The deadline is getting nearer, and as the Bruins continue their search for defensive improvement while at the same time remaining tight-lipped and uncertain on the future of Loui Eriksson, there's been talk among some in Boston that they might be looking toward Calgary for help this deadline.
The Calgary Flames are a team who are looking to give themselves a new identity. With players like Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau coming into their own, Brian Burke has decisions to make this offseason both on contracts and free agency. The Saddledome crowd will likely see a significantly different roster next season.
One of the players more than likely finding a new home away from the Flames is defenseman Kris Russell-the shot-blocking defensive D is an UFA this off season and it appears Brian Burke is actively shopping him hard as a rental or even permanent addition.
Russell is the marquee player among the Flames trade block, but other names like Jiri Hudler, Joe Colborne (former Bruin) and David Jones are also on the block.
My mum used to say that if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything....so we won't talk about Colborne and Jones.
However, Hudler and Russell might at least be under B's consideration. Hudler is on a down year in a contract year, but still carries 35 points (good for sixth on the Bruins at time of writing) and last year scored 31 goals in the Flames' fairytale run to the playoffs. He's a skilled playmaker with the ability to score consistently in the NHL and would likely be available relatively cheaply (perhaps for a mid-range pick and/or a mid prospect). He's an option to add depth to the Bruins and provide a little more pop going forward in the bottom six-something that might be needed, especially if Eriksson says farewell. With several 20-goal seasons he's a solid veteran who can be acquired relatively cheaply if the B's are serious about attempting a playoff run (and given the recent talk about not trading Eriksson at the deadline, they appear to be).
Hudler is 32, so he's more of a short-term solution than anything, but he can bridge the gap and allow the B's to follow their seeming strategy of easing players like Frank Vatrano into the lineup slowly. Whether or not that's the right strategy to follow is an argument for another post.
UPDATE: 7:44pm: The trouble with all of this, of course, is that Florida have already picked him up.
Then there's Kris Russell, who for some inexplicable reason (or perhaps by virtue of a Brian Burke Jedi mind trick) has some in the media convinced he'll be a valuable addition this deadline. The Flames are certainly looking to move him, per Dreger:
Kris Russell was informed yesterday he is likely to be traded. No surprise. Very strong market. Pitt and Bos frontrunners. #TradeCentre— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) February 27, 2016
Shawn Hutcheon was arguing on Twitter yesterday that Russell "makes the players around him better" and was a legitimate option for the B's this deadline to improve their defensive woes.
Hmm...shot blocking defenseman, among the most blocked in the NHL consistently, $2.6 million a year cap hit, pending UFA....seems legit. Let's take a look at some statistical evide...
Oh. Oh no.
That's...horrendous. What that chart essentially shows is that Russell can't create goals, and he can't score them. In every metric over the past three years he's performed as a middling-to-good bottom pair defenseman AT BEST. At worst he's an absolute anchor.
What Russell is is Kevan Miller if he were to be hit by more pucks. In fact, he's WORSE than Kevan Miller by a quite considerable margin. Look.
That makes tweets like this, from Boston correspondents claiming to know what they're talk about, not just laughable but downright dangerous if they're going to influence anyone's opinion:
He makes those around him, better. https://t.co/xcJ3W8C5i3— Shawn Hutcheon (@ShawnHutcheon) February 26, 2016
Kris Russell does NOT make those around him better. Dougie Hamilton, for example, has a statistical rating that improves by seven percent when he's not paired with Kris Russell this season. That's a HUGE gap. Despite what some correspondents say.
Given we don't want to be accused of being one-sided, here's the argument for Russell, via TSN.
All you need to know about that article, if you can't be fussed to read it or don't have time, is that the phrase "boatload of INTANGIBLES" is prominently involved. Also that it's written by a prominent Calgary media member, who presumably could have no interest in talking up Russell for a trade...right?
If you're looking for "desperate homer media bingo" then a sentence beginning "those who don't follow the Flames closely may know him as a second pairing on a bottom-feeder" should probably be enough to ring the alarms. So should the sentence close by that reads "Analytics naysayers be damned".
Kris Russell is not a very good NHL defenseman. At best on a team that's seriously looking to make a move going forward, he's a bottom-pairing shot-blocker who can play top four in a pinch...yet the Flames have somehow managed to spin this into an argument that he's the most valuable player at the deadline - and people are falling for it.
The Bruins already have a Kris Russell in Kevan Miller. They're also paying Miller a third of the cap hit and are probably not going to get near Russell's salary now to retain him, never MIND what Russell himself would demand in a new contract.
The B's have a whole heap of players like Russell, too. If anything, they should be looking at this hype as an opportunity to move players like Miller and Adam McQuaid for far more than their actual value, not attempting to acquire another.
When it comes to this deadline, if the B's are going to deal with the Flames, they should be looking at Jiri Hudler. To pay the kind of price Calgary are expecting would be a huge mistake and not give the B's anything they don't already have.
They shouldn't be anywhere near the Kris Russell sweepstakes, Loui trade or not.