Bruins decline has columnists weighing merits of trading Chara

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The Boston Bruins, just two years removed from their last trip to the Stanley Cup Final, are in position to make the playoffs for the eighth straight campaign. And yet, the situation isn’t nearly as good as that statement makes it sound.

Boston has struggled to stay afloat this season and now have just a two-point edge on the Florida Panthers in the Wild Card race. Even if the Bruins manage to squeak into the postseason, there will still be serious questions about their ability to contend, both in the playoffs and down the road.

Faced with a situation that they’ve become unaccustomed to in recent years, is it time for the Bruins to make a bold move by trading captain Zdeno Chara before the 37-year-old (38 on March 18) slips further from his prime?

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector felt the idea has merit even if it’s not likely:

Zdeno Chara turns 38 in March, and has become to the Bruins what Jarome Iginla was to the Calgary Flames: that ageing superstar whom the Bruins need to make the playoffs for the next couple of seasons, but whose value will then slip to the point where any trade return on him is negligible.

History shows that the Calgary Flames should have dealt Iginla two years before they did. Instead, the Flames missed the playoffs in both of Iginla’s final two seasons in Calgary, then settled on two middling prospects — Ben Hanowski and Kenny Agostino — and a first round pick (Morgan Klimchuk) in a trade from Pittsburgh.

Of course, Chiarelli’s dilemma runs deep. There isn’t a GM in hockey — and he’s one of the best, IMO — who would submit to this obvious trend and deal Chara now. Not with a playoff spot still a very real possibility.

But the decline has begun, and here’s why we are mighty sure that the Bruins are not Detroit, a team that has bucked the trend: Look at the Bruins drafting record since 2007, and you’ll find the answer to why their opponent tonight has fallen on such hard times. It’s why Calgary is rebuilding. It’s why the Canucks are no longer an elite contender. And it’s why the Maple Leafs are as bad as they are.

There’s also a substantial cap component to consider. Chara comes with a roughly $6.9 million annual hit through the 2017-18, so moving him would provide the Bruins with the kind of flexibility they’ve been hurting for in recent years. The length of that deal might lead to Boston getting less desirable offers for his services, but there would still be plenty of interest in the big defenseman given his superb resume and the fact that he can still log top minutes.

CSN New England’s Joe Haggerty recently brought that up while arguing that Boston should deal Chara on the Great American Hockey Show:

At the end of the day, it would be very surprising to see Boston deal its captain at this time or even in the summer. Still, the fact that the topic is even being discussed is a reflection of just how poorly this season has gone for the Bruins.