By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins’ disastrous public handling of Claude Julien’s ouster feels like an eternity ago. Since naming Bruce Cassidy the interim head coach, the Bruins have gone 6-1 and are playing with increased confidence. Their recent hot streak has them hanging on in the Eastern Conference playoff race even as teams caught up to them during their bye week, benefitting from a down year overall for the Atlantic Division – in fact, they’re only four points behind Claude Julien’s Montreal Canadiens for first place.
So that begs the question with the NHL trade deadline just two days away: What will Bruins GM Don Sweeney do to the roster? If anything?
It appears that the least likely move for the Bruins at the trade deadline is to package prospects and/or draft picks for a high-priced rental. Trade talks between the Bruins and the Colorado Avalanche have reportedly fizzled out for a potential deal involving Gabriel Landeskog and they haven’t been linked to any other high-profile names potentially on the market. Sweeney recently said it’s unlikely that the Bruins would make a trade for a rental player.
Such a move would be counter to Sweeney’s promises to develop younger players in the system and focus more on the big picture – and, considering the Bruins’ place in the Atlantic Division standings, a rental might not even be necessary. It sounds like he’s sticking to that plan, but that doesn’t mean he won’t make any moves.
Another possibility is that they sell off higher-priced assets that they already have, but that kind of move also appears unlikely. It may behoove the Bruins to unload a player like Zdeno Chara, who has just one year left on his deal with the Bruins – and perhaps even his NHL career. A contending team may be interested in the services of a player with Chara’s experience and leadership qualities, and he’s even shown an ability to contribute offensively in Cassidy’s up-tempo system.
The Bruins could cash in on Chara if a team is willing to give up a package that observers may view as, for lack of a better term, “stupid.” But Chara also has a full no-movement clause that is likely to prevent any kind of major deal from happening. If the Bruins do end up being sellers, it’s likely that they spin off ancillary pieces like John-Michael Liles or Riley Nash – both of whom were curiously inserted into Sunday’s lineup in the Bruins’ 6-3 win against the Dallas Stars, replacing Colin Miller and Matt Beleskey.
There’s a third, and perhaps most likely, move for the B’s at the trade deadline: standing pat. Perhaps Sweeney and Cam Neely have convinced the Jacobses that the coaching change will be the shake-up they needed and that aggressive moves to change the roster won’t be necessary for the Bruins to make the playoffs.
Jeremy Jacobs’ preseason mandate to return to the Stanley Cup Playoffs after two years on the outside looking in still looms as a potential motivating factor for Sweeney to try to augment the Bruins’ roster, but unless the GM has had a change of heart about the team’s young prospects and draft picks, he doesn’t have much in the way of options for deals.
The Bruins’ decision-making could go in any direction when the NHL trade deadline hits on Wednesday at 3 p.m. But whatever they do (or don’t do) could be telling as to how they view the team for now and the future.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.