The Bruins have five of their six defensemen from the Stanley Cup finals under contract through at least next season, with Tomas Kaberle’s spot the only question mark. B’s general manager Peter Chiarelli said Thursday that the team will let Kaberle test the waters, and that if he signs elsewhere, they’ll find a replacement. That means whoever the B’s have back there next year needs to be at least somewhat offensively minded. After the power play woes of the playoffs, that’s only logical.
So who might be that last (not necessarily the sixth) defenseman be? Here are some options:
TOMAS KABERLE (free agent, Bruins)
2010-11 team: Maple Leafs/Bruins
2010-11 stats: 82 GP, 4 G, 43 A, 47 P, +4 (regular season)
25 GP, 0 G, 11 A, 11 P, +8 (playoffs)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-1, 214 pounds
Pros: Outstanding passer
Cons: Poor skater, turnover-prone
The skinny: The sound of a full Garden screaming “SHOOT!” might keep Kaberle awake at night, and though there were plenty of roadbumps on the way to him becoming the solid player he was in the Cup finals, more time in Boston might make him better. Perhaps the reason he looked more like himself later in the postseason was because he was getting comfortable, but the minutes Claude Julien gave him in the playoffs suggest he won’t be worth the payday he seeks. If the B’s can get him for $3 million or less, maybe they’ll take a flier. Any more than that just isn’t sensible.
STEVEN KAMPFER (Bruins, signed through 2013)
2010-11 team: Bruins
2010-11 stats: 38 GP, 5 G, 5 A, 10 P, +9 (with Boston)
22 GP, 3 G, 16 A, 16 P, +10 (with Providence)
Height/weight: 5-foot-10, 188 pounds
Pros: Good skater, right-handed shot
Cons: Faded/lost spot down the stretch
The skinny: Kampfer needed very little time to settle into the NHL, and though his partner (some guy named Chara) had plenty to do with that, he showed he is capable of contributing at this level. He had as costly a 13-minute span as anyone could back on March 17, and his misplay and a penalty not only cost the Bruins the game in Nashville, but it cost Kampfer his spot in the lineup. He injured his knee while playing in the AHL late in the season, but was good enough to play again midway through the Eastern Conference finals. He did not play a game in the postseason.
If it ends up being an in-house promotion, the B’s will also give Matt Bartkowski a good look.
JAMES WISNIEWSKI (UPDATE: signed six-year, $33 million deal with Blue Jackets)
2010-11 team: Islanders/Canadiens
2010-11 stats: 75 GP, 10 G, 41 A, 51 P, -14 (regular season)
6 GP, 0 G, 2 A, 2 P, -2 (playoffs)
Height/weight: 5-foot-11, 208 pounds
Pros: Hard-nosed, crafty with the puck
Cons: Had career year in contract year, price may be high
The skinny: The Michigan native could become fast friends with Kampfer and Tim Thomas (both from Michigan), and given his tendency to get under the skin of opponents, he and Brad Marchand would probably go from being enemies to pals pretty quickly. The Red Wings have only three defensemen under contract for next season, so the idea of bringing the local boy to Detroit makes that a logical potential destination for Wisniewski. If the Red Wings are in on the 27-year-old, they won’t be alone. Wisniewski has only had one season with more than 30 points, and it was his contract year. He’ll be paid well, so the price could be too steep for the Bruins’ liking.
CHRISTIAN EHRHOFF (UPDATE: SIGNED 10-YEAR, $40 M contract with Sabres)
2010-11 team: Canucks
2010-11 stats: 79 GP, 14 G, 36 A, 50 P, +19 (regular season)
23 GP, 2 G, 10 A, 12 P, -13 (playoffs)
Height/weight: 6-foot-2, 200 pounds
Pros: Durable (77+ games each of last five seasons), strong on power play
Cons: Too much money, this video
The skinny: Ehroff suffered a shoulder injury against his old team in the Western Conference finals, explaining why he was less than impressive vs. the Bruins. The shoulder will not require surgery.
The German media would go nutbars at the prospect of Dennis Seidenberg, one of only two German Stanley Cup champions, to be teamed with Ehrhoff. The two are actually good friends, as they have played on national teams since they were 17 and were defensive partners at the Olympics. The issue is that the Islanders traded a fourth-round pick for his rights this week and, despite general manager Garth Snow saying they offered “well north” of Kevin Bieksa‘s five-year, $23 million pact, couldn’t get him signed. Maybe that’s because Ehrhoff wants to play for a winner, but it may also be because he’s holding out for top dollar. If it’s the latter, you can count the Bruins out. Given the financial aspect, it’s hard to imagine any circumstance in which the B’s bring him in.
At the end of the day, the Bruins might have to overpay for Wisniewski, which makes one feel that if the B’s don’t get Kaberle back, they could just go with Kampfer. The 22-year-old is still progressing, and if he plays with Chara, it will be that much easier. Plus, it’s the most economical thing to do. Unless the B’s can get a deal on a veteran who brings more to the table, they might be better off hoping that, much like Adam McQuaid did this past season, Kampfer can take an opportunity and run with it.