Will Boston Bruins break up their team now? (Huge, If True)

Will Boston Bruins break up their team now? (Huge, If True)

[Ed. Note: Welcome to “Huge, If True,” Puck Daddy’s latest weekly column from Ryan Lambert that will run every Thursday. Basically, it’s a litmus test/crap detector on the week’s biggest rumors or trends in hockey. If there’s something you’d like Lambert to test, email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com with the subject HUGE, IF TRUE. Enjoy!]

The Rumor

This week, a silly little rumor came out that the Boston Bruins were “quietly” shopping some of their more valuable veterans, including former Norris winner Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand, among other veterans.

As was discussed yesterday, this felt a lot more like due diligence on the part of the Bruins — if it even happened — than anything else, but boy if that didn't get everyone in the hockey media scrambling to make up headlines to the effect of “Bruins looking to trade veterans,” and so on.

It's a sexy idea, quite frankly, but it's one of those rumors you have to take with about as much salt as you'd get if you boiled a drop of seawater. The author of the report in question has a long history of just throwing rumors against the wall, likely because of how many page views you can generate by saying, “CHARA ON THE BLOCK” in the biggest capital letters you can find, but even when there are actual specifics in reports of this type, by literally anyone who files them, not just in Boston, the likelihood that these things come true remains quite small.

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But given how much play this got around the league, let's take the rumor at face value.

Who's Going Where?

As mentioned, the rumor at hand is specifically lacking in specifics.

According to separate hockey sources, there has been some level of recent trade discussion about veterans Zdeno Chara and Brad Marchand with other teams around the league, just to name a few B’s players. The talks haven’t been substantial but more exploratory in nature, as the team quietly gauges the market value of higher-priced veterans who may not fit in the long-term picture if the decision is made to tear down the current roster.

“Some level,” “trade discussion,” “other teams around the league,” “to name a few.”

Nostradamus wasn't this vague.

Is it likely that teams are at least putting a toe lightly against a tire or two on the Bruins' roster? Sure it is. This is a team with plenty of good players on it, and with varying value. Chara, despite his age and apparent rickety legs, is still somehow a clear No. 1 defenseman who is unfortunately paid until he's 41. Marchand is another guy who offers a demonstrated value — some might argue he's the product of playing with a superstar like Patrice Bergeron, but they're not all the way right about it — and whose cap hit is a lot more manageable. Left unmentioned in the report, but clearly someone the Bruins wouldn't at all mind shopping, is Loui Eriksson, who's in the final year of a deal that's even more affordable than Marchand's.

Apart from that, though, there aren't too many veterans you'd think teams around the league — again, nothing clearer than that — would be eager to acquire. Dennis Seidenberg with three more years at $4 million? Chris Kelly on an expiring $3 million deal? Maybe if the Bruins sweeten the pot, but that's decent enough money at this point in the season for lousy players that no rational NHL team would be willing to take on even one more year of that deal. Other than that, hard pass.

You'd have to think that asking about guys like David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Tuukka Rask result in a quick dial tone. However, if you're Don Sweeney and you can find someone to take Krejci's a-little-silly deal that pays him $7.25 million through 2021, having a quick chat about the return might not be the worst use of your time.

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The list of teams that need No. 1 defensemen is voluminous, as is the list of teams that could use a winger like Marchand. Eriksson has likely been devalued enough by playing a largely defensive role in Boston (and having every ham-and-egger fan-boy get the knives out any time he touches the puck because he was the return in that awful Seguin trade) that someone probably takes a flier on him but isn't looking to give up too much.

The other thing to keep in mind here, though, is that the report stated that no trade would happen “tomorrow or even next week,” which is obvious since you don't blow up the franchise after going 0-3 or even 0-6. Usually, you fire a coach before you start offloading the players anyway.

But if you're looking around for candidates to any number of veterans off the Bruins' hands in the event of a legitimate catastrophe, you should have no shortage of candidates.

The Implications

This seems more like message-sending than actual trade rumors. “If you guys don't straighten up and fly right, no one is safe,” and all that.

Again, it's hard to discount how non-committal everything is. No destination in mind, no timetable, only two of several veterans actually named (and two of the more sensationally believable ones at that). And again, this way, when a veteran is inevitably moved if — or perhaps when — the Bruins continue to flounder, this report can be pointed to with some real mustard on the “told-ya-so.”

But if this actually happens, Don Sweeney in particular but the Bruins organization as a whole needs to do a lot more looking intensely into the bathroom mirror. Trade Chara? You've seen what happens when this team goes Chara-less in the first three games. It's not pretty. Trade Marchand? Okay but then you have no clue at all who the puck in the net for Patrice Bergeron, and offense is an uncertainty in the Boston lineup to begin with. Trade Eriksson? Well, he's gonna walk this summer anyway, so go for it.

But trade any of these guys early enough in the season and it's clearly Panic Mode time. Like, tear-it-down-and-start-all-over Panic Mode. Like, might-as-well-trade-Bergeron-and-Rask-too Panic Mode. Because a Boston lineup without either of Chara or Marchand isn't capable of being truly competitive unless you get good NHL roster players in return. And you wouldn't.

And that's not to say Marchand is the kind of guy that makes or breaks a Cup-competitive team, but the Bruins aren't that any more. The trades of Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton, and even Milan Lucic over the last few years saw to that. But without Marchand your third-best forward is 19-year-old David Pastrnak. And your fourth-best forward is Matt Beleskey or something. It's not an enviable position.

Any trades along these lines likely amount to massive changes for the organization soon thereafter.

This Is So Huge, If True: Is It True?

On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable rumor and 5 being the least reasonable rumor:

 

Four Poops
Four Poops

I don’t believe, for a second, that the Boston Bruins have shopped Zdeno Chara this early in the season.

That said, the Bruins should at least be considering the efficacy of simply burning it all down. Doesn't mean they have, but they should. Given the contracts handed out and the trades that have taken place in recent years, does this not remind the neutral observer of the dying days of the Calgary Flames organization that went from being legitimately good to Going For It to demonstrably awful and clearly rebuilding in a span of six or seven years? The only difference being the Flames didn't win a Cup in 2004, while Boston took one home seven years later.

This is a team that has the tools to make the postseason this year, but to what end? If we're being kind they're the sixth- or seventh-best team in the East (behind Washington, Tampa, Pittsburgh, both New Yorks, and maybe Montreal), which means that league-wide they're probably in the high teens or even low 20s. And that's an expensive mediocre-at-best team with a lot of ponderous contracts.

That doesn't mean they should be moving toward a full-on rebuild with Pastrnak, Malcolm Subban, their three first-round picks this year, and so on as the centerpieces going forward.

But thinking about moving toward it shouldn't be off the table.

And in that case, the idea that the Bruins might just be considering trade discussions with a number of unnamed teams for anyone who fetches a decent return and clears future cap obligations is not only not-farfetched, it's downright reasonable.

So you put a few layers of rumor on top of that and sprinkle in some movable big names, and you've got yourself a rumor that's just plausible enough to not be dismissed out of hand.

It won't not-happen, and that's not nothing.

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is hereIf there’s something you’d like Lambert to test, email us at puckdaddyblog@yahoo.com with the subject HUGE, IF TRUE.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)