The Boston Bruins have given up a major piece of their defense for the second year in a row. Last year they lost fan favorite Andrew Ference to the Edmonton Oilers via free agency. Now they have traded Johnny Boychuk to the New York Islanders for two second round picks and a conditional third.
You have to think that the injury plague that decimated the Bruin blue line last season won’t hit as hard this year as it did last year but how can you be sure? With Dennis Seidenberg out with a knee injury, Adam McQuaid sidelined with one of his many lower body injuries and Zdeno Chara gone early to the Olympics there was a brief period where Boychuk had started more NHL games himself than the rest of the defensemen on the roster COMBINED. He also took a hit last season that put him on a stretcher and left fans wondering if he would play again, never mind again that season. He only missed five games the entire season, that’s toughness you can’t put a price on for an NHL defenseman.
Now I know there isn’t an Olympics this year and McQuaid and Seidenberg are back strong as ever but the worry will always be there that one of their old injuries will come back to hamper them once again. Not to mention Chara isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore. In my mind Boychuk is a guy who can play as a second unit defenseman with a shot strong enough to get time on the power play and miss five games or fewer. I don’t see that sort of ability behind him on the depth chart.
In my opinion there were better options for the Bruins if they were trying to unload players to clear much needed cap space. McQuaid missed games three separate times for groin and ankle injuries, the latter needing off season surgery, and only played 30 games total last season. They also have second year player Kevan Miller who plays in the spitting image of McQuaid. He’s younger, cheaper and comes without the injury woes that are sure to follow “Darth Quaider” into this season. Matt Bartkowski is an overpaid borderline NHL’er that could barely hold on to his job in last year’s playoffs. If the B’s other options, Andrej Meszaros and Corey Potter, could’ve handled the pressure any better Bart wouldn’t have seen the ice against Montreal last year and now he’s going to be a top six D-man. Bart and McQuaid are also unrestricted free agents after this year as is Boychuk.
If we get off of defensemen for a minute we can also see Chris Kelly. A third line center getting paid nearly twice as much money as any other player on the third or fourth lines. At $3 million dollars a year through 2016 that is a lot of money to pay a third line player. For reference all other players on the third and fourth line make either just under or just over $1 million a year, the highest paid after Kelly being Gregory Campbell at $1.6 million. While Kelly also had a no trade clause in his contract so did Boychuk proving that with a little work the Bruins’ front office could have potentially moved Kelly to make room for up and coming AHL stars Matt Fraser and Ryan Spooner while acquiring the cap space they also desperately needed.
Much like Ference was missed last season when injuries and illnesses were taking its toll on the Bruins’ roster if old injuries creep up on McQuaid or Seidenberg or playing 24 minutes a night catches up with the 37 year old Chara, as it appeared to last season, the Bruins are going to be sorely missing the experienced vet Johnny “Rocket” Boychuk.
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All cap figures and salaries from CapGeek.com.