Tuesday was a banner day in NHL trade news - it saw one of those "earthquake" trades that the experts love to tell us simply don't happen any more.
The nine-player trade between Toronto and Ottawa involving Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf as the main piece is a signal that the NHL silly season is well and truly open for business this year. With storylines all over the league and some high-quality expiring contracts out there (including some guy in Tampa who's apparently quite good) teams are looking around trying to best position themselves to both achieve in-season goals and, this year perhaps more than last, also keeping a slightly tighter eye out for their positioning in the FA market.
Indeed, the Leafs traded their captain in part to position themselves for a run at Steven Stamkos this off-season. Teams at the lower end of the NHL are possibly going to be slightly less concerned than usual about losing veteran stars, since getting worse gives them a (slightly) better chance at players like Auston Matthews, Jesse Puljujarvi and the like.
The Boston Bruins are in the somewhat unenviable position of having to decide which way to go - at the moment they're a team who are (probably) just about good enough to sneak into the playoffs but not good enough to actually do anything.
Basically, they're 2015 Winnipeg. And nobody wants to be Winnipeg.
The trouble the B's have is that in terms of really tradeable assets - they don't really have many, at least not for many of the teams looking to improve. They have a whole ton of prospects that could catch the eye of teams down at the bottom of the league looking to rebuild - but in terms of actively attracting trade interest - the B's will have to be bold this deadline and either lose some big assets as part of a play to get bigger (see Eriksson, Loui) or find a way to dump poorly performing players as part of a major deal just like Toronto have (see Seidenberg, Dennis).
The trouble in the past has been that that kind of thinking doesn't exactly gain you many partners in the notoriously conservative NHL, at least not when it comes to the deadline.
But the first trade of deadline season being such a major one has thrown not so much a stone as a grenade into the NHL lake. The ripples cast from this trade out into the NHL waters could potentially have ramifications going forward.
Apart from anything else, it shows that there are teams out there willing to make big moves. Two of them, in fact. Patience and conservative strategy might be a virtue for many but when you're in the position like the Bruins, where you need to make a major move or find a major upgrade, the fact people out there are looking to do the same means that you're more likely to be able to start a conversation. Especially when you have someone like Loui Eriksson floating around as possible trade material.
Then there's the standard of the players being moved and how they compare.
Dion Phaneuf, for example, is basically Dennis Seidenberg, but for twice the money at the moment.
No, really. Here is a comparison of Seidenberg and Phaneuf as they are right now.
You'll see from that chart that in terms of pure defense (shot suppression) Seidenberg and Phaneuf are...about as effective as each other. Which means, not very effective at all. In terms of goalscoring and production...yes, there's a drop-off, but not THREE MILLION A YEAR worth of drop-off.
In short - if there's a trade market for Dion Phaneuf and his albatross of a contract, there's a trade market for the likes of Dennis Seidenberg.
And there's CERTAINLY going to be a trade market for Loui Eriksson come the deadline if the Bruins feel so inclined...a major one.
What the Sens have proven is that teams will pay big for assets they think can be useful at the deadline. Very big.
This is useful for a Boston team that has at least one of them to sell, possibly more than one. If a slightly struggling Dion Phaneuf is worth a very large package from Ottawa, what is a Loui Eriksson currently having one of his best seasons? Or a player like Seidenberg? Or even a cheap RFA who would probably be mildly useful on a deep defense but is out of his depth in Boston like...oh, Kevan Miller?
Or, (and whisper this) - if the Bruins are going the other way and fully blowing up the roster (massively unlikely, I admit) - does Toronto trading their captain at least cause a few thoughts of selling high on Zdeno Chara?.
For the record, trading Chara is the last thing Boston want to do right now-or would be expected. But then, a lot of people would have said that Toronto trading Dion Phaneuf to a deadly rival would be the last thing they expect the Leafs to do, too.
If Don Sweeney and Cam Neely are willing to go looking, the major deals - deals that could put Boston in a strong position either right now if they choose to go all-in or next year and beyond if they decide to think more long-term...are out there. The only question, frankly, is just how hard and aggressively they're willing to search.
And who in Boston they're willing to sacrifice.