March 5, 2014

Kirk's Call: B's take conservative approach on deadline day

By Kirk Luedeke

Andrej Meszaros has played with Zdeno Chara in each of the last three Olympics for Slovakia. (Getty Images)

On a day when Boston Bruins fans were hoping for a big splash at the NHL’s annual trade deadline, the general feeling towards the acquisition of defenseman Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers for a third-round pick in this June’s draft was one of malaise. Needing to fill a gaping hole created when Dennis Seidenberg was lost for the season after blowing out his knee, the B’s no doubt had bigger things in mind, but time will tell what the driving factors were in the conservative approach today.

The team added another defender when it claimed Corey Potter off of waivers from the Edmonton Oilers, but with that being all she wrote, rumors of the team’s pursuit of Marian Gaborik, Nikita Nikitin, Andrew MacDonald, Chris Phillips and even pipe dreams of Christian Ehrhoff and Thomas Vanek failed to bear fruit.

Andrej Meszaros | Defenseman
Age: 28 | Size: 6-foot-2, 223 pounds | Shoots: Left

Notes: Selected with Ottawa’s first pick, 23rd overall, in the 2004 NHL draft when Peter Chiarelli was then assistant GM for the Senators. Has played 571 career NHL games, with 54 goals and 219 points. In addition to Sens and Flyers, has also skated for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Good: With his size and left shot, along with the ability to play (potentially) 20 minutes per night, Meszaros provides a veteran boost to a relatively inexperienced blue line, which has featured Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller in regular roles after the 1-2 combo of Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk. The Slovak has a big, heavy shot and moves the puck well up the ice. He’s a good skater who joins the rush and can contribute on the power play. Although not a banger, he plays with an edge and will defend teammates in a pinch. A third-round pick in what more and more scouts are calling a weak draft is not a bad price to pay for a veteran player in his prime.

The Bad: Defensively, Meszaros is not in Seidenberg’s zip code and can be a liability, as he struggles in coverage and will need a strong defensive partner to pair up with. He has some familiarity with Zdeno Chara given their international experience together on Slovak National Teams, and can play both sides of the as a left shot.  Meszaros was a player who had an excellent rookie season with Ottawa in 2005-06, but never really took that next step in his development. He can produce points, but he’s not a reliable defensive presence, meaning that coaches have to pick their poison with him at times.

The Ugly: Injuries, and a lot of them. As the old saying goes, if you ain’t playing, you ain’t helping, and the B’s will go right back to square one if Meszaros (who is dealing with some nagging ouches) isn’t skating for them come April, May and possibly June. He has not played a near-complete season (81 games) since 2010-11, and it appears that his years in the NHL have taken a toll on him. There’s some risk here, and it’s therefore no accident that Flyers GM Paul Holmgren was willing to swap out one veteran soon-to-be UFA in Meszaros for another in MacDonald.

Dollars & Sense: The $4 million cap hit is a wash with Seidenberg’s money rolled into the LTIR exemption, and Meszaros is off the books this summer, which frees the B’s up to part ways with him or try to bring him back at a reduced rate if he proves capable. Either way, Seidenberg will be back after signing an extension that kicks in for 2014-15.

Outlook: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Bottom line: with Meszaros in the fold, the Bruins defense is better on paper than it was this morning. How good he can be is the burning question, and where he will fit is up to Claude Julien and his staff. The pick is a wash, as the B’s have plenty of prospects and losing out on a player in the 85-90 range is not a setback. Sure, fans and supporters wanted to see some more steak on trade deadline day, but you cannot always assume that seemingly low prices for certain players could have been had by the Bruins, or that prospective teams were interested in what Peter Chiarelli was offering. At the same time, the disappointment is understandable. The Bruins' championship window is closing as Chara marches inexorably towards 40 and his play appears to be in decline with a greater workload. Meszaros will help pare that down a bit, but he's got to stay in the lineup to do it.

The Bruins are still a contender for the Stanley Cup with Meszaros. They aren’t as good a club as they were when Seidenberg was healthy, however. Barring a major deal, few of which materialize in this day and age of the modern NHL’s economical landscape, the B’s weren’t going to get much better. Unfortunately, other clubs out West, who were superior on paper going in, added some pieces. If there is a silver lining to that, they are out West and it will be one battle royale to get out of there and into the Stanley Cup final to face whoever survives the run to the East.

Corey Potter, Defenseman
Age: 30 | Size: 6-foot-3, 206 pounds | Shoots: Right

This big, stay-at-home D-man was at one time a fourth-round selection of the NY Rangers in the storied 2003 draft after being a solid contributor on the U.S. NTDP gold medal-winning U18 squad in 2002 alongside bigger names like Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mark Stuart, and Ryan Kesler to name a few. He spent all four NCAA years of eligibility at Michigan State University, and in addition to the Rangers and Oilers, saw one game of NHL action with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Potter has only logged 120 NHL games in his career, spent mostly in the AHL, but he does bring a modicum of rugged defensive ability if not much in the way of offense. Like Meszaros, Potter struggled with some lower-body injuries that have kept him out of the lineup at times this season, and he could never really establish himself as a regular on the Edmonton blue line, which isn’t saying a whole lot for him.

Outlook: Potter is a potential backfill for Adam McQuaid who may not return this season, and gives the B’s a last resort option if their defensive depth takes another hit. If all goes well, Potter won’t see much in the way of ice time, but being around a winning team should rejuvenate him, and he’ll be ready should the B’s call his number.

Twitter: @kluedeke29