Chris Kelly is a classic deadline pickup. He’s not the best player out there, but he’s the best type of player in that you get great value for what you’re giving up.
When the Boston Bruins obtained Kelly Tuesday night from the Ottawa Senators for a second-rounder in next June’s draft, they knew they weren’t getting a player who was going to put fans in mind of Adam Oates or even the injured Marc Savard. What the B’s are getting is a fast, versatile and coachable player, someone who will hit the ice skating in terms of picking up on team systems and doing his best to implement them no matter what role he’s asked to fill.
Acquiring Kelly is acknowledgement from the Bruins that rookie Tyler Seguin isn’t ready to be a third-line center in this league just yet. He’s been scratched a couple times of late and doesn’t exactly log a ton of minutes when he is in the lineup. Kelly slides perfectly into that center slot on the third unit, likely between struggling Blake Wheeler (one goal in 21 games) and inconsistent Michael Ryder (Claude Julien has coached him at various levels of hockey, just look at the lack of hair on Julien’s head). In Ottawa, Kelly was the centerpiece of one of the few things you could count on there in recent years: a scrappy third line that saw him flanked by Chris Neil and Jarkko Ruutu. This is not to say Kelly’s presence is going to instantly awaken Wheeler or turn Ryder into Mike Gartner, but both of those guys are clearly in need of a stabilizing force.
Foot speed and defensive awareness are Kelly’s primary attributes, but he also has a few drops of touch in those hands. Should a winger on one of the top units be felled by injury, he’s a guy who can move up and not look completely out of place.
The other great thing about the 30-year-old Kelly, who has one more year on his contract beyond this season at a cap hit of $2.1 million, is something Ottawa GM Bryan Murray lamented when he said this following the deal: “I just traded one of the good guys and most respected players on this hockey team.”
Importing attitude problems is never a good idea for the stretch run and Boston GM Peter Chiarelli, who worked in Ottawa’s front office until the spring of 2006, knows Kelly comes headache-free.
Trading for a 15-goal, 35-point guy isn’t about putting a team over the top so much as nailing down some trouble zones. Kelly will help Boston put out some fires, while holding the potential to provide an offensive spark at just the right time.
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