Back Check with the Bruins Buff

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Sell, Sell, Sell? Part I

Note: This entry covers one of three possible scenarios Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli could pursue come the trade deadline. This entry and the ones following it will explore options the B's have available. It's up to the reader, not this blogger, to decide what's the best path.

It hasn't been an easy New Year for the Boston Bruins. A hard-hitting injury bug, snake-bitten players, and a ten-game losing streak helped the B's secure a spot in the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. Going into tonight's game against the Buffalo Sabres, the B's are ranked ninth in the conference with 59 points.

It's a tight race in the east -- one that could potentially leave six teams battling for the final two playoff spots. Only four points separate seventh and twelfth. Boston happens to be right in the middle of the battle.

Could the B's still make the playoffs? Absolutely. Can't discount this team when its healthy and rolling on all cylinders.

But even if they do make the playoffs, what sign has been shown that they'll be able to compete? Lacking a sniper, without a solid puck-moving defenseman, and harvesting a number of bad contracts?

A "win now" attitude could hurt the B's in the long-run, especially if they get bounced out of the playoffs in the first round. And in a draft that's supposed to be one the deepest in a nearly a decade, Peter Chiarelli may be better off trying to pawn off Unrestricted Free Agents, picking up picks, dumping bad contracts, and retooling over the summer.

Yes, the B's could very well sell the farm and try again next year. But let's be realistic -- the NHL salary cap hovers over every team in the league. And it won't be easy putting Boston in a manageable and cap-friendly place.

For the 2009-2010 season, each team is allotted a cap of $56.8 million. By the team the season finishes, the B's will be closer to that ceiling than they ever have been before. In fact, if the B's don't shed some salary by the end of the season, it looks like they might be right at it.

Before they can worry about the cap in the off-season, the B's might have an opportunity to grab something of value from guys who might end up walking anyway. In this entry, we'll highlight Boston's UFAs and their possible values. We'll break down the "bad" contracts and cap implications of being a seller tomorrow.

Credit to for its extensive and accurate database of all cap totals. Note that the salaries below take potential bonuses into account.

Boston Bruins 2009-2010 UFAs

Mark Recchi - $1.7 million

The B's brought in Recchi at the trade deadline last year to provide the team with a veteran presence. He played surprisingly well for a 42-year-old, putting up 10 goals in the regular season and 6 points in the playoffs.

Thanks to the B's slew of injuries, Recchi has received more ice time in the '09-'10 season and plays a less traditional role for an aging vet. He posts an average ice time of nearly 17 minutes a game, the fourth highest among Bruins forward.

As a result, some of his weaknesses were exposed, his lack of a shot and slow speed in particular. Ultimately, Mark Recchi is what he is: a banger who will go to the dirty areas of the ice and score with tip-in's and garbage goals.

If the B's are looking to sell, they might want to deal Recchi before his contract expires. He's not the most talented guy on the ice anymore, but his veteran leadership and two cup rings may make him appealing to a young team looking for a proven winner.

At Worst: 3rd Round Pick in '10
At Best: 2nd Round Pick in '10

Steve Begin - $850,000

The B's had big expectations out of Begin coming into the season. The 4th-line energy forward brought an edge to the '08-'09 Montreal Canadiens and became known for his pesky presence on the ice. Boston hoped to see that same sort of game out of him this year.

Unfortunately, he's been anything but edgy. Though he impressed the B's faithful in his first ten games, Begin has slowly dipped until becoming a complete non-factor on the ice. The guy doesn't hit, he barely fights, and brings little energy to the line-up. He doesn't score and doesn't assist, either.

He's OK on the penalty kill. I'll give him that. But not good enough to warrant a regular spot on the roster.

Teams aren't typically looking for a 4th-line forward at this point of the season. And if they were, it's doubtful they would take a chance on Steve Begin with a cap hit of nearly a million bucks. Teams looking for forward depth will look elsewhere.

At Worst: He walks at the end of the season
At Best: ...He walks at the end of the season

Miroslav Satan - $700,000

Peter Chiarelli acquired forward Miroslav Satan in January as a band-aid fix to ease the B's scoring struggles. He hasn't been that band-aid fix.

In fact, he hasn't really been a fix at all. In 16 games with Boston, Satan has only scored two goals. He played a handful of those games on the top line with passing extraordinaire Marc Savard. Instead of burying the puck, he's slugging behind the defense trying to keep up with Savard in the first place.

Even if he's a member of Slovakia's Olympic Squad, Satan offers nothing to Boston or to any other team for that matter. In fact, the B's should put him on waivers while they can. You never know -- some desperate team may pick him up. Just like Boston did.

At Worst: He walks at the end of the season
At Best: Put him on waivers. He can rot in Providence or maybe someone will pick him up

Shawn Thornton -- $516,666

See the Steve Begin entry above? In the second and third paragraphs, replace "Begin" with "Thornton." Same problem.

Granted, Thornton can throw 'em down and keep up with some of the best fighters in the league. He doesn't embrace fisticuffs as much as he used to, but that may be the coach's decision and not his.

The B's are better off keeping Thornton until the end of the year. Enforcers don't fetch much on the trade market, and he's still got a few fights left in him before the season's over. Other tough guys may be worth a look during the summer. If not, bring back Thorts and dress him on nights where other teams have a fighter in the line-up.

At Worst: He walks at the end of the season
At Best: Deal him to a team that severely lacks toughness

Derek Morris - $3.3 million

A bright spot in an otherwise dismal defensive season for the B's, Derek Morris was brought in during the off-season to fulfill a role as the team's #2 defenseman. Though not the most mobile defenseman, Morris brings a big-bodied presence to the line-up as well as a slapshot to boot.

He's played well for the most part. But he may be able to play even better on a contender looking for a #3/#4 rental defenseman. There's no telling whether he'll be back or not next year and, given his play this year, he may be looking for more money and a longer contract. It wouldn't hurt to see what the B's could fetch for him.

At Worst: 3rd Round Pick in '10 and a Prospect
At Best: 2nd Round Pick in '10 and a Mid-Level Prospect

Andrew Ference - $1.4 million

Ah, yes. Andrew Ference. Emperor of the Island of Injured Bruins. The guy hasn't played a full season in his three-and-a-half year stint with the Bruins. In fact, he hasn't played more than 60 games in one season since '06-'07.

Still, the guy isn't an awful defenseman if used correctly. Note: if used correctly. As a #5/#6 defenseman, he'll hit and bring somewhat of a mobile taste to the team. But earlier in the season, he was getting top-four minutes and playing poorly.

Given his history of injuries and falling out as the Bruins' NHLPA representative, I don't see Ference returning to the B's in '10-'11. Deal him to a team looking for a bottom-pairing defenseman with some leadership qualities.

At Worst: 4th Round Pick in '10 or '11
At Best: 3rd Round Pick in '10 or '11

Coming tomorrow: RFAs and "bad" contracts. Stay tuned.


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