Small trade could have big effect on B's

October, 19, 2009

It wasn't a major trade, but any deal in the first half of the season in the post-lockout NHL is worth chewing on. There aren't that many!

Still, Sunday's deal was interesting. The Bruins sent 20-goal scorer Chuck Kobasew to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for prospects Craig Weller and Alexander Fallstrom and a second-round draft pick in 2011.

For starters, the deal now gives Boston yet another pick in the upcoming two years -- they now have a whopping nine picks in the first two rounds for 2010 and 2011 combined (four in the first and five in the second). They picked up two first-rounders in the Phil Kessel deal with Toronto last month, as well as a second.

Those are important assets the Bruins can either use as trade bait in future deals or to draft future players to restock the system. It's a great position for Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli to be in. But why the deal?

"It was done for a variety of reasons," Chiarelli told on Monday. "One was that I wasn't really happy with the way we had started. But that wasn't the primary reason. Certainly, every time we go into a lull, I'm not going to do something like that, especially given what we accomplished last year."

No, but the message was sent to his players Sunday after a 3-4-0 start: wake up!

Not to be overlooked, the Bruins also recalled Brad Marchand and Vladimir Sobotka from Providence of the AHL.

"The two guys we brought up are going to get a good look," said Chiarelli. "They were playing very well. Marchand had six goals in six games and Sobotka was doing well as well."

Marchand appears to be the player to really keep an eye on. The 21-year-old was Boston's third-round pick, 71st overall in 2006, and played in back-to-back world junior championships for Canada in 2007 and 2008. Chiarelli would never say this, but I will: The kid will bring a similar energy as Kobasew, but for a lot less money (a $821,700 cap number).

"He did quite well at the world juniors. He's a gritty guy who can shoot the puck, works really hard," said Chiarelli. "He's done a good job of learning the pro game over the last year."

Kobasew, 27, is earning $2.5 million this season and $2.5 million again next year when his deal expires although his cap number is $2.33 million.

"It also gives me some cap space for next year," said Chiarelli.

That, in the end, was a very relevant factor in the deal. The Bruins hope to re-sign star center Marc Savard, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, and every dime counts.

In the end, a third-line winger making $2.5 million just didn't make sense for the Bruins, but it makes plenty of sense for the Wild. In Minnesota, the injury-riddled Wild will give Kobasew plenty of ice time, making him worth his price tag.

"The Bruins called up Marchand and Sobotka, who are ready for the NHL and they have lower cap numbers," Wild GM Chuck Fletcher told on Monday. "From our perspective, regardless of the injuries, we just lack the depth that the Bruins have up front."

The Wild were already thin up front before the season began, then they lost Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Petr Sykora, Cal Clutterbuck and star Martin Havlat to injuries. They also went 0-5-0 on a five-game road trip to fall to 1-6-0 on the season. Yes, a brutal start, but not the reason Fletcher picked up the phone.

"I've been speaking to Peter for a couple of weeks, this type of trade piqued my interest a while back, even before we completed this road trip," said Fletcher, whose timeline was also confirmed by Chiarelli. "Certainly, in the short term, we hope it will spark our club. He's a proven NHL forward, has good skill and has scored 20 goals three times in his career. We're a little banged up right now."

The fact that Kobasew is also signed for the 2010-11 season was also important. Fletcher needs to beef up his forward group beyond this season.

"I think the fact he had a contract for next year was a big component of this trade," said the first-year Wild GM. "We lack a bit of depth up front and I think it's always a bit daunting to go into the summer needing to fill 4-5 holes on your roster through free agency."

In the end, the toughest part of the deal for Minnesota was probably giving up the second-rounder in 2011. But as Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune pointed out in his blog, if the Wild's season doesn't turn around, expect Fletcher to recoup some draft picks by time the March 3 trade deadline comes and goes by selling off pending veteran free agents.

Pierre LeBrun

ESPN Senior Writer


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