Back Check with the Bruins Buff

Monday, February 2, 2009

Bruins Trade Deadline -- A Veteran Forward?

Christmas doesn’t come in December for hockey fans. It always comes at the end of February or the beginning of March.

“Happy Christmas?” No, no, no. “Happy Trade Deadline” in the hockey world.

The NHL trade deadline is only about a month away. Teams swap players. Teams swap prospects. Teams swap picks. All until times runs out at 3 pm EST, and then the shuffle ends until June.

The Boston Bruins, top contenders in the Eastern Conference, look to make a deep playoff run this season. But not without reaching into the trade pool and pulling out some help.

Boston’s greatest need? A veteran forward. Though the Black and Gold may look good enough to go the distance on paper, the post-season inexperience on the squad can’t be ignored.

Take a glance at the roster for proof.

Forwards with 0-2 Years of Playoff Experience:

Blake Wheeler
Byron Bitz
Marc Savard
Phil Kessel
David Krejci
Petteri Nokelainen
Vladimir Sobotka
Milan Lucic
Patrice Bergeron
Chuck Kobasew

That’s more than half of the team’s forwards, and the list includes a few faces of the franchise.

The playoffs are whole new game. They’re about endurance, stamina, and conditioning. No room for butterflies. No time rookie nerves.

Bringing in a veteran forward helps set an example for the kids and provides a calming presence in such a hectic stage of the season. Plus it never helps to have someone who can pot a few goals and rough up the opposition.

Marco Sturm’s season-ending injury gives the B’s an extra $3.5 million to play with. A deadline loan shouldn’t cost much more than that for the remainder of the season, especially if it’s an older player nearing the end of his career.

The B’s have options. Last week, I narrowed the list down to three veteran forwards that could best help the squad. I set up a poll and asked readers to vote. The results…

#1 – Keith Tkachuk, St. Louis Blues

Pros –

If Boston wants a puckload of experience going into the playoff, Tkachuk seems like an obvious choice. The 36-year-old vet has played in 85 playoff games, registering a respectable 28 goals and 28 assists in those appearances.

Big Walt, as nicknamed by his father, also gives the Bruins another big body up front. Though he’s only 6’2”, Tkachuk weighs in at a whopping 220 lbs, bringing some extra muscle to the Bruins. Imagine him playing on a gritty line with Bergeron and Kobasew.

Cons –

Tkachuk hasn’t seen a consistent amount of playoff action lately. In the past four years, he’s qualified for the playoffs only once as a deadline loan for the Atlanta Thrashers. In four playoff games, he potted one goal and two assists.

Blues fans have also criticized Tkachuk for playing with indifference in his past few seasons. Would he bring those bad vibes to Beantown?

Asking Price –

The slumping St. Louis Blues have been open about trading Tkachuk at the deadline. Right now, they’re rumored to be asking for a second-round draft pick.

Boston doesn’t have its second-rounder in 2009. It’ll have to offer a third-round pick and a mid-level prospect for a shot at Tkachuk.

#2 – Mark Recchi, Tampa Bay Lightning

Pros –

Recchi brings solid playoff experience and two Stanley Cup championships to the table. And like Tkachuk, Recchi has playoff action in 12 post-seasons.

But he’s played more post-season games than the average bear. Recchi clocks in at 140 playoff games, potting an impressive 47 goals and 70 assists.

The 41-year-old also comes into this month hot, registering nine points in his last nine games. Could he keep up the same pace with the Bruins?

Cons –

Recchi doesn’t have the size or strength of Tkachuk, making it difficult to find the right line for him.

The winger could possibly play with Marc Savard and Phil Kessel, but he might not have the speed or hands to keep up with them. He doesn’t have the physicality to play on the fourth line, either.

One dark part of his recent career can’t be ignored – the Pittsburgh Penguins placed Recchi on waivers last season. Nobody picked him up. Should the B’s target that kind of player?

Asking Price –

The Tampa Tribune reports that Recchi may be dealt to a playoff contender in the coming weeks for a draft pick. Chances are a fourth- or fifth-rounder would get the deal done.

#3 – Bill Guerin, New York Islanders

Pros –

Bill Guerin is no stranger to Boston. The winger played in one playoff series with the Black and Gold, putting up four goals and two assists in six games. The former All-Star also boasts 14 playoff appearances in his career.

The Islanders captain brings Stanley Cup experience to the table. Guerin won the cup with the 1994-1995 New Jersey Devils, scoring 12 goals and 13 assists in 48 games.

Cons –

Guerin didn’t put up spectacular numbers in his most recent playoff appearance. In 2007, he scored no goals and tallied only two assists in nine playoff games with the San Jose Sharks.

The Worcester native also left Boston on a sour note. “Dollar Bill,” as he was nicknamed by fans, left the B’s in 2002 as a free agent to sign a more lucrative contract with the Dallas Stars.

On the flip side, Boston made little effort to retain Guerin. He might not waive his no-trade clause to return there.

Asking Price –

The Isles want picks/prospects for their veteran forwards. A fourth rounder and a low-level prospect could do it.

But rumors floating around the ‘net say that Guerin will only be traded if packaged with fellow Islander Doug Weight. Boston doesn’t need two veteran forwards and likely wouldn’t make the deal.


The Bastahd said...

No sure what you mean by 0-2 years of playoff experience but Kobasew has played 33 playoff games. He was on Calgary the year they made a run at the Cup and also there the following season for a first round exit.

As for the three possibilities... Recchi's too old, Guerin lack postseason production (28-22-50 in 105) leaving Tkachuk the only solid option, though he has never won the Cup. I think they would be better holding off on any of them... why risk team chemisty?

Tom said...

Of those three, I'd shoot for Recchi. Here's my reasoning:

1) He won't come at any real sacrifice.

2) If we're 100% healthy, just scratch him. He's good in the locker room and practice, so you get the leadership without the deadweight. He's a pro and will understand his role.

3) If we lose a mid-level forward, he's a respectable replacement. We shouldn't be out looking for top-line guys anyway considering our cap situation. Say Kobasew or Axelsson comes up lame, Recchi can take over that role better than Byron Bitz can.

Bruins Buff said...

By 0-2 years of playoff experience, I meant that the above players have only played in the post-season 0-2 times in their careers.

Measuring by the amount of games might be a better standard now that I think of it, especially when considering a guy like Kobasew.

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