The Bruins could really struggle to play .500 hockey for the rest of the year unless they can make a serious trade, and obviously I’m talking about Ilya Kovalchuk.
The loss of Marc Savard to a torn MCL could force Boston to use one of their valuable draft picks they received in the Kessel trade far earlier than they imagined. In fact, as bad as Toronto is playing, the Bruins may not want to part with those picks at all.The dilemma they face is that by doing nothing right now, I see no way that they can make a serious run in the playoffs, but they will most likely have one of the top 5 draft picks next year. Or, they could put together a package of players and picks to snap up Kovalchuk while Boston still has time to right the ship this season.
As it stands right now, the Bruins have two 1st’s and three 2nd’s in the 2010 draft with the lowest of those picks being 46th overall(thanks to Kirk Luedeke for the info). In a perfect world, I would package two second round picks, and some combination of Michael Ryder (10-7=17), Blake Wheeler (11-15=26) and the God-awful (IMHO) Dennis Wideman (3-11=14) for Kovalchuck (25-22=47). Ryder is due $4M per season, Wideman 3.8M and Wheeler 2.8M. By moving two of those players, Boston will have between $6.6M-$7.8M to put towards a contract for the talented Russian.
Kovalchuck currently makes $6.3M this season and will most likely ask for upwards of $10M for the rest of his career. I’m no salary cap guru, so I’m not one to say what options are viable and which ones are not, but it does not appear that $10-12M is out of reach for Boston, especially if they want to be considered serious Cup contenders.
It’s nice to speculate about the ins and outs of potential trades, but the fact remains that the Bruins will need to find a way to remain competitive, with or without Kovalchuk, until the walking wounded come back to health. Incredibly, as of January 8th, the Bruins had lost only 77 man games to injury (4th FEWEST in the league), but boy, have they been costly. Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, Marc Savard, Andrew Ference, etc… Too many key players at key positions are getting hurt, one of top of the other.
That’s not to say that the Bruins are done by any means.
During their last game against the Rangers, I saw a Bruins team that was very hungry for the puck, showed great tenacity and gave a full 60 minute effort. Unfortunately, the talent is simply not there and they were bested by a mediocre New York squad. The biggest problem facing the Bruins right now is the inconsistency of personnel on the squad; too many times has Boston been forced to dip into its farm system down in Providence in order to field a full roster. Currently, Trent Whitfield is centering the 4th line and Adam Mcquaid is part of the No. 2 defensive pairing, not to mention Miroslav Satan playing the 1st line even though he was sitting on his couch eating Borscht at this time last week. There’s no way to expect any team to be able to have consistent performances under these conditions. The effort looks as though it will be there, but the lack of familiarity with the NHL level of play will invariably lead to mistakes, turnovers, and goals against.
The next month or so will be a struggle, but Bergeron comes back in two weeks and Savard won’t need surgery. Until then, the Bruins effort will need to be high and the goaltending will need to be top-notch. We’ll see how it all shakes out. That’s it for now!