Wednesday witnessed the removal of two potential trade targets, with Columbus dealing Antoine Vermette to Phoenix and Carolina re-signing Tuomo Ruutu to a four-year extension. The Vermette deal could further limit Boston's options, as it could signal that the Coyotes will not be sellers this season and take Ray Whitney off the market.
It's also possible that Vermette could free up Phoenix to move Whitney now that they have another forward in place to fill some of that offensive void. But with the Coyotes currently in a playoff position out West, they probably won't look to jettison their leading scorer even if he's slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Ruutu was also destined for free agency this summer, and coupled with his combination of grit and skill, he appeared a perfect rental for the Bruins despite his recent upper-body injury. That won't come to pass now that he's committed to stay in Carolina, so what options are left for the Bruins?
It's not exactly a buyers' market. Most of the names reportedly available either don't fit the Bruins' needs or come at a cost that would do more harm than good in Boston's quest to raise the Cup again in the coming years.
"Last year we talked about adding a couple more bodies and chemistry," Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told 98.5 The Sports Hub on Wednesday morning. "We were fortunate to get a couple of players that had additional years on their contracts and fit into our two-way system. I can't tell you those deals are out there. I would hope to add some depth and I can't dismiss the bigger deals, but the prices for rental players are through the roof right now. We paid a good amount last year to get some payers in. I'm not saying we won't this year, but they're through the roof."
A quick rundown of the players potentially available doesn't offer up a lot of enticing options, even at those prices. Big names like Rick Nash and Jeff Carter in Columbus come at far too high a cost and with far too burdensome a cap commitment over the next six and 10 years, respectively. Edmonton's Ales Hemsky doesn't really fit the Bruins' style of play, and his declining production (five goals in 46 games this season) doesn't inspire confidence.
Washington could put some of its assets on the market. Alex Semin has the potential to supply offense, but he doesn't appear a match for the Bruins system. Mike Knuble wouldn't be a problem there, but can he make enough of an impact at this stage of his career after managing just three goals in 56 games with the Capitals?
Paul Gaustad could be an option if the Sabres are ready to concede their late push won't be enough to get into the playoffs, and if they are willing to deal within the division. There might be some awkwardness in the room after Gaustad's role in the Milan Lucic–Ryan Miller controversy this season, and he doesn't offer a lot offensively, but Gaustad would be a valuable role player in the playoffs.
The Bruins could also look to Dallas, which is currently on the outside looking in at the Western Conference playoff race. Steve Ott and Mike Ribeiro could be available, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun. Like Gaustad, Ott has some contentious history with the Bruins, but does offer an intriguing mix of talent and toughness. Ribeiro's tendency to dive might not go over well in Boston, but he also would help the offense and has a connection with Claude Julien, having played for the Bruins coach in Montreal.
Speaking of connections to Julien, if the Stars are willing to part with Ott or Ribeiro, would they be open to moving old friend Michael Ryder? He's having a strong season (his 23 goals would lead the Bruins), and he wouldn't need any adjustment period to fit back into the Bruins system.
Beyond the matter of whether the Stars would deal him, there's also the fact that the Bruins would have to give up assets to get back a player they could have re-signed this summer. But Chiarelli has proven in the past that he's not afraid to reverse course and won't compound a mistake. He showed that by letting Tomas Kaberle walk this summer rather than throwing good money after bad trying to re-sign him just to justify the price paid in acquiring him at the deadline.
Of course, Ryder still carries a $3.5-million cap hit through next season. That was a price the Bruins weren't willing to pay in the summer, and with so many of their own free agents still to re-sign this offseason, that may still keep Ryder off the Bruins' wish list. Still, with the market so lean, it may be worth considering.
Chiarelli has shown in the past that he can be creative in filling needs. Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley were unexpected additions last year that paid off handsomely, and more unexpected names could come into play this year at the deadline.
Chiarelli has also shown he won't overpay out of desperation. Two years ago the Bruins were dead last in scoring, but he came away from the deadline without any new forwards. Instead, he added Dennis Seidenberg to the defense, which proved a far more valuable addition than the rental forwards that were moved that year, with Raffi Torres, Alexei Ponikorovsky and Wojtek Wolski making minimal impacts before moving on to multiple teams since being dealt at that deadline.
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