Bruins acquire Kaberle, package Wheeler and Stuart for Peverley
OTTAWA — Two summers ago, the Bruins tried to acquire Tomas Kaberle from Toronto for Phil Kessel. That deal fell through following miscommunication between general manager Peter Chiarelli and counterpart Brian Burke regarding their respective first-round picks.
Yesterday, the sides made sure a similar mistake didn’t happen.
The Bruins landed the puck-moving defenseman they’ve perpetually sought, giving up prospect Joe Colborne, their own 2011 first-round pick, and a conditional 2012 selection. Toronto will acquire a 2012 second-rounder if the Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup finals this season or if Kaberle, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, re-ups with his new club.
“A mixed emotional day for me,’’ Kaberle, a lifelong Leaf, said after last night’s 4-2 win with his new team. “After 13 years in Toronto, it’s not easy to swallow. I’ve got no regrets there. I did my best. Hopefully the fans were happy about it. Now I have to move on.’’
Kaberle will return to Toronto to pack his things and await the proper visa paperwork to clear. Kaberle will rejoin his new teammates in Calgary on Monday for the start of the Bruins’ western swing.
The Bruins have been without a blue-line puck mover since trading Dennis Wideman to Florida in the package that brought Gregory Campbell and Nathan Horton. This season, the smooth-skating Kaberle has three goals and 35 assists while averaging 22:28 of ice time.
Of Kaberle’s 35 helpers, 22 have come on the power play. Entering last night, the Bruins had the league’s 14th-ranked power play (18.1 percent). Kaberle will man the point on the No. 1 power-play unit, replacing Mark Recchi. The lefthanded-shooting Kaberle doesn’t have a screamer from the point, but he’s expected to set up Zdeno Chara for one-timers and look for down-low options.
“The one main concern for us was our back end — having some better puck movement, and we feel that Kaberle is certainly one of those guys that can provide us with that,’’ coach Claude Julien said. “We’ve talked about our power play and needing somebody back there who can be a quarterback. That’s something he’s done for a long time now. That certainly covers a couple important needs.’’
Kaberle, wearing No. 12 instead of his usual No. 15 (that number with the Bruins is retired in honor of Milt Schmidt), made his Bruins debut last night at Scotiabank Place against the Senators. By adding mobility, the Bruins hope to jack up their dormant power play and spark the retrieval and transition game they need to shuttle pucks away from their zone.
According to Burke, Kaberle didn’t want to leave Toronto. Kaberle, who has a no-trade clause, first inquired about an extension. Burke informed Rick Curran, Kaberle’s agent, that the defenseman’s contract demands and the club’s price were incongruent. Then Kaberle, via his agent, told Burke that he wanted to be traded to Boston. Burke set his price: a first-round pick and a prospect. Burke got two picks plus the 21-year-old Colborne, whom the Leafs project to be a top-six NHL forward.
“It was an important piece for us to get, and obviously we had to pay a price,’’ said Chiarelli, centering on the loss of the 6-foot-5-inch, 213-pound Colborne. “Joe is going to be a good player in the NHL. He’s progressing nicely and he’s a real good kid. We felt the time was right with our team. With the number of assets we’ve had the last two years, with picks and prospects, it’s a testament to the amateur staff and pro staff. We accumulated prospects through pro scouting. We were in a good position to make this transaction. The cupboard is still very well stocked. It’s a strong message to our team and to our fans that we want to win and we want to be successful.’’
While Kaberle was the main prize, the Bruins needed to clear salary to squeeze the 32-year-old’s $4.25 million annual number under the cap. Not only did they achieve the cap savings they desired, they also made a deal at the same time, swapping Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik. In Peverley, the Bruins landed a 28-year-old forward who adds to their depth and versatility. He’s expected to join his teammates for practice tomorrow.
Peverley had 14 goals and 20 assists in 59 games for Atlanta, averaging 19:13 of ice time, second-most among Thrashers forwards. The righthanded-shooting Peverley carries a $1.325 million annual cap hit, according to www.capgeek.com, and is signed through 2011-12.
“We get back a player in Rich Peverley who is a terrific offensive player,’’ said Chiarelli. “He’s a shooter. He plays center and wing. Most of our viewings, he’s been on the wing. With his number of shots — I think he has 161 shots — he’d be second on our team. He has a really good wrist shot and a good one-timer. He’s got a bit of an edge when he plays.’’
Valabik, the 10th overall pick in 2004, had zero goals, nine assists, and 165 penalty minutes in 49 games for Chicago, Atlanta’s AHL affiliate. The 6-7, 255-pound defenseman is best known for his fight with Chara on Dec. 13, 2008. That night, Valabik drew his fellow Slovakian’s attention after he gave Kessel several cross-checks. The 25-year-old Valabik will report to Providence. The Bruins consider him a project.
Yesterday morning at Scotiabank Place, Stuart participated in an optional skate. Wheeler opted to stay off the ice and play soccer in a group that included best friend David Krejci, Dennis Seidenberg, and Patrice Bergeron.
Early yesterday afternoon, Chiarelli called both players to inform them of the trade. They were scheduled to join the Thrashers in Edmonton for a game tomorrow against the Oilers.
As a rookie, Wheeler had 21 goals and 24 assists, playing mostly alongside Krejci and Michael Ryder on a potent No. 3 line. However, Wheeler’s game didn’t develop the way the Bruins had hoped. Last year, Wheeler put up an 18-20—38 line in 82 games. This season, Wheeler has 11 goals and 16 assists in 58 games.
But in Boston’s defense-first system, Wheeler didn’t become an offensive presence. In a more free-flowing system, Wheeler could apply his skill set toward greater offensive production.
“I think I’ve transformed my game in a lot of areas,’’ said Wheeler. “Offensively, I have a lot more to offer than I’ve maybe done so far this year. I just want to keep doing those same things I learned here about being a complete player.’’
The writing was on the wall for Stuart, a healthy scratch in nine of the last 11 games.
From Oct. 5, 2007, to Dec. 14, 2010, Stuart appeared in 214 consecutive regular-season and playoff games. But a string of injuries (sternum, finger, infection, hand, finger) made him the odd man out. On Dec. 7, Stuart suffered a broken right hand and a dislocated ring finger. Steven Kampfer was recalled to replace Stuart, and the rookie promptly vaulted into the top-four corps because of his poise and puck-moving acumen. At the same time, Adam McQuaid developed into a solid bottom-pairing defenseman.
“You get injured, it’s not your fault, but it gives other people an opportunity,’’ Stuart said. “The most important thing is staying healthy. I want to be in there playing. I wasn’t happy about being out of the lineup. But you’ve got to give guys credit. They came in and played, and they played really well.’’
With less than $1 million remaining in cap space, the Bruins are most likely finished dealing before the Feb. 28 trade deadline. Chiarelli and his staff recognized that outside of Philadelphia, there are few locks in the Eastern Conference to make a deep postseason march. Kaberle, Peverley, and Chris Kelly are on board. Now it’s up to the players and coaches to prove their bosses right.
Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.