Trading away young players can be a tough decision for any general manager. The unknown at the time of the deal sometimes can be either the right decision or the wrong decision that can affect franchises for years and decades.
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In the fifth round of the 2004 National Hockey League Entry Draft, the Boston Bruins selected forward Kris Versteeg. That draft class also produced current Bruins center David Krejci along with the versatile Versteeg. Two years later, Boston traded away the winger and that trade looks like one that could have been a mistake.
Versteeg Never Made it to Boston
After being drafted by the Bruins, Versteeg spent two more years in the Western Hockey League before making his way to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League at the end of the 2005-06 season. In February of 2007 in the middle of Versteeg’s first full year with Providence, Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli traded him to the Chicago Blackhawks for Brandon Bochenski.
After the trade, Bochenski played in 51 games for the Black and Gold over two years with 11 goals and 17 assists. Right after New Years Day in 2008, Chiarelli sent Bochenski to the Anaheim Ducks for tough-guy Shane Hnidy and a sixth-round draft pick.
Chicago Wins Cup With Help From Versteeg
Versteeg spent two and a half years in the Windy City, winning the first of his two championships in Chicago, but in that time, he played a major role in the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. He scored 44 goals and had 57 assists in the regular-season for Chicago and continued his scoring into the playoffs.
In the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, he scored six goals and had eight assists in 22 games, with two power-play goals to help the Blackhawks end a 49-year drought between championships. He finished his first two playoff stints in Chicago with 10 goals and 16 assists in 39 total games.
Versteeg was traded after the season in 2010 to the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he played in only 53 games. He was dealt later in the 2011 season to the Philadelphia Flyers, then spent three years with the Florida Panthers before returning to the Blackhawks in November 2013 through a trade.
He spent two more years in Chicago and won his second championship in 2015 when the Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bruins Reload With Forward Talent
The 2006 draft was one where Chiarelli hit the jackpot for the Bruins with young talented forwards in the first three rounds, with two playing major roles in the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
After finishing in the basement following the 2005-06 season, Chiarelli selected Phil Kessel with the fifth overall pick in the draft. He also got Milan Lucic in the second round, 50th overall, and Brad Marchand 71st overall in the third round to begin the Boston rebuild.
Kessel was dealt away by Chiarelli following the conclusion of the 2008-09 season, but Lucic and Marchand ended up being foundation pieces to the 2011 championship team and beyond. Boston has to be thinking about what they could have had with Lucic, Marchand and Versteeg. It certainly can’t be ruled out that another championship could have been won.
What Could Have Been
It is easy to look back and think what could have been had Chiarelli and the Bruins held onto Versteeg. They were going through a rebuild and transition at the time he was drafted and traded away by Boston.
Versteeg went on to win two of the Blackhawks’ three Stanley Cups during the 2010s, while the Bruins were able to win one. Two years later after Boston’s 2011 championship, the Bruins made a return trip to the Final against the Blackhawks and lost in six games. One has to wonder if the Bruins held onto Versteeg, where things could have gone and possibly if another championship could have been won. Instead, Chicago got the benefit of one of their better and contributing players in the last decade.