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Five years ago today: The Bruins make "the big ones"

Long-rumored, the Bruins pulled off a big trade with a division rival five years ago today, and didn't stop there.

Harry How/Getty Images

Before we had "Bruins rumored to be making a David Krejci for Bobby Ryan" swap, we had "Tomas Kaberle to the Bruins."

It was THE Bruins trade rumor of the social media era. It seemed like every season, there was a new one. It made sense: the Bruins repeated the phrase "puck-moving defenseman" so often that one couldn't help but wonder if the team was secretly collecting royalties every time it was spoken.

Kaberle was that puck-moving defenseman, one of the best in the league when he was in his prime, and was a pending free agent on a really bad Toronto team. He was leaving town, but would the Leafs really trade him to a division rival?

Yes, they would. Keen on getting something for him before his contract expired, the Leafs sent Kaberle to the Bruins in exchange for Joe Colborne, the Bruins' first-round pick in 2011 and a conditional second-round pick in 2012, the condition being the Bruins reaching the Cup Final in 2011 or re-signing Kaberle after the 2011 season.

The deal was one of the biggest of what was an extremely busy NHL trade deadline. (Other big deals included the Penguins acquiring James Neal, the Avalanche getting Erik Johnson and the Leafs trading Francois Beauchemin for Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and a pick.)

At the time, the trade was seen as a pretty decent haul for Toronto and the Bruins finally getting their man. There was some grumbling among Bruins fans (understandably) about giving up so much for a pending UFA, but defensemen are at a premium in the NHL come deadline day.

Kaberle undoubtedly made the Bruins' blueline better, mainly because he pushed inexperienced players further down the depth chart.

Here's a look at the Bruins' defense in the game before and game after Kaberle was acquired:

Feb. 17th vs. NYI Feb. 18th vs. OTT
Chara Chara
Seidenberg Seidenberg
Boychuk Boychuk
Ference Ference
McQuaid McQuaid
Kampfer Kaberle

That top-six that took the ice in Ottawa on Feb. 18th would be the same top-six that helped the Bruins beat Vancouver in Game 7 just under four months later.

By acquiring Kaberle, the Bruins were able to push guys like Kampfer, Matt Bartkowski and Shane Hnidy out of the lineup. Kaberle may not have set the world aflame during his time in Boston, but he was a better option than those three.

So how did Kaberle do? He put up 1G-8A-9PTS totals in 24 regular season games, then chipped in 11 assists in 25 playoff games. He had three points in the Cup Final, and five in the Eastern Conference Final vs. Tampa. Kaberle played anywhere from 15 to 21 minutes a night, shouldering some of the load from the top guys.

There has been a lot of discussion in the years since the Cup win as to whether or not this trade was worth it. It seems pretty clear: the Bruins made a big trade for their puck-mover, and won the Cup. Did they win it solely because of Kaberle? No, but he was an important piece, and the win likely doesn't happen with Kampfer/Bartkowski/Hnidy logging 17 minutes a night.

Toronto would trade the Bruins' 2011 first-rounder to Anaheim (along with their own second-rounder) in exchange for Anaheim's first-round pick, which was eight spots higher. The Leafs used that pick to draft Tyler Biggs, while the Ducks drafted Rickard Rakell with pick #30.

The other pick, the Bruins' second-rounder in 2012, was passed around. The Leafs traded it to Colorado in a deal for JM Liles; Colorado traded it to Washington in a deal for Semyon Varlamov; and Washington eventually traded it to Dallas in the deal for Mike Ribeiro. Dallas used it to draft Mike Winther, who has never appeared in the NHL.


Colborne was the centerpiece of the deal, in the eyes of most fans. He was pushed as being "the next Jumbo Joe" when the Bruins drafted him 16th overall in 2008. However, he never really got a shot in Boston, and didn't do a ton in Toronto: Colborne had just six points in 16 NHL games with Toronto, before he was traded to Calgary for a fourth-round pick. He's done a bit better in Calgary, putting up 38 points in 144 games.

The "other" deal

It's somewhat interesting that the deal that grabbed fewer headlines on Feb. 18th is the one that has impacted the NHL more in the years that followed.

Seeking the depth that is so often crucial to a Cup run, GM Peter Chiarelli traded cult favorite defenseman Mark Stuart and young forward Blake Wheeler to Atlanta in exchange for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik.

Wheeler, remember, chose to sign with the Bruins after refusing to sign with Phoenix, the team that drafted him. Wheeler played two and a half seasons in Boston, and had flashes of brilliance. He put up decent numbers as well, putting up 50 goals in a little more than 200 games with the B's.

Atlanta wanted young talent in exchange for Peverley, who had become a reliable NHLer since arriving in Atlanta from Nashville. Stuart was likely included to sweeten the deal for Atlanta, while the Bruins took on Valabik in hopes that he'd blossom with some tutelage from Zdeno Chara (that didn't happen).

Peverley slotted in nicely among the Bruins' forward corps. He had seven points in 23 post-deadline regular season games, and but added 12 in the playoffs.

Peverley scored some huge goals for the Bruins that spring, including this memorable goal (which would stand up as the game-winner) to open the scoring in Game 4 of the Final:

Peverley was one of the players who stepped up in Nathan Horton's absence, filling a role for which the Bruins had a desperate need.

Again, this trade can be looked at as a success because it helped the Bruins win a Cup. However, long-term, it becomes a little more interesting. Both Wheeler and Stuart remain with the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise they were traded to, and while Stuart is most definitely on the back-9 of his career, Wheeler has blossomed in Winnipeg.

Since the team moved to Winnipeg in 2011-2012, Wheeler has scored 90 goals in 339 games. He has also been an All-Star three times.

Is that enough to make this trade a regrettable one? No, not really. Peverley was huge for the Bruins in the spring of 2011, and gave them two good years after that as well.

Though they came from different places, both Peverley and Kaberle arrived in Boston on the same day and did the same thing: they filled a gap on the Bruins' roster, making it strong enough to achieve the ultimate goal on June 15, 2011, in Vancouver.