The Bruins are in a decent position in the standings. They do have injuries to two key forwards and have shown little ability to replace them internally. It’s likely that Peter and Cam will want to add without subtracting again (even if that is unlikely) so I don’t expect anything huge. Here’s a look at some of the players and prospects who might attract some attention or who fans might be worried could be moved:

Negative move potential:

  • Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, Milan Lucic, Tim Thomas. These four are the magic smoke in the machine and without them the team does nothing, and goes no where. It isn’t that there aren’t teams with the assets on paper to buy one of them it is that they have more value to the Bruins because of who they are than any even moderately insane return could provide.

Very low:

  • Tuukka Rask, Brad Marchand, Dougie Hamilton, Jared Knight, Dennis Seidenberg. Either for today and the playoff run or the future these are key pieces. None is quite irreplaceable but the return would have to be unequivocally in the Bruins favor and have an immediate and long term impact.

Low 1

  • Ryan Spooner, Alex Khoklachev, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid, Tyler Seguin, Andrew Ference. This group is all players the Bruins would like or very much like to keep, but who have enough value without being completely indispensable either because of depth at that position, contract status or time on ice for the team.

Low 2

  • Johnny Boychuk, Daniel Paille, Shawn Thornton, Tommy Cross. The first three have value to the Bruins, and while other teams might want them none is likely to be the center of a trade. Cross is in the end of his senior season in college and the Bruins have invested a lot in the local guy and have to be expecting some return on it next season either in Providence or with the big club.

Medium

  • David Krejci, 1st round pick this year, Jordan Caron, Justin Florek, Krejci has been moved from center to wing lately and appears to have come alive, a first round pick this year if the team plays well will be somewhere in the 20+ range so a player who could he had for another year is a reasonable return, Caron probably doesn’t fit the Bruins system despite some flashes of high potential and good hockey sense. Justin Florek is having a good senior season at Northern Michigan University, and owns more than enough potential to be a key component in a trade for a team retooling.

If the Bruins do make a move, anyone expecting a blockbuster move will be sorely disappointed. From the pieces already taken off the market by trade or new contracts there is a chance they don’t make any trades at all. If they do make a trade look for guys who are going to play second or third line roles for forwards, or 3-6 rang defensemen. I wouldn’t even be surprised to see a retread come through the door.

Jeff Carter to Los Angeles:

Not a bad move. Who knows if the Kings had done this in June or July they might not be in a position where they start talking about trading their captain. Carter and Richards have a great deal of chemistry, some of it even on the ice and not the bar room variety. Carter is undeniably talented, will surely be able to find something he likes to do in his off time more easily in LA than Columbus. For the Blue Jackets, if Jack Johnson can get out of the spotlight and refocus on getting his game to a level where he justifies being picked right after Sidney Crosby and Bobby Ryan. With the swap the Blue Jackets also gain some cap space, time off the end of the contract and a 1st round pick. If Johnson does elevate his game the Columbus faithful would arguably have two top twenty quality defensemen with Johnson and Wisniewski patrolling the blueline.

Dustin Brown on the market?

This is just a Gauthier like level of insanity. Unless he’s specifically requested out of the city, moving a physical, 30 goal potential, leader is absurd. The only potential justification is a huge return both in terms of immediate assets and character. If they are getting back Jonathan Toews or that type player it could make sense but even assuming that level of return, you’re almost certainly adding 2-3 million in salary.

Subban the Slugger

P.K. Subban (@PKSubban1) got into his fourth altercation in practice of the season. I don’t know if this is an NHL record, but its still impressive. Among the “complaints” is that Subban practices at game level intensity. One wonders how much better the Canadiens would be if Subban weren’t the only guy trying that hard all the time? Given that this horrible accusation was leveled at Ray Bourque as well I suspect its unlikely any sane coach or GM will ask him to tone it down. That said he is playing in Habsland.

Soderberg for…wait I need a new punchline

Rumors of Carl Soderberg ending up in the Bruins system in more than just a paper form have swirled for years. I honestly doubt anyone in the Boston front office has held out any serious hope of hit happening in the past two or three years. If he does land in Boston or Providence next summer this could be one of the best things to happen to the organization in a while. If he goes to Providence to acclimate to the way the game is played this side of the Atlantic, it makes that team better instantly. Having a more mature, and hungry player leading could be just the defibrillator needed for more than one prospects development.  But what in the world will Bruins bloggers and fans find to joke about if he does come over and stay awhile?

Hart Trophy update

Dear New Jersey Devils fans,

If you aren’t screaming MVP every time Kovalchuk touches the puck you’re doing it wrong. 3 points behind the highest scoring left wing with six less games, leads all forwards in time on ice by a lot, tons of PK time on a very effective unit, short handed points, averaging over a point per game, on pace for yet another 30+ goal season.

Asterisk Over

The Vancouver Canucks ended the Red Wings record* home winning streak at 24. Maybe now the national media will remember to take a look at Detroit’s sub-.500 road record when talking about the playoffs. By comparison, the Montreal Canadiens who will likely be drafting in the lottery this year are even on the road this season.

This time last year the Boston Bruins traded first round pick Mark Stuart and free agent refugee from the Phoenix Coyotes Blake Wheeler (@BiggieFunke) to the then Atlanta Thrashers and now Winnipeg Jets for Boris Valabik and Rich Peverley. What I thought of the trade at the time is pretty well known. But its a year later, the Boston Bruins have hoisted the Cup, Rich Peverley played a key role in that and has since been rewarded with a new contract.

Let’s take a look at the players one at a time:

Mark Stuart:

  • Had a multiseason ironman streak as a member of the Boston Bruins.
  • leads the Jets in shorthanded time
  • has well over 100 each hits and blocked shots (154,141) both higher than any Bruins player
  • got his first career shorthanded goal this season

Blake Wheeler:

  • his 96 hits are more than any Bruins forward except Lucic
  • leads his team in scoring
  • only Bergeron has more points among the Bruins
  • with 12 has more powerplay points than any Bruins player except Chara

Rich Peverley (currently injured):

  • 9 goals 29 assists 38 points in 49 games
  • gets almost 4 minutes of special teams time a night
  • 4th among Bruins forwards in time on ice per game
  • 8th in scoring on the Bruins

Boris Valabik:

  • Has not played in NHL since trade.

On paper, and in the stat sheets it is hard to argue the now-Jets won this trade. Both teams got what they wanted from the trade, but if you need to declare one a winner it’s not really that close. Apparently I’m not alone in thinking that.

As of today, the Montreal Canadiens have twelve players and just under $44million committed for next season. This is hardly the worst cap situation a team has ever been in, but if the cap should go down, or key players demand more than management has budgeted things could spin out of control and get even uglier than the current season.

The biggest issue facing the Habs heading into the off season is who isn’t signed. The bad contracts currently on the payroll are there and just need to be accepted if they aren’t assigned to the minors or don’t miraculously spend the whole of next season on the injured reserve. Hal Gill was just jettisoned for what is potentially an overpayment.

Of the up and coming players Lars Eller and Alexi Emelin are arguably (not that it’s a good argument) at the bottom of the list. Emelin is in his first season in North America but brought with him a level of punishing physicality that can’t be understated. Lars Eller is likely to double his rookie seasons numbers and with a hot streak might just hit the 20 goal mark. Both are guys who performed admirably against a variety of opponents. It’s unlikely that the two will be moved or cost a great deal as both are at the end of their entry level contracts, but it is hard to imagine either signing for no raise or a cut in pay.

Next on the list is Andrei Kostitsyn. While his name was mentioned more than once in trade speculation (as it has been for years running) he’s also sixth on the team in points this season, despite missing some games. They will need to replace his goals, something that probably won’t come from their farm system and even if they are lucky enough to win the lottery and draft Yakupov, they haven’t shown a great deal of faith in the ability of rookies to produce in the NHL at a young age. The free agent market will likely have Alex Semin on the list but Semin has made six million each of the last two seasons. Other offensive upgrades are likely to top the reasonably $3.25m Kostitsyn is taking home now.

Raphael Diaz is another player who’s importance is magnified with the cloud of uncertainty that is Andrei Markov’s health on the table. He’s blocked a ton of shots, contributed offensively and not wasted a lot of time in the box. Better still he’s contributed points shorthanded as part of an effective penalty kill, and on the powerplay too. With Gill gone the defensive aspects of his game take on even more importance than his offensive ones.

And then there are the big guns. P.K. Subban and Carey Price. The two are by almost any measure the two most skilled players on the team. Price as a goalie is still maturing and despite playing behind a lackluster defense that was breaking in two rookies as regulars he’s still turned in a .916 sv%. He’s reportedly seeking compensation similar to Pekka Rinne, which would put him in the $7mil a year range. Subban after a rough start is with Josh Gorges one of just two regular defensemen with a positive +/- this season. Add in his offense, which no one thinks was at it’s peak this year, and you’re probably in the four million range.

If either of these players holds out of demands a trade that is an enormous hole in the roster. With a fairly weak free agent market it is unlikely they will fill the holes, retain the right players and put themselves over the top all this summer. Price and Subban have to be signed if they intend to win now. If they intend to win in the future, signing Price and possibly trading Subban for a needed piece like a top center or one or two forward prospects might be the ideal.

If they are going to wait out the Gomez’s contract, and want to retain as many pieces as possible, swapping Subban and or a pick or prospect that will be less expensive now or more valuable in the future. It is possible that a swap for one of the top picks of this draft like Dumba or Murray or Faska, or even a top pick from a recent draft like Brodin or Hamilton. Having two high end young defensemen come in together and help stabilize the team identity as did Keith and Seabrook or Suter and Weber could be an enormous asset to the team for a long time.

Over the last several weeks we’ve seen all sorts of writing, heard tons of radio and watched countless hours of hockey coverage on where Rick Nash will go, where he’s needed and where he’s not needed. If a team can or can’t afford him is another question that’s been beaten from dead horse to glue, ditto the price of getting him and his contract. The question that hasn’t been asked is: What city or cities would be best for Nash? Leaving aside the cities that don’t have a shot at even the playoffs this year, and teams in the division there are still a few cities that need to be looked at.

Montreal:

The Habs are in chaos and he has two things the team could use: Talent and Size. He’s played most or all of his career against Weber and Suter so playing against Chara and Myers isn’t going to be too much of an adjustment. What Montreal sends back while an important question isn’t really relevant. To the best of my knowledge Nash doesn’t speak French, and has not ever experienced the media storm that would bury him approximately one millisecond after his plane landed. I honestly can’t seem him thriving under it either.

Toronto:

The problem with the Leafs isn’t on the front end. Sure Nash is an upgrade in one way or another over every forward on the team. The media wouldn’t be much less intense than in Montreal, if at all and with his family hailing from Ontario, I can see the constant attention of family members being a distraction. Probably not the best destination.

Vancouver:

The Canucks probably don’t need him at all. And let’s face it, this is a city that’s been tearing apart Luongo for years. Last year he wasn’t even the major issue in the Cup finals. Luongo walked out of the building with a better save percentage than the two goalies who won in previous years. The fans are not quite fair in their evaluations of their players, and while he’s hugely talented, and could form a formidable trio with the Sedins or on a line with Kesler and Booth one wonders where the cap space is going to come from.

New York :

Assuming the Rangers decided to fundamentally alter the fabric of their team, Nash has a decent change of flying under the radar as long as he performs to a reasonable level. Gaborik, Richards, Lundqvist, Staal have been the big names attached to this team for long enough that Nash can slide in behind them. That said, it is New York, even if the media isn’t as virulent as the three Canadian cities, or Boston it’s still a strong force.

Boston:

If his salary were a little lower this might be an excellent fit. Unfortunately with a salary higher than Chara’s he’d have to move mountains and even then my readers at the CBS radio station would never let up. Any time he went three games without a goal the dollar figure would be trotted out. This says nothing of the local papers who would start in with “soft” and trend downhill rapidly. On top of that whoever was given up would be thrown at the public as the solution to what was wrong with the team by certain highly active folks on social media any time the team lost.

Los Angeles:

When all is said and done, assuming the team can retain; Richards, Kopitar, Brown, and Quick, the Kings become a power in the west. Nash gets to a competitive team with a press presence that probably pays more attention to which of Hollywood’s elite is in the stands that game than what’s going on in the standings. Mere hockey players regardless of salary just don’t stand out in So Cal.

Those are some of the names that have been trotted out most frequently, but there are two more cities that might just make  sense if the general managers are willing to part with the right assets, and have the budget to bankroll his salary and a competitive roster around him. One is a team known for anything but offense since it came into the league, the other is merely offensively starved over the last few seasons.

Minnesota:

This is a team that was in first pretty late into the season with a ton of injuries to forwards, defense and goaltenders and probably ran their top ten or fifteen AHL prospects through the system just to keep the wheels on the bus. They have to have a good idea of who and what they can part with and as long as Koivu, and Heatley are still on the Wild when all is said and done the team is stronger.

Winnipeg:

The Jets sit just a point or two out of playoffs, and have a desperate need for offense. They’d end up selling most of the farm, probably including Mark Sheifele to land Nash. With him in the fold for a full season they probably become the instant favorite to with the division next year. The idea of a power play with Kane, Byfugelien, Little and Nash has to appeal to more than a few folks, at least as long as they don’t have to face it. While Winnipeg is as hockey mad as the rest of Canada, it’s still a fairly small city and can’t support the media load that is drawn to New York City, Toronto, or Montreal.

Wherever he ends up, assuming he leaves Columbus at all the team needs to consider if he’ll survive the environment they are putting him into as well as the simpler mathematics of salary and trade compensation. The Carter situation is the perfect example of what happens to an organization that doesn’t consider the impact on the player before acquiring them.

Today’s action has a couple games that should be damned good.

The Nashville Predators host the Vancouver Canucks.

With two of the western conferences top five offenses, and the NHL’s top two powerplays this should hands down be the top game in the west. As a rematch of last years playoff showdown, the games don’t get much bigger. With a win, and a Detroit loss in regulation the Canucks would pull even in points with the Red Wings. If the Predators win and the Red Wings lose in regulation they inch closer to the #4 spot and home ice advantage in the west.

The Winnipeg Jets will square off with the Philadelphia Flyers.

This series has been rather high scoring this year. One of the earlier games finished 9-8. The Flyers have just reinforced with a defenseman imported from Dallas. Claude Noel‘s plea for a similar upgrade to his lineup has so far gone unheeded. Entering action today the Jets are on the outside looking in, while the Flyers claim to the number five spot is precarious.

Boston Bruins visit the St Louis Blues

This has the potential to be the game of the night. The last time the Blues were in the playoffs their rally could be dated to an improbable comeback win over the Bruins at mid season that saw them rally in the last few minutes from a multigoal deficit and end up mauling competitors right and left all the way until mid April. The Bruins are in a slump that started with ugly, sloppy wins in late December and turned to uglier losses in January and since. Being shutout three times in the last handful of games is going to leave any team a bit vexed, add in the fireworks that have happened between these two teams in the past and its all likely to break loose. The Blues have recently had Andy McDonald and David Perron (@DP_57) restored to their lineup. In the five games since his return McDonald has four points including goals in each of the last three games, Perron who played just 10 games last season and started this season on the injured reserve has 27 points in his 34 games.

With 22 teams in action today, and only 6 tomorrow, tomorrow is the more likely date for trading madness (assuming it happens) to break loose. With any luck the teams that should be selling and who will do themselves more harm than good by staying in the high teens vs sliding down further and picking up some prospects and draft picks will finally admit it. The Capitals and Avalanche at least should be in full fledged rebuild mode dumping every blight in the locker room, stat sheet or payroll for the best price they can manage.  A guy worth targeting as a solid complimentary piece for the home stretch and playoffs: Jason Chimera of the Capitals.

Beware of fake twitter accounts, I’ll cheerfully mock you if it’s a bad fake you’re retweeting.

The post I wrote because I refuse to speculate about trades today. Sorry Rick Nash fans.

In the west:

1: Detroit Red Wings vs 8: Calgary Flames

  • This clash would be interesting primarily because Iginla, Bouwmeester and Kiprusoff would have done the near impossible: drag a team without a legitimate top center, and limited depth at wings into the playoffs. Neither the team is especially good on the road. But guess what, this matchup won’t happen. Why? The Calgary Flames will be higher in the standings when all is said and done. Also interesting is that neither of these teams is all that good on the road. The reason the Flames will be a position or two higher? 15 home games remaining and only 8 road games left.

2: Vancouver Canucks vs 6: Phoenix Coyotes

  • If I had to pick a matchup for an upset, this is the one.  The goaltending and defense are a dead heat. With Mike Smith’s confidence riding high, I might even give the edge to the Coyotes in that regard, but hey when your lowest save percentage in a month is .914% you can be a little confident. The Coyotes are a lot more physical than the Canucks as well, and that was the Canucks downfall against the Bruins in the Cup finals last year. The Canucks might escape this matchup before it happens, with less than half their remaining games against playoff teams they could edge the Red Wings and Rangers for the Presidents Trophy.

3: San Jose  Sharks vs Chicago BlackHawks

  • This serious could go either way, and Canucks fans would be cheering for the two teams to lay waste to each other. Chicago’s got the better offense, but the Sharks are a better balanced team. The Sharks can win on the road, the Blackhawks are a bit challenged in that regard. This would likely end up the western series with the most offense per game as neither team has spectacular goaltending.

4: St Louis Blue vs 5: Nashville Predators

  • This all central division matchup would by any reasonable expectation be the lowest scoring of the first round, and probably the entire playoffs. But that’s no excuse to miss Erat, Weber and Suter of the Predators rolling into the playoffs with their new running buddy and Stanley Cup Champion Hal Gill (@Skillsy75) . The chance to watch TJ Oshie teleport across the ice, see David Backes run a few people over and pot a few goals while Alex Pietrangelo shows how well he can put points on the board against Rinne.

 

With the Bruins slump now entering its seventh week, its time to consider something I didn’t think I’d find myself endorsing at any point this season. Unfortunately with the loss of Peverley piled upon the loss of Horton, it’s past time to examine the idea. The Bruins need to break up Bergeron’s line. It has been the top line for the Bruins all season, however as things stand there is a decided lack of NHL proven skill and speed on the other lines.

Ideally the lines would shake out like this:

  • Lucic – Bergeron – Caron
  • Marchand – Kelly – Hennessy
  • Pouliot – Krejci – Seguin

For the first line, Bergeron gets to keep one of the top two goal scorers for the team this season, and both his new left and right wingers shoot from the same side as his current wingers. We need to know what Caron’s true talent level is, and he’s defensively responsible enough to put out against top and second lines even if he’s not going to score much.

The second line gives Kelly the type of speed he’s used to from Peverley, and a physical presence in both Hennessy and Marchand. With his ability to win faceoffs, they can control the puck and the pop them past the goalie. Again with Marchand and Kelly on the line we have enough of a defensive presence to keep the gents behind the bench happy, and off all the players in the Bruins system Hennessy has spent the most time playing with Kelly from their days in the Senators system.

Krejci lines up with a similar dynamic to the line he had early success with while playing pivot for Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. Some speed, some physicality and two guys he’ll have to work to keep up with. In Seguin he’s also paired with a player happy to take up the burden of shooting the puck multiple times a shift. If Pouliot is on a line with a high end scoring threat, it will open him up further and he may get a few more goals.

While this won’t fix lack of effort, won’t fix players not going to the net, and won’t fix defensive issues, it will however make it harder to shut down the forward lines. Spreading out the offense and making it more difficult for the opposition to simply throw the best defensive unit they have against the Bergeron line and pushing the other lines to the outside. The change in linemates might just spur certain players who are performing well below their expected level of play might make it back to something like their desired level play.