Thursday Evening Kaberle Update

Bruins ‘close’ to getting Kaberle, sending Stuart to Chicago

Deadline hangs over Bruins’ heads

Bruins ‘close’ to getting Kaberle, sending Stuart to Chicago

There’s no denying the Bruins are moving closer to a deal for Toronto Maple Leafs premium defenseman Tomas Kaberle, and Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli is working to fit the puzzle pieces in place for another move to free up some salary cap space.

According to several hockey sources, and as reported earlier on Thursday morning by TSN’s Darren Dreger, the Bruins are getting “close” to a trade agreement on a deal with the Leafs for the four-time All-Star defenseman. The package is believed to be Blake Wheeler and a draft pick headed to the Leafs, and that package of players/prospects would net the B’s the puck-moving defenseman/power play quarterback that Boston desperately needs.

“Right now if we can improve then I’ll take whatever [Chiarelli] can give us, right?” said coach Claude Julien. “But I think it’s pretty obvious and pretty clear that we want to upgrade our puck-moving part of our game from the back end. [Steve] Kampfer has done that as a young player, and now we’re looking for a guy with a little more experience. That’s what we’re looking right now.”

Hockey sources have indicated to there’s a second, salary-cap clearing deal being moved into place to give Boston some cap flexibility. The B’s are discussing sending rugged defenseman Mark Stuart to the Chicago Blackhawks, who are looking for a little more toughness around their net.

The Stuart deal would net the Bruins a draft pick, and would be strictly for salary cap relief rather than instant roster improvement.

The B’s have roughly $2.5 million salary cap space, and shedding the cap hits of Wheeler ($2.2 million) and Stuart ($1.675 million) would give Boston room to add Kaberle to their pop-gun power play – and have some room in case any other roster tweaking is needed prior to the Feb. 28 NHL trade deadline.

Stuart is aware of the trade chatter surrounding his name and clearly wants to remain with the Bruins, who drafted and developed him. But he’s done a good job of blocking everything out as he’s resumed his hard-hitting role in the Boston lineup.

Deadline hangs over Bruins’ heads

With Kelly, the B’s have room for a cap hit of slightly more than $2.5 million. When you consider that’s much less than the salaries of most of the suspected targets — Tomas Kaberle and Eric Brewer are each at $4.25M, Ron Hainsey at $4.5M and Zach Bogosian at $3.375M) — it stands to reason that someone on the roster has played his final game at TD Garden in a Bruins’ uniform.

The names that have bandied about the most are defenseman Mark Stuart and forward Blake Wheeler. Though Stuart has played the last couple of games like a guy who should not be discarded lightly, he was a healthy scratch for eight games and is a pending unrestricted free agent with a $1.675M salary cap hit.

Wheeler, meanwhile, has a $2.2M cap and will be a restricted free agent with arbitration rights this summer.

Both players took the hear-no-evil, see-no-evil approach to the uncertainty leading up to the NHL’s Feb. 28 trade deadline.

“You don’t believe anything until it happens,” Wheeler said. “That’s kind of what I’ve learned at least. The rumors you hear never happen and the ones you don’t hear about are the ones that happen. From our standpoint, our focus is that we have games to play and points to earn. We can’t worry about what’s being written in the papers and online and blogs and stuff because when you start worrying about things you can’t control then the things you can control are going to start to slip.