Bruins haven’t stopped making moves
MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — On Tuesday, the Bruins kicked off their summer makeover by shipping defenseman Dennis Wideman, the 15th pick in tomorrow’s draft, and their 2011 third-round pick to Florida for Nathan Horton, a goal-scoring right wing expected to assume first-line duties, and center Gregory Campbell.
By no means, however, are the Bruins done dealing.
The addition of the 25-year-old Horton, the third overall pick from the 2003 draft, gives the Bruins a 6-foot-2-inch, 229-pound forward who has scored 20 or more goals in each of the last five seasons.
“They brought him in to score goals,’’ said Paul Krepelka, Horton’s agent. “He’s an all-around kid. He’s got a heavy shot. He’ll help that power play immensely. His primary focus is to score goals. With the centermen they’ve got and how they distribute the puck, that puts him in a prime position to produce a lot offensively.’’
But by adding Horton, the Bruins had to subtract Wideman, their sharpest puck-moving defenseman, a power-play man, and a minutes eater who played through injuries.
While the Bruins, backstopped by goalies Tuukka Rask and Tim Thomas and executing coach Claude Julien’s defensive-minded system, have been efficient in keeping pucks out of their net (2.33 goals allowed per game in 2009-10, second fewest in NHL), Wideman’s departure will dampen their transition game.
“It’s a key component of our defense that we had to give up, notwithstanding his struggles for part of the year,’’ said general manager Peter Chiarelli. “We may not be done fixing our defense, first and foremost. Secondly, the last two years we’ve had a tremendous goals-against due to our goalies and due to our defensive play. I think we have a real good system installed.
“In this search for a puck mover, sometimes there’s not one out there or not one that’s a perfect fit. If we do add something, you may not purely characterize it as a puck mover.
“A guy like Matt Hunwick turned the corner a bit at the end after some struggles. Andrew Ference, who played hurt, moves the puck well. Dennis Seidenberg moves the puck well. Guys are well-coached. [Puck movers] are hard to find. If I can’t find a perfect one, I think we’ll be fine.’’
The deal also added to the Bruins’ rising payroll, as Horton carries an annual $4 million cap hit.
To that end, they will look to the trade market again, perhaps this week, with Thomas and Marc Savard two chips they could dangle.
Thomas, who has three years left on his contract ($5 million annual cap hit) is the piece the Bruins would prefer to move. While he has a no-trade clause, it’s a good bet he’d waive it for the chance to be the starter for a team of his liking.
From the Bruins’ perspective, a deal would wipe Thomas’s $5 million from the books, allow Rask (a team-friendly $1.25 million annual cap hit) to make most of the starts, and clear room in the checkbook to sign an inexpensive backup for the Finnish puck-stopper.
“The kid’s the future,’’ said one NHL source, referring to Rask. “But what can they get? Are there enough teams desperate for a goalie that [the Bruins] don’t have to take a bad contract back?
“I don’t think there’s any question that [Thomas] can’t come back. They probably wouldn’t want him back for the kid’s development and having to deal with that in the locker room.
“But that’s a big nut: $5 million at 36 years old. It has to be a team that’s desperate and doesn’t mind putting money in the minors if he doesn’t work out.’’
San Jose, which cut ties with Evgeni Nabokov Tuesday, now needs a No. 1 goalie and has cap space, although GM Doug Wilson faces decisions with Patrick Marleau (unrestricted free agent) and Joe Pavelski (restricted).
But moving Thomas during the summer may require a magic act beyond Chiarelli’s skill. Thomas is also coming off hip surgery to repair a torn labrum. Chiarelli noted that Thomas was riding a stationary bike three days after the procedure. But a rival team would be wise to evaluate Thomas in game action in 2010-11 before pulling the trigger on any deal.
“I have a hard time seeing someone willing to trade for an injured goalie that signed an over-35 contract for three more years at $5 million per,’’ said a team executive. “If there’s any deal, I would say they’re getting someone else’s baggage.’’
Perhaps the more surprising piece to be moved would be Savard. Two sources confirmed that the Bruins have had inquiries about Savard, who will enter the first season of a seven-year contract ($4.007 million annually) in 2010-11.
Pairing Savard with Horton could be the go-to offensive duo the Bruins need. But with the Bruins expected to draft center Tyler Seguin tomorrow, they will have a traffic jam up the middle with Savard, Campbell, David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, and Vladimir Sobotka in contention for spots.
Chiarelli said he has not spoken with Miroslav Satan, an unrestricted free agent, since the end of the season. Satan is doubtful to return to the team. Also unlikely to come back is Steve Begin (unrestricted), with Campbell penciled in as the fourth-line center and penalty killer . . . Daniel Paille (restricted) has yet to be given a qualifying offer, but the Bruins are intent on re-signing the left wing with the intentions of placing him on the fourth line with Campbell and Shawn Thornton.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.