One of the oldest tenets in warfare or indeed any kind of competition is simple. Three words that have echoed down the ages and contain a multitude of advice within.
"Know Your Enemy".
This trade deadline, as Don Sweeney and Cam Neely look to reshape the Bruins as they move further into the "new" era, they should be using every advantage at their disposal - both the obvious (like knowing the market for prime assets) and the slightly less obvious.
One of those slightly less obvious advantages requires a ruthlessness and detachment we're not sure Sweeney has yet demonstrated, but it could be immensely profitable.
It's the advantage is knowing exactly how another GM is likely to act in any given situation. One that can perhaps only be gained through several years of sharing a front office, taking part in intimate trade and roster discussions that run late into the night. One gained by sharing the very unique challenge of managing an NHL team from day-to-day and from task to task, with all that that may entail with someone over a long period.
It's an advantage that is very difficult indeed to gain - but fortunately, the Bruins have it with the GM of a team that is consistently looking to re-tool and may be ready to ship assets once again this deadline after another false-start of a season.
It's the advantage they have been given by the fact that Peter Chiarelli is now GM of the Edmonton Oilers.
The trade speculation around the City of (ex) Champions is once again feverish coming up to this deadline. Even the Edmonton media is talking openly about Chiarelli going full scorched-earth on the "five year plan" model the Oilers have been running again (and again, and again) seemingly since time immemorial. Names like Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent Hopkins are regularly being thrown around in trade discussions.
This is a GM who has form when it comes to trading big pieces. Boston know that more than anyone (Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel). A GM who likes a certain type of look to his roster and has a definite philosophy in terms of picking up players (see...big contracts to Adam McQuaid).
It's also a GM intricately linked with the Bruins - one who might be looking back towards his former team as a possible source of some of those rebuild pieces.
Why shouldn't the new Bruins management head him off at the pass with a few moves of their own?
For example...Darnell Nurse. Here is a young, developing defenseman who the Oilers might be tempted to move for a big offer back. However, it would require a full selling mode at the deadline...one that the B's have so far shown no real signs of commiting to.
The Oilers' defensive depth, combined with their LACK of depth at right wing, is one that should allow the Bruins to find an opening. Players like Griffin Reinhart and Adam Clendening are still developing in the Oilers system but for some reason can't find a way into the EDM defence. There are some seriously solid prospects there for the plundering if the B's are willing to sell their current roster defensemen in return (and lord knows, they should be.)
Kevan Miller, for example. Here is a cheap player coming up to UFA who the Oilers could likely be talked into, since he's a Chiarelli player in the first place via the AHL. Adam McQuaid, too, is a Chiarelli favourite...one who Edmonton could potentially be persuaded into a deal for.
The Oilers' top trade chips are probably out of reach...nobody is suggesting that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle or Taylor Hall are serious targets.
But nobody is saying the Oilers wouldn't be open to discussing a deal for them with Boston, either.
Jordan Eberle is a player dangling on the Oilers block. So is Nail Yakupov, whose clock in Edmonton looks to be ticking louder and louder. With the B's deep prospect system, a whole ton of promising young wings AND a raft of picks for Don Sweeney to offer along with a few Chiarelli favourites on defense, there's room for a deal here.
Eberle, at 6 million a year, is probably going to take a big trade in the summer to take. He'd also not be the cleverest deal when it came to the B's cap woes.
Yakupov, though, at 2.5 million/year for the next two years and undoubted skill and potential coupled with a stock that never seems to stop falling in Edmonton..now there's an intriguing prospect for the Bruins, if they can throw enough temptation/GRIT Edmonton's way.
Defensively, Mark Fayne is a player who could be a good fit on the B's blueline for a price that isn't too extortionate this deadline. With the Oilers selling and looking to make cap space/load up on yet another rebuild, it's more than worth the Bruins asking the question-especially if they can throw something into the deal that Peter Chiarelli is proven to like.
If the phone in the Bruins office doesn't at least have a few calls both incoming and outgoing with the 780 area code tagged on them, it would be a surprise. There is definite value in trade discussions with the Oilers and the Bruins management has a very strong influencer in its favour. However, to really gain from these the B's management needs to play the old pal's act...right up until they strike.
All it needs is a little ruthlessness and a convincing smile.