makes that tough. Barker is still due $3.1 million per season for the next two seasons before he hits restricted free agency in the summer of 2012. But if the Bruins could pull off a deal for the 23-year-old rear guard, Barker could help both now and in the future.
Patrick Sharp, forward, Chicago Blackhawks
Sharp has become one of the most versatile players in the game and has also been a constant on the rumor mill because of the Blackhawks’ impending salary-cap issues. The 28-year-old winger has 43 points this year and could really help the Bruins’ dormant offense. He would also fit nicely into Claude Julien’s system, simultaneously playing a smart defensive and transition game. Once again, with Sharp making $4.1 next season and $4.2 in 2011-12, trading for him would require either the Hawks taking salary back (which is unlikely since that’s why they would be trading him) or the Bruins finding another team to do so.
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