With the trade deadline drawing closer and closer, teams around the NHL, including the Bruins, are looking for anything to improve their team and trying to find that bargain player who'll take them over the hump and deep into the playoffs.
One of the players who's been speculated about extensively in recent days all over the NHL has been Florida Panthers LW Sean Bergenheim, who is likely to be one of the more sought-after targets at the trade deadline thanks to his potential to fit in on all four lines and consistent production (he's only failed to score under 10 goals a year twice in his NHL career, and scored 9 goals in 16 games during Tampa Bay's PO run in 2010/11.)
Bergenheim is also a player who will come relatively cheap and with a lot of flexibility for any team that acquires him-with a current cap-hit of $2.75 million and an expiring contract this season, along with a very public trade demand already handed to the Panthers by his agent, he offers a relatively cheap acquisition price & no long-term commitment unless GMs want to. In short, he's the kind of potential rental player playoff-chasing GMs dream of this time of year as regards his situation off the ice.
But what about on it?
Let's make no bones about this...Bergenheim is currently having one hell of a season. Here, once again thanks to the God-given fancystats resource that is Own The Puck, is his HERO chart, showing how his production in several key statistical areas compares to the league average:
As can be seen, despite being given about the average amount of icetime for a 2nd-liner in Florida he's currently hitting the net at the rate of an established top-liner, and in terms of Corsi both normal and adjusted for usage, he's far, far about the level expected for his role.
In short, he's the kind of player who any team could plug into their top six and see do an excellent job. More to the point, he's doing this for $750,000/year less than "third-line workhorse and key Bruin" Chris Kelly.
But let's go a little further, and compare Bergenheim's chart to the current top four wingers on the Bruins-along with the salary they're being paid to produce it:
Firstly, Milan Lucic ($6 million, natch):
As you can see, there's not much difference in performance, considering Lucic is making double the money Bergenheim is to play on the top-line.
But Lucic is, by all accounts, having an awful year, so maybe he's not a fair comparison. Let's go the other side and make a direct comparison, by using 2nd-line RW Loui Eriksson, who's currently playing the same role as Bergenheim did before he was scratched in Florida and precipitated the current trade discussion. Eriksson, remember, is making $4.25 million a year, around a third more than Bergenheim for the same role and probably representative of 2nd-line money by Bruins spending standards:
Erm...ouch. That's not quite the same level as Bergenheim in many areas, is it? Comparable in some, but nowhere near the level of "playing not just at, but above expectations" the Panther is. Also bear in mind all of this is WITH the boost of playing with Patrice Bergeron, who frankly makes everyone around him better as a player.
So we've established that Bergenheim is currently producing at an equal or higher rate to Bruins making far more than him for less money and could easily plug in at top six. But let's go further and assume that Bergenheim is more likely to be a "bottom-six" improvement for a contending team. Let's compare him with a player of equivalent salary and position on the Bruins in the bottom six. Ironically, that is the previously-mentioned Chris Kelly himself, making $3.5 million a year:
Oh. Oh my.
What we have here is a player who's being beaten in every conceivable category by Bergenheim, while being three years older AND costing $750,000 a year more.
That's not looking good for Chris Kelly's future on the third line if Bergenheim were to somehow be acquired, is it? Plug the Finn in on the third line and there's no doubt you're getting a better, cheaper player. A player who even if he asks for a raise in the summer will likely only end up on an EQUIVALENT contract to Kelly.
Compare like-for-like, and suddenly the case for Bruins at least making a run at Bergenheim to improve their third line and possibly even their top six is very strong indeed-he's relatively cheap salary-wise, he's a short-term risk who is producing at an accelerated rate this season and he's now in a position where his trade price will be lower than one would expect due to Panthers having to get something for him and his public admission that he's not effectively burning his bridges in Sunrise.
In a seller's market, Bergenheim is one of the few commodities where the buyer may have the advantage. He's also producing at a rate far above comparable Bruins players and would likely add a chuck of offence to the third line.
In short, Chiarelli and the Bruins have no reason NOT to make a run at Bergenheim this deadline-based on all the evidence out there his acquisition will make the Black and Gold stronger in most conceivable ways and give them a player who they can use equally well anywhere from the first to third lines...something that's key as injuries begin to bite this time of year.
And they can do all that with no long-term commitment.
That has to be worth consideration, surely?