By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
In a piece that ran under the radar a bit – and what doesn’t when it comes to the NHL’s hokey All-Star game – Sports Illustrated’s Al Muir tosses out a trade possibility that could accelerate the rebuild that is taking place on Causeway Street for the Bruins. In their NHL Roundtable, Muir suggests that a blockbuster deal involving the B’s captain, Zdeno Chara, and the seemingly soon to be departed Loui Eriksson to the Dallas Stars might make sense for both sides.
In response to being asked to play the role as match maker headed into the final month before the league’s trade deadline, Muir said, “Since we’re just havin’ fun here, let’s go big: The Stars are in position to do something special this year, but they’re still a step or two behind Los Angeles and Chicago in terms of depth and experience. Think a combo of Loui Eriksson and Zdeno Chara might bridge the gap?”
He added, “Eriksson is a reliable two-way forward who can work the front of the net on the power play and chip in on the penalty kill. He has the versatility to fit anywhere in their top nine. Chara is slowing down but his leadership and ability to handle heavy minutes would be a huge asset on a team that’s dressing two rookies and one sophomore on its blue line. The pair combine for a cap hit of over $11 million, but the Stars will have just enough room at the deadline to accommodate both. The Bruins would be looking for defense in return, and the Stars have plenty of organizational depth at the position. This package might cost them two of Esa Lindell, Stephen Johns or Julius Honka along with a high pick and another prospect (Roope Hintz would look good in black and gold).”
In conclusion, he said, “It would be a high price, but a team that once gave up a prospect named Jarome Iginla for a couple seasons of Joe Nieuwendyk understands that sometimes you have to pay to play. And hey, they owe the B’s one for the Tyler Seguin steal, don’t they?”
To that I say, hell to the yeah! It is clear that the Bruins are currently in no man’s land when it comes to having a direction in which the franchise is going. They are most assuredly at least a year or two away from Stanley Cup contention in the most optimistic view of the team, and it will likely take longer than that for general manager Don Sweeney to turn the tide of team talent erosion that has taken place due to the mismanagement of former GM Peter Chiarelli and team president Cam Neely.
And while the core of the team that made two Cup Finals in 2011 and ’13 – the ’11 team breaking the string of 39 years without a championship – remains intact in Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and, to a lesser extent, Tuukka Rask; Sweeney needs to flip the script and redefine what it means to be a Bruin going forward.
There is no doubt that when his career is over, Big Z’s jersey number will be hoisted into the rafters at TD Garden in appreciation for what he did to re-instill dignity to an original six club that had lost its way. The signing of Chara and Marc Savard in July of 2006 – who no doubt would still be lighting up the scoreboard were it not for the cowardice of Matt Cooke – marked the beginning of the B’s ascension to a perennial contender for the better part of close to a decade, and will be looked to as one of the cornerstones of the ’11 Cup run.
Even so, it is clear that Chara’s time as an elite defender has run its course. No longer capable of carrying his team, the B’s captain would still be a valuable addition – both on the ice and in the locker room – to a team on the precipice of achieving elite status like the Stars seemingly are. And no doubt Tyler Seguin would welcome a disciplinarian such as Big Z to his new team, right?
Forget about no-trade clauses or no movement clauses, those things can be worked around when a chance at a championship is at stake or enough money is on the table. Sweeney needs to go big or go home either at the trade deadline, or over the summer, and he knows it.
His team as currently constituted is mired in mediocrity, and by freeing up the cap space his captain now requires would allow him to radically change the face of the franchise, and perhaps would allow him to be a player for a free agent such as Steven Stamkos in the summer should the Tampa Bay Lightning not be able to sign their star player to an extension before July 1st.
It is time for a bold move for the B’s boss, nothing would be bolder than starting the rebuild on the blue line now. If I am Sweeney, I would tell Chara thanks for the memories, and enjoy the warm weather in Dallas this spring.