One day, there will be another “33” hanging from the TD Garden rafters.
At least, I’d like to live in a world where we aren’t taking championships for granted too much, and Zdeno Chara will be the last Boston Bruin to wear that number.
It speaks to how I feel about the guy. And as one of his biggest supporters over the years, what I’m about to say next might surprise you.
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It’s time for the Boston Bruins to seriously consider trading their captain.
I say this with the utmost respect for one of the most dominant shutdown defensemen in NHL history. This isn’t me telling you that Chara’s career is over and that he’s all washed up. No. This is me telling you that there are more than a handful of teams that would be eager to jump at the opportunity to acquire him for a run at the Stanley Cup this year. Because by the looks of it, the Bruins won’t be one of those teams with a realistic shot to win it all in 2016.
Sure, they’re in the playoff picture, but after an embarrassing 9-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night at TD Garden, the B’s defensive issues were once again on full display. And those issues may be too much to overcome this season.
In a perfect world, general manager Don Sweeney cooks up a trade that brings a top-pair, All-Star defenseman to Boston, so that Chara no longer has to play with a minor-league D-partner. In the real world though, that type of move just doesn’t seem possible.
This isn’t Chara’s fault. It’s the organization’s. When the Bruins decided to trade two top-four defensemen — Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton — for draft picks the last year-and-a-half, their strategy became evident. They were going to rely on the kids.
A layer of confusion would be that Hamilton is just 22-years-old. He was traded to the Calgary Flames this past offseason. The Bruins claimed Hamilton didn’t want to stay in Boston. But as a restricted free agent, he really didn’t have a choice. They traded him anyway, and here we are, having to watch Zach Trotman and Kevan Miller try to figure it out at the NHL level on a nightly basis.
Defenseman Colin Miller came to Boston as part of the Milan Lucic trade. And while he certainly needs to get more playing time under his belt, watching the game from high above in the press box every once in a while isn’t the worst learning experience for a 23-year-old rookie.
The Bruins need serious help on the blue line. And it’s unrealistic to think they’ll find it between now and the Feb. 29 trade deadline.
It’s also evident that the organization is clearly relying heavily on draft picks. You don’t have to look any further than the Boychuk, Hamilton, and Lucic trades. But if you insist, then you might also want to look ahead to a potential Loui Eriksson trade in the coming weeks.
Let’s face it, the Bruins aren’t “going for it all” right now. I never said I agreed with that strategy, but since they seem committed to it, why not go all the way?
That’s where Chara comes in. He turns 39 in March. He’s locked up for two more years at $5 million next season and $4 million in 2017-18. He still has enough left in the tank to be a difference-maker for a team looking to contend for a Cup right now. That said, it’s not like his trade value is going to increase as the years pass him by.
If you’re going to move Chara, or at least consider moving him while you’re collecting all these draft picks, the time is now.
Most of the core will remain in Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Tuukka Rask, with Bergeron the oldest at the age of 30. And the hope will be that some of these young, drafted defensemen will blossom into legitimate NHL talent while Bergeron, Krejci, and Rask are still in their prime.
Maybe all three will still be around on “Zdeno Chara Night” at the Garden, as we celebrate the then-former captain’s 10-years with the Bruins, a tenure that would include five All-Star appearances, a Norris Trophy, and a Stanley Cup. Perhaps, by then, there will also be a second Stanley Cup on the eventual Hall-of-Famer’s resume. It just wouldn’t be won with the Bruins.
Which is another reason why trading Chara now would be the right thing to do.