Peter Chiarelli has until Feb. 28 to make any tweaks to his roster for a playoff push this season, but the moves could come well before that deadline and did in fact begin on Tuesday when center Chris Kelly was acquired from Ottawa for a second-round pick. Other teams have been even more active, most notably the Maple Leafs, who were here in Boston on Tuesday.
They arrived without defenseman Francois Beauchemin and forward Kris Versteeg, who have already been dealt away, and Toronto general manager Brian Burke made sure to let it be known that the Leafs weren't done yet.
Will the Bruins get in on the action with even bigger acquisitions? Who might they target in the coming days? Can these moves finally put Boston over the top in the playoffs? Those are the overriding themes of the questions we'll try to answer in this week's edition of the Bruins Mailbag.
As always, I'd like to thank all the readers who sent in questions for this edition of the mailbag, and apologize in advance if I wasn't able to get to yours. Please keep submitting your questions and I'll get to as many of them as I can as we head down the home stretch of the season.
1. Doug, I think we need a scorer more than a puck-moving defenseman. We need to make sure the forwards remember to come back and help the D get out of the zone. Plus having [Steven] Kampfer and being able to use some forwards on the power-play point should make up for lack of a PMD, plus not sure how consistent Looch [Milan Lucic] and Horty [Nathan Horton] can be. What are your thoughts?
Ideally, Chiarelli will be able to add both a puck-moving defenseman and some scoring depth up front beyond Kelly, but that may not be possible in this market. However, if he can target just one of those needs I think he would have to go for the blueliner. You're right that the forwards need to help out on defense, something they've been good at most of the year but was seriously lacking in the last few games against Montreal and Detroit, and that's an area Kelly will help in. But the forwards also need some defensemen better equipped to help the transition to offense. Kampfer adds some of that element, but his play has slipped a bit and it's too much to ask a first-year pro to be the primary puck-mover on the team. I'm also not sure I like the forwards at the point quite as much as you do. I'd prefer to see Mark Recchi in front. He's been burned for a breakaway after not being able to keep the puck in at the point once already. I'd rather a defenseman manning that point and make use of Recchi's net-front presence and deft touch around the crease.
As for Lucic and Horton, their slumps certainly have hurt the team at times this year. Lucic went 12 games without a goal from mid-December to mid-January, but he has seven in his last 11 games and appears back on track. Horton, however, continues to struggle. The five-point night against Montreal raised hopes again, but he had no points and just two shot in three games since. Regardless of what additions the Bruins make at the trade deadline, they need more consistent production down the stretch from their biggest offseason acquisition.
2. What would the chances of Phil Kessel coming back to Boston? I know that he wanted to leave but I would think he has changed his mind a little from going from the winning team of 08-09 to the constant losing of the Maple Leafs. I think he could be better used back here in Boston. Is that possibly a deal for the future?
— Mason from Gorham
Just about any trade question is fair game this time of year, but with all due respect, there is absolutely no chance of Kessel pulling on a Bruins' sweater again. Those bridges haven't just been burned, they've been incinerated, buried, dug up and set ablaze once more just to make sure they could never be rebuilt. Kessel doesn't want to come back here, Brian Burke isn't going to deal him anywhere, let alone back to Boston, and Chiarelli has no interest in bringing him back. There are plenty of possible deals that could go down in the coming days. I can safely say none of them will involve Kessel coming anywhere near the home locker room in Boston again.
3. Why hasn't more attention been given to the possibility of a trade for Milan Hejduk? Hejduk is a big-time scorer with a $3 million cap hit. Colorado is in 15th place in the West, even if only six points from eighth. Are there any legs to this trade possibility?
— Matt from Charlton
Now this is a more reasonable target for the Bruins to pursue. The Avs should be open for business now that they've lost eight straight games, including an embarrassing 9-1 defeat to Calgary on Monday. They're actually 14th in the West (Edmonton isn't going to give up last place any time soon) and now 10 points out of the final playoff spot. Hejduk could definitely help here. He's 35, but still productive (17-28-45 in 50 games this year), has a proven track record (10 straight 20-goal seasons, Cup ring in 2001) and doesn't require a long-term commitment with him due to become a UFA this summer. Depending on the price, it's certainly a possibility worth pursuing.
4. I know you've been asked who's out there at the trade deadline and who would fit best but what I was wondering is what do you think about bringing back Brad Boyes? It looks like the Blues could be selling come trade deadline and I think bringing back Boyes would be a great fit he's a big guy like Lucic and Horton and I think would mesh well with Bergy, Lucic/Horton on the first line.
— Josh from Lynn, Mass.
I always liked Boyes when he was here and was sorry to see him go, but I don't think he's the answer now. For one, he has a $4 million cap hit through next season which would tie up too much space needed for help elsewhere. Also, while he's bounced back a bit this year (11-26-37 in 55 games), his goal totals have slipped from 43 in 2007-08 to 33 in 2008-09 all the way down to 14 last year. Not sure I see where the comparison to Lucic or Horton is coming from either, as Boyes is just 6-foot, 195 pounds and doesn't play a particularly physical game (though on second thought, that does make him similar to what we've seen from Lucic and Horton of late).
I do agree that the Blues could be a good potential trade partner though. They're now 13th in the West, seven points out of the final playoff spot with five teams to pass. The Bruins and Blues have dealt frequently in recent years, and St. Louis could be a match for the blue-line help Boston desires. I don't think the Blues are ready to give up on Erik Johnson yet, but Eric Brewer would be intriguing. He's got size (6-foot-3, 222 pounds) and some offensive ability (eight goals so far this year). Most importantly, while he carries a $4.25 million cap hit, he's an unrestricted free agent after the season and wouldn't require a long-term commitment.
5. Any chance they go after guys like Zach Bogosian or Erik Johnson, both of whom I think would be available for the right price? Also what do you think about going for Zach Parise? He would give them a legitimate top line scoring forward.
I addressed Johnson a bit above, and Bogosian falls in a similar class. I'm not sure the Thrashers are ready to give up on him either, but they might be more willing since they just re-signed Dustin Byfuglien to a long-term deal and Tobias Enstrom signed through 2012-13. It would take quite a bit to land Bogosian though, probably the Toronto first-rounder at least. And Bogosian is in the final year of his rookie deal, so he'll be a restricted free agent looking for a hefty raise next year. It's an intriguing possibility, but would carry quite a cost and some risk. Parise would also come at a high cost and needs a new deal next year, and also might not be able to contribute down the stretch this year with his knee injury.
6. Good Day Doug, I'm a die-hard fan of Milan Lucic. I would like to know if there's any chance he will be part of a trade come next season? Or will he retire with the Bruins? Thank you and I love reading you're blogs. From a true Bruins fan from Montreal Quebec.
— Lucia from Montreal
Thank you for the kind words. Have to respect a Bruins fan based in the middle of enemy territory north of the border. I think you can rest at ease for at the least the immediate future with Lucic. He's clearly a big part of the foundation Chiarelli has built here and it's highly unlikely he'll be dealt away now or in the near future. Whether he will retire as a Bruin is another matter altogether. He is just 22 and will have several more big paydays ahead of him in free agency if he stays healthy and continues to put up numbers like he has this year. With the salary cap and the way players move around in free agency, I wouldn't feel confident in saying anyone that young would spend their entire career with one time, but I do think it's not something you should have to worry about any time soon.
7. How much of an issue is it that the Bruins cannot put together decent win streaks? They get stopped every time, except once in the start of the season, when they are going for win No. 4.
I don't actually see this as a concern at all. While the Bruins haven't put together a single long win streak this year, they've consistently collected victories. They have five three-game win streaks and twice had six-game runs where they collected at least a point in six straight games. I think it's far more important that they've avoided any extending losing streaks. Prior to Tuesday's game with Toronto, the Bruins had not lost more than two games in a row in regulation all season. Being able to steer clear of those kinds of skids is a sign of a quality team, and the Bruins' record this year reflects a general consistency that is far more important to sustained success than a single long hot streak.