Making Sense of the B's Deadline Day

Making Sense of the B's Deadline Day

Looks like I picked a good NHL trade deadline to have serious amounts of grownup work to take care of.

For a day that began with so much anticipation simply because Bruins fans and pundits around the league had no idea what the B’s were up to, it sure ended with about as much excitement as a junior high girl’s basketball game.

Trading season began with visions of Ilya Kovalchuk skating through Bruins fans’ heads. After he was dealt, the general assumption was that at least a puck-moving defenseman and some semblance of a scoring threat would find their way to Causeway St. Now, with the deadline passed, the Bruins team ready to take the ice is way too similar to the one which sulked off it on Tuesday following another listless effort.

Here are the four trades the Bruins made over the last two days:

Kampfer

Bruins acquire the rights to defenseman Steve Kampfer from Anaheim for a conditional fourth round draft pick.

Kampfer is a 21-year old playing at the University of Michigan. He is not a big point producer, but the trend of collegiate defenseman transitioning to the NHL is getting better than it used to be. He isn’t a big guy, coming in at 5-11 and 188, which makes him similar in size to Andrew Ferrence and another Wolverine, Matt Hunwick. He was a fourth-round pick, which is why he was dealt for a fourth-rounder.

Wild

Bruins acquire defenseman Cody Wild from Edmonton for forward Matt Marquardt.

I have a hard time getting excited when a player from Providence College is involved. Have they had a good player graduate from that school since Chris Terreri? What about Hal Gill? Wild is just another average pro who has split time between the AHL and the ECHL. Marquardt is just another average pro who has split time between the AHL and the ECHL. Whatever. The bigger question is why Peter Chiarelli and his staff wasted time on these deals this week? Couldn’t they have taken the time while on a pee break at the golf course in June to make these swaps?

Bruins acquire a 2011 conditional draft pick from Phoenix for Derek Morris.

Morris

Well, at least this deal involves an actual NHLer. Too bad he went away from the Bruins. In all seriousness, it is clear Chiarelli had plans to turn Morris’ cap hit into something bigger that just never materialized. The 2011 draft pick is either a third or fourth depending on if Morris resigns in Phoenix. That draft is being looked at as a very weak one, so expect the B’s to try and flip this pick at some point too. Morris did his job for the Bruins, playing on the power play and forging a solid second pairing once he was moved away from Zdeno Chara. He had 22 assists (10 on the power play) but only three goals, however offensive futility has hindered the entire team so let’s not pick on Morris. He seemed to enjoy playing in Boston, but was never in the long-term plans. For him to go back to where he played before, he was willing to waive his no-trade clause. Plus, the Coyotes are a better team. Good for him.

Bruins acquire defensemen Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski from Florida for forwards Byron Bitz, Craig Weller and a second round pick in 2010.

Seidenberg

There is nothing wrong with this trade when looked at independently of how the remainder of the day went. Seidenberg is younger, cheaper and more likely to be a Bruin next year than Morris. Their point totals are similar and Seidenberg appears to be in his prime. A fun stat on him is that he currently leads the NHL in blocked shots with 179. As we all saw in the Olympics, a willingness to sacrifice the body in front of a shot says a lot about a player and a team. The Bruins don’t have a lot of guys that fit that mold, so adding him is a good move. Bartkowski is another college-aged defensemen, playing college puck at THE Ohio State. Besides making for a fun training camp rivalry with newly acquired Michigan Man Kampfer, Bartkowski will add to the organizational depth at defense – an area in which the B’s are lacking. The key parts going back from Boston are Bitz and the pick. Weller was acquired in the Chuck Kobasew deal earlier this year and is no more than a career minor leaguer. The pick the B’s gave up is the one owned by Tampa Bay acquired in the Mark Recchi deal last season. That could be a valuable choice this summer, but the Bruins will still have four picks in the first two rounds in June. They could afford to deal one of them. Bitz is a serviceable NHL player who can help a team. A hulking winger at 6-5, Bitz found a niche last season on the fourth-line with Shawn Thornton and Stephane Yelle. This year, he hasn’t been the same player. That can be attributed to heightened expectations a bit, as he spent time on the first line with Marc Savard – a spot at least two lines ahead of his pay grade. He was a homegrown talent and a likeable cat, but guys like him in the NHL are easy to replace. I will miss his penchant for terrible fighting, though. No more three minutes for “Bitzing” when he throws two bad punches and falls to the ice.

So, the Bruins team that takes the ice on Thursday will have one new player – Seidenberg. Fans hoping for Ray Whitney, Ryan Whitney, Eli Whitney, Dan Hamuis, Raffi Torres or Peter Mueller are left wanting. Is that a bad thing? As discussed on the award-winning 4SB Podcast last night, maybe not. Let’s examine a few possible players the Bruins could have acquired.

Ray Whitney: The 37-year old winger has a NTC and was invoking it like the fifth amendment in order to decide where he went. He wanted to go to a Cup contender and tack on a 1-2 year extension along the way. If the Bruins were in the position they had in ’09, that is a gamble you can make. He is a guy who can help a sure-fire contender. If he goes to a team and they win the Cup, no one cares when he is 39 and sucking wind at $4 million a year. But, if the Bruins gave up a first-round pick, a prospect and three years to lose in six to Washington, not even Mike Milbury would like that deal.

Dan Hamhuis: A nice player, Hamhuis has been receiving more buzz over the past two weeks than Chat Roulette. I am not sure why a player whose career high of 38 points came in his second season (of six) and brings very little to the power play was being so highly regarded. He does log a lot of minutes, but so doesn’t Andrew Ferrence. Where were the teams beating down the doors for old Fumbles? Rumors in Philly had the Predators asking for two of Philadelphia’s best young defensemen for him. That was absurd. No team in their right mind would trade two defensemen for one who is a free agent. Again, Hamhuis would have been an okay addition but not at the cost of Johnny Boychuk and Matt Hunwick.

Raffi Torres: If the Bruins had acquired Torres to go with Seidenberg, that would have been a good day’s work by Chiarelli. The problem is, all the talk surrounding Torres and the Bruins had Columbus asking for a first-round pick. I applaud Chiarelli for realizing Torres is not worth a first-rounder. Torres, who has scored as high as 27 goals in a full NHL season, has 19-12-31 numbers right now and would immediately be the best option to play win with Marc Savard. The money freed up by the Morris deal would have allowed the B’s to bring him aboard and everything seemed to be in place. However, the Blue Jackets tried to be greedy and take advantage of the Bruins. Good for the Bruins in sticking to their guns. If you won’t deal a first-rounder for Ilya Kovalchuk, you can’t do it for Raffi Torres just because it is the deadline. Now, looking at what Columbus received from Buffalo when all was said and done, you do wonder if the Bruins could have matched that offer. The Sabres dished off Nathan Paetsch and a 2010 second-rounder. Paetsch could have easily been matched (if not exceeded) by someone like Hunwick or Boychuk and the B’s have the 2010 second rounders people are after. You have to assume, however, that after hearing Columbus GM Scott Howson keep asking for a first that Chiarelli said any deal was off and moved on to someone more reasonable.

What to make of all this? Are the Bruins a better team today than they were yesterday? Probably not. Are they worse? No.

The Bruins would have loved to send away Michael Ryder, Andrew Ferrence or even Tim Thomas. Those moves would have cleared a lot of cap space for the team. That didn’t happen, and truth be told, if the 2010 squad wants to make they playoffs, those guys are important to that cause. The goals of this team changed almost immediately when Milan Lucic and Marc Savard were hurt in October and the team went into a tailspin. Instead of winning the Cup, expectations were lowered to making the playoffs. As they stand today, the Bruins are in the playoffs and they did not watch any of their competitors for a playoff berth drastically improve themselves.

The only teams in the East who made bold splashes were those at the top. Washington added Scott “Sucker Punch” Walker, Eric Belanger and Joe Corvo (loved that pickup) while Pittsburgh did what it always does and add a scorer to its second line in Alexei Ponikarovsky. New Jersey added Kovalchuk before the deadline and the Senators added Matt Cullen just before the Olympic break as well.

The teams around Boston for the bottom playoff spots – Philadelphia, Montreal, the Rangers, Atlanta and Tampa Bay – made less moves than the Bruins did. Philly is going through its yearly goaltending quagmire and seems content to ride with career backups. The Habs did nothing of importance nor did the Rangers. Atlanta will hold on as long as it can after dealing Kovalchuk before it fades away and the Lightning have to hope Vinny Lecavailer and Marty St. Louis have one run left in them. Not one of these teams outside Philadelphia should scare the Bruins.

The other thing to note is that Toronto continues to gift-wrap the first overall draft pick for the Bruins. The Maple Leafs have not dealt away six of their eight top-scorers for the season in exchange for Dion Phaneuf, J.S. Giguere and a bunch of draft picks. They may not even be good in 2011, lining the B’s up for a shot at two elite talents without having to sacrifice their own roster.

The only problem is, now what are we going to talk about on Tuesday nights?



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