As the Mar. 3 trade deadline approaches, there will be some teams in the NHL who will be buyers to make their last minute push through the playoffs, and some will be sellers while looking to rebuild down the road. And then there will be a handful of teams who just can’t wait for this 2009-10 season to end.
When it comes to the Boston Bruins, I think we’ve all realized that this team is just a distant memory from the 116-point team from one-year ago, and unfortunately, is not a legitimate contender for Lord Stanley’s Cup. The B’s have shown glimpses here and there, but nothing consistent enough to make even the biggest of fans think that this team can compete with powerhouse teams such as San Jose, Chicago, or Washington in a seven-game-series. The Black-and-Gold backers recently watched the New Jersey Devils land their big fish while shattering their dreams of watching Ilya Kovalchuk skate on Marc Savard’s wing for the remainder of the season.
But that’s not to say that this season is over. Overcoming their 10-game winless-streak throughout January, the Bruins went 4-0-0 in their last four games before this Olympic break — plus gaining 10 points in their last six contests – to find themselves back in the Eastern Conference playoff picture [65 points, 7th place].
Darren Dregger of TSN.ca reported this on Twitter yesterday: “Following a previous tweet. Look for the Bruins to add a d-man when the freeze lifts. No agreement on the deal yet, though.”
On Friday night before the Saturday Bruins vs. Panthers game, I wrote a piece about the Bruins’ need for a solid defenseman, and how they should be eyeing Jordan Leopold and Dennis Seidenberg. In fact, I even wrote aboutLeopold on Examiner back on Jan. 6 when Andrew Ference hit the shelf with another groin injury.
With the mess that’s going on in Florida, my first guess on Dreger’s Tweet would be Leopold [$1.5MM, UFA]. Sexton has already said that no player is safe from a trade, so I think Chiarelli looks there first.
Second: Dan Hamhuis of the Nashville Predators [$2MM, UFA]. Probably a slightly higher price tag to trade for than Leopold.
Third [and least likely]: James Wisniewski of the Anaheim Duck [$2.75MM, RFA]
As we saw here in Boston last year with the Phil Kessel saga, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli had five months [Jul. 1 - Dec. 1] to either sign or trade the 22-year-old RFA Kessel. Throughout the cat-and-mouse game of whether or not Chiarelli would match an offer sheet that was presented to Kessel or not, Maple Leaf’s general manager Brian Burke went the more courteous route by offering the Bruins a trade for Kessel’s rights. And on Sept. 18, 2009, Phil Kessel was finally out of town and official property of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The outcome: better draft picks for Boston [2010 first- and second-rounders, plus a first-round pick in 2011] than what the Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA] would have required Burke to forfeit if he had just extended a contract offer sheet to Kessel [first-, second-, and third-round pick in 2010].
Now, long story short, the Bruins have a plethora of future draft picks – 11, in fact, in the first three rounds over the next two years.
One player who is an impending RFA on Jul. 1, 2010, is Anaheim Ducks’ power forward, Bobby Ryan.
Drafted second overall in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft–after Sidney Crosby–Ryan is in the final year of his three-year entry-level contract. The 22-year-old is currently at a $1.92MM cap-hit, and could be looking for some big bucks with his current monster season. Through 62 games played thus far, the Cherry Hill, NJ, native has posted 28-21-49 totals, with 16 points coming via the power play, a plus-4 rating, and 192 shots on goal.
Anaheim Ducks general manager Bob Murray succeeded Burke as Anaheim’s GM on Nov. 12, 2008. Chiarelli and Murray have already done business with each other back on Mar. 4, 2009; when Murray shipped defenseman Steve Montador to Boston in exchange for forward Petteri Nokelainen at last year’s trade deadline. So could these two GM’s revisit something else down the road, for Ryan, perhaps?
Similar to the Kessel situation last year, many outsiders looked at the dilemma and thought, “there’s no way Boston let’s their 36-goal scorer go.” I say the same thing about Anaheim and the extremely talented Bobby Ryan. But then again, anything’s possible.
Murray has said that he is ready for other teams’ offer sheets come the Jul.1 free-agency date –and has even stashed some money aside to re-sign Ryan–but not until the off-season. This was said after 22-year-old Ryan apparently declined a three-year offer from Murray during last year’s off-season.
Had the 6’2″ Ryan signed the three-year deal, he would have been a RFA once again at the end of that contract extension. Arthur Javier of AnaheimCalling.com said this could have been one of the main reasons for the decline, along with more years and more money.
“On a team where Getzlaf and Perry are making $5.3M (cap hit), I don’t know how much money he can demand at the bargaining table, and he may just be asking for a five-year contract to guarantee he’s a UFA the next time around. If he wants that badly enough, he can probably get into the open market and sign a five-year/$4.5M per year contract with most any team” Javier said. “Murray would have to match that offer, but he would lose any shot at keeping Bobby an RFA for one more negotiation period, which was presumably the point of Brian Burke sheltering his development.
“They haven’t talked since November, and it’s hard to pinpoint where they are when Bobby’s having a good sophomore season, and Murray’s last real offer seems to have been a three-year deal last off-season. But if they are where they were in November, I don’t know how salacious an offer sheet situation this is.” Javier added. ” Assuming the cap goes down, I don’t know how many teams will be willing to pull the trigger on a $25M-$30M, five-year contract to lose three to four picks on a second year player. And even then, Murray might be willing to match anything shy of $5.5M/year.”
As for the picks, Boston has that. If the Bruins were to offer Ryan a Kessel-like contract in Toronto[$5-$5.5MM per] the Bruins would “only” lose their first-, second-, and third-round picks. [below, I made a nifty little chart of their upcoming draft picks]
But as for the money in this salary-cap era? Maybe not. The Bruins are already on the hook for roughly $44MM for next year’s salary-cap payroll, and have 11 impending RFA/UFA’s–including young forwards such as Blake Wheeler, Daniel Paille, and Vladimir Sobotka.
But if Chiarelli can get clever with the cap-hit [see: Savard, Marc] and move some money around while adding Bobby Ryan for the next five years, I’d ecstatically show those three forwards–and more–the door come Jul. 1.
Other impending RFA’s to keep an eye on [in order]:
James Neal: LW, Dallas Stars
Patric Hornqvist: RW, Nashville Predators
David Perron: LW, St. Louis Blues