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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A quick look at the Chris Kelly trade

By now, you know that the Boston Bruins traded their second-round selection in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft to Ottawa last night for center Chris Kelly.

The 30-year-old veteran is a respected two-way forward but his maximum for points in a single season was 38 and he's never scored more than 15 goals in a campaign (he has 12 this year- two more than Blake Wheeler, three more than Gregory Campbell for some perspective).

Here's a quick look at what Kelly brings and how the deal affects Boston's draft.

The Pros:

- Speed: Kelly is an excellent skater with quick burst and an extra breakaway gear. He's one of those guys who is always moving his feet.

- Experience: Kelly has been an NHL regular since the first post-lockout season and was a member of the Senators team that made it to the 2007 Stanley Cup final series.

- Special Teams: A solid penalty killer, he sees quite a bit of time when his team is shorthanded on the average (2+ min/game) and has the time in the league plus the anticipation to be pretty good. That said, he's also a member of one of the NHL's most mediocre PK units (23rd) so saying he's an ace PK forward on a lousy team is kind of like saying that your garage survived a house fire that burned everything else of value up.

- Character: A gritty competitor and leader in the dressing room by multitudes of accounts, not to mention fan favorite, he's the kind of guy who should help the Bruins, who have trouble mounting 60-minute efforts on a regular basis. Plus, he appears to be the kind of guy who steps up his game in the playoffs, which is what the B's need. That said, his actual postseason production is nothing to write home about, so any assertions that he's good in the playoffs are subjective ones.

The Cons:

-Hands: He has very average puck skills and not much finish. Think Travis Green when he came to the Bruins after being a decent scorer as a younger player. Problem with Kelly is-- he's never been much of a scorer even as a younger guy, so he could surprise and tally a few big ones, or he might barely register on the scoresheet. He's a wildcard because he doesn't have the natural scoring chops others do, so his goals must come from hard work and opportunism.

- Cap hit: His deal is pro-rated this season, so pretty much a wash, but next year, Bruins will pay him $2.125 million. That's a lot for a bottom-six forward, and it means that the B's will have more than $5 million tied up in Kelly, Campbell, Daniel Paille and Shawn Thornton assuming nothing changes, and Brad Marchand will be up for a new deal given his ELC is up this summer.

- As much as Peter Chiarelli and the Ottawa sector will sell you on Kelly's virtues, his faceoff statistics are actually pretty middle of the pack (he's about 50%) and in reality, he's "just another guy" or JAG. Problem is-- he's an expensive JAG in terms of his cap figure and he cost a top-60 pick in the process. Some will argue it was fair value, but I've talked to two NHL scouts today and they both feel a 2nd was too much for what Kelly brings. Again-- this is a subjective argument, but the scouts know what kind of player that 50-60 pick will bring, and so you have to wonder about Chiarelli helping Bryan Murray and Ottawa with their major rebuild, already helped by the Mike Fisher trade last week.

Outlook: Looks like this one could go either way: Kelly could come in and be another Campbell who energizes the team and sacrifices his body for the good of the team while scoring timely goals, or he might be more of a modest acquisition who doesn't accomplish much like Marty McInnis in 2002. We will have to see, but my personal feeling is that a 2nd-round pick is a lot to give up for a player who is pretty similar to a lot of what the Bruins already have- grinder types who play with heart, but at the end of the day, aren't going to get you much offense.

Effect on Boston's 2011 draft: In a vacuum, the pick itself is not a huge loss, but it makes you wonder if the B's see these picks as expendable commodities and will be giving up more of them in the 12 days between now and the trade deadline? I am participating in a mock draft, and used the 56th pick- the one traded to Ottawa- on Medicine Hat winger Kale Kessy, a player with potential as a kind of poor man's Milan Lucic right now with some upside. Whether or not the Bruins would or would not have picked Kessy there is not as much the point as the fact that in a pretty deep draft, there is some nice value in the 50-60 range is. The Bruins have essentially sacrificed that for a "good dude", but we're still very much up in the air as to whether Kelly's contributions will be what Boston needs going forward.

All in all, this deal has polarized folks. Some people hate it, others are arguing that a player of Kelly's character was needed. What we know for sure is that the Bruins now have proven they have no compunction with dumping their surplus picks for players they think they can help now. The question now becomes, is their evaluation spot on? And, given that this appears to be a move to set something else up, possibly for a d-man, how much more will the Bruins have to pay to acquire their target player(s)?


  1. Put me in the boat as not liking the deal from the Bruins side of things. I feel like the B's over paid, agreeing with those scouts you polled.

    But, he does bring a lot of things to the table that MANY Ottawa fans will be sure to point out, mainly his two way play and leadership/grit.

    Still, I feel that price is too much for a role player, both his salary and the price paid to acquire him.

    PS, I do think that you are undervaluing his hands slightly. He is a solid, but not spectacular offensive player. Saying he is in a Travis Green-category is selling Kelly short.

  2. I would just love to see that whole mock draft you are talking about. Could you please post it or something? Or if not, perhaps email it? I would really appreciate it!

  3. CJN- Been watching Kelly now for five years- color me underwhelmed with his offensive capability. Ours are subjective views and can't be proven, but we're talking about a guy who has never scored more than 15 goals in a single season. I think you're splitting hairs with me and to be frank- I'm not really interested in debating Kelly's hands/offensive merits. We'll see if he raises his production or if he's more of the same. But thanks for weighing in.

    gustavaquist- When the mock is done I will post an in-depth analysis and talk about why I picked who I did, who was available and open it up for discussion and debate. Should be fun. We're in Round 6, so should see it hopefully by the end of the weekend.