*(Not affiliated with the Boston Bruins or the New England Hockey Journal)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Anticlimactic NHL trade deadline approaches, Bruins prospect observations

We say anticlimactic from a Boston Bruins perspective, because it's hard to imagine the team doing much of anything else after acquiring Chris Kelly, Tomas Kaberle and Rich Peverley last week while signing veteran Shane Hnidy in a depth move yesterday.

The trade deadline is 3 pm EST tomorrow- Feb. 28- and with so many big names already having moved over the past month or so, it will be interesting if there are any more blockbusters in store, or if we will see a flurry of minor moves like last year.

One player who should have a new destination when the dust settles is New Jersey Devils center Jason Arnott. Lou Lamoriello gave up a second-rounder to acquire him last summer, and given his impending UFA status and the disappointment that has been Jersey's season, expect him to waive his NTC to go to a contender, probably for another late second-rounder (the Devils got one from Dallas for Jamie Langenbrunner in early Jan.) (EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that the pick the Devils got is a conditional 3rd, which upgrades to a 2nd if the Stars re-sign Langebrunner or win a round in the playoffs- thanks TS)

We could see Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli move some assets in the system out for futures- but for those thinking 2011 draft picks, might want to set the expectations to a little further down the line- 2012. Center Zach Hamill does not figure to have much of a future in Boston, and you could see him shipped for a draft pick or lower-end prospect.

It has been a season of disappointment for Providence, with consistency lacking and too many young players not able to handle the rigors of AHL play on a game-to-game basis. There is no shortage of character journeyman type prospects there, but as far as high-end futures at any position, the cupboard is relatively bare. It's a shame that Rob Murray and Bruce Cassidy haven't been able to get more mileage from that group of players, although we did see a nice 4-0 shutout against Abbotsford the other night, Mike Hutchinson's first whitewash in the AHL, along with a two-goal game from Max Sauve to help him break out of a two goals in 13 games slump he had been mired in. Jordan Caron is ranked near the top of the organization, but we've seen enough of him to figure out that he's going to be a solid, unspectacular NHL wing. His upside is probably that of Glen Murray, and in time, he'll be a dependable 20-30 goal guy, but he's not going to wow you or put up big numbers. He will bring a solid two-way presence and give teams matchup problems in front of the net, but he's not an elite prospect. Jamie Arniel has shown some flashes of being a solid NHL center on the bottom six, but he doesn't seem to have the offensive abilities to be much more. Greg Campbell is a nice example of an effective checking pivot and what a guy like that can do for you, so Arniel deserves some interest, but not much to get excited about.

The defensemen in Providence are nothing to write home about. We like Matt Bartkowski fine, but he's a middle-pairing guy at best and isn't going to bring you much upside. Yury Alexandrov has the most natural offense of any of them, but is a liability in his own end right now and has not developed as quickly as hoped. Colby Cohen has some offensive potential as well, but has not produced as much as hoped and has some significant work to do in his own end before he can be counted on to make an NHL push.

Collegians David Warsofsky and Tommy Cross are wildcards. Warsofsky has a lot of skill, but is extremely small and has defense issues. He suffered a concussion that held him out of the weekend series vs. University of Vermont, and that situation will need to be monitored going forward. Cross has the size and mobility to be an effective shutdown defender in the NHL if not the offensive skill to put up numbers. But, with a wonky knee, he's one of those guys we wonder if will ever play to his full potential, because he's got to have a potential career-ending injury in the back of his mind every time he jumps over the boards. The fact is- the Bruins simply cannot count on Cross as a long-term option, not because he can't play, but because his next shift could be his last. You hate to sound pessimistic, but he has yet to make it through a season injury-free since the Bruins drafted him in 2007, so until he proves it, there is always going to be some concern with him.

One final note on Boston's defensemen- Russian Maxim Chudinov is making a run up the depth chart with his outstanding season in the KHL with Cherepovets. A small, but pugnacious rearguard with two-way ability, he's tough to get a read on because of the limited viewing, but he could be a Russian version of Detroit's Niklas Kronwall- small package, big hitter, will chip in offensively. We're hoping he'll come over to Boston for development camp in July so we can get a look, and then, if all goes well, he should sign and join the team in North America in the summer of 2012.

Boston's most exciting future players at forward are in the OHL with Jared Knight and Ryan Spooner having very good seasons for London and Kingston respectively. Spooner is the more flashy, dynamic offensive player, but Knight is more complete and gets more kudos because he's really put his game together after the Hunter brothers traded so many veteran players away from London. Spooner deserves praise as well, but he's still pretty one-dimensional at this stage of his development. The good news is, he gets it and is working to become a more complete player. His lack of size is going to be the next big hurdle for him to overcome before he's ready for the NHL. Knight is ahead of the power curve in his strength and conditioning, even if he doesn't have a great deal of height either. He's strong and is able to drive hard to the net. Spooner is more lightning to Knight's thunder in that he can blaze his way through open ice and stickhandle in a phone booth to make plays. Knight will fight off defenders and take a straight line from point A to B.

We love both Knight and Spooner as Bruins prospects and believe it speaks volumes that NHL teams were trying to pry them both from Boston here over the past several weeks, but that Chiarelli held fast and resisted the temptation to make a short-term move. These two figure prominently into Boston's future plans, but that timeline might be set back a few years now given the recent veteran acquisitions.

So, what does all this mean for the trade deadline? Looks like Boston made their moves early to secure the guys they wanted and to allow them time to bond and jell with their new teammates. We don't think it was an accident that Chiarelli timed these trades to get the new guys in while the Bruins were on an extended road trip. That always helps traded players to spend some times with their mates and get to know them off the ice. Had Chiarelli waited until tomorrow, the B's might have found themselves in bidding wars and, there would not have been as much games to get these upgrades into the mix and learning the system.

It may mean the B's will be bit players tomorrow if at all, but it's a solid strategy at the very least. Whether you believe this Bruins team is capable of winning the Stanley Cup or not is a different story, but you can't fault the GM for at least thinking deep and being proactive.

No comments:

Post a Comment