By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Losers of two in a row and five of their last six games, the Bruins are heading out on the road perched perilously close to slipping into the NHL’s abyss. With their already thin roster approaching rail status due to injuries to David Krejci and Adam McQuaid, and without bad-boy Brad Marchand for Friday night’s tilt against the New Jersey Devils, the B’s are running the risk of losing their very loose grip on the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.
While they could certainly help themselves with victories over the Devils – who sit one point ahead of them in the standings – and the Ottawa Senators – who are currently tied with them, but have played two more games – they could also play their way out of contention before their crafty centerman, and brawny back-liner can get back on the ice.
And now with the self-imposed moratorium on trades apparently no longer in place across the league, the five game trip could go a long way in helping general manager Don Sweeney decide whether his team will be buyers or sellers come the trade deadline. A 0-5 or 1-4 trip could write the obituary on a team that is currently watching their playoff hopes slowly slip away.
The easy thing for Sweeney to do is to do what he has done all season; nothing. He could simply sit back and see if there is anyone on the Bruins current roster or down in Providence that is capable of stepping up and helping his club in their hour of need. However, given that the team has played nearly half a season and that hasn’t happened yet, it gives one a pretty good picture of what he currently has on hand.
The tougher thing to do – especially when it comes to the fans of the team who still believe that every little thing is gonna be alright – would be to conduct a fire sale before the NHL trade deadline set for February 29th. While it would be initially painful for those who wear black and gold glasses, it could quite possibly be the best way for the rookie GM to get his team back to being a contender more quickly.
Even after shedding some salary this summer by moving the likes of Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, the Bruins are not exactly flush with cash. Depending on what day it is, they sit somewhere in the range of $1.5 million below the spending ceiling. While they could use the long term injury replacement clause to use Chris Kelly’s $3 million cap hit, $4.5 million isn’t going to buy the two defensemen, and a forward the Bruins need to compete in the NHL’s second season.
Should the Bruins continue to stumble, don’t be surprised if you begin to hear the likes of Zdeno Chara, Loui Eriksson, and even Brad Marchand being mentioned as possible B’s being shopped around the league.
Although Chara comes with a pretty sour aftertaste as he carries two more years after this one with a $7 million number against the cap, he could be appealing to a team like the Dallas Stars who are having a breakout season and could benefit from the veteran leadership that the aging former shutdown defenseman.
In order to do so, the Stars would have to send the Bruins back some salary, which could be done by sending the B’s D-man Alex Goligoski, whose $4.6 million contract expires at the end of the season. The real get for the Bruins would be the relief they would receive regarding their cap situation going forward.
Eriksson would be attractive to a number of teams that are looking to bolster their offense before the playoffs. Most likely to be a rental before looking to break the bank as a free agent this summer, the slick skating winger would likely net a first-round pick and a prospect.
Marchand is perhaps the most interesting candidate to be dealt. While it is evident to anyone who has watched the Bruins this season, the Nose Face Killah has emerged as an upper-echelon talent, and along with Patrice Bergeron has become one of the top tandems in the game today.
However, with his deal being up at the end of next year, the pesky little rat will be looking to get paid. That and the significant haul – a roster player, a top prospect and a first-round pick – might just be the formula that sends the fiery forward packing.
And while there will be those who will sight no movement clauses as a reason that trades of this magnitude won’t get done, the chance to win a Stanley Cup and the feeling that you are no longer wanted by your current team are powerful motivators for a player to want move on.
While there is a chance that the undermanned Bruins will play over their heads yet again until the injured/suspended cavalry comes to their rescue, don’t be surprised if in a couple of weeks, you see a for-sale sign out in front of the Garden on Causeway St..