The Bruins did not try to replace Dennis Seidenberg prior to Wednesday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. To do so would have been a futile exercise.
Seidenberg is the Bruins’ No. 2 defenseman. He is a card-carrying member of the second tier of importance on the team, right under Tuukka Rask, Zdeno Chara, and Patrice Bergeron.
Seidenberg plays hard, in-your-face minutes. The left-shot defenseman skated with Dougie Hamilton this season. He could have switched to the right side and paired with Chara to create a shutdown tandem in the playoffs. That option vanished when Seidenberg ripped up his right knee Dec. 27 against Ottawa.
There was no such defenseman available to acquire. The Bruins preferred a left-shot veteran. The best candidate fitting that profile was Andrew MacDonald, one of their targets. But the Islanders accepted Philadelphia’s package of a 2014 third-rounder, a 2015 second-round pick, and AHLer Matt Mangene for MacDonald before allowing the Bruins to make a counter-offer.
To acquire a Seidenberg-like player, the Bruins would have had to send out assets they wanted to keep, then reshuffle the roster to accommodate the addition under the 2014-15 salary cap.
So for a conditional 2014 third-round pick (it could become a second-rounder), they acquired Andrej Meszaros from Philadelphia.
Meszaros has his warts, but he was also the second-best defenseman within the Bruins’ preferred profile to be traded, which does not reflect well on the pool of available targets.
Meszaros is a JV version of Seidenberg. The 6-foot-2-inch, 223-pound Meszaros, like Seidenberg, is a left shot who can play the right side.
The Bruins have a history with Meszaros. General manager Peter Chiarelli was an assistant in Ottawa when Meszaros was paired with Chara there. Meszaros is the ninth former Senator who played for Chiarelli in Ottawa to become a Bruin. Others are Chara, Chris Kelly, Wade Redden, Shane Hnidy, Brian McGrattan, Peter Schaefer, Patrick Eaves, and Brandon Bochenski.
Meszaros gives the coaching staff options. He could be reunited with Chara on the No. 1 pairing. This could set up Matt Bartkowski and Johnny Boychuk on the No. 2 pairing. Torey Krug and Hamilton would be the No. 3 duo. Kevan Miller would be the spare defenseman.
Or the coaches could introduce a competition between Meszaros and Bartkowski as the left-side defenseman on the second pairing. Hamilton would stay with Chara. Krug and Miller would be the third tandem. Either Meszaros or Bartkowski would be the healthy scratch.
Meszaros has an injury history (shoulder, Achilles’, back). It shows in his legs. Meszaros is an old 28.
“He’s been out of the lineup maybe through injuries,” Chiarelli said. “Because of that, he’s a little behind as far as conditioning because of the injuries. He’s been in and out of the lineup.
“He’s a strong player. He’s not a swift player, but he’s a strong skater. He sees the ice well. He likes to push the puck. He likes to push the puck in the defensive zone, the neutral zone, and the offensive zone.
“It’s an evolution of what I’ve seen over the years. I’ve watched him for a number of years. For whatever reason — it’s probably because of the injuries — he’s probably slowed down a little bit because he doesn’t get that proper conditioning. His play has picked up as of late.”
There are reasons Meszaros is not guaranteed a spot on his new team. Before acquiring MacDonald, the Flyers deployed Meszaros (5-12—17, 17:22 of ice time per game) alongside Luke Schenn on their third pairing. Meszaros and Schenn did not see regular time against top opponents. Meszaros became the No. 7 defenseman upon MacDonald’s arrival. Meszaros had also been an occasional healthy scratch.
“Being healthy this year and not playing was really tough,” said Meszaros. “Now I feel strong and I feel pretty good. I can skate pretty good and join the rush.”
Also, Meszaros comes from a man-to-man defensive system. The Bruins play a collapsing zone defense. The Boston defensemen play tight within the dots and in front of the net. They chase only in tight quarters and when they have support. Meszaros will have to learn not to roam as much in the defensive zone.
The Bruins needed support in several areas. They wanted a defenseman to give the blue line better balance for playoff matchups. They required a veteran to take away some of Chara’s regular-season shifts. They sought right-side help in case of injuries.
Meszaros will help address the first two concerns. Corey Potter, claimed off waivers from Edmonton, is right-shot insurance. Potter, 30, was deemed not good enough to play for the second-worst team in the league.
The Bruins will be satisfied if Potter never dresses.
It will mean Hamilton, Boychuk, Miller, and Adam McQuaid, the right-shot defensemen above Potter on the depth chart, are playing well.
The Bruins’ approach underscored several realities. They were never going to find a replacement for Seidenberg. Their offseason priorities of re-upping Krug, Bartkowski, and Reilly Smith (restricted), along with figuring out what to do with Jarome Iginla and Shawn Thornton (unrestricted), limited the market to rentals.
And they like their club.
“I feel pretty good about our team,” Chiarelli said. “We’re first in the division. We can certainly get better.
“This group has been through it before, so they know what to expect going forward. It’s about getting them ready, getting the proper mentality in place, getting the proper schemes in place, and peaking at the right times.
“It’s the same thing. It’s a challenge peaking at the right time. We face that challenge again.”