Well, that was a busy day, wasn’t it? Let’s take a look at the two deals.
Boston gave up a lot. In a vacuum, they gave up too much, considering that Kaberle had no value to Toronto, and if they wanted to take it right to 2/28, maybe Brian Burke would have blinked. But is it worth that? I’m not sure. I kept reading that Kaberle wouldn’t go anywhere else, but the "I’ll only take a trade to Team X" is not written in stone. Just ask the New York Knicks about that one. Maybe Boston had the upper hand in that Kaberle wanted to go there, but Toronto had leverage in that Boston has designs on a Stanley Cup this year.
I wonder about Joe Colborne’s real value; he’s got 26 points in 55 AHL games, and a -16. He’s also 21 years old and is in his third post-draft year. He’s obviously got potential, but he’s also unlikely to contribute at the NHL level until late next season at the absolute earliest, and more likely, 2012-13.
I’ve sung Kaberle’s praises at length, and more than once, so I won’t go into depth except to say that I believe he’s precisely what Boston needs. Even if his defensive metrics are artificially aided by his high (54%) offensive zone start percentage, he’s been better in his own zone than most of Boston’s incumbent blue liners this year. Even if he does nothing at all to help the Bruins’ defensive zone play, the boost he will provide to the power play should prove worth it. Boston has been excellent at 5 on 5 hockey this season, so an above-average power play should generate more wins.
This trade was tied to the first, and, technically, went down a couple minutes before the Kaberle deal, since the Bruins needed the cap space this trade generated before the Kaberle trade could be completed.
Valabik is probably worthless; he’s 25 and has done nothing at the NHL level. This is part of PC’s "get as many young defensemen as possible and hope some pan out" philosophy, which is hard to complain about, since it has yielded Johnny Boychuk, Steven Kampfer and Matt Bartkowski. It’s becoming apparent that Mark Stuart is not the player the Bruins hoped for, was probably heading out of town as a UFA, and was taking up cap space in the meantime. Basically, they wanted to dump Stuart and got a C+ prospect for him. At this time last year, that would have been sacrilege, but the bloom has really come off the rose with Stuart, especially with Adam McQuaid’s emergence.
Really, the deal is Wheeler for Peverley. Wheeler was a source of frustration, but Boston’s third line defense, which they improved mightily with Chris Kelly, just got worse. Peverley adds a little to the power play, which (like Kaberle) contributes to his artificially low +/-, but the Bruins are hoping he will turn into the guy he was last season, when he was a 22 goal scorer, had an 8.1 GVT and was a significantly better player than Wheeler. Peverley also helps on faceoffs, which had been a sore point for the Bruins much of the year. At 55.5%, Peverley is absolutely someone you can send to the dot with confidence, and instantly becomes Boston’s best faceoff man after Patrice Bergeron.
One plus is cost certainty next year. Peverley is signed for a reasonable $1.325M next year, whereas Wheeler is a RFA and might be looking at $3M or more. Efficient use of resources tells us that if you can spend 56% less on a third line player without losing a lot of production, you do it. They also add a guy who has a rep for hard work and effort, something that Wheeler most certainly did not. If you combined Wheeler’s size and speed with Peverley’s work ethic, you would have an all-star. And if you did the reverse, you would probably have a guy doing something other than playing in the NHL for a living.
On the other hand, for all the love of heart n’ hustle, trading an underachiever for an overachiever doesn’t always work out, and the Bruins are trading Wheeler at, if not the nadir of his value, certainly at a low point. I do not believe this is a trade Boston would make if they weren’t looking at cap issues; they just traded a 24 year old who may still have his best days ahead of him for a 28 year old who has either hit his peak or already passed it, and who has been a worse player this year.
So, in many ways, the analysis of this deal’s success hinges as much on Rich Peverley as anyone else. The Bruins only traded Wheeler for him to facilitate the Kaberle trade, after all. If Peverley returns to 2008-9 or 2009-10 form, it’s not merely a good trade, but a steal, considering the cost savings. If he continues playing like he has this year, however, then the Bruins have effectively given up Colborne, Wheeler, Stuart, a first round pick and a conditional pick for Tomas Kaberle, a deal that I don’t believe Peter Chiarelli would make on his worst day.