February 12th, 2010 by

The Bruins should take a close look at Seidenberg, Leopold tomorrow night

After losing five-straight and six of their last seven – and scoring just 13 goals-for in their last 12 games – it looks as if the Florida Panthers are going to be sellers rather than buyers come the Mar. 3 trade deadline.  And not having been in the playoffs since when Pavel Bure played during the Clinton Administration, I think general manager Randy Sexton has reached his boiling point.

“This isn’t going to last,” Sexton said. “If we can’t make deals at the deadline, I can tell you the guys you see out there now, this will be the last time you see a bunch of them together as a team.”

Last night, the Panthers shipped unrestricted free-agent [UFA] Dominic Moore to the Montreal Canadiens for a 2011 second-round draft pick.  At 29-years-old, Moore – who posted 8-9-17, minus-7 in 48 games-played with Florida this season – will now be suiting up for his seventh NHL team in eight seasons.

“From our perspective, we need to add depth. Converting a UFA guy we signed for nothing into a second round pick is something we need to do. There’s going to be more things happening I hope.” Sexton added at On Frozen Pond “The time is ticking. We’re working on a variety of things, the discussions have really picked up in the past 72 hours. We’ll see. Deadlines cause people to focus.”

It has been widely reported even prior, that Panthers forward Rostislav Olesz and defensemen Jordan Leopold and Dennis Seidenberg are out there for the pickins’. But with Olesz’s recent injury [hand/finger]  Sexton and the Panthers seem to be stuck with the youngster and his substantial contract.

George Richard, the Panthers’ beat writer for the Miami Herald, has this to say last night on his site, On Frozen Blog:

Randy Sexton just told us that he is hoping to get more deals done before the 3 p.m. mini deadline set tomorrow. He said that no player — including Tomas Vokoun — is off limits in the trade talks. He has not spoken to anyone regarding waiving their no trade clauses.”

“Randy also said the second round pick could be in play as part of a bigger deal.” “Absolutely,” Sexton said. “Whether we’re buyers or sellers, we have to retool this team.”

The Panthers’ owners have even posted a letter to the fans on the team’s website explaining their plans to rebuild.

If that’s the case, the Bruins should look into acquiring UFA’s Seidenberg [$2.25MM] or Leopold [$1.75MM] for the playoff push. After last night’s 5-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Bruins have put themselves  back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture in eighth-place with 63 points, and could even better their position with a win over the Panthers tomorrow night.

The NHL roster freeze is now in effect, but there will still be text messages sent amongst NHL general managers – and perhaps even some back-room handshakes. We saw a few trades that went down before the 3pm NHL roster-lock today before the Olympic break. One trade in particular had the  Hurricanes shipping forward Matt Cullen [12-28-40 season totals] to the Senators for  defenseman Alexandre Picard [4-11-15 totals] and a 2010 second-round draft pick.

Definitely a fair deal, and definitely a model for more trades to-come of Cullen’s stature.

Although the Bruins could certainly use some fire-power of their own at forward – like a Matt Cullen – tightening up their blue-line is also in order, especially due to their never-ending list of ongoing injuries. Johnny Boychuk, who was making his way up the pecking order, was the most recent defenseman to be sidelined after being struck in the head with a puck on Feb. 6. Mark Stuart was the iron man on the team -having played in 195 consecutive regular season games [213 straight including playoffs] – and had not missed a game since breaking into the NHL in 2007-08. But the 25-year-old Stuart has hit the IR not once, but twice this season – most recently with a broken finger.

The Bruins were haunted by the injury-bug last season as well – especially during the playoffs – losing defensemen Matt Hunwick [spleen] and Andrew Ference [groin]. This caused Steve Montador to step up and log nearly 30 minutes of ice time in the Game Seven loss against the Hurricanes. So adding depth, more importantly experienced depth, on the blue-line is paramount for the Bruins’ success throughout the post-season.

No one really expects Seidenberg or Leopold to be around in Florida much longer after the Olympics. Although they would ideally like to keep one – depending on the offers –  both could be shipped to different teams by Mar. 3. Sexton would be looking to acquire young players who can help out in near future, and of course, draft picks are always an added asset.

The 28-year-old Seidenberg [2-20-22, E, 112 shots on goal] leads the team in hits [133], blocked shots [171], and time on ice per game [22:53]. The eight-year NHL defenseman also has 19 playoff games under his belt, including being on last year’s Carolina Hurricanes squad.

Leopold, 7-11-18, ranks first on the team in short-handed time on ice per game [3:03] and second behind Seidenberg in total ice time [22:24]. The 29-year-old has appeared in over 40 post season games – including the 2003-04 Calgary Falmes, which made it to Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals against the winning TB Lightning.

As for the young players that could possibly help with the Panthers’ near future: the Bruins have a slew of players this year, as they did lat year, to attain such players. Matt Lashoff – along with Mārtiņš Karsums – was dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning on the Mar. 3 trade deadline last season in exchange for a 2010 second-round pick and future Hall-of-Fame winger Mark Recchi. At the time, Lashoff was surpassed by Matt Hunwick on the Bruins’ defensive depth charts. On the contrary, Hunwick has now been well surpassed by Boychuk on such charts. Not only has Boychuk trumped Hunwick, but prior to his injury, was making a legitimate case as a No. 2/3 blue-liner in Boston.

Vladimir Sobotka [$750K] could be a welcomed addition to the Panthers’ rebuilding stages, as the 22-year-old is a RFA at the end of this season. The Bruins also have three second-round picks in this upcoming 2010 NHL Entry Draft: from the aforementioned Lightning deal last season ; from Toronto, for Phil Kessel; as well as their own. Boston also scored a second-round pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft from the Minnesota Wild [Chuck Kobasew] earlier this year.

Zdeno Chara remains signed through the 2010-11 season at a $7.5MM cap-hit; as is Hunwick with $1.45MM.  Many fans – myself included – would like to see Hunwick and his $1.45MM salary disappear, he is a roster player that could possibly be moved, and could also be a part of Sexton’s new-look Panthers.

The Bruins also have impending RFA’s  Boychuk [$500K cap-hit] Stuart [$1.3MM], and Adam McQuaid [$623K], so unless they take a reasonable, similar offer, Peter Chiarelli is going to have to get creative  in order to keep these young blue-liners. Out of the three, Boychuk is a must-keep and is deemed nearly untouchable in my book. But either Stuart or McQuiad could also be a part of a package to be sent Florida’s way.

And as for UFA’s, the oft-injured Andrew Ference [$1.4MM] is the most-likely of players to find a new home by  the Jul. 1 NHL free-agency date. Since being acquired by the Bruins during the 2005-06 NHL season – where Ference played in 80 games between Calgary and Boston – he has played in 59 and 47 games the following two seasons, respectively. If he has any value to get a Seidenberg-type player in return, the 30-year-old Ference could also be given his ticket out of Boston.

Derek Morris [$3.3MM], the last UFA on the blue-line, has certainly exceeded expectations since being acquired by Boston. Morris, who will be 32-years-old come the beginning of the 2010-11 season, has a new found rejuvenation since leaving Phoenix and coming to Boston. As far as trading this guy, I’d say no way. Chara-Morris-Boychuk-Wideman are four solid defensemen whom Chiarelli can build around for the future.

So while Boston ironically faces Florida in their last game before the Olympic break, the Bruins’ brass should keep an eye on Nos. 4 & 44 to trade for the now.

Mārtiņš Karsums

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