Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bruins preparing to go all-in for 2010?

For most of last season the Bruins led the league in both offense and defense, were in first place, and enjoyed career seasons from most of the roster. The only remaining expectation was playoff success, which was cut short in bitter fashion when they couldn't generate offense consistently against Carolina.

The Bruins addressed their most glaring need -- becoming more mobile on the blue line -- early in the summer. Their only other major roster change was the loss of Phil Kessel, their leading goal-scorer. On paper, an elite sniper is the only missing ingredient holding them back from a Cup run.

Let's do a little math in the wake of the Kessel trade:

a) In the 2010 entry draft, the Bruins will now have two first-round picks (one coming from Toronto) and three second-round picks (one each from Toronto and Tampa). In the 2011 entry draft, Boston will again have an extra selection in the first round, from Toronto.

b) Currently the Bruins have $1.7 million in space under the cap.

c) At the end of the 2010 season, the Bruins will need to renew or release the contracts of six unrestricted free agents, including Marc Savard (currently a $5m cap hit) and Derek Morris ($3.3m). At the same time, the team will need to renegotiate the contracts of restricted free agents Tuukka Rask ($3.2m), Blake Wheeler ($2.8m), Mark Stuart ($1.3m), Milan Lucic ($850k), Vladimir Sobotka ($750k), Drew Larman ($550k).

d) The only players on the team who are signed beyond 2011 are David Krejci and Tim Thomas.

e) Two division rivals, Toronto and Montreal, are making dramatic changes to their lineup with the goal of competing for the Northeast Division title. One team is getting much bigger, the other much smaller -- chances are, one of them is taking a good approach to closing the gap with Boston.

Add it all up and we get:

f) If there was ever a season for Peter Chiarelli to make a major trade, it's right now. The iron is red-hot and the opportunity will be over as soon as next summer's tough contract decisions begin.

Loaded with high draft picks and NHL-ready prospects destined to spend most of the winter in Providence, Chiarelli has both the leverage and the incentive to make a high-stakes gamble on the Bruins' Cup chances. All he needs now is an opportunity.

Next post: Talking specifics -- who could be acquired, what it would cost, and whether it would be enough to end the Cup drought.

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