Free agency hasn't started yet, and already New England is on red alert for a big Bruins free-agency impact this July.
A rumor of a record-setting offer sheet for Jacob Trouba (Jacob Trouba!). There's been a whole lot to focus the NHL's eyes on New England recently and today seemed a day where they would, for better or worse, be once again the major topic of conversation.
But then all hell broke loose.
In the space of an hour yesterday, Montreal traded PK Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber, Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the better part of forever...and the Edmonton Oilers traded Taylor Hall straight up for Adam Larsson.
The fact that the Stamkos news is only the third biggest of these things and barely registered on the radar shows, really, what a ridiculously seismic day this was
Essentially, the Edmonton Oilers, led by former Boston GM Peter Chiarelli (who appears to be approaching this offseason leading his team forward with all the calm and measured control of a drunken semi driver careering towards a frozen lake yelling "WATCH WHAT I CAN DO WITH THIS, GUYS!") have just handed over one of the most exciting left wingers in the game for a defenseman who, after being drafted fifth overall, has never really lived up to his potential in New Jersey.
Even as that semi careened through the ice, onlookers were confronted with Marc Bergevin performing a nosedive of a move...a trade so ill-thought out, so shocking, and so unbelievably incomprehensible it effectively drove a tank over Habs' fans hopes and dreams before jumping out and gleefully setting fire to the wreckage while laughing like a pantomime villain on an LSD trip by trading PK Subban to Nashvile for Shea Weber.
With two trades, the NHL has been shaken to its very foundations, roster wise.
But this momentous day in the NHL could have ramifications for many other GM's...not the least of whom is our own Don Sweeney. There are factors to all three of these moves that could lead to the Bruins taking advantage. Let's take them one by one.
STAMKOS STAYING IN TAMPA
Yes, this is the most obvious one to hurt the Bruins, what with the vague hopes of him coming to Boston that were entertained by fans here and spread by the media. However, him staying in Tampa means that the Bruins now have a LOT of cap space and flexibility to use it. We looked at the scenarios for players who were available whether or not Boston did sign the Lightning star, but his return to Tampa throws a new wrinkle into the equation - that of Tampa's RFAs.
Essentially, the Lightning now have a lot of negotiations to do the next year or two, and they'll be tricky. Vladislav Namestikov, Nikita Kucherov, Jon Marchessault, and Nikita Nesterov are all RFAs this offseason and the Lightning also have to keep one eye on the fact that next summer they need to make space for big rises for players like Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman and (potentially) Jonathan Drouin.
Something may have to give with so many of their top forwards needing new contracts this off-season. They'll possibly be looking to dump some salary-in fact, there's already widespread talk of a Ben Bishop trade occurring sooner rather than later. Like - really soon. That leaves a window ajar for trade discussions, even if there's no room for things to come to fruition.
The door is ajar for the B's to at least take a shot at some very good young players - Marchessault, for example, is incredibly under-rated according to many in Tampa and is looking for a way to break through - he'll likely be the odd player out. Nesterov, too, is a player on the rise who the Lightning will likely be looking to keep, but may end up on the market if there's no room for maneuver.
Another possibility is a buyout - the Bruins will be well advised to look hard at whomever the Lightning sacrifice. It's likely to be Matt Carle which is...not ideal - he's a player who hasn't performed anywhere near Tampa's expectations - unless he was a) on a very cheap deal and b) the B's thought a change of scenery would be the thing to solve his struggles. However, the possibility is there.
EDMONTON TRADING TAYLOR HALL
Now this, on the other hand, could be a land of opportunity for the Bruins or indeed any other team that wishes to take advantage. After the Hall trade, news like this from media in Edmonton is probably the last thing Oilers fans want to hear:
I am hearing huge buzz/whispers Oilers aren't nearly done. Lots of action to come. Should be fun.— David Staples (@dstaples) June 30, 2016
However, it's likely to be music to the ears of the rest of the NHL. Peter Chiarelli, as we mentioned earlier, is a man seemingly hell-bent on putting his own stamp on the Oilers roster and changing things around (once again) in a dramatic rebuilt. Names like Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Nail Yakupov and Oscar Klefbom are all on the table with questions being asked about their future. Two of these players are first overall picks, three were picked in the top 20 and the lowest (Eberle) was 22.
That's a whole lot of talent potentially on the trade table with a GM who has told the media and indeed convinced not only himself but others that he's always going to get the best offer possible EVEN IF OTHER TEAMS OFFER MORE - as shown in this truly mind-numbing Darren Dreger quote.
Dreger: I know Chiarelli well, and I know this was the best he could get for an asset who most of us believe was worth a lot more. #Oilers— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) June 30, 2016
In short-what we have here is a GM who since leaving Boston has somehow lost even what little ability to weigh player value he had.
Nail Yakupov, once viewed as one of the most exciting forwards in the game, is available for what Edmonton media are saying could be as low as a third round pick. There's a feeling in Edmonton that Klefbom, one of the Oilers' best defensive players and a rock on their blueline last season, might be "injury prone" which is always GM/media code for "expendable". Jordan Eberle is a ridiculously skilled sniper who is constantly mentioned in trade rumors...and the Oilers are looking to make more big moves on defense, while Bruins have a whole bunch of players right now who Peter Chiarelli as proved are among his most valued by the contracts offered.
If I were Sweeney, I'd be on the phone now. McQuaid or Seidenberg for Yakupov is potentially a huge upside move for Boston as well as one that would (potentially) clear up to $1.5 million in cap space and get rid of a HUGE millstone of a contract back to the person who saddled the Bruins with it.
If nothing else, it would at least be worth testing Edmonton's resolve on Klefbom, too...if they're going to trade a franchise LW for an underachieving defenseman out of panic, then what else might they be talked into doing if there's a player they have questions on and can be convinced that there is a "safer" option out there?
There is blood in the water in Alberta, and the sharks should be circling.
MONTREAL TRADE PK SUBBAN
This is...well, if there's blood in the water in Alberta, then there's a full boatload of fresh chum just been thrown in from Montreal. Marc Bergevin is a man under pressure, desperately looking for players and trades to make it look like he's trying to address the Habs' very real concerns, especially those at forward. There's also a potential he's just utterly destabilized his own locker room, and players previously settled will be unhappy and looking for the exit door - players like Max Pacioretty and Carey Price.
Nobody is seriously suggesting that there's a deal there, but in theory, what would be the harm right now in ringing up Bergevin and saying "what price Pacioretty?" You'd more than likely get the phone slammed down on you...but if Bergevin is prepared to give up a franchise icon and his most popular player, then frankly, anything has possible.
Montreal is in full panic/rebuild mode and while any seriously major trade is probably beyond the rounds of possibility, Bergevin has just waved a red rag at a bull and effectively told the rest of the NHL that no player is safe if he thinks it'll "improve the team as a whole"
A reminder, too, that our offer for Subban last year was better than the one the Habs actually took, by a long way.
This is the brave new world we're living in now. A world where the Bruins have $21 million in free cap space and at least two NHL teams who have signaled that when it comes to trading with them, all bets are off as to what'll happen.
This is a climate of uncertainty which is horrible for those teams and their fanbases, but one that can be used to great advantage by others.
After all, history has shown that it's in times of great upheaval where there is also potential for huge profit.
This could be one of those times for the rest of the NHL, including Boston.