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Haggerty: Bruins hope answers lie within

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Haggerty: Bruins hope answers lie within

The Bruins got themselves some useful pieces at the NHL trade deadline that will complement a Stanley Cup-winning lineup, but there was nothing of the go for it variety secured on Mondays hockey shopping spree.

That made it a marked difference from exactly one year ago when Bs general manager Peter Chiarelli pulled off three separate moves that brought a pair of key forwards and an All-Star defenseman into the mix. The deals brought depth, speed and versatility that helped them win the Stanley Cup, but things are much different this time around.

This years deadline was an exercise in frustration for Chiarelli and most other teams around the NHL as the market was flooded with interested buyers, but didnt have the appropriate number of sellers providing available talent.

The trade deadline was just about the prices, the inactivity, the reluctance to do things . . . that was the feel I got. Its frustrating, said Chiarelli. Its frustrating when youre making calls and you feel the frustration on the other side of the phone because the guy youre talking to is feeling the same thing.

That was the theme for this year: frustration, but eventual fulfillment. Every deadline is different as far as needs. Last year I think we needed to improve a couple of areas, our depth, two-way play, and our puck moving. I guess this year is depth. But you talk to every team and they always want to improve their depth. In a playoff run, guys go down, and thats just what happens.

Sure the Bruins made a serious run at Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown before word got out that he was being shopped, but there was never any real danger of a big deal getting consummated this time around.

Instead frustration reigned for just about everyone, and the Bruins brought in a versatile 39-year-old forward enduring a rough season with the Islanders (Brian Rolston), a journeyman defenseman (Mike Mottau) that just came back from a stretch of 26 games missed with a concussion and a legit shot-blocking, stay-at-home blueliner (Greg Zanon) that will aid the Bs defensemen corps.

It wont knock the socks off Bruins fans, but employing Zanon and Dennis Seidenberg gives the Bs two of the five-best shot-blockers in the league and allows them to mimic the lane-clogging, shot-frustrating Rangers efforts to block scores of offensive chances if the mood strikes them.

None of this years acquisitions will have the impact of last years crop of hockey trades, and that means the team is rolling the dice again this year with the teams nucleus. Chiarelli was unwilling to move any players off the current roster, flat refused to include Dougie Hamilton in any deals and wouldnt deal talented roster players like Milan Lucic, Tuukka Rask or David Krejci.

That didnt leave much in Bostons hockey asset cupboard and didnt give Chiarelli much to wheel and deal with. Instead it will be up to skilled young players like Tyler Seguin, Brad Marchand, Lucic and Patrice Bergeron to carry an offense regardless of what the team gets from Nathan Horton and Rich Peverley moving forward. Bergeron, Zdeno Chara and Marchand are the only three players averaging more than .5 points per game during 12 games during the month of February, and no Bs player is even approaching a point-per-game pace during the past month of ennui-filled hockey.

It will be up to Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask to regain the form that made them the best 1-2 goaltending punch through Christmas. It will be up to Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and their new group of eight veteran NHL defensemen to hold things together defensively.

In the end Chiarelli decided that the 18 returning roster players from last years Cup championship deserved another shot at a Cup run without any major upgrades in any department. Rolston, Mottau and Zanon add up to better reserve options than Carter Camper, Max Sauve and Andrew Bodnarchuk when the inevitable injuries and ineffectiveness hit the Bruins.

Bergeron said last week that the Bruins players didnt need any saviors to rescue them this season, and the teams management has backed up that stance from one of their key leaders. Perhaps the Bruins could have traded for marginally better talent in Antoine Vermette or Johnny Oduya, but those players wouldnt be difference-makers on this Bruins team.

Youre gonna have to spend in player trades to acquire players, but the deals just werent there, said Chiarelli at the trade deadline. They werent there. Its as simple as that.

If the Bruins are to win another Cup this season it will be because the Bs best players once again used good health, good fortune and two months of good hockey to finish at the top of the NHL heap.

BEST OF BST PODCAST: J.D. Martinez has arrived and Marcus Smart returns

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BEST OF BST PODCAST: J.D. Martinez has arrived and Marcus Smart returns

0:41 - J.D. Martinez hasn’t officially been introduced by the Red Sox, but don’t panic. Evan Drellich and Lou Merloni break down the current situation with the new Sox slugger as well as where he’ll play during the season and how his addition affects the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

5:52 - Marcus Smart has been cleared to return. Tom Giles, Tom Curran, Kayce Smith and DJ Bean discuss how Smart’s absence affected the team and how tolerable his outburst that causes the injury is.

11:21 - With Rob Gronkowski’s retirement becoming more of a possibility, Tom Giles and Tom Curran break down the Patriots' depth at tight end and Kayce Smith, Albert Breer and DJ Bean debate the potential of the Patriots trading Gronk.

Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

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Which prospects should the B's be willing to give up at the deadline?

Looking at it from the long term view, the Boston Bruins are in a fantastic position at this point in time.

They’re a point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning for the NHL’s top spot, they have a group at the NHL level that’s an ideal combination of proven, veteran Cup winners and talented, enthusiastic young players ready to make their mark.

The Bruins also have a wealth of young prospects below the NHL level working their way to Boston whether it’s former first round picks like Jakub Zboril or Zach Senyshyn just a step away in Providence, or college hockey players like Ryan Donato or Trent Frederic that form the next wave of youngsters. The simple fact of the matter with the Black and Gold is that there isn’t going to be room for every single prospect at the NHL level, and that goes doubly so for a deep, talented group like the Bruins. Another simple NHL fact is that teams have to give up something to get something around the trade deadline, and that means the B’s are going to have to part with something of quality if they want to land a potential big fish like Ryan McDonagh or Rick Nash, or perhaps even a medium-sized fish like Michael Grabner.

Whether it’s again dealing with the Rangers, or the Edmonton Oilers for Patrick Maroon, or the Vancouver Canucks for Thomas Vanek, the GMs around the league are also well aware of the wealth of prospects within the Bruins organization. And they’re looking to land some of them in any potential deals with the Black and Gold. The Rangers, in particular, want NHL-ready prospects to quickly reload their roster, but that’s what all of these teams are looking for in potential rental deals, or trades for players like McDonagh with more term on the contract.

So the million dollar question is what the Bruins should be willing to part with in those types of deals. GMs will certainly ask about Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Brandon Carlo at the NHL level as all four players are midway through their entry level contracts, and have already established themselves as considerable NHL players. McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should all be completely off the table in any of the deals the Bruins could be expected to make, and the expectation is that Don Sweeney isn’t going to deal any of them. Those three players are already tightly woven within the fabric of the team, and subtracting them from the roster would substantially worsen the team both in the short term and the long term.

Carlo is perhaps in a little bit of a different story in that the 21-year-old could be a viable trade piece if it was in something like the McDonagh deal, where the Bruins were going to be able to substantially upgrade their defensemen situation. Still, the Bruins aren’t very deep organizationally when it comes to right shot defensemen, and dealing a young, promising righty like Carlo for a lefty like McDonagh would only further complicate that situation.

That's above and beyond the fact that a clever, experienced GM like Jeff Gorton is going to attempt to maximize his return for a big asset like McDonagh, and attempt to get a package featuring two young NHL players (Carlo and either DeBrusk or Heinen) and a pick in exchange for New York's captain. 

The bottom line: of the four established NHL players mostly likely to be coveted by other NHL GMs in trade talks, stay-at-home defenseman Carlo is the only that should be seriously considered as a trade piece.

In the same vein, the most viable Bruins prospect up front that could be moved in the right deal is Anders Bjork. The 21-year-old Bjork has four goals and 12 points in 30 games for the Bruins this season while jumping from Notre Dame straight to the NHL, and is currently injured with an upper body injury suffered last month. He’s shown great skating speed, good hockey IQ and the offensive creativity needed to be a top-6 forward, and has been considered the same class of forward prospect as Heinen and DeBrusk.

It’s still entirely possible that Bjork becomes the best of all three players when it’s all said and done, but it’s also clear Heinen and DeBrusk have hopped over him on the organizational depth chart as this season has played out.

More importantly, Bjork, if traded, could be replaced rather immediately in the B’s talent pipeline by forward Ryan Donato after his impressive five-goal performance for Team USA at the Winter Olympics in South Korea. That’s how it works for an organization like the Bruins where draft and development has become a success story. Some prospects make it to the NHL level and supplant veterans while keeping the salary cap from becoming an issue, some prospects perhaps don’t live up to the hype and other prospects are used as trade assets to address roster needs at the NHL level when things like the trade deadline come to the fore.

The real challenge for Sweeney over the next few days will be deciding which ones like Robbie O’Gara can be utilized in trades to support the NHL team, and which ones like McAvoy, DeBrusk and Heinen should be absolutely untouchable right now.

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