Despite being badly burned the week before when Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Ray Shero turned him into his personal whipping boy, and the high prices in a sellers’ market, general manager Peter Chiarelli did what he could over the past few days to improve his Boston Bruins squad as they prepare for their stretch run to close out the 2013 regular season.
While he referred to it as the most difficult NHL Trade Deadline he has ever been a part of, Chiarelli made three deals at the deadline. First was the acquisition of Jaromir Jagr from the Dallas Stars on Tuesday for Lane MacDermid, prospect Cody Payne and a conditional pick. On Wednesday, Chiarelli exchanged minor leaguer Maxime Sauve for Chicago Blackhawks minor leaguer Rob Flick, and then sent a conditional seventh round pick to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for defenseman Wade Redden.
The Bruins are a team who has been struggling of late, but now that the dust has settled on the NHL’s Trade Deadline, how are they looking as a team moving forward the rest of this season?
On the surface, Jagr is just what the Bruins seem to have been aching for much of the season on offense. Not only is he the NHL’s all time leading scorer amongst active players, but he also comes to the Hub tied with Brad Marchand for the team lead in goals scored (14) and with more than double the number of power play goals than any other Bruin (6). Even at 41-years old, Jagr is still a top-six forward with the ability to play anywhere on the top nine and should do wonders for the Bruins’ 25th ranked power play. The future Hall-of-Famer’s arrival should also help to spark the lethargic play that has plagued some Bruins forwards of late as his mere presence puts ice time in jeopardy for the forwards who were already on the roster. The question is, however, how does head coach Claude Julien fit the right winger into his line up?
For all his skill and success in the National Hockey League, the left-handed Jagr only plays the right wing position, limiting the number of places he can play. With Julien’s propensity to not change up line personal often and the Czech’s defensive prowess not quite living up to the standard Julien likes to see out of his forwards, the early signs pointed to Jagr ending up on the Bruins third line with Rich Peverley and either Jay Pandolfo, Jordan Caron or Kaspars Daugavins, who was recently claimed off waivers from the Senators. Even though he was brought in for an extremely reasonable price, burying Jagr on the third line would make it a waste of a trade.
While Jagr might have been the forward the Bruins needed, he alone does not put the Bruins in the drivers seat for the 2013 Stanley Cup. “There’s no doubt he’s going to help us,” said Julien of the Jagr trade, “but he is not going to save us.”
As satisfying as the Jagr acquisition was in bolstering the Bruins offense, there is still a sense of yearning for defensive help.
There was a time when Redden was amongst the best defensemen in the NHL and that was at a time when he was paired with Bruins captain Zdeno Chara on the Ottawa Senators’ blue line. That, however, was six seasons ago and Redden has struggled for much of his time since.
The Redden acquisition should be compared to Shane Hnidy in 2011 and Mike Mottau last season. Rarely seen or heard from, but a good seventh defenseman. Redden is an upgrade over Aaron Johnson and more experienced than Matt Bartkowski. The question is how much outside defensive help did the Bruins really need?
The Bruins’ top three defensemen of Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk should be considered amongst the top trios in the league and cause little concern for the Black-and-Gold faithful as they set the pace for a Bruins defense that currently ranks third in the NHL, giving up just 2.14 goals per game. There are, however, question marks when it comes to their current bottom three of Adam McQuaid, Andrew Ference and Dougie Hamilton.
Though he has returned to the ice, practicing with the team, and projects to be back to action before the playoffs, McQuaid has been sidelined with a shoulder injury, which can pester a player even after being medically cleared. Ference has been a curious case this year, struggling mightily compared to the defensive stalwart that has anchored the backend end of the Bruins rotation since his arrival in 2007.
Will McQuaid get back to full health? Can Ference return to form? Both are going to need to happen if the Bruins intend on a deep playoff run.
Hamilton has performed well in his rookie season. Generally paired with either Seidenberg or Chara playing in the top four, Hamilton is the team’s second highest scoring defenseman with 14 points and top defensive scorer on the power play, having found his way onto the team’s top unit. Not much more could have been asked of a player during his first year in the NHL.
None of that, however, changes the fact Hamilton is just 19-year old and how much pressure should be put on the kid and how much should he be relied on when the intensity goes up in the playoffs?
It was a good trade. Redden came at an extremely reasonably price and adds experience and good depth to the Bruins defensive corps, but more than likely can not be considered a good, long term replacement for McQuaid, Hamilton or Ference if they are not able to play up to snuff. Redden can come in for a spell and, with his offensive skill set, can be considered insurance if the 19-year old Hamilton struggles in the playoffs, but no one should be looking to the 35-year old to anchor the Bruins blue line in the playoffs.
In the end, the Trade Deadline should be chalked up as a win for Chiarelli. The Bruins are better than they were on Monday and they were able to improve without subtracting anything off of their NHL roster or anything major from their farm system. They got the forward they needed, got the depth defensemen the needed, but how much will Chiarelli’s inability to make a move to bring in a player who can be a viable benefit the top of their defensive rotation hurt them?
As Julien said, the trades help, but they are not the answer. The Bruins have the talent, but they still need to improve upon the sluggish play that led them to a 9-6-2 record in March. Until then, the question of if they did enough to keep up with the rest of the Eastern Conference remains?
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.