As part of one of the worst moves the NHL has seen since Arizona hockey, Johnny Boychuk was traded to the New York Islanders for a pair of draft picks, in addition to a conditional 2015 third-round pick if the Islanders trade the defenseman to an Eastern Conference team this season.
Just throwing this out there: Does that include the Boston Bruins?
Less than three weeks ago, Thursday night’s game against the Islanders was little more than an early-season throwaway game for the Bruins. That was before Peter Chiarelli went and angered the masses by trading popular defenseman Boychuk to an NHL franchise that might as well be in Siberia for all the relevance they should muster this season.
Now, Thursday night is as much about Bruins fans welcoming Boychuk back to his old haunts as it is sticking it to Chiarelli, who created the very salary cap shambles that forced him to surrender a top-four defenseman on the eve of what might be another run at the Stanley Cup.
Of course, it doesn’t help Chiarelli’s cause that Boychuk, making $3.3 million this season, after which he’s an unrestricted free agent, has been burying pucks almost nightly with his new team. Through the season’s first six games, Boychuk is averaging 22:50 of ice time and has scored two power play goals to go along with four assists. Meanwhile, Dougie Hamilton, one of the players the Bruins hoped to mature in the absence of Boychuk, has one goal and is a minus-one on the season thus far.
There’s no determining whether the Boychuk trade was a bust from a Bruins perspective until a few years down the road, when those draft picks come to fruition. Or, perhaps they’re packaged during this season for a scoring forward, or maybe, even in our wildest dreams, a 6-2 defenseman who’s familiar with Claude Julien’s defensive approach to the game.
Not happening, you say?
Bruins fans can be forgiven for holding out hope for such delusions of grandeur, if only because logic was already lost when Chiarelli decided two future draft picks was a good haul for Boychuk. The defenseman was going to walk following the season, and there was little the Bruins could manage in terms of maneuverability to re-sign him.
In a perfect world, teams would have been calling Chiarelli about Chris Kelly and the $6 million remaining on his deal over the next two years. Go figure, there was more interest in Boychuk than an underperformer coming off back surgery. Milan Lucic’s erratic play has already gotten him mentioned in a number of trade rumors, but the Bruins would very likely have to match dollar signs with any potential trading partners. Brad Marchand apparently gets angry when you mention his trade value, so we’ll just let the $13.5 million due to him over the next three seasons speak for him since his recent offensive production isn’t too kind in that regard.
In many ways, Boychuk made the most sense to go in order for the Bruins to create some cap relief. That doesn’t relieve Chiarelli of the blame though. This is still all his fault for mismanaging the cap to the degree where someone with even the slightest knowledge of the financial workings of the NHL could foresee this was going to become a problem eventually, the way the GM handed out three-year deals like BOGO frozen yogurt coupons at the mall.
Next year might even be worse. David Krejci’s contract extension kicks in at $7.25 million per year, Reilly Smith will be restricted again along with Hamilton and Torey Krug, and Carl Soderberg is an unrestricted free agent. So much for dabbling in free agency, once again, next July. And if you’re looking for next year’s Boychuk, perhaps it’s to be Loui Eriksson, due to make $4.25 million in his free agent season.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s keep keeping the team together and it will be how we won four or five years ago. It will be the same team and we’ll win.’ It doesn’t happen that way,” Chiarelli said the day he dealt Boychuk. “Dynamics change. People change. The way they approach things change. I’m not trying to keep refreshing. It’s just that we want to get better. Sometimes you can’t do it in one step.”
That’s true. Too bad that statement completely ignores that this mess is one that Chiarelli created. Hadn’t the dynamics already changed enough letting Jarome Iginla walk?
Some week for Chiarelli. On Tuesday, San Jose’s Logan Couture had to remind him of his presence with the Sharks, scoring twice in Boston’s 5-3 comeback thriller. Couture, who scored 23 goals last year, of course was still on the draft board in 2007 when Chiarelli went for Zach Hamill with the ninth pick. Couture is an All-Star. Hamill is probably working at a Burger Chef somewhere.
Two days later, and here’s Boychuk and his fancy start to the season. He’s helped the Islanders get off to a 4-2-0 start, while the Bruins have won two straight to pull even at 4-4-0, after last week’s embarrassment on the ice and in the penalty box in Montreal.
“We lost a good person and a good player,” Julien said on Wednesday. “You’re always happy that he’s doing well. Of course, you’re going to hear us say, ‘Except against us.’ But I don’t think there’s anybody here wishing [anything] but the best for him. And then you move on.”
Nope. Not yet.
Bruins fans aren’t ready to forget this one so easily.
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