By Bob Mand, Contributing Editor
With the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline just over a week away, the Boston Bruins are undoubtedly considering all of their options. Despite the elevated prices at this year’s deadline, there are a few names the Bruins should consider when attempting to fill holes in their lineup and solidify their squad for a run at a second consecutive Stanley Cup.
The following are five players (two forwards and three defensemen) that the B’s brass should look to in shoring up the Black and Gold. All play for teams with little or no chance at making the 2012 postseason and all are veterans headed to unrestricted free agency save one who has a year left on his current deal.
Bryan Allen, D, Carolina Hurricanes – The big (6’5) defenseman from the ‘Canes is unrestricted following this season, which is just what the doctor ordered for the B’s (who have five of six of their current defensemen locked-up for 2012-13 already). Allen isn’t impressively skilled on the attack but he’s a mobile and solidly physical defender in his own zone and would fit nicely in the B’s blueline rotation. He won’t put up a ton of points (he has never tallied more than 25 in a season) but is capable of chipping in the odd assist.
Allen isn’t a great puck-mover or plus player with the man advantage, so the Bruin d-man many argue needs replacing (Joe Corvo) would likely remain in the line-up. At the worst, Allen would battle Andrew Ference and Adam McQuaid for time in the bottom defensive pairing and (if unsuccessful) still be a significant upgrade over current seventh defenseman Steven Kampfer in terms of experience and own-zone play as they head into the postseason.
Allen has a no-trade clause but he’s indicated he would waive it in the right scenario … and going to the defending champs would likely qualify. Allen might be available for the Bruins’ first round pick or a mid-round pick and a mid-level prospect.
Mark Streit, D, New York Islanders – It’s not known whether the Islander’s captain is available (it doesn’t appear he’s being shopped) – but if he is the Bruins should certainly be kicking the tires on a deal. Streit is the quintessential offensive defenseman: While prone to some turnovers in his own zone, he’s an excellent passer is very capable of quarterbacking a powerplay and has a booming shot.
Streit currently logs over 23 minutes a night with the Islanders and has well over a half a point per game despite playing for the League’s fourth-worst offense. Perhaps the days of him scoring 50 points a season are behind him but he’s still putting up very respectable numbers.
By acquiring Streit, the Bruins would be able to rid themselves of Joe Corvo, who just hasn’t worked out as hoped as the Bruins’ designated attack-minded blueliner.
He has a year remaining on his current contract with a cap hit of $4.1 million dollars which is relatively inexpensive if not ideal. However, it would take quite a hefty offer for the Isles to part ways with their captain. The Bruins first-round pick and a top prospect would likely be the starting point of any negotiations.
Ales Hemsky, RW, Edmonton Oilers – If the Bruins are looking to ‘buy low’ on a guy with top-six chops, then it’s hard to ignore Edmonton’s oft-injured winger, Ales Hemsky. A point-per-game playmaking wizard when healthy, Hemsky’s had an awful season with the Oil which might have pushed his price tag down to near the B’s range.
With Rich Peverley’s MCL sprain (out 4-6 weeks) and Nathan Horton’s concussion (out indefinitely), they are running low on top-six right-wingers. Hemsky might only have four goals and twenty-four points this season but he’s more than capable of extremely productive runs and with the B’s offensive talent level, his production could skyrocket after donning the Spoked-B.
Other than a reasonably-high cost, some might wonder if a player known for his perimeter/finesse game could thrive in a system that stresses defense and physicality. Hemsky’s veteran teammate Ryan Smyth would have been a better fit in this regard but was recently pulled off the trade block. Still, it’s hard to visualize a better, cheaper option with upside than Hemsky with the exorbitant prices of the current marketplace.
Even though his price has come down since the end of last season, he’ll still command some serious assets as Oilers’ GM Steve Tambellini has done a good job getting top dollar for some underwhelming players in recent years (Dustin Penner, anyone?). Expect the cost to be a first-round pick and mid-level prospect at the least.
Paul Gaustad, C, Buffalo Sabres – Turning away from the finesse game, the B’s should take a look at a grinder like Buffalo’s Paul Gaustad. Gaustad is a big (another clocking in at 6’5) center who plays a sound defensive game and is an outstanding faceoff taker (with the eleventh-best winning percentage in the NHL). Gaustad wouldn’t be brought in for his offensive chops (he has career-highs of twelve goals and thirty-six points) but he’d add to the Bruins’ team toughness and won’t look out of place on any line.
Buffalo might be reticent to trade a guy like Gaustad within the division, so the going rate might be an issue but it makes a lot of sense for a team like the Bruins with minimal experienced depth after their –top-twelve forwards to make a move for Gaustad who could help immediately and brings a lot to the table, even in a secondary or tertiary role.
While the Sabres might initially balk at trading Gaustad to their rivals, the B’s might be able to pry him loose in exchange for a mid-level prospect and a mid-round pick.
***Pavel Kubina, D, Tampa Bay Lightning – Rumors have swirled around the big (6’4, 258) Czech defenseman for several days now and he could easily be the next domino to fall in the prelude to the trade deadline frenzy. Kubina brings a solid stay-at-home presence and capable offensive performance despite being slow-footed and inconsistent.
Kubina is a fairly consistent scorer (despite less-than-ideal shot differential numbers) and averaged over 35 points per season from 2001-02 till 2010-11. However, he’s only on pace for 16 points this season and has just one assist in his last fifteen games.
If the price is right he could be a nice depth addition to the B’s blueline or even supplant Corvo. Other than the cost, Kubina holds a no-trade clause and has been asked by the Bolts to submit a list of teams he’d be willing to move to. Assuming the list includes the Bruins, this soon-to-be-UFA would make a solid addition to the B’s for a mid-level prospect and mid-round pick.