Clearly, the Boston Bruins are making a run for it.
Seen as the busiest man in hockey today, GM Peter Chiarelli made not one but two deals, including the blockbuster that brings puck-moving veteran Tomas Kaberle to Boston. Chiarelli then turned around and moved extra defenseman Mark Stuart and the fans whipping boy Blake Wheeler to the Atlanta Thrashers in exchange for Boris Valabik and Rich Peverley.
The deal, reported by Bob McKenzie of TSN, will be Kaberle, in exchange for former first round pick Joe Colborne, BOS’s 1st rounder in 2011 and a conditional 2nd in 2012 which vests if either he re-signs or if the team goes to the Cup. After holding out for what seems to be a decade, GM Brian Burke finally pulled the trigger on moving his star and should continue to wheel and deal.
In Toronto, the immediate solution becomes playing Brett Lebda once again, which likely helps the team’s draft position. Burke could also choose to make another move but he looks done considering the Leafs lack any more significant UFAs outside of Jean-Sebastien Giguere and grinders Fredrick Sjostrom, Joey Crabb and Tim Brent.
Back to Boston, who made the big move.
Kaberle is likely to start with captain Zdeno Chara in an attempt to develop chemistry between the two. Both defenders know how to play in both ends of the ice, making their partnership a complete pairing. Kaberle should be the best partner Chara has had since Wade Redden– when the latter was actually good, clearly.
Surprisingly, through the first 47 games, Kaberle slumped scoring only one goal. Not surprisingly, in the midst of trade speculation, his game stepped up with two goals and nine points through his last 11 games.
To make room for Kaberle, the Bruins moved both Wheeler and Stuart, who take up a combined 3.875 million in cap space this season. Wheeler likely would be looking for a raise as a RFA, which the Thrashers can accommodate, while Stuart could have walked for nothing considering his current playing time. Not only does their move clear space for Kaberle this year but it creates room for them to re-sign him in the offseason.
In return, the Bruins receive a very serviceable player in Rich Peverley, who once, statistically speaking was the best bargain in hockey. Playing primarily on the top line until the Thrashers’ recent slide, the four-year veteran projects for roughly 20 goals and another 25+ assists on the year. His presence brings competition to nearly all parts of the B’s lineup as he could play anywhere between the first or the third line, likely pushing Dan Paille, Tyler Seguin or even tough guy Shawn Thornton out of the lineup.
The point is the Bruins now have the monetary flexibility to attain Kaberle and the depth to withstand injuries which makes them very dangerous down the stretch.
Last and probably least would be Boris Valabik, who the Thrashers clearly threw into the trade. Valabik, a hulking 6’7″, comes with a pedigree of his own as a former 10th overall pick. Similar to his idol, Chara, Valabik was born in Czechoslovakia so the Bruins hope their throw-in gamble actually becomes something. Valabik knows he needs to work harder to make the lineup and stay in the NHL but playing alongside Chara should be ambition enough.
In summary… (line changes)
Bruins: Kaberle to Boston moves either Steven Kampfer, Johnny Boychuk or Adam McQuaid out of the lineup. See Peverley/Valabik advice above.
Thrashers: The team demoted Paul Postma and now carry seven healthy defensemen. No word on which of the team’s defensemen draw out, likely Brent Sopel or even Stuart could sit with his new club. Wheeler replaces Peverley on the third line and may even get a chance on a scoring line, value up.
Leafs: Stand pat, likely insert Lebda back into the lineup.
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