By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Senior Staff Writer
Heading towards the NHL trade deadline on February 24th – just over two weeks away – general manager Don Sweeney’s Bruins have been associated with several possible trade targets as the current league-leading club in points looks to make another run at the Stanley Cup this spring.
The Rangers’ Chris Kreider, the Kings’ Tyler Toffoli and more recently the Blue Jackets’ Josh Anderson – who Jimmy Murphy of BostonHockeyNow.com and my partner on The Bruins Craic Podcast was all over before any of the talking heads spoke about as available – have all been looked upon as possible solutions to the not so reliable secondary scoring head coach Bruce Cassidy can count on come playoff time.
Early Friday afternoon Sportsnet.ca’s Eric Engles – who has covered the Montreal beat for over a decade – added a new wrinkle into the mix. None other than the Canadiens Ilya Kovalchuk who Sweeney could have had for a song just a month ago.
Engles posted the following on the Sportsnet site just after noon on Friday.
Here’s what we know: The Canadiens, who are hoping to win at least six of their eight games leading into the Feb. 24 deadline, aren’t likely to accept less than a second-round pick or, at worst, a conditional third-round pick that turns into a second for Kovalchuk’s services should they fall further back in the race.
And here’s what we found out on Tuesday as we were watching the Canadiens pull off a 5-4 comeback win over the New Jersey Devils: The Boston Bruins might be the most likely team to offer up that kind of compensation for the Russian sniper.
I get it, the 36-year-old has lit it up in his first 14 games with the Habs, scoring five goals and registering 11 points in his brief revival tour in bleu blanc-rouge regalia. However, to think that this short sample should take him from the scrap heap to costing a second-round pick as a rental at the deadline is nothing short of asinine.
Yet Engles continues his role as a pinky-wearing used car salesman when he adds to his argument for the fading star’s suddenly surging value.
But after the Bruins weren’t convinced Kovalchuk could help them when his three-year, $18.75-million deal with the Los Angeles Kings was terminated in December, they’ve been very impressed with what he’s done in Montreal and they understand the value of adding a player who’s shown he can fill a top-six role if they suffer an injury to a key player between now and the end of the season. It only helps that he’s competed extremely hard at both ends of the rink and that the buzz about his leadership, his energy and his sheer passion for the game make it likely he would fit well with their group.
The fact that the Bruins own a second-round pick in each of the next three drafts could give them an edge over say, the Columbus Blue Jackets, who don’t have one in either of the next two.
Frankly, Engles sound every bit like a Boston Red Sox beat writer here who has never seen a deal the hometown team has made that wasn’t the right move.
Hello, Mookie Betts?
It would be one thing if Sweeney swallowed hard and offered up a fourth-round pick and the likes of a fringe prospect like Anton Blidh or Zack Senyshyn with the hopes that Kovalchuk could remain productive through the rest of the regular season and beyond.
However, if Sweeney sends a third – or heaven forbid a second-round pick – for a guy he could have had for a couple of Molson 30 pack empties just a month ago to the franchise’s most bitter rival, what he will have on his face would be much worse than egg.