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Chiarelli Won’t Land Big Name, But B’s Should Still Be OK

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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General Manager of the Boston Bruins Peter Chiarelli. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

General Manager of the Boston Bruins Peter Chiarelli. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins won in St. Louis on Wednesday night. They played a disciplined game, took advantage of opportunities and fended off a team that doesn’t usually lose on home ice.

It was a positive development, but it didn’t change anything. The Bruins still need a little help.

That’s unquestionably the case, due to the extended absences of Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley, but what’s just as clear after Thursday night’s Jeff Carter trade is that it’s going to cost a lot to acquire a big-time player of value.

The Kings happily accepted the albatross of a contract that belongs to Carter (signed through 2021-22 with an average cost of $5.2 million), and they still had to hand over Jack Johnson, a 25-year-old defenseman who’s averaged 39 points per season in the past two years and has eight goals and 16 assists this year. Even that wasn’t enough to acquire Carter and his contract, as the Kings had to send a first-round pick to Columbus for the right to overpay Carter for the next 10 years.

The deal was the latest example of this year’s trade market being a bit wacky. As it relates to the Bruins, any move of that kind is simply going to cost too much. Already without the aforementioned two key forwards, acquiring someone to fill that gap would only add more holes to the Bruins’ lineup.

Let’s first look at Rick Nash. The 27-year-old is a superstar. On gold-medal-winning Team Canada in the 2010 Olympics, he was often the best player on the ice every time he hopped over the boards. He’d make any team better, and he’d likely be a difference-maker for a contending team … for a price. Nash is believed to cost a current NHL player, a top prospect and a first-round pick, at least. For the Bruins, that would mean something like David Krejci, Dougie Hamilton and a high draft pick. Krejci has unquestionably been hot and cold this year, but wouldn’t the benefits of adding Nash essentially be offset by the loss of Krejci, who led the team in scoring during last year’s Cup run? And in Hamilton are the Bruins eager to cut ties with him, just months after drafting him ninth overall?

Then there is Dustin Brown. The Kings’ captain is believed to be available now that the team acquired Carter, but the price tag on Brown might be just as high for a team like Boston. ESPN reported Friday that if the Maple Leafs were to seek Brown’s services, the Kings would want 22-year-old Luke Schenn and a top forward prospect in exchange. Just as is the case with the potential acquisition of Nash, the Bruins would have to get worse in order to get better by adding Brown. For Chiarelli, that can’t make a whole lot of sense.

Really, though, the Bruins are rarely in on acquiring that big name, with last year’s trade for Tomas Kaberle serving as the lone exception. Given how poorly that worked out for Boston (costing them a first-round pick and Joe Colborne for a rental who had just nine points in 24 regular-season games and 11 points in 25 playoff games), it’s hard to believe it will convince Peter Chiarelli to go that route again.

Still, deadline time has brought about some of Chiarelli’s finest moves. In 2009, he brought in Mark Recchi for the low price of Martins Karsums. Recchi would go on to be an integral member of the Bruins for two and a half seasons, eventually winning a Stanley Cup. Karsums would go on to play in just 18 more NHL games.

Nobody saw the Recchi deal coming, and the same could be said about Chiarelli’s big yet understated move the following season. Dennis Seidenberg arrived in Boston without much fanfare and with the low price tag of Byron Bitz (who has two goals since that day in March 2010) and Craig Weller (who’s played in zero NHL games since then). Seidenberg, of course, has been a rock for Boston and was on the top defensive pair with Zdeno Chara for the Bruins’ Stanley Cup run.

And then there was last year. The Kaberle deal was the big one, but it was the additions of Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly that made the Bruins a championship team. While those acquisitions did come with a decent-sized price tag of Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart and a pick, the Bruins – unlike this year – were dealing from a position of strength. With Horton and Peverley sidelined right now, any such deal this year will be made out of desperation, and that’s not a place from which Chiarelli works.

On top of all that, the goal for a contending team at the deadline is to fine-tune a roster so that the team can win a Stanley Cup. While Chiarelli doesn’t know if Horton will be back, he does know that this team is, overall, good enough to win a championship. He also knows he’s got a goaltender who can play his best when it matters the most. In that sense, he’s the only general manager in the league with that kind of comfort.

The present market has big names and flashy moves in a lot of folks’ eyes, but history says the Bruins will proceed with caution. It’s worked out before, and Chiarelli shouldn’t see any reason to change his course.

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