Bruins make a power play by adding Recchi, Montador
There wasn't anything to love about what the Bruins did yesterday at the NHL's trade deadline, but there was plenty to like.
They picked up aged winger Mark Recchi from Tampa, a guy with 1,426 career points and a couple of Stanley Cups, and he should help stabilize and energize what was a power play best fit for an ICU unit for a good chunk of February.
Defenseman Steve Montador, acquired from the Ducks for Petteri Nokelainen, plays with a lot of moxie, which should provide a lift to what of late has been a somewhat listless (content?) Boston backline. Coach Claude Julien now has eight NHL defensemen at his reach, invaluable come playoff time when blue liners often bust apart like so many clay skeet pigeons.
Granted, not big deals, certainly not the caliber of, say, landing Chris Pronger (still in Anaheim) or Jay Bouwmeester (still in Florida), or Erik Cole (back in Carolina, as part of the day's most convoluted swap). According to Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli, he had his hand in two or three big deals - one of them assuredly Pronger - but in the end due diligence didn't lead the third-year GM to a done deal.
"At some point," mused Chiarelli, who bore the scruffy facial shadow and bleary-eyed look of a man who nearly pulled an all-nighter in the Causeway corner office, "I had to pull the plug on it. So . . . it didn't happen."
Pronger, the leaning tower of power in Anaheim, was taken off the market Tuesday. At least that's what the Ducks said. Such proclamations typically serve only to juice up offers. When all the ice chips were swept off the floor as of 3 p.m. yesterday, the behemoth defenseman remained a Duck, with a strong possibility that he will be back in the trading crosshairs over the summer, if not at the draft in June, then later when free agency approaches. Much of that depends on whether Scott Niedermayer wants to keep playing or retire.
Bouwmeester would have been an even trickier acquisition because he is an unrestricted free agent as of July 1, while Pronger still has another year left on his deal. Had Chiarelli surrendered a top young roster player (Phil Kessel?) for Bouwmeester, he would have had to do it without knowing if Bouwmeester would wear the spoked-B again after this season's final playoff game.
The Penguins took that kind of gamble exactly one year ago when acquiring Marian Hossa, only to see Hossa pack his scoring shoes over the summer and sign on with the Red Wings. Right now, the Penguins might not land a playoff seed, never mind make it back to the Cup finals.
"Mark's a gritty player, as is Steve," said Chiarelli, "and he goes in those areas, too, that a lot of those [gritty] goals come from."
That perhaps was Chiarelli's most telling remark during his late-afternoon news conference on the Garden's third floor. For the better part of a month, ever since building a healthy lead atop the Eastern Conference, the Bruins have lacked grit and emotion. Their 4-2 loss to the Flyers Tuesday night was all but passionless, low on hits, without a fight. Checking? Barely so much as a dirty look was thrown by anyone in Black and Gold.
Montador and Recchi, both of whom Chiarelli said he acquired with the thought of signing them again after this season, were hired on for their pluck and spunk. His team is in a "valley," to use Chiarelli's word, and the two new guys, he believes, will help lead them out of it. If nothing else, they'll make their new teammates work harder, because they'll be attempting to "steal" playing minutes, threatening their cozy work conditions.
"There's probably going to be some moody guys," offered Chiarelli. "Because they're going to miss [playing] here and there. But they're part of the organization. They've done well for us to this point . . . we tried to add without subtracting. We didn't want to take away from the [team] chemistry."
The inherent message: If you want to get in Julien's lineup, just make sure you're better than the two deadline "ringers" who will pull on their new sweaters (numbers to be determined) for the first time this morning.
Chiarelli's deft dealing didn't alter the current roster much. Nokelainen, out since a Feb. 10 eye injury, went to the Ducks, but he had been marginalized this season (especially after the arrival of Byron Bitz). Matt Lashoff and Martins Karsums, who went to Tampa, didn't look as if they would ever crack the Hub of Hockey varsity. But the deals did assuredly alter how the parts will work, how Julien will distribute ice, create an unease about position on the team totem pole, and maybe about job security. Coaches consider that kind of unrest a pocketful of pixie dust and a pail full of kismet.
Recchi, at 41, won't be beltin' people upside the head, but he will bring his trademark agitating ways, full of stick jabs and facewashes. He's a nuisance, and then some, with 535 career goals as proof of the "then some." He joins Phil Esposito, Dave Andreychuk, John Bucyk, and Joe Mullen in the small group of players to wear the Black and Gold sweaters and score more than 500 goals. Boston's top seven point-getters this season total 550 career goals. Recchi picked up five assists the other night against Calgary. What he's still got, the Bruins need.
Montador is valued for his righthanded shot, among other things, including those 125 penalty minutes he loaded into his bag prior to flying here last night. He fits into that "hard to play against" template that Chiarelli & Co. like to refer to all the time, and now Julien will choose among Shane Hnidy, Mark Stuart, Matt Hunwick, and Montador to fill out his No. 3 defensive pairing each night.
All in all, Chiarelli made two subtle acquisitions that weren't so much aimed at grabbing headlines as they were about: 1. demonstrating faith in a core group that performed extremely well for more than three months and 2. reminding said core group that, contrary to what some of them may think, they weren't handed the Stanley Cup about a month ago, when a good number of them began to act as if they were enjoying an in-season victory lap.
The Bruins are better today for yesterday's dealings, which is what Deadline Day is supposed to be about. There are 18 games left in the regular season (including tonight's Causeway date with the Coyotes), and who knows how many more come April and May. The grizzled Recchi and the gung-ho Montador are perhaps the two slightly imperfect pearls they needed to wear to the dance.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.