Boston Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli said Wednesday he is working the phones trying to make a deal ahead of the Feb. 12 Olympic roster freeze and the March 3 trade deadline.
"I'm looking every year [to make trades], but maybe more so this year because of the way we performed," said Chiarelli. "Having said all that, we want to be in the playoffs and we want to succeed in the playoffs."
The Bruins, who have lost five straight and currently sit one point out of a playoff spot, have plenty of ammunition at their disposal in trade talks. They have nine draft picks in the first two rounds over the next two years, including a pair of first-rounders courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade in September (Toronto sent over a first-rounder for both 2010 and 2011). Some of those picks are in play.
"But I can tell you one thing, I'm not trading Toronto's pick [for this year]," said Chiarelli. "I am not trading it. That pick is too valuable."
The Leafs are 28th in the overall standings, so that asset looks more like a lottery pick, which could wind up being the first overall selection.
While Chiarelli refused to discuss any specific names, another NHL source told ESPN.com the Bruins are very much in the Ilya Kovalchuk sweepstakes along with Los Angeles, in particular. While Vancouver, Philadelphia and Chicago also have reported interest, it appears the Bruins and Kings are the front-runners at this point.
But will anyone pay the price? The Atlanta Thrashers reportedly are looking for a package that includes a first-round pick, a prospect and a player from their NHL roster.
Kovalchuk, who is among the NHL's leaders with 56 points in 46 games this season, is an unrestricted free agent July 1.
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.