Bruins explore deal for Chris Phillips

BOSTON -- The Bruins are exploring trade talks with the Ottawa Senators to acquire 35-year-old defenseman Chris Phillips, according to a league source.

Phillips is in the final season of a three-year deal worth $9.25 million and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. According to TSN, the Senators and Phillips are in the midst of contract talks.

Though in 12th place in the East with 63 points, the Senators remain in the playoff hunt.

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli has made it no secret he's in the market for a veteran defenseman to help his team for the remainder of the season and into the playoffs. Chiarelli has known Phillips since his days as assistant GM with Ottawa.

To acquire Phillips, Boston would likely have to surrender a top prospect and a draft pick. Providence Bruins forward Ryan Spooner, who has played 22 games for Boston this season, could be the prospect to seal the deal, but it's unlikely the Bruins would part ways with the talented forward.

Both Chiarelli and coach Claude Julien have said that if a deal is not completed prior to the March 5 trade deadline, the Bruins would be comfortable moving forward with the defensive core in place. With Dennis Seidenberg out for the season with a knee injury and Adam McQuaid sidelined with a leg injury, another veteran presence on the blue line would greatly benefit Boston. Phillips, a left-handed shot, has spent his entire career with Ottawa and has 1,123 games of regular-season experience and an additional 114 playoff games.

After the Bruins practiced Friday morning at Ristuccia Arena, several players were talking about how they pay attention to the rumors swirling around the deadline. Julien, however, tries to keep the chatter in the room to a minimum so it won't become a distraction.

"We don't even talk about it. We're all professionals," he said. "The guys in there also understand every year, for the most part, we've tried to add and not subtract. It's a matter of us feeling good about our team right now, which we do, and maybe adding a piece here or there. But we're certainly going to do our best not to subtract, and that's been the case every year."

If the Bruins don't make a deal, they will rely on Matt Bartkowski, Torey Krug and Kevan Miller the rest of the way. Bartkowski and Krug made major contributions in the playoffs last spring in helping the Bruins beat the Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

"Against New York, those guys did a pretty good job, and as you get deeper in the playoffs it could become a concern, so we just have to work with what we've got right now," Julien said. "There are a lot of scenarios that are easier said than done, and that's why Peter right now is certainly looking to improve our hockey club, but whether that happens or not I'm going to go forward with all the confidence in the world with the group that we have. That's what we need from the coaches, and the players need to feel that confidence and every time we've done that it's really turned out good for us."

With Seidenberg and McQuaid out, Miller has added size and strength on the blue line. He's not afraid to drop the gloves, and the Bruins have been impressed with his overall play. The 26-year-old has played 25 games for Boston this season and has one goal and one assist with a plus-3 rating. He has been partnering with Krug as the team's third defensive pair.

"We've gotten a player who is big, strong, physical and we've lost guys who are big, strong, physical," Julien said. "[Miller has] helped fill in that hole for us, and at the same time he's been pretty reliable. You don't see too many mistakes on his part. He moves the puck well and he's very physical, and we've seen how tough he can be. So he's been a real great addition, especially after what we've been through on our back end."

Chiarelli has improved the team each year at the trade deadline, either through significant transactions or complementary ones. However, the market this season is different because most teams are up against the salary cap and playoff races are tight.

Regardless, Chiarelli will improve the team if he sees a chance.

"Sometimes it's not always about making the big deals," Julien said. "It's about making the right deals, and that's where Peter and his group have done a great job."