With the NHL trade deadline set for Wednesday at 3 p.m., the action is pretty fast and furious right now, and all manner of rumors, fabrications, fiction, whispers, and good old fashioned hot stove hockey talk are taking place along the trade market known as the Internet.
The Bruins Faithful have been tantalized with names like Chris Pronger and Tomas Kaberle over the last few weeks, while a familiar name in Keith Tkachuk has dropped off the radar amid the St. Louis Blues’ desire to take their young cluster of players into a postseason series.
Prepare for more of an “OK” reaction than a “Wow” moment when the dust settles on Wednesday afternoon, as the B’s seem determined to fortify their depth along the blue line — while also protecting themselves in case of an injury late in the season — while also seeking out that lefty shot that could possibly relieve P.J. Axelsson of poor-fitting duties on the first power-play unit.
It seems the close pack of teams vying for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference standings — along with a salary cap that could drop as much as $2 million next season — will have a direct effect on the number of teams, or lack of clubs, wheeling and dealing during the trade deadline. A handful of rentals will be traded, with names like Coyotes defenseman Derek Morris, old friend of the New York Islanders Billy Guerin, Toronto forward Dominic Moore, Ottawa agitator Chris Neil, Oilers winger Erik Cole and Colorado defenseman Jordan Leopold all available for purchase for any team willing to pony up at the deadline.
The unfortunate side effect of said rumors is when a player or two hears their name bandied about in trade rumors. Bruins defenseman Mark Stuart heard his name pop up in several rumors floated, with Chris Pronger coming back to Boston.
For a guy that’s been a member of the Spoked B cult of hockey for the last three years, the trade deadline is part of the puck business that takes some getting used to — and can stay with you if you pay too much attention to reading your own name at every puckKornerbuzz.com web site that keeps cranking out the rumors, founded or unfounded.
“You can’t really worry about it … whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” said Stuart in an interview with NECN’s Mike Giardi on Monday afternoon. “There’s always rumors floating around out there and a lot of names get thrown out there, but you never know until it actually goes down.
“I figure if it happens then I’ll find out,” added Stuart. “If you read too much about it then — even if you don’t get traded — you still might have those rumors floating around in your head after the deadline is over. Everybody knows [the deadline] is coming up. I remember last year we stuck with our team, and it was kinda nice going forward that we knew it was the team we were finishing out with.”
So, with the idea in mind that all these rumors involve living, breathing, emoting hockey players with lives affected by everything written and speculated about, here’s the Hagg Bag: trade deadline edition.
I heard on yesterday's WEEI sports flash that another player is available out there for the Bruins to possibly add to their roster: Tomas Kaberle of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He would be a great addition to the club’s roster. Hopefully we’re getting ready to acquire Edmonton's Erik Cole really soon before the March 4 trade deadline.
JH: Chris, there’s been multiple reports on Kaberle’s availability on the trade market (potentially a good fit in Boston because the Bruins are on the list of organizations he’s agreed to be traded to) because Toronto’s fiery GM Brian Burke is chomping at the bit to do some early spring cleaning in Toronto after seizing the reins in the Hockey Capital of the World a few months back.
Burke has stated he wants a first-round pick, a player good enough to skate for the Leafs right now and a top prospect in exchange for the four-time All-Star defenseman, and it’s a price that will still be shy of the hefty price tag for fire-breathing blueliner Chris Pronger.
I’ve heard murmurs of both Kaberle and forward Dominic Moore getting packaged in a deal that would net the Leafs a series of draft picks and players from the Bruins, and that’s the kind of swap that makes a lot of sense in fulfilling both needs the B’s brass have identified. The 31-year-old Kaberle is signed for two more seasons after this one at $4.25 million, which is a relatively affordable contract for a defenseman that’s finished with over 50 points in each of the last three seasons. Take the Stuart-draft pick-Colborne package and add another draft pick for Moore, and that’s something that I think every Bruins fan can live with. The B’s would have to deal with the salary cap ramifications next year, but $4.2 million for an All-Star defenseman isn’t unmanageable.
BTW, I continue to believe that the Bruins won’t get Pronger unless they’re willing to deal dazzling young sniper Phil Kessel to Anaheim in return. The only way, I repeat, the only way they would do a deal like this is if the Bruins didn’t feel like they could afford to sign Kessel, a restricted free agent, to a multi-year deal following this season.
Or if they felt that it would be difficult to keep Kessel motivated once he had the security of a three- or four-year deal. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility given that coach Claude Julien continues to use words like “soft” in the same sentence as the 22-year-old, but he does have a unique skill set on the Bruins roster.
Don’t bet on that being the issue, however, and don’t bet on the potential 40-goal scorer going anywhere once March 4 has come and gone.
The online report that had Mark Stuart, a draft pick and first-round pick Joe Colborne potentially exiting Boston in exchange for a player like Pronger — signed through next season with a cap hit of $6.25 million — is way too skimpy of an offer to get it done for the Ducks D-man.
Simple as that.
So with one of Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli’s best young players potentially on the table for Pronger, what is Chiarelli’s opinion of dishing away some of the long view for a short term sprint for the Stanley Cup this spring?
“I’m more apt to be patient and not to pick apart the young foundation we have. It’s tempting, and certainly it’s something that we look at long and hard, especially since there are some players out there that can give you immediate impact in certain situations,” said Chiarelli. “So it’s our job to balance that. Understand also that we have young players that may never see our lineup or won’t fit into our lineup that are good players. You have to recognize those players and use them as chips in any future deals.”
My best bet for what’s going to happen when things have settled down? The Bruins go conservative and spend draft picks and non-core prospects to take flyers on physical winger Erik Cole and Avalanche defenseman Jordan Leopold — a pair of players that will allow the Bruins to have true depth once the fists start flying and the bodies start dropping during the war of attrition known as the Stanley Cup playoffs.
But stay tuned, as things are always apt to change with the direction of the wind during these first few days of March.
Chris Pronger AND Keith Tkachuk would 2 positive additions and give the bruins clear advantage heading into the playoffs. A prospect or 2 and a draft pick should be enough to do it.
JH: Russ, I wish you were the freewheeling, drunken sailor GM in Anaheim or St. Louis because we’d already be planning the rolling rally with the Cup through the streets of Boston, and then watching the beer flow like wine at a hell of a post-parade party at The Fours.
Hockey people I have talked to tell me you won’t get Pronger without giving up Kessel, and I don’t think the B’s are going to bite on that one. Would they have done it this year if Marco Sturm were still healthy and they had enough scoring punch to withstand sacrificing Phil the Thrill for Pronger the Monster? That’s a question we’ll never have answered, but I’d have been curious to see how it all played out if the “Sturm Face” were still in full effect.
As I said above, I think the Blues are going to hold on to their 36-year-old power forward/battle horse for a potential run in the playoffs — something team officials believe would be beneficial to talented kids like Patrik Berglund, David Backes and T.J. Oshie. They’re only three points out of the eighth spot and don’t appear to be sellers, so all of the feel-good stories about the Medford-native Tkachuk coming home for a Cup will have to be put on hold.
It’s too bad, because I think “Walt” was a great fit for the skills this B’s team could have really use headed into the stretch run. Cole and Leopold just don’t have the same flashy ring as Tkachuk and Pronger, do they?
No one on the Bruins is going to the damn net. I’m sick of them saying they are gonna start doing that again, and just do it. I would trade Ference for Gary Doak right now and Doak is 62.
JH: This e-mail was sent during the middle of Boston’s funky road trip through the Sunshine Belt, and I think Fitzy is still holding out hope for the arrival of Doak on March 4. I hope settling for a younger model will suffice for you, Fitz Man. At least they’ve begun crashing the net again in recent games, and both Blake Wheeler and David Krejci have really started to show some of the tenacity and toughness they’re going to need come playoff time. This is all good news for B’s fans that watched the hockey club go through a lull in the 50-60 game range this season — a rough patch of games that almost seems unavoidable during a marathon 82-game schedule.
To sum it all up, Fitzy, in the worlds of yet another snake oil salesman masquerading as a college basketball coach — I’m pretty sure Gary Doak isn’t walking through that door, and if he did he would be old and gray.
I really enjoy reading your blog and was wondering if there was any way to sign up to get that sent to me by text message on my phone? I would like to have the full blog entry sent in text format each time. I don’t know if WEEI is supporting that format yet, but figured I would ask!
JH: Jason, this was clearly a request for someone with much more technical savvy than myself. I’m not exactly fluent in RSS Feed speak and some of the other cyber jargon/mumbo jumbo that gets tossed around by the IT department types nestled in the third floor of the New Balance building. So here’s a few thoughts from a very smart cookie named Carlson Mozdiez (I wonder if he’s ever been confused with Mos Def during his short and brilliant life) about what you’re asking.
Now, I’ll turn it over to the Man known as Carlson, who will forever more be known as Mos Def to me:
Good to hear from you. The short answer is no. However, we do feature blog and column entries in a limited fashion on our WAP (Wireless Application) site. If you have a blackberry, soon the iphone, or another smartphone you can visit WEEI.com and you will see a section called Columns and Blogs. I manually post stories to that section so that our fans can read our original content on their mobile phones. However, that is very limited. We only feature two stories at a time from our writers (today it has columns from Rob and Alex).
The reader’s question is a good one, but we are not ready yet to offer the exact service he desires. We do have a text service, but can’t text full columns due to character limitations. In the near future, we may be able to have readers sign up for text alerts for when their favorite columnists post their latest work with a hyperlink to the column in the text – but that is not close right now. We should also plan on email alerts where the full column could actually be included.
Sorry for the long-winded answer.
JH: Carlson, we specialize in long-winded answers here at the Hagg Bag— preferably ones that take you on a circular route without ever actually getting any closer to the answer — so that was right in our wheelhouse. Now, I’ll let you get back to the much-hyped redesign of the WEEI.com site that’s coming down the pipeline. I’ve seen some of the preview pages for the revamped WEEI.com, and it’s really going to make the site take off and explode in the blogosphere. As our fearless leader Rob Bradford would say, Dotcomination is on the menu for WEEI.com really soon. Okay, that’s enough self-promotion for one day before I come up with something like “Slap-shooting Stance Guy.”
Just wanted to send along many thanks for covering the Bruins on WEEI. Without you, there'd be absolutely nothing said about our boys in black 'n gold on that radio station, which to me, is really disappointing. I love listening to the radio station, particularly the 10-2 pm slot, but very rarely to I hear any mention of the Bruins, or the tremendous season they are having. And there's so much to talk about, especially with the trade deadline looming.
Glad to know that you're out there, giving me my daily fix of hockey madness, here in the hub. And also thanks for having a much more upbeat perspective than that scribe from The Boston Globe. You know the one. . . the Ron Borges of hockey. . . . KPD.
Enjoy your day,
Chrissy from Norwood
JH: Thanks for the kind words, Chrissy. I hope you enjoy your day too. Doesn’t that make you feel good when somebody tells you to enjoy your day, like it matters to them whether you’re having a good day or not? It seems like a very Canadian thing to say, as a matter of fact. Like something I might have seen Snake or Joey Jeremiah say on DeGrassi Junior High during my formative years addicted to Canadian teenage melodrama.
Got to say I think Dale Arnold and Michael Holley do a pretty good job of covering all the bases in the hockey world, and they’re also kind enough to have me on talking pucks and Sox and everything else with them from time-to-time. Dale knows his hockey and loves the game, so it doesn’t take any prodding at all to get him talking Bruins. I also think that — when in the right frame of mind — Sean McAdam, Pete Shepherd and Mike Felger all enjoy hockey, and will readily talk about it.
I also personally enjoy what KPD brings to the table, and there’s a reason the guy is already in the Hockey Hall of Fame. It’s also amazing how you get two completely different viewpoints within the broad spectrum that is Bruins Nation. Please read on for some thoughts from a guy who clearly thinks I, and not KPD, am the Ron Borges of hockey.
What a joke the only way you would give this team a little credit would be if they ALREADY WON THE STANLEY CUP, then you may come out saying well they're OK. Bunch of BS in this town thanks to you we can get to see more of the same. Wow, we are gifted with writing like this....
JH: Wow, my first official piece of Borges-lite hate mail. This has been printed out, fitted with a gold star and slapped on the refrigerator door. I have truly arrived once people start off a letter to me with “What a joke…”
I think the only thing I agree with is that you are definitely gifted … and special … and you’ve got a complete mastery of the Caps Lock button. And I was nice enough to go back and correct some of the spelling booboos in the email, so people don’t go around saying that Namsp66 obviously couldn’t spell “Cat” if you already spotted him both the “C” and the “A.” Well done, sir, well done.
All I can say is that I try to tell it like it is. I’m probably never going to be accused of waving around the Black and Gold pompoms, so don’t expect that when you run across the Pucks with Haggs ramblings. Fair and accurate is what I’m striving for, and I’d say I hit the mark about 68 percent of the time.
Joe, I heard on one of the weekend shows that you have some wedding plans in your future. Congratulations my friend. When we finally do find a member of the female persuasion to ignore our multiple faults and sign that long term deal it's a momentous occasion. And then you get run down for your Valentine’s Day activities? Listen, if you and your girl's idea of a good Hallmark day is sandwiching a order of king tips at the 99 between a high school hockey double-header, you have a found yourself a keeper. Well done.
The B's need to make a deal. As a long time B's fan who still harbors a hate for Jacobs so healthy it could outlast Jack Lelanne, I want to see a commitment to this team bringing a cup home now. For years this team has been a Michael Corleone production. "It's just business". By the way, it's a shame J.J. didn't send Sinden and O'Connell out fishing before the lock out. Now I want this team to mix in a little bit of Santino before the deadline. Maybe make a deal to get Pronger, then ship him for picks in the off season to avoid cap purgatory. Or send Fernandez packing for ammo to get an impact forward. Lets face it Joe, in recent Bruin's history, the first round of the playoffs has been about as productive as Sonny stopping to pay that toll. I think the B's have to do something to ensure that they will blow through the first round without slowing down. Let's make a deal, give Sonny an E-Z pass and see what happens.
With people yanking it up ad nauseum about steroids, how bout you run down the NHL's PED policy. I'm sure it will save us at least a couple of phone calls that will end up requiring the Francona "I think you need to do your homework" drop.
And finally, the obligatory video game question? NHL 94 or 95? For your 16 bit video gaming money, which is your choice for the pinnacle of video hockey Is there any doubt that if a vintage NHL game came out today that Alexander Ovechkin would be a given the Sergi Federov demi-god 99 overall rating. That goal (last week) was so sick it should be quarantined. That’s the kind of goal that separates the video game Jeremy Roenicks from the Federovs. Absolutely nasty.
JH: To answer the PED policy first, Mike, the NHL has administered thousands of random tests since the adoption of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and, to my knowledge; the only player to fail a juice test was New York Islanders defenseman Sean Hill. Hill, by the way, drew a 20-game suspension for failing the drug test and is now playing in Switzerland after skating for the Minnesota Wild last season.
This is a much different situation than Major League ballplayers, who knew that PED testing was coming and yet still had five percent of said ballplayers test positive for steroids back in 2006. If you can’t get off the juice long enough to pass an announced drug test, well then Mike, my friend, your league has got itself a problem.
I don’t think that’s the case in the NHL.
The NHL players are subject to not only to the league drug-testing system, but also the much-tougher Olympic drug-testing when they take part in the Winter Games every four years. So if there was truly a rampant PED problem you would see evidence of it with more failed testing and dirty players. Are there enforcer-types out there that potentially dabble in PEDs that contribute to their monolithic stature? Could be, but the NHL players are all passing their drug tests with flying colors, and unfortunately — like every other major sports league — the NHL hasn’t instituted a test for Human Growth Hormone.
I think I’ve answered the trade question up above, but I will say one final thing. Look at the Washington Capitals power play and then look at the Boston Bruins power play. The B’s need a left-handed shot on that first unit with some more offensive oomph if they’re going to truly threaten teams that make mistakes in the playoffs, and avoid sleeping with Fredo and the fishes after another first round knockout.
Or they need to put Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara down low on a permanent basis; either would suffice for me.
Best hockey video game of all time? I’m going to rock everybody’s world and say the old Nintendo Hockey, where you could choose the fat guys that were slow with cannon shots, the skinny guys that could fly but had pop gun shots and the medium players that were the video game equivalent of muckers and grinders. My secret formula? One skinny center and two huge “Super Size me at Wendy’s” blobs on the wings blasting away slapshots at the hapless goalie at the other end.
I was like the Scotty Bowman of Nintendo hockey when I built that formula for the team. Yes, I loved Blades of Steel (Ching) and the near-genius hockey level of Theo Fleury in NHL ’94 edition of the Calgary Flames on the Sega Genesis, but you’ve got to love any video system willing to throw two or three versions of Porkins out on the ice to see what might just happen. Nintendo always respected the fat guys, and for that I owe them my gratitude.
See you in a couple of weeks where I’ll be handing out Advil, greasy hamburgers and Gatorade for all those still suffering from their NHL trade deadline hangovers. Just pray that Gary Doak doesn’t walk through that door.
Joe Haggerty covers the Bruins for WEEI.com.