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Chiarelli has options on deadline day

Posted By Dan Rowinski On March 3, 2010 @ 10:14 am In General | No Comments

The big day has finally arrived.

Wednesday is the NHL trade deadline with all moves to be completed by 3 p.m. this afternoon. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. at TD Garden to discuss the moves the Bruins did, or did not, make to improve the team down the stretch looking for a third consecutive playoff birth.

All the blood that has been squeezed from the Chiarelli stone this past week has been “we are looking for a top-nine forward with a scoring bent” with the caveat that market prices are prohibitive at this point. Outside of the upper echelon teams (Chicago, Washington, San Jose) the rest of the league is tightly packed making this year a sellers market as there are a plethora of buyers. The six through 12 seeds in each conference are separated by nine points heading after Tuesday’s games.

With 65 points, the Bruins currently have a tenuous hold on the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference (tied in points with the Rangers, one behind the Canadiens, four behind the Flyers). Injuries and inconsistency have been the name of the game in Boston. Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien have been holding onto the fact that several Bruins have not performed to expectations this year and that a turnaround by them (David Krejci, Blake Wheeler, Milan Lucic, Michael Ryder, Dennis Wideman to name the primary candidates) will do a lot to turn the team around.

Yet, here we are, 61 games in with 65 points to show for it. To expect a sudden turnaround by all these players would be foolish at best, damning to the front office’s reputation at worst. Some of them may go on a hot streak down the stretch but of those five names, two, maybe three can realistically rise to their expectations. The question then becomes; what tact do the Bruins take at the deadline and is the price really worth it?

The smart money at this point says that Chiarelli will not make a major move. By major, a top-nine forward along the lines of Raffi Torres, Teemu Selanne, Ray Whitney, Keith Tkachuk or Paul Kariya (to name a few on the rumor mill). Do not expect to see Marian Hossa or Ilya Kovalchuk or their ilk walk through the door. If those type of players were on the market, which they are not, it is doubtful that Chiarelli would spend what it would take to bring them in anyway. So far he has been guarding his horde of draft picks, either waiting for the best deal to come along or to really restock the Providence Bruins and Reading Royals for years to come. Protecting the first round picks is understandable, laudable even, considering the Bruins have two each in the next two drafts. Yet, with five second round picks between 2010 and 2011, it is hard to argue that Chiarelli could not flip one of them relatively painlessly for Whitney or Torres. That would be a high price but the sellers control the market.

At the same time, the Bruins have to worry about money. So far, Chiarelli has been penny wise and pound foolish. The pennies have been spent in the last couple of days reorganizing the minor league system with the Steve Kampfer and Cody Wild trades. Do not expect to see either of them in Boston soon, if ever. The pounds that Chiarelli spent were mostly last summer, giving Tim Thomas his four-year $20 million contract looks like a big mistake and the extensions to Krejci and Lucic may have been premature. It all adds up to next to nothing for the Bruins to spend under the cap so a contract from the NHL roster would have to go the other way or players like Vladimir Sobotka, Johnny Boychuk would have to be stowed in Providence to free up their nominal salaries.

In the realm of sanity (a small bubble at any trade deadline), Chiarelli probably knows that no matter what he does at the deadline, the Bruins are probably not going to jump any higher than the sixth seed in the conference. Thus, why rush to make a transaction now when the market is so prohibitive to making a value deal? Chiarelli could happily sit on his picks, wait for the season to end and the draft to come and make a splash in the summer. The ways the Bruins are currently constructed, he is going to have to rock the boat eventually.

Whether he decides to do that before 3 p.m. today remains to be seen. Chiarelli is set to hold a press conference at TD Garden at 4 p.m. to discuss the decisions he made and the moves he did or did not make.


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