Zdeno Chara (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
The Boston Bruins are off to a shaky start and have dropped their first three games by a combined score of 16-7. Trade speculation now surrounds a number of Bruins players, including veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara, winger Brad Marchand and goaltenders Tuukka Rask and Malcolm Subban.
The new NHL season is barely a week old, but things aren't going well for the once-mighty Boston Bruins, who lost their opening three games. Captain Zdeno Chara only recently returned from a pre-season upper-body injury, feisty winger Brad Marchand is out indefinitely with a concussion, back surgery sidelined blueliner Dennis Seidenberg and struggling rearguard Matt Irwin was waived and demoted.
Factor in the shake-up to the Bruins' front office and roster during the summer, which included trading away defenseman Dougie Hamilton and left wing Milan Lucic, and it's unsurprising that trade speculation has already begun.
In an interview with Sportsnet 960 last Friday, Elliotte Friedman was asked if he thought Bruins management might consider trading the 38-year-old Chara or goaltender Tuukka Rask. Acknowledging their bold off-season moves, he felt it might be worth watching. Friedman spoke about trade rumors regarding the 28-year-old Rask this summer, but was told they wouldn't make that move because of their lack of experienced goaltending depth.
Prior to the Bruins 6-3 loss at home to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday, CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty reported sources claimed the Bruins were quietly gauging the trade value of Chara and Marchand if the need arose later in the season to further overhaul the roster.
Friedman and Haggerty both noted the players in question carry no-trade clauses, but other issues could work against moving them. The biggest is their expensive contracts. Chara's runs through 2017-18 with an annual salary-cap hit of over $6.917 million, while Rask's runs through 2020-21 at $7-million annually. Marchand, 27, is carrying a $4.5-million cap hit to the end of 2016-17.
With 18 teams besides the Bruins carrying less than $5 million in cap space, and most of the remainder under self-imposed cap ceilings, good luck trying to move those players this early in the season.
Age and performance are other factors. In his prime, the 6-foot-9, 255-pound Chara was the most dominant defenseman in the league, winning the Norris Trophy in 2009 and leading the his club to the Stanley Cup in 2011. In recent years, however, it's obvious the Bruins captain has lost a step, struggling to contain smaller, swifter opponents. Factor in his contract and rival GMs will be reluctant to part with a big return to get him.
Rask and Marchand, on the other hand, are in their playing prime. Of the two, Rask would have the most trade value, as he's only two years removed from winning the Vezina Trophy. Moving him, however, leaves the Bruins without an established starting goalie. Unless they can find a suitable replacement, the odds of Rask shipping out of Boston are low.
Should the Bruins decide to rebuild with younger, affordable talent, Marchand's future in Boston could be in doubt. While his trade value wouldn't be as high as Rask's, he is an effective shift disturber with a good scoring touch, making him attractive to playoff contenders.
If Bruins management decides Rask remains part of their long-term future, perhaps they'll consider shopping goalie Malcolm Subban? Haggerty recently included trading the 21-year-old among his top-five bold predictions for the Bruins this season. He considers Subban “the biggest trade chip in the Bruins organization”, suggesting the young netminder could be among the key pieces included in a trade for a top-four defenseman.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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