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NHL Trade Deadline 2011: What's Next For Bruins?

Is this guy the Bruins' next deadline pickup?
Is this guy the Bruins' next deadline pickup?

The Chris Kelly acquisition addresses some needs for the Bruins, albeit not the needs that fans are focusing on. Despite their rep as a strong defensive team, the Bruins have been mediocre defensively, and have been consistently bailed out by excellent goaltending. The last few games have shown us what happens when the Tim Thomas/Tuukka Rask tandem has an off night.

The third line bears a fair bit of blame for this. The third line, generally featuring some combination of Blake Wheeler, Tyler Seguin and Michael Ryder, has been awful in their own end. Wheeler is a good defensive player, who can be excellent when the spirit moves him. Seguin is a kid, and thus bad defensively, but at least he will improve. Ryder is hopeless, and there's no point in expecting improvement. But add Chris Kelly to that mix, a very good defensive center, and suddenly, that third line becomes a much better defensive unit. You can live with Ryder's cherry-picking ways as long as he's on the ice with Wheeler and Kelly. Seguin figures to move to the wing, possibly to the fourth line. That's unfortunate, but at this point, development must take a back seat to a playoff run.

The other sore point this addresses is the penalty kill. The penalty kill is 14th in the NHL, after finishing last year 3rd, just 0.4% off the top spot. And it has gotten worse as the season progresses; since the calendar turned to 2011, the Bruins are a dreadful 76% on the penalty kill (54 of 71). Kelly is one of the best penalty killers in the NHL, and should tighten that up.

The Bruins still have some cap room to make a pickup, about $2.5 million, though they would be well advised to keep some of that as a bonus cushion. Another move up front is unlikely, unless it's a 2 for 1 deal where they pick up a 30 goal winger. The Brad Richards talk should be quelled now, even apart from his minor injury. With $51.7 million committed in salary for next season, and 6 centers under contract for 2011-12, it doesn't make sense.

The next move will likely be for Tomas Kaberle, as the Bruins and Maple Leafs are heavily into trade negotiations, and Brian Burke did nothing at all to dispel the notion that Kaberle is the subject of those. Kaberle has indicated that he would be amenable to a move to Boston, though initial reports that he waived his no-trade clause only for the Bruins were later proven inaccurate. The Bruins have been interested in Kaberle for two solid years because they badly need a mobile defenseman who can quarterback the power play. Anyone who watched the recent games against Detroit and San Jose saw what a strong forecheck can do to the Bruins. Anytime there's a pairing involving a combo of Adam McQuaid, Mark Stuart, Johnny Boychuk or Andrew Ference on the blue line, the B's are in jeopardy of getting stuck in their own zone. Add Kaberle to the defense, though, and suddenly, they have two very good puck movers in Kaberle and Steven Kampfer, and two adequate ones, in Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. The power play, 17th in the NHL, would get a huge boost from putting Kaberle at the point opposite Chara's booming shot.

Kaberle's $4.25 million salary means that the Bruins couldn't just send draft picks back to Toronto; some salary would have go. Johnny Boychuk or Mark Stuart would almost certainly be part of any trade. A swap of Stuart, Daniel Paille and a high draft pick (either Boston's first, or the second rounder they didn't trade to Ottawa) would probably work.

If the Kaberle negotiations fall through, Peter Chiarelli will still be looking for defense. Ideally, it would be someone with Kaberle's skill set of mobility, passing, power play excellence and competence in their own zone. As you might expect, that's not easy to find, and sacrifices would have to be made. The two names that have most consistently come up are Zach Bogosian, who has mobility and talent to spare, but has yet to figure out playing in his own zone, and Chris Phillips, who is a quality stay-at-home type, but will do nothing at all to help the mediocre power play.

With the cap a tight fit both now and next season, the next move, be it for Kaberle, Phillips, Bogosian or perhaps another defenseman, would probably be Boston's only major move.