Friday, February 13, 2009

The Trade Deadline: A Plea For Sanity

My, what a difference a season can make.

This time last year, Peter Chiarelli played a conservative hand at the trade deadline -- no moves were made, as the team's biggest concern was to dump veteran salaries and make space for young talent.

Early this season, on the heels of an unexpected playoff berth, Bruins fans were talking about the possibility of making a long playoff run within 2-3 seasons. This year was to be a bridge between the past and future, and another road-ice playoff berth was the optimisitic outlook.

Now here we are reading articles speculating on the possibility that Chiarelli could make a blockbuster move for Chris Pronger, Keith Tkachuk or Erik Cole. All of these rumors assume that he would be willing to let go of promising young talent or high draft picks, and that the end-game would be a Stanley Cup run this spring.

Maybe it's time to stop and take a deep breath. We're moving a bit too fast, aren't we?

Some perspective: Phil Kessel (21), David Krecji (22) and Matt Hunwick (23) are all coming up for contract renewal this summer. The size and length of those contracts will set the landscape for the Chiarelli-era Bruins -- presumably for the next 3-5 years. At the same time, the Bruins will likely dump or cut the salaries of veterans Stephane Yelle, P.J. Axelsson and Shane Hnidy. And of course, in the process they'll work out a plan of succession for the goaltending position -- which is complicated by the fact that Tuukka Rask's contract is finished after next season.

Perhaps more importantly, next summer the Bruins will renegotiate contracts with Marc Savard, Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward, Mark Stuart, Shawn Thornton and Petteri Nokelainen.

All of this means that the Bruins are, effectively, still in the middle of the rebuilding process. As good as they may be at present, only a handful of players are locked up through next summer. It would be unwise to move prospects or draft picks under the assumption that they're expendable, without knowing for certain whether key players such as Savard and Kessel will be around for much longer.

Of course, it's difficult not to see this season as a now-or-never opportunity to bring home the Cup, with the Bruins playing their best hockey in 35 years. But let's take a lesson from last year's Pens -- today's rental player is tomorrow's lost scoring depth. For a team that's got such a bright future, that might be the difference between a dynasty and a bunch of 8th-place finishes.

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