Well, all of the NHL games are now in the books and Olympic hockey is upon us for the next two weeks.
It's going to be an interesting trade deadline, seeing how the Olympic trade freeze is only lifted on Feb. 28, with the deadline coming the following Tuesday, March 2. That's going to narrow the trade market, as so many teams are still on the cusp of playoff contention. Two weeks of hockey counting in the NHL's standings might have winnowed the competition a bit, but because the clubs are essentially in limbo, I believe that there will be a ripple effect that could translate into one of the least active and productive trade deadline days of all time.
Recent trade rumors linked the B's and Columbus Blue Jackets, with Peter Chiarelli reportedly expressing interest in winger Raffi Torres. The problem with acquiring the speedy 19-goal scorer (who's hit 27 markers and a high of 41 points in a single season just once) is that he's one more complementary piece who isn't going to make the Bruins any kind of real contender. Moreover, because it is a seller's market, Columbus GM Scott Howson's asking price is said to be prohibitive, and this for a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent who would most likely be a rental given Boston's relative lack of cap space.
Also rumored in trade talks is reigning Vezina Trophy winner Tim Thomas, who has sat on the bench while super rookie Tuukka Rask has picked up the ball and run with it over the last six games, going 4-0-2 for a total of 10 out of a 12 possible points and seventh place in the East. Thomas is not likely to waive his no-trade clause in mid-season, but if the Bruins are serious about giving the starting job to Rask going forward, then a trade could materialize over the summer. It's a tough spot for a club who rewarded Thomas's performance and loyalty, but who have seen their investment struggle behind an anemic offense, while his counterpart 13 years younger has flourished. Thomas will be 36 in April and has another three years left on a deal that will pay him $15 million, so finding takers without the B's bringing back a big contract will be difficult.
What does it all mean? I'm no soothsayer, but I do believe that Chiarelli is trying to make some kind of move that will establish some longer-term payoff. If the team were a Torres-type player away from contending, he might have pulled the trigger by now, but the B's have more holes to fill beyond a serviceable gritty winger, albeit one who has had a pretty mediocre NHL career after being the fifth overall selection ten years ago.
Don't expect anything major to happen for Boston in two weeks. There won't be many teams selling off assets with upside at this point, so it may be best for the GM to stand pat. I've said before that an addition from Edmonton like Andrew Cogliano or Sam Gagner, or maybe even underachieving power forward Peter Mueller from Phoenix is the kind of deal worth surrendering more of a sizeable price for, but Chiarelli is better off passing on aging, overpriced offerings like Torres and Carolina forward Ray Whitney.
Here are the 2010 B's draft picks if the season ended today:
2nd overall- Toronto (49 points; 19-31-11)
17th overall- Boston (65 points; 27-22-11)
32nd overall- Toronto
39th overall- Tampa Bay (63 points; 26-24-11)
47th overall- Boston
No Pick (To Buffalo for Daniel Paille)
93rd overall- Carolina (55 points; 24-30-7)
107th overall- Boston*
* Conditional to Buffalo if Paille scores 16 goals
137th overall- Boston
167th overall- Boston
197th overall- Boston
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