Torey Krug has changed the Bruins’ power-play dynamic. Because of Krug’s deftness at retrieving the puck, gaining clean entry into the offensive zone, and either pounding or dishing the puck from the point, the Bruins have a purpose on the man-advantage.
Krug (6-10—16 on the power play) puts everything into place. Zdeno Chara is down low, where he leads the team with eight power-play goals. David Krejci, Krug’s point partner, can focus on distributing the puck (team-best 15 man-up assists). Dougie Hamilton can work the blue line on the No. 2 unit.
David Warsofsky could turn the same trick for another team.
Like Krug, Warsofsky is an offensive-minded, left-shot defenseman. In 47 games for the Providence Bruins, Warsofsky has three goals and a team-leading 24 assists. He doesn’t play with Krug’s frenzy on the man-advantage, but he is just as smooth as Krug when he mans the point.
It’s why the Marshfield native will be one of the Bruins’ most valuable assets leading up to next Wednesday’s trade deadline.
The Bruins will begin their regular-season sprint to the finish against the Sabres Wednesday night at First Niagara Center in Buffalo. They are in second place in the Eastern Conference. They trail Pittsburgh by 5 points. They lead Tampa Bay by 7. Chances are high that they’ll start the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the East. They would play the wild-card team with the second-fewest points. Toronto currently holds that position.
The Bruins are in a good spot. Tuukka Rask was one of two Olympic goalies to win his last game in Sochi. Rask’s bronze medal, plus his knockout win against Russia, will go far in boosting his postseason swagger.
If the Bruins pace Chara through March, they will enter the playoffs with the league’s scariest shutdown defenseman. Their third line, critical in the 2011 Stanley Cup run, could have some pop with Carl Soderberg at center and Loui Eriksson (2-1—3, 19:01 of ice time per game for Sweden) gaining Olympic traction.
Their depth has been good, too. For most of Chris Kelly’s absence, Ryan Spooner played well as an offensive No. 3 center. Warsofsky has been among the defensemen filling in amid injuries to Hamilton, Dennis Seidenberg, and Adam McQuaid. Chad Johnson has been a reliable No. 2 goalie. Niklas Svedberg’s one-game promotion showed he could be Rask’s backup next year.
The Bruins will be in even better shape if they can acquire an experienced left-shot defenseman to take some of Seidenberg’s shifts. It’s unrealistic to find someone with Seidenberg’s pedigree, but the Bruins need a trustworthy defenseman who can make strong plays and get the puck going the other way.
On Wednesday, the Bruins will get a good look at Buffalo’s Henrik Tallinder. The 35-year-old Tallinder was Sweden’s No. 7 defenseman in the Olympics. He is a smart veteran who has a good stick and makes clean passes. Tallinder would be a good second-pairing defenseman to compete with Matt Bartkowski for ice time.
The price will be high.
Last year, Buffalo moved two defensemen before the deadline. First, the Sabres traded Jordan Leopold to St. Louis. A day later, they shipped Robyn Regehr to Los Angeles. They acquired a 2013 second-round pick and a fifth-rounder for Leopold. Regehr brought back second-rounders in 2014 and 2015.
Tallinder’s cost could be higher.
Only five teams appear to be out of the playoff hunt: Florida, Buffalo, the Islanders, Calgary, and Edmonton. In the East, five teams are within 3 points of the eighth spot, which is currently held by Detroit (64 points). In the West, four teams are within 4 points of the No. 8 seed, Dallas (64). Buyers outnumber sellers.
Also, some teams are already projecting to be tight against the 2014-15 salary cap. The Bruins fall in that category.
Warsofsky is the type of player organizations like. The 23-year-old will be a restricted free agent after this season. He would not require much of a raise. He has played well in a six-game NHL window.
Buffalo is already stuffed with draft picks, with more en route pending the movement of Tallinder, Ryan Miller, Matt Moulson, and Steve Ott. The Sabres need NHL-ready players more than additional picks.
In Boston, Warsofsky’s job — power-play specialist, third-pairing defenseman
Zach Trotman will draw interest as a two-way right-shot defenseman. But the Bruins would prefer to keep Trotman because of his potential and the status of McQuaid and Johnny Boychuk, who will be unrestricted after 2014-15.
Since 2006, general manager Peter Chiarelli has traded three first-rounders. The first time was when the Bruins landed Nathan Horton and Gregory Campbell from Florida in a deal where they sent away their 2010 pick. The second time was later that season when they ceded their 2011 selection in the Tomas Kaberle trade for Toronto.
Those moves helped the Bruins win the Cup. But in both cases, the Bruins had two first-round picks, courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade.
The third first-rounder they dealt didn’t start that way. Last year, as part of the Jaromir Jagr trade, the Bruins gave Dallas their 2013 second-round pick. It would become a first-rounder if the Bruins reached the Eastern Conference final.
So even with high prices, it’s unlikely, given his history, that Chiarelli would trade his 2014 first-rounder for a rental. The Bruins didn’t like waiting until the second round last year.
Chiarelli and his colleagues worked hard to restock their prospect pool. Krug and Bartkowski became full-time NHLers.
Warsofsky, Trotman, Alexander Khokhlachev, and Justin Florek are pushing for their varsity letters. They are assets ready to be deployed.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.