November 29, 2011
Even in the midst of an 11 game winning streak the NHL trade winds have followed the Boston Bruins this year. When the team stumbled out of the gates many were waiting for GM Peter Charielli to shake up the roster to snap the Bruins out of their funk. To his credit Charielli stayed patient and the Bruins rewarded him by ripping up the NHL throughout November. However Charielli does have the cap space to make a move to improve the team and it will be interesting to see what he does. In his time with the Bruins Charielli has been both calculated and aggressive, never passing on an opportunity to improve the team’s Cup chances, but also never sacrificing the team’s future or destroying their cap flexibility in the process. This year he has a number of options to improve the Bruins and the Bruins must improve. You don’t repeat by staying the same, you repeat by being better. Charielli has the flexibility to make them better. It will be interesting to see what he does.
The rumor that got most widely circulated was the supposed Rick Nash for Tuukka Rask swap. To many it probably made a lot of sense. The Bruins could always use another scorer. An elite talent like Nash would obviously improve the Boston offense and he would likely jump at the chance join the Bruins after spending the balance of his career in the cellar with Columbus. Meanwhile the Blue Jackets were in desperate need of goaltending and Rask is probably the best potentially available goalie the NHL has to offer. The thought of Nash on a line with Patrice Bergeron and Tyler Seguin while Brad Marchand moved to third line and drove people nuts playing with Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly was an attractive notion to many Bruins fans this writer included. Meanwhile Rask backstopping the Blue Jackets rebuilding process would be a good step in the right direction for Columbus. However, while Rask for Nash looks good on the surface, upon further review it really doesn’t make sense. It’s hard to pass up the opportunity to add an elite player like Nash, and Charielli is probably sorely tempted, but at the end of the day he should pursue other options.
To start there is almost no way Columbus would make this trade straight up. They would likely require at least one of Boston’s top prospects. There is no chance Charielli parts with Doug Hamilton, and he’s unlikely to be talked into moving Jared Knight or Ryan Spooner. The price probably gets to high right there and the Bruins walk away. However a straight up deal also doesn’t make sense from a Bruins perspective. If all went according to plan a Rask for Nash trade would absolutely make the Bruins better this season. But all it would take is one injury to Tim Thomas to sink their Stanley Cup defense. Right now the Bruins are secure knowing that Rask gives them just as good a chance to win if something does happen to the 37 year old Thomas. Trading him would leave them one freak play from disaster. While Nash would make the Bruins offense deadly, moving Rask simply isn’t worth the risk.
Nash’s salary is an even bigger problem. Nash is slated to make $7.8 million a year for the next five years. Taking on a salary of that size could potentially destroy the Bruins. It would certainly mean goodbye to upcoming free agents David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk. It would likely mean the end of Chris Kelly too. Meanwhile Charielli would be scrambling to find a new heir apparent to Thomas with his check writing arm handcuffed to Nash. All this combined with the fact that the NHL collective bargaining agreement runs out after this year and Bruins simply can’t risk taking on a contract the length and size of Nash’s. He is an elite player who would make the Bruins better this year, but at the end of the day the cost and risk are too high.
Those in favor of a Rask for Nash swap simply see an opportunity to improve the Bruins’ chances for a repeat Stanley Cup, something that hasn’t happened since the 1998 Detroit Redwings. They are right to be looking for ways to get better. You don’t have sustained success in the NHL by staying the same. You have to continually improve. However, Charielli may not need to make a trade to do this. A glance at the Bruins tells even the casual observer that this team is already better than the team that won the Cup last year. The pillars Thomas and Zdeno Chara have shown no signs of slowing down meanwhile the young core seemingly gets better every game. Tyler Seguin is ten times the player he was at this point last year. His play has taken Bergeron’s game to the next level and the line of Seguin, Bergeron, and Marchand has been absolutely leathal. Last year’s deadline acquisitions Peverley and Kelly have already given the Bruins way more through 20 games this year than they did at any point during last regular season. David Krejci hasn’t gotten going yet, but slow starts are nothing new for the streaky center, and when, not if, he comes alive the top line of Milan Lucic, Krejci, and Nathan Horton is practically unstoppable.
The Bruins only lost three players from last year’s Stanley Cup team. Mark Recchi retired and Tomas Kaberle and Michael Ryder left in free agency. Seguin has taken Recchi’s spot on the second line and it’s been better than it ever was with Recchi. Recchi’s leadership will be missed but leadership simply is not a problem for this Bruins team. Joe Corvo has been an upgrade over Kaberle and Carolina may already be regretting the big deal they gave the Czech defenseman. The only player the Bruins have really missed is Ryder. As maddeningly inconsistent as he was the bottom line is whenever he had the puck on his stick Michael Ryder was a threat to score. He would disappear for prolonged stretches of the season but that wicked Ryder wrist shot made him dangerous on any given play. That is something the Bruins haven’t gotten out of their third line right wing this year and that is the area Charielli will likely adress via trade.
Charielli made the right move walking away from Ryder. He had a great playoffs, but Bruins fans and management would likely not have been able to handle another disappointing regular season from the enigmatic winger. Ryder’s playoff performance allowed him to leave town a winner and not outstay his welcome. However the Bruins haven’t found the player that can give them the same impact that Ryder did on the third line. Kelly and Peverley will score, and the fourth line will chip in on occasion, but without Ryder the Bruins bottom six does look a little thin from an offensive standpoint. Ryder made that line dangerous whenever they were on the ice, that hasn’t been the case this year. Charielli probably expected more out of Jordan Caron, but to this point it simply hasn’t happened and he could probably do with a trip back to Providence. Benoit Pouliot has started to come around and he will be given every chance to realize the potential that made him a top five pick in 2005. If that happens, and Pouliot gives the third line something like the look that Ryder did, Charielli may stand pat at the deadline. If it doesn’t however, this is the spot Charielli will look to improve.
Multiple names have been thrown around as potential Bruins. Calgary’s Rene Bourque and Columbus’ Derek Brassard are both available and bring the two way game the Bruins want from their third line. The Coyotes’ Ray Whitney has also been brought up as a possibility, but as long as Pheonix remains in the playoff hunt that deal wont happen. Daniel Alfredsson has also been mentioned, but the price for Ottawa’s captain is likely too high. By far the most attractive name that has hit the waiver wires is Anaheim Ducks winger Bobby Ryan.
If there is one deal Charielli should make that is it. If the asking price is David Krejci or Tuukka Rask he should walk away. Rask is simply too valuable, and trading Krejci, while he is underperforming, would mean blowing up the Bruins top six. This would be giving the Bruins the same vote of no confidence that Danny Ainge gave last years Celtics and could kill them in the same way. However, if the asking price is along the lines of Benoit Pouliot, Johnny Boychuk, Dan Paille and some prospects not named Doug Hamilton Charielli should pull the trigger. Bobby Ryan is a power forward who plays the kind of heavy game that would make him an instant fan favorite in Boston. He likely wont put up quite the same numbers he did in Anaheim since as he wont be playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry every night, but his speed and shot make him a threat to score on any given play. He is young and the kind of player that would thrive in Boston. He’s affordable and It’s hard to know where his ceiling is. His arrival would probably move Marchand to the third line making Boston’s top nine downright scary. The stumbling block of course is price which with a player of Ryan’s caliber will be pretty steep. But If the Bruins can get him for prospects and picks without blowing up their core they have to go after him. There is simply no player potentially on the market who could improve the Bruins as much as Bobby Ryan would and if he is out there Charielli has to be aggressive.
Also he’s American, and the Bruins need more of those.