The Boston Bruins struggled earlier this season, mostly due to injuries to key players and coach Claude Julien's inability to roll a consistent lineup. With a healthy roster for the past month, the Bruins are playing their successful style of hockey and showing signs of becoming a Stanley Cup contender once again.
Now that the Bruins have returned to form, general manager Peter Chiarelli could take a stand-down mentality, but that's unlikely. His approach the past few seasons has been to add to the team's roster and not subtract from the core group that won a Stanley Cup in 2011 and returned to the finals in 2013 before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. This season, the Bruins need another point-producing forward and could also use veteran depth on defense.
Available: Chiarelli has been looking for help since the offseason, and many names have surfaced as possibilities. The Buffalo Sabres have two forwards -- Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford -- who could be available. Edmonton's Jordan Eberle was swirling around the rumor mill too, but he's unlikely for the Bruins. Arizona Coyotes forwards Antoine Vermette and Martin Erat are also possibilities. In any deal this season, the Bruins would likely have to surrender an NHL-caliber player, along with prospects and at least a draft pick. Chiarelli could finally move defenseman Matt Bartkowski and forward Jordan Caron too.
While the priority has been to fill the void on the right side of the team's top line, finding a player similar to former Bruins Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla to complement David Krejci and Milan Lucic has been a challenge. The Bruins do have in-house options for that top-line spot, including Reilly Smith. Julien recently replaced rookie David Pastrnak with Smith on the right wing, and the team's newest top three has shown instant chemistry. So instead of adding to the top six, maybe Chiarelli finds a player to add depth to the bottom six.
Finances: Chiarelli does have salary-cap constraints, so he really can't take on too much more unless he moves one or more current contracts. According to nhlnumbers.com, the Bruins have $2.224 million in cap space available. Plus, he has to re-sign restricted free agents Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug and Smith in the offseason.
Scouting the GM: Since 2009, Chiarelli hasn't been afraid to pull the trigger on a trade-deadline deal. Additions of Mark Recchi (2009), Dennis Seidenberg (2010), Chris Kelly (2011) and Rich Peverley (2011) were major deals that helped the Bruins win the Cup in 2011. Chiarelli also added Tomas Kaberle to help in 2011. Other deadline deals since have included Jaromir Jagr (2013), Wade Redden (2013) and Andrej Meszaros (2014). If the Bruins remain in playoff contention this season and earn a postseason berth, they have the ability to be a dangerous team this spring, so it will be interesting to see how Chiarelli handles the 2015 deadline.