Prior to the NHL Christmas trade freeze, Boston Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli was actively shopping around in search of scoring punch for his struggling offense. The once-dominant Bruins enter this week struggling to hang onto one of the last playoff berths in the Eastern Conference. It's a good bet Chiarelli will remain active once the freeze ends at midnight on Dec. 27.
For weeks Chiarelli was reportedly interested in Buffalo Sabres right wing Chris Stewart. With only seven points in 33 games, the 27-year-old Stewart isn't an immediate remedy for the Bruins' offensive woes.
Chiarelli was believed to be in talks with St. Louis Blues GM Doug Armstrong, sparking speculation he was pursuing Patrik Berglund or T.J. Oshie. Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reports the Blues have limited cap space next season and pending free agents Vladimir Tarasenko and Jake Allen will seek substantial raises. So will forwards Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera when their contracts expire in 2016. Shedding Berglund's $3.7-million cap hit or Oshie's $4.175 million could address this problem.
The Boston Globe's Fluto Shinzawa also notes Edmonton Oilers forwards Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle would be good fits with the Bruins. However, Shinzawa doesn't expect either player to be playing for Boston anytime soon, citing the Bruins lack of cap space and available assets.
Limited cap space is hampering Chiarelli's efforts. As long as the Bruins were among the league's dominant teams it wasn't an issue. With the Bruins in danger of falling out of playoff contention, having only $1.75 million in cap space means Chiarelli must first free up salary to acquire a first-line right wing or make as close to a dollar-for-dollar swap as possible.
Chiarelli would probably love to unload winger Loui Eriksson ($4.25 million) in such a move, but given Eriksson's ongoing struggles he's a tough sell at this point. The Bruins GM could offer Eriksson straight up for Stewart as their salaries are nearly identical, but it's believed the Sabres want a young player or prospect in return. Besides, they probably aren't interested in taking on Eriksson's contract, which runs through 2015-16. Same goes for the Blues, as Armstrong last Friday told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he didn't expect to be active in the trade market.
Given his limitations, Chiarelli could be forced to remain patient and hope recently returned center David Krejci and defenseman Zdeno Chara regain their offensive form and provide that much-needed scoring boost.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
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