As the clock ticks closer to the last-chance saloon for teams to make changes this season, this NHL trade deadline is shaping up to be one that is dominated by a few names in a sparse market.
One of those names is St Louis Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, in a potential trade that would seem to be the perfect fir for Boston. He's a former BU player from New England in his prime - a top-tier NHL offensive defenseman who is, on paper at least, exactly what Boston need.
Here's the thing...the 2017 Bruins are in a very different place with arguably very different considerations. They're also a team with prospects like Brandon Carlo a year of development further down the line, but also with key players like David Pastrnak a year closer to the end of their contracts and, crucially in the case of Zdeno Chara, closer to the end of their careers still.
Life comes at you fast, and only a year after the Bruins seemed a team perfectly placed and positioned to write themselves a "hometown hero" story...their window may have already closed.
Here are five reasons why.
- Being priced out of a trade
Last year, the Bruins had Loui Eriksson to play with in a deal at the deadline - and when you've got one of the marquee assets of the deadline, that gives you some serious negotiating power. This year, the power is all with the Blues.
The reported price for Shattenkirk is a first round pick, a top prospect AND another piece. In the Bruins' case, that probably means names like Charlie McAvoy or Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson - possibly even Brandon Carlo or, if the Blues are feeling like really turning the screw, even Pastrnak.
For a player that's, right now, a rental, that is practically extortion, even when that player is as good as the Blues star is.
It's one the B's should be more pleased to pay with a long-term deal coming the other way - and even then only after thought. But with the current situation - it's a step too far.
2. Cap hell beckons
So let's.say that Shattenkirk agrees a deal as a condition of the trade, which reports have him willing to do. Thanks to league insiders quoted by STLToday.com amongst others, we have some numbers of what a deal might take after the Blue reportedly prevented a trade to Tampa by refusing a 7 year, 42 million dollar deal.
At $6 million a year, Shattenkirk is asking about the level you'd expect for a number 1 defenseman in the NHL. The trouble is, that, by any standards, is a lot of money. Especially when you're locked into that cap hit until the player is 35. It's even more when you consider that it would make Shattenkirk the eighth Bruin to have a cap hit over 5 million next season, and see the team enter the off season with over $40 million committed to those eight players with Pastrnak due a substantial raise...oh yeah, the projected cap space for renewals for the end of this season right now, by the way, according to capfriendly.co, is £4 million.
That doesn't leave a lot of space in FA, or indeed for any other moves at the deadline, not without moving some serious salary the other way. Which brings us to our third problem
3. Bruins are selling...but nobody's buying.
The problems above can be addressed pretty well by the Bruins moving salary, I hear you cry...and you're right.
The trouble is - the salary that B's might want to move is likely not the salary Blues would take on...unless that salary, perhaps, is David Krejci's. Matt Beleskey? Adam McQuaid? Even a quick return to STL for David Backes?
Not the kind of prospect that is going to prise away a number one defenseman, at least not in a deal that would work for both teams' cap.
Once again, those horrible contracts handed out to mediocre players over the past few years are coming home to roost for the Bruins.
4. The ripple effect
So, again, let's say Shattenkirk comes in this season. Whose position does he fill long term? Is he Zdeno Chara's successor? Does he pair with Torey Krug as the new B's number one pair?
Nobody seems to be quite sure. Which means the Bruins could be left looking like magpies rather than bears...sitting staring at a jewel in their nest while unable to find the pieces or put them in the right place to stop the house falling down around it.
Consider that the price Shattenkirk is commanding would likely see some of the most likely partners/contemporaries of Shattenkirk on the B's D likely go the other way - and suddenly, it looks like the Bruins may have built a a shiny new roof on the blue-line castle at the same time as knocking out the walls underneath it.
5. There are other options
We'll be looking at some of these over the next few days - but a smart sale shopper doesn't buy the shiniest, most expensive gadget in the shop...they buy the one with the most value to them.
Right now, unless the price drops, the risk-reward value of Shattenkirk may be tilted too far in the wrong direction to make him worth betting the farm upon in Boston - especially with this front office's record on the big personnel decisions so far during their tenure.
As the clock ticks, the Blues will only raise the stakes in this poker game, and all the records show that the B's front-office aren't cool and calculating enough to know when to fold.
This bidding war is arguably the Bruins will need a miracle to win.