Now, Chiarelli should reach for a Star
His No. 1 center shattered, it’s now up to Peter Chiarelli again to pick up the pieces. How to mend a broken lineup? That’s Chiarelli’s charge, only this time, with a re-concussed Marc Savard done for the season, the Bruins general manager theoretically has the ability to engineer a roster makeover before the NHL trading deadline Feb. 28.
The last time Chiarelli faced this situation, last March 7, the trade deadline had expired by four days, leaving the GM and coach Claude Julien little choice but to tinker with call-ups, try different line combinations, and attempt to squeeze more juice out of the fruits of his laborers.
“We aren’t going to be able to replace Marc,’’ was Chiarelli’s blunt assessment at the end of yesterday’s news conference at the Garden in which Savard was formally mothballed until at least next season. “We’re looking now at Zach [Hamill] and we don’t know if he’s the answer or not. We’ll want some experience, too.’’
Hamill, despite his first-round pedigree (No. 8 in 2007) likely isn’t the answer now, in part because he has only two games on his NHL résumé. He is skilled, but he is small of frame and short on cred, issues that aren’t going to change much in the short haul, which is the road the Bruins are traveling at the moment with the playoffs set to begin in about two months.
Late yesterday afternoon, Chiarelli summoned rookie Jordan Caron back from Providence (AHL), which is a strong indication that fellow rookie Tyler Seguin will slide into a center’s role and the big-bodied Caron (6 feet 3 inches, 205 pounds) will get back to earning an NHL salary along the wall. Caron was very impressive through training camp and into October, but his game and confidence grew dim through November, leading to his demotion to the WannaBs just as Savard returned.
The perfect move here, especially with goaltender Tim Thomas so hot and defenseman Zdeno Chara in his prime, would be for Chiarelli to make a bold play to land free-agent-to-be Brad Richards.
The No. 1 Dallas center, who won a Cup with Tampa (2004), is the single best answer to replacing Savard, although his cap hit is almost double ($7.8 million vs. $4 million). With the Stars in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, GM Joe Nieuwendyk probably won’t wheel Richards, even at the risk of seeing the 30-year-old walk away for nothing come July 1. The mitigating factor here is that the Stars are for sale and the franchise’s value increases with each postseason win. The Stars win more with Richards, plain and simple.