On Tuesday the Bruins agreed to a two year, one way contract with defenseman Kevan Miller. The contract is super cap friendly at $1.6M overall or $800K per season. With Miller's John Hancock on the contract, it has created quite the log jam for the Bruins on defense, which isn't a bad thing this season. The loss of Dennis Seidenberg has made room for guys like Miller to come in and show they can play.
Next season, Boston has six defensemen locked into contracts and two other who will be restricted free agents.
So let's play a game.
There is a good chance that the Bruins will re-sign Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug. It's very rare that you see RFA's hit the market. That would make eight NHL caliber defensemen who will be signed next season.
Right away we can cross Dennis Seidenberg, Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug off of that list of potential trades.
Next, Kevan Miller can be stricken from the list as well as Dougie Hamilton. I know a lot of people want to see Dougie Hamilton traded (or at least, that was the sentiment in the DOY Facebook comments). People tend to forget that Hamilton is in his second full year and still learning. I have a bit of an issue with people who believe that if a player doesn't hit his ceiling in year 1 or year 2 that they're never going to do it. Hamilton will become a good defenseman for the Bruins, but injuries surely haven't helped him this season.
This leaves Johnny Boychuk, Adam McQuaid and Matt Bartkowski as the guys who could be traded. So before you tear me to shreds about Boychuk, hear me out.
I don't want Johnny Boychuk traded. I feel like I need to state that over and over because me writing something like this automatically means I want to guy out of town. The reason Boychuk is on this list is because he would be the one who netted you the greatest return, whether it was a high(er) draft pick (than McQuaid or Bartkowski) or a mix of players/picks.
JB's contract is pretty cap friendly, although I was shocked that Chiarelli signed him to a contract that made him the second highest paid defenseman this season – with a year left at $3.36M. All in all, it's a very cap manageable contract – one another GM would love to take one.
Here's the thing, I don't think Boychuk will get traded. There's an argument to be made that he's the best defenseman the Bruins have on the roster right now in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency. In 45 games, Boychuk has 2 goals and 12 assists (14 points) and is a +21. Then you have to look at who he is paired with. The Bruins have been pairing Boychuk with Torey Krug.
Krug has done things in Boston we haven't watched a defenseman do in a long time, but he's a liability defensively. If you look at his zone starts, 62.9% of his zone starts at even strength begin in the offensive zone. Claude knows how to use this guy and pairing him with Boychuk means that should Krug make a mistake – Boychuk is there to clean up the mess.
Like I said, I included Boychuk because the return for him would be greater than McQuaid or Bartkowski. With that said however, I don't think he goes anywhere. He also has a modified no trade clause in which he will have to submit a list of 15 teams.
With the signing of Miller, it looks like McQuaid could be the odd man out. I like McQuaid, but I don't feel he's essential to this team. Is his toughness useful? Absolutely. The guy can scrap but in reality he's a third pairing defenseman. They're a dime a dozen in the NHL and in this business, when you can get a replica cheaper than the original – the original is more than likely going to get scrapped.
McQuaid has one more year left on his contract at $1.56M, which makes it a more than reasonable contract for someone looking to add a tough guy to fill out the bottom of their roster. Like I've already mentioned, he's a bottom pairing player. His quality of competition is a little under 28%, which is the lowest for any defenseman who has played 25+ games (note: Krug and Bartkowski are also around 28% as well). McQuaid also logs less ice time than any other starting defenseman on the team at 16:02 TOI/G.
There isn't anything McQuaid does particularly well outside of fighting.
What kind of return can you expect for a bottom pairing defenseman who doesn't really do anything well outside of punching some faces? Not much, but at this point it's not about the return, it's about clearing a log jam within your defensive group.
Last but not least is the centerpiece of the failed Jarome Iginla trade. Last season, Boston was going to trade Bartkowski to Calgary and locked him up with a one year, one way contract before everything fell apart. Initially it looked like the failed trade worked out as Bartkowski was serviceable with the Bruins. This season, however, he found himself on the ninth level before injuries struck the Bruins down like Mr. Costanza trying to buy George a doll for Christmas.
Bartkowski will be a restricted free agent this offseason, which means that whatever team he is traded too would have an advantage when they went to negotiate a new contract. Given that he's 25 and Boston has already made it known they have no issues about moving him (see aforementioned trade to Calgary), it wouldn't surprise me to see his name come up in trade talks.
Here's a quick scouting report from The Hockey News:
So in reality, you're looking at three defensemen (Bartkowski, McQuaid, Miller) who bring the same thing to the table. I think when it's all said and done, McQuaid is the one who finds himself wearing a different sweater next season and Bartkowski continuing to be the healthy scratch.