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Huge If True: Boston Bruins' blue line is in bad shape

The Bruins have missed the playoffs for the last two seasons, and the annual sell-off of talent they've suffered for the last few years is a pretty good indication of why.

When you think of Bruins Hockey around the time they won a Cup and went to another Final, you think first and foremost of physicality and defensive soundness. Since they lost to Chicago in 2013, they've leaned more toward trying to regain the former than the latter. And it's now gotten to the point that while Zdeno Chara is still their best defender, that's not saying quite so much any more. Especially because in terms of value added, the gap between himself and Torey Krug — a clear second-pairing power play specialist — is minimal.

The good news is that GM Don Sweeney seems to have had a “light dawns on Marblehead” moment at some point in the last few months, and now knows that upgrading his defense is of paramount importance. Now, you can argue that it therefore doesn't make a lot of sense for him to have spent $2.5 million on a guy who was the obvious No. 6 defender for a team whose defense wasn't good enough to be competitive — and you'd be right — but what's done is done.

Instead, the Bruins now turn their attentions to acquiring defensive help that can potentially shore up the leaky blue line in front of Tuukka Rask, hopefully before the team's window well and truly slams shut. (Spoiler alert: It already has.)

The Rumor
So here's Don Sweeney, walking down the aisles of the NHL supermarket pushing a basket big enough to fit at least one defenseman in there. Probably he needs two.

And more specifically, he needs at least one who can play on a top pairing. Because if Chara was already starting to fall apart this year, imagine what he looks like next season, or the season after. At that point, you might not have a single top-pairing defender on the team, and if you're looking to get back to the playoffs before you're all fired, you might just be desperate.

Complicating things is the fact that Krug, Joe Morrow, and Colin Miller — all clear NHL defenders of varying quality — are hitting restricted free agency this summer, and Krug in particular is likely to cost the Bruins a nice sum of money (expect a decent-sized raise from last year's $3.4 million AAV).

And the fact that Dennis Seidenberg is signed for two(!) more years at $4 million per.

And the fact that Kevan Miller and Adam McQuaid collectively eat up another $5.25 million of your cap number.

Fortunately, the Bruins have picks and a few prospects to play with in pursuit of a trade for a defenseman, and maybe even enough cap space to get one via free agency if they need to.

Who's Going Where?

But here's the thing with trading for a defenseman: Everyone wants to do it.

“That’s easier said than done. It clearly is,” Sweeney told Craig Custance at the draft combine. “Teams are not going to be eager to give them away. We have assets, players at different levels and places developing. If it lines up, I’ll do it through trade. If not, we’ll do it through free agency.”

So that pretty clearly lays out the plans: Try via trade, and then use UFA options as a fallback.

The good news is that there should be some options available. If Colorado is really so eager to trade Tyson Barrie, that's an obvious target. So too is Kevin Shattenkirk out of St. Louis. Or perhaps Jacob Trouba from Winnipeg or Hampus Lindholm from Anaheim. These are all guys the teams that have them now should not be trading, but the NHL is getting a little weird with a flat cap, so for the right price, any number of those guys are available.

(You also hear rumors of PK Subban being available, but it would cost far more than the Bruins have on hand, even if the Habs wanted to trade their best skater to their biggest rival. Fortunately for the Canadiens, Marc Bergevin isn't close to that shortsighted, even if trading Subban anywhere would be.)

There's also an idea kicking around out there that the Bruins could burn a buyout on Dennis Seidenberg and perhaps try to see if someone's interested in McQuaid at his current price ($2.75 million AAV for the next three seasons). The latter would be extremely advisable, though not for the team taking him on. The former is more of a mixed bag.

Meanwhile, if the trade route fails them, the free agent market holds some interesting names for the Bruins. Keith Yandle and Alex Goligoski are perhaps the two best available, which isn't necessarily bad. It's not great, either, especially if you have to pay a premium for them. There are also some guys you'll probably be able to get for cheap (David Schlemko) who offer clear upgrades but aren't going to be impactful top-four players.

And as far as RFAs go, well, there are options there too, but no one offer sheets anyone, and if the Bruins really fancy a player in that pool they'd probably just pursue a trade.

The Implications
At least the Bruins know the path forward and seem to have a clear idea of how they can achieve their goals on the way. Whether they can — or whether they should be trusted to make the right decisions in this regard — is another question entirely.

The most interesting decision is the one the Bruins will make before the week of the draft. The league's buyout period opens 48 hours after the final game of the Cup Final, or June 15, whichever comes later. Probably the latter one, then. At that point, they'll have a call to make on Seidenberg.

Certainly, getting Seidenberg off your roster is a big help to your blue line in general. He's past it, and the idea of watching him struggle to contain opposing forwards for the next two seasons cannot appeal to Sweeney. But the cap savings he would provide — a little more than $2.8 million next season and $1.8 million the year after — wouldn't be all that considerable. However, if this is a last-gasp type of summer to get the Bruins back into the playoffs, maybe Sweeney doesn't care about the additional cap hit being applied in 2018-19 and 2019-20. He might be out of a job by then anyway, or at least in the middle of a full-on rebuild, at which point the cap doesn't really matter.

But if that doesn't happen, the Bruins roll forward on the trade market, and you can proceed with certainty that everything is going to happen around the time of the draft. The Bruins have two first-round picks (theirs and San Jose's) and a second (Brooklyn's) this year, but then don't draft again until the fifth. They also currently have their own first and Edmonton's second next year. That's plenty to work with and, again, they might be totally willing to throw caution to hurricane-force winds if next year carries with it some sort of make-the-playoffs-or-else ultimatum.

At this point, given the potential desperation and Sweeney's, uhh, player evaluation track record, we shouldn't be surprised by anything the Bruins do in the next month.

This Is So Huge, If True: Is It True?
On a B.S. detector scale of 1-5, with one being the most reasonable and 5 being the least:

Because nothing would be a surprise here, none of the rumors — or at least the threads of logic being followed — can be dismissed out of hand. To that end, let's assign some value here.

Bruins trade for a top-four defenseman:

Poop

(It won't be easy but they've got some enticing pieces.)

Bruins sign a top-four defenseman:

 (I see these two as being equally likely.)

Bruins trade Adam McQuaid:

(There's probably a market, so it depends what other teams are offering.)

Bruins buy out out Dennis Seidenberg:

(It could really go either way.)

Bruins still miss the playoffs:

Poop

(PK ain't walkin' through that door.)

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via War On Ice unless otherwise noted.)

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