It's been no secret the Boston Bruins
have been looking for a puck-moving defenseman pretty much since the beginning of the season. Finally, GM Peter Chiarelli got his man -- a full 10 days before the 2011 Trade Deadline.
Chiarelli consummated a long-rumored deal Friday, acquiring Tomas Kaberle
from the Toronto Maple Leafs
in exchange for top prospect Joe Colborne
, the Bruins' own 2011 first-round pick and a conditional 2012 pick.
It was the highlight of a busy day for the Bruins, who earlier in the day acquired forward Rich Peverley
and defenseman Boris Valabik
from the Atlanta Thrashers
in exchange for forward Blake Wheeler
and defenseman Mark Stuart
Friday's moves come after the Bruins picked up gritty two-way center Chris Kelly
from the Ottawa Senators
on Tuesday for a 2011 second-round pick.
"It's a strong message to our team and our fans that we want to win and we want to be successful," Chiarelli said during a press conference Friday.
"We've been saying all year about this need for a defenseman. The list of defenseman that fit this bill is very, very short. We felt we had to act and act assertively because things happen and sometimes you can't get the guy you want." -- Peter Chiarelli
The Bruins' deadline makeover puts them solidly among the Stanley Cup favorites in the League, a list that likely includes Vancouver, Philadelphia and Detroit.
"These are pretty big moves," said Chiarelli. "Last week adding Chris Kelly
and (today) these two players. We've added some significant skill and some grit at the same time with Kelly. And we don't feel we've subtracted too much. We've helped our power play, we've helped our transition game and that will help our forwards because the puck will be moving end to end."
The biggest piece in the Bruins' puzzle is Kaberle, who had to waive his no-trade clause for the deal to work, and who will be an unrestricted free agent following the season.
"We felt we needed player like Tomas," said Chiarelli. "A player with good vision, a good skater, can quarterback a power play. He's played many games in the League. Very smart, heady player, can skate. I remember him … it used to be him and (Bryan) McCabe in Toronto and he was feeing McCabe for one-times, and we envision that 1-2 punch down the line."
The Bruins currently have the No. 14 power play in the League, but with Kaberle feeding Bruins captain Zdeno Chara
for one-timers down the stretch, that number is almost certain to rise.
"We've been saying all year about this need for a defenseman," said Chiarelli. "The list of defenseman that fit this bill is very, very short. We felt we had to act and act assertively because things happen and sometimes you can't get the guy you want. Pressure was us recognizing where we had needs and then acting on it. It certainly wasn't out of emotion because this is something we've been looking at for a while."
Chiarelli said Kaberle's skill set also will help his forwards.
"We never really truly replaced Dennis Wideman
," said Chiarelli. "He was a good puck mover. And Tomas certainly is that. It makes it more continuous, brings all the zones together. To get the puck up cleanly into the neutral zone, to make the plays in neutral zone with speed -- Tomas will help with that. I think what you've seen Steven Kampfer
has done … he's helped tweak the flavor of our defensive core and Tomas will have an impact in doing that. It brings together all three zones."
Half the deal was getting Kaberle into black and gold. The next step is keeping him there long-term.
"It's important," Chiarelli said of getting Kaberle re-signed. "I look upon this trade as we looked at the (Dennis) Seidenberg trade (last season) as this is a guy we want to re-sign.
"I've had some brief discussions with Rick Curran, his agent. Nothing is forthcoming and nothing will be forthcoming until after the season. But I've had a good history with Rick and the Orr Hockey Group. We've had a good history. I think it would be smooth sailing to sign him when it comes to that time. It's an important part of the deal because we're giving up big asset."
That big asset is Colborne, the No. 16 pick of the 2008 Entry Draft who had 12 goals and 26 points in 55 games with Providence of the American Hockey League. Chiarelli said it was extremely difficult to part with the 6-foot-5, 190-pound center.
"Joe's going to be a good player in the NHL and he's progressing nicely and he's a really good kid," said Chiarelli. "We felt the time was right with our team, the number of assets we've had the last couple years. The last few years, with picks and prospects … we were in a good position to make this transaction and we're still covered, our cupboard is very well stocked."
To make the Kaberle deal work under the salary cap, the Bruins had to send out Wheeler and Stuart, but Chiarelli said the addition of Peverley is another big piece.
Peverley had 14 goals and 34 points this season playing mostly center on the Thrashers' top two lines. But with Patrice Bergeron
and David Krejci
already in place at those spots in Boston, as well as Kelly, Brad Marchand
, Tyler Seguin
and Gregory Campbell
able to play in the middle, there could be some shifting going on.
"Adding Chris Kelly
was a lot in part (to) replace Marc Savard
," said Chiarelli. "He's not the same player as Marc Savard
but he's a two-way player that can help down the middle. Peverley was to maintain speed and skill and get better shooting. We've scored more goals (this season) but I think we can improve our shooting. He's got a good shot and he'll help us improve that."
Chiarelli said the line combinations will be left to coach Claude Julien
, but said with the roster as constructed, "You can mix and match a little bit."
Chiarelli said Kaberle and Kelly will make their Bruins debut tonight (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS) against the Senators. Kaberle will not be able to accomany the team home to Boston due to visa issues -- he'll have to return to Toronto to complete the necessary paperwork -- but he will rejoin the club when it starts a three-game Western Canada road trip that begins Tuesday in Calgary. That's also where Peverley will join the team, after he returns to Atlanta from Phoenix to get some personal items.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK