There have been rumors that the Peter Chiarelli and the Boston Bruins are shopping a few players in order to dump salary and get under the cap when Marc Savard and Marco Sturm return from long-term injured reserve. Some of the names that are being kicked around include Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler, and Matt Hunwick.
According to Joe Haggerty of Comcast Sports Net New England, Peter Chiarelli was spotted along with three members of the Bruins scouting department at Bell Centre in Montreal on Monday night for the Habs' game against the Phoenix Coyotes. According to one of Haggerty's sources, Chiarelli is interested in Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle. Chiarelli also plans on being in attendance for tonight's game between the Senators and Coyotes in Ottawa. Mikkel Boedker and Viktor Tikhonov were also thrown out as potentially targets for the B's.
TSN talking head Bob McKenzie has once again wedged himself into an NHL story and is shooting down the Keith Yandle to Boston trade rumors. I would be surprised if the Bruins made a deal for Yandle that only included the players mentioned above, but Haggerty did point out that the 1st pick from Toronto and Tim Thomas could be in play.
My only question is: Why now?
There is no timeline for Savard or Sturm's return to game action. Yes, Both players skated today, but are admittedly far from ready to participate in practice much less an NHL game. Few teams are at the make or break point in their season. If the Bruins wait and be patient, they may be able to get a better return.
So, which player(s) would give the Bruins the greatest return? Do the Bruins really have any trade-able assets?
Michael Ryder will be a tough sell with a $4 million cap hit. I'm don't know how many teams will be willing to take on that kind of a cap hit. Some have floated the idea of sending Ryder to the AHL to save cap space, but I don't think that move is in the best interest of the team or the player. I have said for a while that I think Ryder will have a good season. The veteran winger is off to a decent start with 4 points (2-2-4) in 6 games and seems to found his sniper-like shot again. Inconsistent effort and performance has also been the knock on Ryder, but money is the great motivator and Ryder is in a contract year. I never really bought the inconsistent effort claims with Ryder, but I think you will see a much more consistent performance out of #73 this season...if he doesn't end up in the desert or The Ocean State.
Blake Wheeler could be the Bruins' best trading chip. Wheeler went through a sophomore slump last season after a stellar rookie year and many fans have not been happy with the way Wheeler's game has progressed (or regressed, depending on who you ask), but there is no denying that Wheeler has tremendous potential. If Wheeler could learn to use his big frame, he could be an impact player in this league. The Bruins do not want to look back on Blake Wheeler as another guy the organization gave up on too early, but could be moved for the right player(s).
Matt Hunwick showed signs that he had the potential to be a solid offensive, puck-moving defenseman in his rookie season, but much like Wheeler, seemed to have taken a step back in year 2. The problem with moving Hunwick is that the Bruins' current depth on the blue line is pretty thin, especially with Johnny Boychuk on the shelf for at least a month. The motivation behind a trade right now would be to dump salary. Hunwick's cap hit is $1.55 million. It is hard to believe that a salary dump move involving Hunwick would yield a return that would help the team financially on in the short-run on the ice.
Tim Thomas' name has been bounced around in trade rumors all off-season and the murmurs have continued into the fall. While moving Thomas would give the Bruins the cap relief they are looking for, I still question whether or not teams are willing to take to on the risk of his contract. Thomas looks rejuvenated after off-season hip surgery and has played out of his mind so far this season, which could boost his trade value. However, his strong play coupled with a few rough outings by Tuukka Rask also increases his perceived value to the Bruins. Chiarelli may have handcuffed the organization with the extension of Tim Thomas' contract, but having a Vezina-winning goalie hanging around has proven to be not such a bad thing.
Chiarelli has been extremely patient and cautious in trade negotiations in the past (almost to a fault). I think this is a situation where the Bruins would be best served by patience. Put out a few feelers, see when Savard and Sturm are coming back, sit back, and wait for the big picture to develop.