By Bob Mand, Contributing Editor
The Boston Bruins made two moves at the deadline which, while not particularly awe-inspiring, improved the team. In acquiring veterans Brian Rolston, Mike Mottau and Greg Zanon the Bruins gained necessary depth while adding leadership and experience in preparation for a long playoff run.
Heading into the trade deadline there were many who suggested that the Bruins’ need for a big move by Feb. 27 was paramount. With inconsistent play throughout much of 2012 coupled with recent significant injuries to Nathan Horton, Rich Peverley and Johnny Boychuk – adding some substantial talent felt like a ‘must’.
While Chiarelli contemplated some more noteworthy trades, made numerous calls (and was reportedly in on several key players), he was unable to find top-six help or major defensive upgrades. In the end, the limitations of the market coupled with some impressive price tags pushed him towards cheaper alternatives.
Notably, the Bruins’ were able to make these deals without giving up much of significance in return. General Manager Peter Chiarelli sent two prospects (Yannick Riendeau and Marc Cantin) to Long Island, both of whom have seen significant time in the ECHL this season, are outside the Bruins’ top-25 and longshots to ever make an impact at the NHL-level.
Chiarelli also sent Steven Kampfer to Minnesota. Kampfer had been the B’s seventh defenseman for much of this season after an occasionally-electric rookie 2010-11 campaign. He’s a decent puck-mover with borderline top-four upside but didn’t fit in the Bruins short-term or long-term plans with Dougie Hamilton in the pipeline.
In refusing to cave to the pressure of the deadline, Chiarelli keeps the Bruins best prospects intact – allowing the team future mobility along with some impressive potential upsides. With their 2012 first-rounder still in-pocket, the Bruins have the capability to add this summer to what has become one of the more impressive prospect corps in the NHL.
Among the acquisitions, Rolston will be expected to play a top-nine role for the Bruins from now until the returns of both Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley. Even after, it’s conceivable that his experience and two-way game will get him the nod over the younger Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron. Even if he’s the Bruins’ thirteenth forward come April – he’s an upgrade over the plethora of Providence call-ups they have utilized in recent weeks.
The procurements of both Mottau and Zanon give the Bruins eight serviceable NHL defenseman for the postseason run and the ability to spell Joe Corvo if his defensive inadequacies are exploited by opponents. Mottau will likely fill the role as depth defenseman (now and in the long run) with Zanon currently filling in for the concussed Boychuk and perhaps getting the nod over other B’s blueliners after number 55’s return. Zanon’s elite shot-blocking skills (finishing top-ten in each of the past five seasons) will help a blueline ranked sixth-worst in the League in that category.
These moves still mean the Bruins will depend on the return of the injured trio to get back to the promised land of Cup glory. Without Horton, Peverley and Boychuk the Bruins are a good – but hardly dominant force. However, thanks to these moves, the B’s have the opportunity to ease these three back into the lineups gradually – perhaps even into the first-round – all the while holding onto the prospect depth and youthful core that will make this team a favorite for years to come.