Boston trades Blake Wheeler and Mark Stuart to Atlanta for Rich Peverley and Boris Valabik

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Boston wasn’t done today after acquiring Tomas Kaberle from Toronto, they were busy elsewhere helping to change things up to chase the Flyers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Boston swung a deal with the Atlanta Thrashers involving  forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart going to Atlanta in exchange for forward Rich Peverley and defenseman Boris Valabik.

Boston is able to get a playmaking center they miss with Marc Savard out for the season with a concussion. Peverley’s ability to set plays up and help others get the puck is something the Bruins were severely lacking without Savard. Peverley’s been a bit disappointing this year for Atlanta though. With 14 goals and 20 assists his offense will be welcome in Boston, but his -16 rating is a bit jarring to see. If there’s anyone that can help coach a guy into being a bit better defensively it’s Bruins coach Claude Julien. Don’t expect to see Peverley’s minus ways continue.

As forValabik, he’s likely to wind up in Providence in the AHL as he was in the minors with Atlanta. If the B’s are in need of another large, physical presence on defense though, they’ll have to put Valabik through waivers to call him up. At 6’7″ the thought of him teaming up with his idol Zdeno Chara is immensely terrifying.

For the Thrashers, it’s a decidedly big change for them in adding Wheeler and Stuart. The fun part here for Atlanta is that they’re two guys that coach Craig Ramsay is very familiar with after working as a Bruins assistant coach before coming to Atlanta. Wheeler is a big guy teeming over with talent that hasn’t quite put it all together. At 6’5″ 205 he’s a load to handle but offensively he’s struggled this year with 11 goals and 16 assists. If Ramsay can get through to him and help him break out, the deal is a huge winner for the Thrashers.

Adding Stuart to their blue line gives them a solid defensive presence and a guy who thrives on playing hard in the defensive end. He’s due to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, but being in Atlanta will give him a chance to show off what he can do there to win a new deal. Coach Ramsay is a big fan and he’ll be happy to have to a more defensive-minded guy there.

A lot of Atlanta’s success in this deal depends on what comes of Wheeler. If he can break out and thrive with the Thrashers and help lead them to the playoffs, the deal is a huge success for them. For Boston, getting Peverley in town is a solid pickup and should help their offense out a bit with Peverley’s ability to control the puck and make passes for his wingers. The Bruins should be all done with dealing now and getting done before the deadline crush on the 28th is smart for them.  The last thing a contending team needs to do is make a panic deal. Getting everything set ahead of the blitz just makes good sense.

Of course, if things break well for both teams there’s a possibility they meet up with each other in the playoffs. Mark that down for a future storyline just in case.

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.