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.

The Rick Nash saga is heating up, and will likely not die out completely if he remains in Columbus until mid August with a slight lull during the playoffs, and a sharp spike after the Cup is raised.

But what is he worth? When Ilya Kovalchuk was traded he had one year left on his contract, had hit fifty goals twice, had three other 40 goal season, and was either the best or second best left wing in the NHL.  Rick Nash was the first overall pick in the draft a year after Kovalchuk, and has put up very good numbers playing at one time or another both center and wing, but not quite on Kovalchuk’s level. When the Thrashers traded Kovalchuk to the Devils, he went with Anssi Salmela, who can probably be described as a AAAA defenseman, and a second round pick. The Devils sent back, a 1st round pick a 2nd rounder, NHL defenseman Johnny Odouya, and some peripheral prospects.  Kovalchuk had one year left on his deal

Nash, has six full season left on his contract. This is both a gift and a curse. Teams wanting to mind their budget and long term projections on who they can afford to retain have cost certainty with the deal. What can’t be guaranteed is performance in relation to contract. He could play at or above the .81 points per game he’s maintained in his career if he’s healthy, and in a compatible system. Equally an injury, incompatible system or a coach with a bias could squash his productivity and leave a team with a Reddenesque deal on their hands.

So what type of return should the Blue Jackets get if they do indeed trade him? If they go just for picks and try and restock and build through the draft, it should be two first round picks for teams expected to finish in the bottom 15 or so, and probably at least one second round pick. If they want to build depth, and get useful special teams and leave offensive production primarily to Jeff Carter and whoever they draft in the lottery this year, they could pick up two or three players who could help their 21st ranked powerplay and their 30th ranked penalty kill. Arguably getting one first round pick and those three or four role players with a couple years left on the deals will make the team more competitive than one or two second tier stars would. If in the, highly unlikely, situation they opt for a simple superstar for superstar trade arguably Eric Staal is the perfect candidate. He was drafted 2nd in 2003, and was part of a cup run. While neither is exactly a raging extrovert, Staal has a bit more force to his play, and may just need a change of scenery.

Going purely off number Staal for Nash isn’t great upgrade, and Staal is justifiably paid more, but Staal has spent most of his time at center, and putting Yakupov or Forsberg on his line, while Carter, Umberger and Johansen form another line has certain appeals. Whatever they decide to do with if they do trade Nash, and can get what they are looking for, it has to help the team form an identity. I haven’t seen the team play with one in the past two seasons and it can’t stay in business without something to help build success and draw crowds. Additionally it’d be nice for someone outside the franchise to know who their All Stars are next season since they are hosting the event.

With the news that top line right wing Nathan Horton has taken a step back in his recovery we’re faced with two important concerns. The first is for Nathans health. I love hockey, I like watching him play when he’s ready to roll out a strong game. But there’s no player I want to see on the ice more than I want them to be able to function in daily life. If he has reached the point where that is threatened it is time for him to hang up the skates. He’s won a cup. He’s made some good friends on the team and elsewhere and he’s gotten the opportunity to see the world. He can retire content in how much he achieved, no one can doubt that the Bruins were a better team with him in the lineup. When he had his A game he was a monster, when he had his B game he was still a force. But is it time? Should he shut down for the rest of the season now and hope to return for the playoffs? Should he just go home now and start working out in late July towards a return in the fall? That’s something he, his doctors, family and the team have to decide.

The other key question is who do they replace him with. Cap space isn’t an issue unless they plan on adding Iginla and Carter. Even then, they could add a full 13 million without putting his salary on the LTIR, and that’s without putting Savard their either. Short term or long term replacement is part of the equation. Chris Stewart who I mentioned in a previous post may or may not be available. If he is, he’s just about perfect. He possibly needs a change of scenery, he’s aggressive, big bodied, can score and his contract expires at the end of the year.

David Jones of the Avalanche is another player who might need a change of scenery. Or possibly just reasonably healthy top centers to play with. He’s got an inexpensive contract as well and could possibly be had for no more than a prospect or middle round pick.

The Phoenix Coyotes have Shane Doan, Radim Vrbata and Ray Whitney who would all look pretty damn spiffy in a Bruins uniform. But I don’t see them being moved at all. The Coyotes enter play tonight still in 8th place. They have played more games than most of the west, but 8th place is still a playoff spot and as long as they have that, I don’t see a trade happening. I can’t picture them wanting to give the appearance of tanking on purpose.

Internally, I think it might be time to try Jordan Caron in a top line role. Give hims 17 or 18 minutes of time a night and see what happens. When he plays confidently he plays effectively. He’s proven an effective penalty killer and it is past time we found out what he can do with the opportunity to earn a top six role over a couple weeks time.

If depth is the desire and Horton is not expected back picking up one or two of the above and or the much rumored Tuomo Ruutu, the New York Islanders pending UFA P.A. Parenteau who like Horton is a right handed shot. For pure nostalgia, I’d bet Kobasew or Boyes could be had, but I can’t see them providing offense at a high enough level to justify a lot spent to get them. Given the chronically woeful state of Edmonton’s defense, sending out a prospect or two from the blueline that brought back Gagner or Paajarvi-Svensson would be win-win for both teams.

Whatever is decided, the drop dead date is the deadline. Much as I have faith at least one or two of the guys in Providence will turn into NHL guys, it doesn’t look it’s this year.

Tonight the Boston Bruins throwdown with the Ottawa Senators. Just days ago Tim Thomas, Tyler Seguin and Zdeno Chara faced Erik Karlsson, Milan Michalek, Jason Spezza and Ottawa Captain Daniel Alfredsson in the All Star game and skills competition. Tonight the goals count for more than bragging rights, the win will either provide separation or leave the division rivals in a points tie at the top of the Northeast division.

Tonight is the third of six games between the clubs this season. Thus far the magic number is “5′. The Bruins have scored five goals in each of the first two games. The Senators have scored a total of five goals in those two games. Boston Will be without Nathan Horton who continues to recover from his second concussion in a year, this suffered on an unpenalized hit against the Flyers. The Senators are missing Jesse Winchester and Peter Regin, both out indefinitely since December 21st.

Horton’s concussion, has fueled trade speculation with desired club acquisitions including the New York Islanders Kyle Okposo and the Phoenix Coyotes Ray Whitney. Zach Parise who can of course be had for a pair of 3rd year AHL nobody’s is also on the radar. Any of the three is as likely as the other at this point, but one name I think bears thinking about is one that was linked to the Bruins for three or four straight years. The biggest holdup on Carter escaping the host city for next years All Star extravaganza isn’t his desire to get out, unhappiness with the city or even his play. Players like Steve Montador, Joffery Lupul, Kris Versteeg and other frequent travelers not to mention every goalie who isn’t in the top five or six prove most organizations believe they can fix any problems with a player. Magical coaching is a belief held as commonly as not stepping on the logo on the locker room floors, even if no one is willing to admit it.

I think the tide has turned on the forever contracts. The ten years left on his contract will carry him past his 37th birthday. While he’s probably worth the slightly more than five million dollar cap hit he’s on the books for, it is hard to imagine dedicating that much cap space, regardless of actual salary to a 34 or 35 year old s fraught with tension for any general manager.  A cap hit as high as Carter’s would make him the highest paid forward in a lot of cities, while unquestionably talented it remains to be seen if he has the ability to be the type of impact player generally associated with being the top paid player at a position.

Later this week, the Bruins will host the Carolina Hurricanes including much rumored blueline reinforcement Gleason has just signed a contract that should have Boychuk and Corvo’s agents laughing themselves silly. The Hurricanes sit 15th in the east and 27th overall, but have taken the previous meetings this season with the Bruins. Saturday the Pittsburgh Penguins skate in for a matinee. The potentially Crosbyfied Penguins will arrive in Boston with days rest off of a back to back home and home set against the Toronto Maple Leafs where Brian Burke (@LeafsBB20) will probably kvetch about Don Cherry some more.

Across the month of February the Bruins play 13 games in 28 days including three back to backs sets. Five of this months games are against teams not currently in playoff position.  Six games are against teams currently in the top five in their conference including two games against the Senators, games against the Penguins and Rangers, and a tilt with the Predators.

One of the consistencies of the Chiarelli regime in Boston has been him pulling off trades and free agent pickups that no one expects. With the exceptions of moving Kessel and the even more talked about, rumored, and agitated for Kaberle trade most of his acquisitions have been very under the radar. Adam Mcquaid, picked up for not much. Boychuk, Kelly, Peverley, Kampfer, no bank heists needed to fund these pickups either. Joe Corvo, one fourth round pick sent south, To varying degrees these trades have all either worked out well or at worst not been a detriment.

But if ask anyone if they expected Aaron Ward to be traded back to Carolina or Derek Morris to be either picked up or traded away less than a season later, most people would just say no. This year the major speculation revolves around the forward lines and who can and can’t be parted with. The consensus pick for who was being dangled as tradebait has been Zach Hamill, he of the fairly watery 2007 draft class. With all the players who ill hit free agency, and barring his most recent game Hamill’s solid performance this year highlighted by a glaring inability to look out of place on a Stanley Cup champion roster, its hard to leave the Everett Silvertip alumni along on that pedestal.

Another addition to the “we can probably get something useful for him” list has been former Rimouski Oceanic star Jordan Caron. He’s a big body, he’s defensively responsible, and he’s recently displayed some willingness to stick up for his teammates. Unfortunately he’s a touch lacking in confidence, and has not been able to stick in the lineup.  A change of scenery where a team paid him the compliment of pursing him might all that’s needed to turn him into a regular top six contributor.

What has me questioning either Caron or Hamill as the most likely candidates for trade are some facts that come together neatly. First, Zach Hamill was (like half the forwards in the Bruins system) drafted at center but was shifted to wing. Second, in two recent appearances after time on both left and right wing, Hamill was slipped back to center. Third, a recent player poll that listed Chris Kelly as one of the most underrated players in the NHL. Fourth, Kelly being one of those pending UFA’s the team has to deal with. Fifth, Claude Julien putting Hamill at center between Peverley and Kelly in a recent game.

The last one may not seem like much, possibly just a nagging injury to Kelly, but Peverley has also played some center under Julien, with Hamill only having one or two games under his belt at pivot in the NHL it was shocking to many observers. Of the three Kelly could be a nice safe rental, Hamill is in the last year of his entry level contract, and Caron has another full season on his entry level deal to acclimatize to the system of anyone who picked him up.

Team management being who they are, I can’t imagine them going into the post season without finding a veteran depth defenseman somewhere as an insurance policy. Equally of note, the team does not possess a second round draft pick this year. This years draft class is replete with young men who can be expected to play a top three role in the NHL right thorough those first two rounds. Given how few players in the Bruins system project in that range, both a draft pick and some playoff insurance are likely weighing heavily on the minds of the Bruins brain trust.

10: Your All Star selection is unfamiliar even to your fans.

9: Even Kourtney and Kim Kardashian think your roster has had too many men in it.

8: The biggest story of the week for 14 weeks running is the injury report

7: You went to the conference finals last year, get beat by the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in your own barn and it’s not even news.

6: You beat the Detroit Red Wings for the fourth time in a row and people point to that as a sign of a problem with a team that’s won more games at home than you have all season.

5: You look at the standings and wonder if maybe, just maybe Dustin Penner might help you score more goals.

4: You were last season’s NHL MVP and a guy who’s been playing in the NHL since before you were allowed to cross the street yourself has to decline and lobby on your behalf for you to get to the All Star game.

3: Your owner is already saying that injuries are the cause of your season turning out the way it is and is swearing your Coach and GM will have jobs all season.

2: Your fourth line is looking forward to getting all the extra time ice time against the Bruins once the game gets out of hand in the second period.

1a: Your general manager trades your best pure scorer between periods in a one goal game.

1b: Your teams broadcasters are already practicing pronouncing Nail Yakupov.

The NHL season wouldn’t be the same without rumors of one or more major talents being shuffled across the map. A lot of the speculation has centered on one Jarome Iginla the last three or four years. They chaos that has been the front office of the team for much of the last decade has virtually sealed the deal on him winning a Stanley Cup with Flames. Certainly it is hard to imagine him doing it before his current contract is over, and possibly ever. He’s still playing smart, tough, effective hockey as he closes in on his 35th birthday it is hard to imagine him being the cornerstone of a cup win three or four years from now.

Among the concerns for Iginla about leaving the only city he’s ever played in is how much it will damage his legacy. I’m not convinced that is as valid a concern as it might once have been so long as he doesn’t go to Edmonton or perhaps Vancouver. If the team plays it right, and gets a solid return on him, and he’s willing to go back after his current contract there’s no reason he can’t still win a cup there with some better complimentary players, if the front office can do their jobs right.

The perfect team to me for Iginla to land on before the deadline is; The Minnesota Wild. They have a real lack of scoring that will not get them far in the playoffs. They have a solid prospect pool. They are reasonably close to Iginla who is loathe to leave his family.  St Paul isn’t exactly next door, but it is far closer than going to one of the New York Area teams, Boston or even to the Panthers. The Wild have almost eight million in cap space this year. Also to be considered is the reputation of the Wild for smart defense, but not having the ponies to flourish offensively. Adding Iginla to a lineup with Heatley and Setogouchi gives the team the ability to easily roll two lines in the top ten in the NHL for quality.

Then too there is the question of attitude. Jarome Iginla may be better known for his goal scoring than his punch throwing but I defy any informed NHL observer to apply the word “soft” to any part of Ignila or his game aside from his hands. Those hands have turned to pummeling opponents on no few occasions. More importantly no one pushes him around. The same can’t be said for the Wild. I’m not sure one could get away with the Marchand on Sedin speed bagging witnessed in the playoffs, but no one has gets the cold shivers at the thought of an infuriated Wild roster. I’m not even sure anyone has seen this current roster infuriated.

For the Wild, adding toughness and skill in one package can’t be dismissed out of hand. To do so with a guy who is undeniably hungry would be huge. They’ve already had a very good opportunity to review much of their farm system at the NHL level thanks to a rash of injuries. Regardless of who or what they trade to Calgary in exchange for Iginla with realignment looming those players will only have two chances a season to come back to haunt the team.

For Calgary the value of a year or two landing in the lottery and drafting quality picks in the first and second rounds to build for the future can’t be understated. It doesn’t matter where Iginla goes if he does get traded, the Flames have to have a plan for winning without him. A return that brought back Coyle or Granland and picks would kickstart the rebuild faster than almost anything. Coyle is arguably NHL ready now, a draft pick that turned into a first line center would be enormous.

Realistically, if all parties do things well this is a situation where everyone can have their cake and eat it too.

One of the woes of fans, and occasionally teams over the last half decade has been the lack of ability for teams to address their teams needs by moving multiple players all at once to another team, or two teams. The Mike Richards to LA, Kovalchuk to the Devils and Phil Kessel to Toronto trades count as possibly the two biggest trades since the lockout. It’s not just the salary cap, it’s the ability for players to come back and bite you in the future, over and over, and over again.

Imagine if you will the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer after their Stanley Cup win having the ability to make big, big trades to 3/4ths of the league and knowing they would only see those players twice a year in the regular season. What would someone have paid to get Byfugelien, Versteeg and Campbell all at once? Between the three of them you’ve got the ability to take a team from lottery to playoffs. Given what the New Jersey Devils have gone through trying to return to the playoffs or the Columbus Blue Jackets in trying to make their second playoff appearance, a cap crunch like the one Chicago found themselves in could be a huge benefit for one team and not just several small impact trades.

And as every poster on every sports message board and blog dreams, three team trades could be back on the table. I just don’t remember the last there was an impacting three way trade, or any other. With the potential to rebuild on the fly quickly, what sorts of deals will we see? Will this raise or lower the value of draft picks? Some teams already rely heavily on free agents and trade pieces.  With the realignment respaing the trade topography could the Flames finally find that number once center Iginla has never had? Could the Tampa Bay Lightning find a better defense? Could some GM with a the assetts and moxie land all three (no one counts Jared, sorry) Staal brothers on one team? Could the widening of trade possiblities lead to bigger moves at the draft and start of free agency?

First you get money:

  • Cap space is one form of money, and the obvious one.
  • Real spendable income is the other.

For some teams, the only thing that matters is the cap, not every team can (or is willing) to spend to the cap. And spending money for the sake of appearing competitive doesn’t do much good. Even with the salary cap rising and rising since the end of the lockout, getting rid of bad contracts requires you to find a fool to take the contract, wait it out, buy it out, or bury it (if possible) in the minors.

Then you get the power:

  • One type of power is the ability from ownership to move and get a big name with presumably a big contract.
  • Another is having few enough contracts signed to make it possible to take in multiple contracts if need be.
  • Assets like draft picks and valuable prospects are highly useful.
  • Fan support. Moving a big player in or especially out can have an effect on ticket sales and merchandise sales, and tv ratings.
  • Manageable non-movement and non-trade clauses.

The balance of these powers isn’t always apparent, but they all play into the equation and whatever teams management say, the last one is a huge thing. Dennis Wideman was traded from Boston (in part) because he was being actively booed by the home crowd.  Vincent Lecavalier wasn’t traded out not just because of his contract before Stamkos hit the team because he was the only name the casual Tampa Bay fan knew.

After you get the power, then people will respect you:

  • Respect the other management enough to offer what they need at a reasonable price.
  • Be honest about the condition of the players.
  • Respect they players you are thinking of bringing in.
  • Respect what your team, and coach do.
  • The fan bases respect once lost (if ever acquired) is hard to get back.

Does anyone doubt the Canadiens fans would have been furious if two days after the Pacioretty hit the front office traded for Zdeno Chara? How well received do you think even the (apparently) reformed Matt Cooke would do with the Bruins fans (and players)? Can anyone anyone see Marty Broduer welcoming Sean Avery to the New Jersey Devils? I can’t see any of those things either.

When it comes to respecting what players do, if you’re looking to find a large physical pair of first line players who skate well and play gritty, trading for the Sedin twins is probably not your best option. Likewise Mike Green has several good qualities to his game, but if you need a premier shutdown defenseman, you’re shopping for a burka at Victoria Secret’s.

If you have a coach with a mouth like Boudreau’s, bringing in a guy like ‘hockey Tebow’ Rocco Grimaldi may not make for a great mix. Coaches who are well known for riding their veterans over young players, may not be the right guy to have in town if you’re attempting to rebuild with young talent. And of course a fairly young coach who played in the NHL recently might not be the best guy to put in charge of one of their former teammates or a player they had a contentious relationship with.

Coming up a look at who could land some of the big fish.