Now that the dust has settled a bit on Boston's big day of trades and then culminating in a 4-2 win against Ottawa to go 2-0 on their six-game road trip, it is time to look at the deals that strengthened the team today. The jury is out as to whether this Bruins team can contend for a championship in June, but they are better than they were just last night when they thumped the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Tomas Kaberle, D
To Toronto: Joe Colborne, Boston's 1st-round pick in 2011 NHL Draft, conditional 2nd-round pick in 2012 NHL Draft
- Offense: Kaberle instantly becomes Boston's best puck mover and distributor. You could already see the effect he had on the transition in his Bruins debut- hitting long lead passes from his own end well into the neutral zone, and crisply moving the puck around from the point while with the man advantage. He brings a dimension that has been sorely lacking on Boston's backline, but the question that lingers is: will it be enough?
- Experience: Although he's not seen a sniff of the playoffs since right before the NHL lockout in autumn 2004, Kaberle has a wealth of NHL regular season games under his belt and has been tested enough in the postseason, that he should bring the kind of calm and heady play that the B's will need in the spring. His playoff totals are not much to write home about- just six goals and 28 points in nearly a season's worth of playoff games (77), but he brings the kind of veteran savvy and skill set that will give Claude Julien the confidence at crunch time that Steve Kampfer simply would not.
- Equalizer: Kaberle's presence in Boston will take pressure off of the other defensemen in the lineup to perform beyond their capabilities. Is it any accident that Dennis Seidenberg scored a PP goal tonight now that Kaberle is around? His arrival opens up the ice a bit from some of the other guys, but more importantly, it frees them up to keep things simple and not get themselves into hot water by trying to do too much.
- Defense: Performance in his own end and the physical element are not Kaberle's bag. In fact, he's a soft player when you really get down to it. Hit him hard and take away his time and space, and he becomes far less effective. This means that Kaberle's partner is going to have to shoulder much of the load when the play shifts into Boston's end. He's effective enough positionally, but isn't going to make much contact and tends to play the puck not the man. In the tight-checking contests (translation: playoff hockey) he tends to disappear.
- Contract status: The UFA-to-be immediately puts an onus on Boston to extend him, but is that the best long-term option for the team? Obviously, he's getting his audition here over the last few months of the regular season and playoffs, but even if he were to play well, it raises concerns about investing another long-term high-dollar contract in a player who is getting a little long in the tooth and whose best years are probably behind him. The B's couldn't re-sign him now if they wanted to, but they're going to be in an awkward position if he bombs (they paid a high price for a rental) and even if he plays well.
Outlook: Even if he may not be the ideal option to put in a Stanley Cup contender mix, Kaberle's still better than a good percentage of available players on the market. It was no secret that the Bruins had coveted him since their aborted attempt to trade for him in Montreal coming up on two years ago. He liked the Bruins and Ray Bourque as a kid, and seems genuinely thrilled to be back in the legitimate playoff hunt (yes, Leafs fans- we know you guys are much closer to that eighth and final playoff spot, but good luck with that without Kris Versteeg, Rejean Beauchemin and your top PP quarterback). Kaberle certainly helps the Boston cause. But how much is what we're going to find out. And, even if he ends up being a revelation, it forces Boston to accept risk in signing him to an extension where the returns could diminish the ROI.
As for what Boston gave up, losing Joe Colborne is tough, but the Bruins weren't going to be able to dump flotsam and jetsam on Brian Burke and call it a day. Colborne was a player the Bruins had high hopes for and is a good kid, but he was not without his flaws, and at the end of it all, the B's simply were not willing to part with 2010 draft picks Ryan Spooner or Jared Knight in any deal. Consider those guys "fenced" barring some kind of earth-shattering deal. The first-round selection will be later in the top-30 and will only really be missed by the hardcore draftniks- i.e.- the good folks who read this blog in the month of February and earlier (please take a bow). It's a key asset, yes, but Kaberle is a legitimate NHL player still in his prime who can help right away. You have to give to get. There's also a 2012 2nd-rounder going to Toronto if the Bruins make it to the Stanley Cup finals or re-sign Kaberle.
Effect on Boston's 2011 Draft: Say goodbye to another top-60 pick in 2011, but with the assets the team has acquired over the last several years, they felt Kaberle was worth the price. The B's are still looking at one early pick in the 1st and a middle-of-the-round selection in the second (Minnesota). They can still make some hay on draft day, though it won't be as prolific a time as we expected. But, we also expected some of these picks to fly out the door, too. Peter Chiarelli made it clear that he was looking to upgrade the team this season with players who can help now. That's what he's trying to do, and these kinds of early picks are the coin of the realm these days. As much as we hate to admit it sometimes, you can't have it both ways-- you can't hoard your prospects and picks and yet still expect to come away with players who improve your NHL club. Something has to give and because of the modern economics involved, roster-to-roster swaps aren't as easy to pull off as they once were.
Rich Peverley, C
Boris Valabik, D
To Atlanta: Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart
Cap hit: Is there a better veteran player bargain in the NHL these days than Peverley? With one more season at $1.325 million, he's a top-nine forward who scored 22 markers last year and could hit 20 this season as well if he heats up down the stretch (14 at the time of the deal). Valabik only makes $762k and is ticketed to the minors on a two-way deal. He'll be an RFA and easy to re-sign should the Bruins want to try and make Slovakia's second-biggest hockey import a reclamation project. They might as well, given that he idolized Zdeno Chara as a youth and is no doubt thrilled to be in the same organization as Big Z.
Versatility: Peverley is another "glue" guy, but he can score as well. He provides a nice, unheralded boost with his ability to score and set up the play, and should fit in nicely in Boston. Valabik is the gigantic shutdown defender who plays a physical game in his own end. The Bruins acquired Colby Cohen who is an offensive defender who lacks defensive skill/awareness. During the course of the season, Chiarelli has added two defenders who bring completely different skill sets to the table. That's called upgrading your system-- didn't happen through the 2011 draft, but helps out all the same.
Forward logjam: The Bruins are pretty stacked at forward right now, so with Peverley on board, Daniel Paille is likely the one headed back to the press box as a healthy scratch. Will the team make another move to shake things up a little or will they stick with the status quo? How will Peverley fit into the group dynamic? It doesn't make for much of a weakness on paper, but there isn't much of a dynamic element up front with this team, and Tyler Seguin could be another guy whose ice time gets cut with the new addition. Given his improved play of late, that would be a shame.
Outlook: This trade was mainly about Boston clearing the cap space to make the Kaberle acquisition legal. The team loses two players making almost $4 million for a pair making half that amount. Atlanta gets two NHL players who will contribute, but Stuart is a UFA and Wheeler is RFA. Valabik goes to Providence and may never get a shot in Boston, but he's at least an asset young enough to try and develop further. Peverley is a more well-rounded player than Wheeler is, and I think he'll fit in nicely with the group of players in Boston.
Effect on Boston's 2011 Draft: None.
As a bonus, here is Red Line Report's take on Valabik seven years ago when he was draft eligible:
Boris Valabik scouting report; re-printed from Red Line Report's 2004 NHL Draft Guide
Rank: 29 (Drafted 10th overall by Atlanta)
Behemoth blueliner has come a long way in a short time. Huge man just buries opposing forwards and is still growing at 6-6/228. Heavy hitter who doles out punishment and is a physical presence. Keeps crease clear and wins battles down low. Has decent mobility for a man his size, though he still needs to improve footwork and turning ability. Uses long reach well and when he has you tied up, you're not getting loose. Had never fought before coming to North America, but by end of season was one of OHL's top scrappers, registering 300 PIMs. Puckhandling, while improved, is still only adequate at best. Can make basic plays, but not creative and most disturbing is his slow thought process in decision making. Usually exhibits good stick and body position.
Projection: Top-4 d-man, provides physical presence.
Style compares to: Stephane Quintal/Pavel Kubina