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Neely: A Pronger/Kessel deal “was not on the table”

03.05.09 at 2:55 am ET
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Bruins Vice-President Cam Neely said that a much-rumored trade with the Anaheim Ducks — that would have sent a package including 21-year-old sniper Phil Kessel, defenseman Mark Stuart, first round pick Joe Colborne and a draft pick to the Ducks in exchange for defenseman Chris Pronger — was “not on the the table” prior to Wednesday’s trade deadline.

“We couldn’t gut our lineup to add a player that we thought was going to help us, and then take away in another area it was going to hurt us,” said Neely during a Wednesday interview with the Big Show. “It didn’t make sense. We have a very young group of players. Even though we feel like we have a good opportunity this year, we feel like we have good opportunities next year and the year after with our core group of guys. We were very cautious about the players that we weren’t going to give up.

“We understand other teams. We’d ask and it makes sense for other teams to ask for our best players in return,” added Neely.

Read More: Boston Bruins, Cam Neely, Chris Pronger, Phil Kessel

Bruins fill needs with trades for Recchi and Montador

03.04.09 at 9:15 pm ET
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The Bruins straggled into the NHL trade deadline with two very easily definable needs (a depth defenseman and a left-handed shot capable of taking shifts on the first power play unit) and they emerge from the other side of Rumor-O-Rama with a pair of gritty, dependable veterans armed with Cup-loads of playoff experience.

It wasn’t the home run “Wow” acquisition like Anaheim’s Chris Pronger or St. Louis winger Keith Tkachuk might have been, but the arrival of the other Anaheim D-man, Steve Montador, and Tampa Bay Lightning winger Mark Recchi supplies the Bruins with exactly what they longed for.

“(Recchi and Montador)” were on our lists, and our lists weren’t that long,” said Chiarelli.

“I like our depth, I really do,” added Chiarelli. “And I expect our players to respond because they’re really going to have to compete for ice time. I think that’s healthy.”

Instead the Bruins gave up virtually nothing from their current core group of players to fill team needs, and shipped off minor leaguers Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums along with roughneck fourth liner Petteri Nokelainen for a valuable 2010 second round pick and two needed rental players.

Both players really weren’t linked with the team at all in previous trade rumors, which tells you one of two things: either the Bruins settled for players that weren’t all that expensive on the open market or Chiarelli and co. did a pretty solid job of keeping their desired targets under the radar.

I’m betting it’s much more of the latter than the former.

Montador is a big, beefy defenseman that can play a capable offensive game, but that’s not his biggest strength. The former Flames, Panthers and Ducks defenseman is also a veteran that’s been through the playoff wars, and is willing to both drop the gloves and play the sandpaper game that Chiarelli requires and Claude Julien covets.

He’s also a player that’s hopped back and forth between forward and defenseman over his career, and can provide the kind of in-a-pinch versatility that rookie Matt Hunwick has given the Bruins for much of this season – with a really noticeable contribution up front during Milan Lucic’s recent injury.  

“Montador is a good story,” said Chiarelli. “He was signed as a free agent out of juniors and he has really worked his way into the NHL. First and foremost he’s gritty and he’s a thick kid — about 6-foot-2 and 210 (pounds) and that’s pretty thick for a kid that size. He’s got a good stick. He’s a versatile guy and I really like his compete level.

“He’ll do anything to win, and he’s a battler and a warrior,” added Chiarelli, using the kind of complimentary terms that hockey people don’t exactly throw around like candy.

The 29-year-old defenseman had an idea he was going to be dealt when the Ducks didn’t approach him with a contract extension during his season’s walk year, and he said that he’s been filled in on plenty of Bruins stories from his agent, former Bruins player and coach Steve Kasper. Montador will serve as insurance in case any member of the blueline corps suffers an injury during the final months of the season, but should easily fit into the reincarnation of the Big, Bad Bruins that’s ticketed for the playoffs.

“I like to keep things simple for the most part,” said Montador. “I like to play a simple game with quick first passes and I like to bring a lot of energy. I certainly don’t consider myself a fighter, but when something needs to be done then I’ll certainly (drop the gloves). I certainly don’t like taking fists to the head, but if I have to mix it up, I’ll do that.”

Recchi, on the other hand, brings a steady, veteran hand capable of giving Boston more offensive oomph on the power play — and potentially still a dangerous wing man on Boston’s third line. Recchi has 45 overall points — which places him fourth on the Bruins behind only Marc Savard, Phil Kessel and David Krejci — and 19 big points on the power play this season (2 goals and 17 assists).

Along with the production at an age when most hockey players are already working on their handicap, Recchi brings a boatload of NHL experience through a run to the Stanley Cup with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2005-06 and 19 seasons of pounding in pro hockey.

Upon hearing about the trade this morning, Recchi’s first reaction was a desire “to bring the Stanley Cup back to Boston.” Exactly what the long-suffering members of Bruins Nation would like to hear after seeing the team plateau a bit over the last three weeks.

“The experience factor was big and that went a long way in our decision-making process,” said Chiarelli. “He’ played in the league a long time, he’s a very resilient player and he’s a thick-bodied man too. He’s a durable player and you need that in this stretch and the playoffs, and then you look at the Stanley Cup experience which is invaluable.”

Recchi has already played the rental player roles with the ‘Canes in 2005-06 and again last season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the grizzled vet understands what it means to enter the flow of another team mid-stream and assimilate quickly.

He’ll likely relegate impressive rookie Byron Bitz to the press box at the beginning of his stint in Boston, but Recchi’s arrival will also give Julien the ability to use a quick hook when a particular forward isn’t giving 100 percent. Recchi will also bump P.J. Axelsson from the first PP unit — a development that probably had the biggest impact in the mind of Bruins’ executives.

“I’m looking forward to being a piece of the puzzle to make this team successful,” said Recchi. “I want to try to add some leadership and some of that ability that (Boston) already has. I don’t have any illusions that I’m going to go in there and change anything there. Wherever they want to play me: left wing, right wing, power play, penalty kill. Whatever they want me to do to help them win games, I’m going to do.

“I’m going to have a job to do and I’m going to go out there and do it well,” added Recchi.

Chiarelli: Bruins were close on two deals for A-list players

03.04.09 at 5:45 pm ET
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Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli didn’t sleep very much the night leading up to today’s NHL trade deadline, but he still managed to pull off a pair of thrifty, smart trades under the radar amid the sleep deprivation and heavy competition.

Chiarelli confirmed there at least two “deals for an A-list player in the prime of their career” type players in the pipeline that he came close to pulling the trigger on, but the deals eventually fell apart when a separate deal to free up salary cap space couldn’t be finalized.

“I was pretty close,” said Chiarelli. “I was in a position cap-wise where we had do a little housekeeping cap-wise in advance of the deal. We had to get some space. We had a deal done midway through the day in abeyance of getting the other deal done for a player of that ilk. That type of player was one of the targets we were after, so we were close.

“We were in a position to get that player, but in the end we couldn’t (do the deal),” added Chiarelli. “At the end of the day it takes two to tango. We were working on two (deals), and we had that housekeeping deal to create some space and it just didn’t happen. At some point, I had to pull the plug on it and it just didn’t happen.”

It’s believed that one of those deals was obviously a trade with the Anaheim Ducks that was rumored to be centered around either Patrice Bergeron or Phil Kessel, and the second deal may have involved Oilers winger Erik Cole, who eventually moved to the Carolina Hurricanes in a three-team deal with the Oilers and Los Angeles Kings.

Mark Recchi traded to Boston for Lashoff, Karsums

03.04.09 at 1:34 pm ET
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TSN is also reporting that the Bruins have also acquired veteran winger and lefty shot Mark Recchi and a 2010 second round pick from the Tampa Bay Lightning for Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums. Great job by Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli of acquiring a depth defenseman and the veteran left-handed shot he’s desperately needed for the power play in Montador and Recchi.

Recchi has 13 goals and 32 assists in 62 games for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season, and has twice played the role of rental player for the Carolina Hurrincaes and Pittsburgh Penguins in recent years.

“I’m excited. I didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Recchi this afternoon on the TSN Trade Centre show. “It’s a great opportunity with a great team and some great young players. When I get there the coaching staff will fill me in on my role. I’m going to try and help bring a championship to Boston.”

Steve Montador dealt to Bruins for Petteri Nokelainen

03.04.09 at 1:21 pm ET
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The Bruins have traded fourth line forward Petteri Nokelainen — just back from a serious right eye injury – to the Anaheim Ducks for defenseman Steve Montador in a move that provides the B’s with desired depth along the blueline. Montador, a former teammate of Andrew Ference, Stephane Yelle, Chuck Kobasew and Marc Savard with the Calgary Flames teams of the early 2000′s, is enjoying his best season in the NHL and was described by former teammate Ference as the ultimate “character” guy.

The deal gives the Bruins some needed insurance in case injuries strike anyone along the blueline just before or during the playoff run, and the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Montador will produce the kind of strength, spunk and size Boston could use more of headed into some potentially fierce playoff battles. That much was obvious after watching a team with little to no spunk going through the motions against the Flyers on Tuesday night.

The 29-year-old Montador has four goals and 16 assists for the Ducks this season, and will be another Bruins player willing to drop the gloves and scrap — and provide a spark — if the situation presents itself. In fact, Ference said this afternoon that Montador attempted to goad Milan Lucic into a fight when the score got to 3-0 during last Thursday night’s game between the Ducks and Bruins. That’s the kind of fighting spirit that a hockey team can always use more of.

“There’s a couple of us with some history with him,” said Ference, who traveled to Africa with Montador two summers ago for the same Right to Play organization that Zdeno Chara is also involved with. “He’s the kind of guy on the ice that will do anything for the team.  He’ll stick his nose out and take a couple lumps for the team and try to bring some emotion to the team. The guys in the (dressing room) are giving some of the (former) Calgary guys a little bit of ribbing in there, but that’s alright.

“He’s a really good piece,” added Ference.

Will this be the only move for the Bruins before the 3 p.m. NHL trade deadline? As the inimitable Butch Stearns would say, “I’m not sure about that.” So check back with Pucks with Haggs for more details as they come in, and we’ll have all the reaction from Chiarelli and Co. at the Garden around 4:30 pm this afternoon.

NHL trade deadline fact or fiction, Bruins style

03.04.09 at 11:37 am ET
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With the trade deadline bearing down on us at 3 p.m. and Bruins people telling me not to expect anything monumental,  here’s a quick version of NHL trade deadline “Fact or Fiction” to tide people over until the deadline. There seems to be a few different choices out there for a Bruins organization that could clearly utilize a shot in the arm — or a swift kick to the backside depending on your views parenting a wayward hockey club.

The team continues to look for help in two key areas: a puck-moving defenseman that can offer depth at the back end of the blueline corps during a hotly-contested playoff series when teams really begin to bang guys like Dennis Wideman, Andrew Ference and Aaron Ward. The second area: a veteran left-handed shot with some size, grit and offensive skill is also a need given Boston’s set of personnel on the top two power play units, and their lack of physical size in spots through the lineup.

With that in mind, along with a real lack of Dickens-style “Great Expectations” at who is going to be wearing a Spoked B sweater when the Bruins suit up against the Phoenix Coyotes tomorrow night — here’s a rundown on what’s going on with the “Fact or Fiction” department:

*Chris Pronger and Travis Moen to Boston for either A) Patrice Bergeron, Mark Stuart, Joe Colborne and a draft pick or B) Phil Kessel, Mark Stuart, Joe Colborne and a draft pick.  The Ducks said this morning that they’ve told Big Bad Pronger that he won’t be dealt unless they’re blown away by an offer, which — by using my handy, dandy NHL jargon decoder ring — means that the Bruins won’t be getting Pronger unless they deal Kessel. Some believe that it makes sense to do this deal when it’s still in question how much money Kessel, a potential 40-50 goal scorer, is going to seek as a restricted free agent this summer. Add that to how much of an issue motivation might be once he’s locked in with a comfortable two or three-year deal, and how difficult it will be to sign Krejci, Kessel, Hunwick, Thomas, Lucic, Wheeler and Savard over the next two years. It’s clear somebody won’t be staying. Pronger coming to Boston? Fiction, but I wouldn’t completely rule it out.

*Defenseman Derek Morris to Boston, Manny Fernandez, Vladimir Sobotka and a draft pick to Phoenix, and then Fernandez is flipped to Buffalo: With Philip Kuba signed to an extension in Ottawa and real doubt as to whether Pronger or Jay Bouwmeester will actually be dealt, guys like Morris and Jordan Leopold really gain in value as the only available blueliners on the market. The New Jersey Devils seem to be getting involved with Scott Clemmensen as well, but there’s a real danger that this is just to keep raising the price that the Bruins or Caps will eventually pay. The Sabres are looking for a potential place-holder in net with Ryan Miller still battling an ankle injury. Will Morris come to Boston, and will Manny Fernandez – known as the “Quiet Man” around the Boston media corps after ducking out following his loss Tuesday night — be shipped out of town. I’m going Fact on this one.

*Oilers winger Erik Cole to the Bruins for Vladimir Sobotka and a draft pick: This trade has really been pushed to the back burner while B’s GM Peter Chiarelli goes out hunting for that depth defenseman. Cole hasn’t exactly been lighting the world on fire this season, but he does bring a degree of toughness and scoring touch for that first power play unit. He’s also got the Cup experience, and the price shouldn’t be all that high for the big Banger. The Oilers reportedly want a roster player, and Sobokta would be a roster player for the Oil. Cole hasn’t been the same player since undergoing neck surgery with the Canes several years ago, so the expectations shouldn’t be sky high if he does end up in the Hub. Will Cole come to Boston? I’m going Fact on this one as well.

*Blues winger Keith Tkachuk to Boston for Matt Lashoff and a draft pick: The Blues want their young guys to taste the playoffs and sit only four games back for a playoff spot. Tkachuk’s agent is with the big power forward today as the deadline comes to pass, but it looks as if “Walt” isn’t going anywhere. Will Tkachuk be headed to his Boston hometown? I say Fiction.

*Either A) Leafs forward Dominic Moore for a high draft pick or B) Nik Antropov for a 2010 second round pick. Both Leafs forwards are out there for the taking, but the Bruins don’t appear interested in Antropov despite the 6-foot-6 frame and obvious offensive skill around the net. If Antropov had a bit more consistent grit to his game he’d be a Bruin, but then again if he had a bit more consistent grit he wouldn’t be on the trade market. It’s also worth mentioning that Tomas Kaberle is off the board after injuring his hand against the New Jersey Devils last night.  Moore seems like a good fit and could still come to Boston, but it appears the B’s are looking in a different direction at forward. Will Moore or Antropov be headed to Boston? I say Fiction on both.

*Avalanche defenseman Jordan Leopold to the Bruins for Vladimir Sobotka and a draft pick. Another rumor that has subsided after it was gaining traction in earlier weeks. Leopold is believed to be a fall-back option if Chiarelli loses out on the Morris sweepstakes. Is Leopold headed to Boston? Fiction, but he could quickly change to a Fact if things don’t fall Boston’s way. Edit: Scratch all that Leopold gone to the Flames for a player, prospect and pick.

*Ottawa tough guy Chris Neil for Matt Lashoff and draft pick. The agitating Neil can’t come to a money agreement on a contract extension with the Senators, and is just the kind of mischevious force that could be a spark for the B’s going forward. Will Neil come to the Bruins? Fiction, but it could happen if — as Bob Barker used to say – the price is right. Edit: Nokelainen not present at Bruins practice, and could be involved in a deal for Neil.

Emotionless Bruins need to start finding some inspiration

03.03.09 at 11:52 pm ET
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B’s goaltender Manny Fernandez has started exactly four games since suffering a lower back injury against the Ottawa Senators on Jan. 8, so it was incumbent upon the Bruins players in front of him to step up with that extra effort in front of their rusty ‘tender.

Added to the mix were rampant rumors that Fernandez was once again back on the trade block, and was perhaps being dangled to the Phoenix Coyotes in a three-way swap that would have brought veteran blueliner Derek Morris back to the Hub — and potentially pushed Manny Being Manny Fernandez out to the Buffalo Sabres in the wake of Ryan Miller’s injury.

Trade or no trade, supporting Fernandez is not what happened in a significant step backward for an entire Black and Gold roster. A puck team without much pluck watched three third-period goals power the Philadelphia Flyers to victory and make a loser out of Fernandez in a 4-2 defeat at the TD Banknorth Garden.

The Big, Bad B’s were outworked, outhustled and outclassed by an impassioned Flyers bunch looking to make a statement, and don’t look now but, the New Jersey Devils — fortified by the return of All-World goaltender Martin Brodeur and a trade that brought them gritty defenseman Niclas Havelid — are only a scant six points behind the Bruins in the tightening Eastern Conference standings.

When looking for the disturbing combined lack of passion and performance on the ice, glance no further than Boston’s big defensive stopper, Zdeno Chara, who was skating during each of Philadelphia’s four goals on the evening and couldn’t do enough to slow down the Flyers trio of Mike Knuble, Mike Richards and Simon Gagne. Chara did step to the plate after Scott Hartnell took repeated runs at Michael Ryder, and took two minor penalties after dropping the Flyers agitator. 

“We’re a team that thrived on being a hardworking character team, and we’re lacking that,” said Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward. “It’s not X’s and O’s. We had a few guys say something after the game, but it’s irrelevant at this point. We need to pick up our socks and figure out what it is that allows us to be successful.”

Following the game, players traveled along the same party lines as Ward and pointed to a lack of emotion against a team that — just one season ago — tormented the Bruins with their physical style and sent more than one Boston player to the injury list.

Perhaps it was the trade deadline that had the team and it’s players preoccupied with names ranging from Patrice Bergeron to Phil Kessel that were drawn into speculation and trade rumor mills? 

“Wouldn’t Philadelphia be in that same boat?” asked B’s coach Claude Julien rhetorically, after watching a Flyers team that clearly wasn’t going through the hockey motions.

A good point by the Bruins coach, who like many of the players has watched way too many half-hearted efforts and character-challenged performances by a hockey club that brought the hard hat with them nearly every night in the season’s first half. NHL teams dreaded strapping on their work boots and putting in an honest night’s effort against the Black and Gold, but that went away faster than Gagne’s two third-period goals that buried the Bruins.

The concern is obviously that the Bruins built themselves a seemingly impregnable lead in the Eastern Conference standings and — in typical human nature form — got a bit comfortable and complacent with their place in the standings. The switch was turned off for a bit during the dog days of the NHL season, but now the group as a whole is having major problems flipping the correct switch back on for a consistent 60 minutes of Bruins-type effort.

The whole “on/off switch” phenomenon is risky business for a hockey team with only 18 games left in the season, and some major playoff expectations ahead of them. The B’s leadership needs to straighten out the slack and get everyone playing with the same impassioned intensity that helped the Spoked B jump out to such a masterful start. 

“I think tonight it was really evident that it was an emotionless game,” said Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference. “If you are somebody from the outside watching our team right now, I don’t see a lot of character you can really identify with. That’s been a huge part of our success for the last little while.

“I think we just need to wake up and snap out of it … it’s March,” added Ference. “I think it’s natural for certain periods of slump through the year; that is just the ebb and flow. You have to make an effort to get out of it. It doesn’t just happen on its own. I think it has to be nipped in the bud.”

Injury Ward: Petteri Nokelainen has been cleared for contact and will return to practice at Ristuccia Arena on Wednesday morning. Milan Lucic is still considered day-to-day with an upper body injury. Everyone seemed healthy and accounted for in the postgame dressing room.

Player of the Game: Easily has to be Simon Gagne with his two goals in the third period, and the general dominance of that line against the Bruins defense. That’s as hard a time as the B’s defense has had against anyone this season. Gagne is also a great model for Patrice Bergeron, as the Flyers forward conquered concussion issues to once again regain his status as a dominant player in the NHL. Bergeron scored for the B’s again, and has also flashed his formerly dominant game. Also give credit to Matt Hunwick, who was credited with six hits and again looked pretty at home as a first-line forward.

Goat Horns: As stated before, Zdeno Chara was on the ice for each of the Flyers’ four goals and wasn’t able to fill the key defensive stopper role that the Bruins Captain usually relishes. Big Z did step up and defend Michael Ryder when he was crunched by Scott Hartnell in the second period, and for that he deserves some credit. But a -3 with only one official hit is a forgettable night for the towering blueliner.

“Winning the races and battles for the pucks, we got away from it,” said Chara. “We need to find it again.”

Turning Point: The Flyers’ players were all pointing to goaltender Antero Nittymaki’s second period glove save of a David Krejci shot as the moment when Philadelphia began gaining the upper hand. Michael Ryder had worked the puck out of the corner and skipped it back toward the Philly net. The puck passed through a series of sticks and skates, and Krejci found himself all alone at the doorstep. Krejci paused a moment and then flipped a shot toward the top of the night. Nittymaki snared the puck out of mid-air and robbed Boston’s playmaker of a sure score.

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