Trio Of Boston Bruins Could Be The Target Of Brian Burke
With another disappointing season inching closer to being in the books it has become very apparent that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke will have to make some roster changes this summer.
One of the key areas Burke will have to address will be team toughness. With few options on the farm, Burke will have to find a way to bring in some toughness via trade, or more likely, free agency.
When you look at the free agents that will be available this summer the overall scope is pretty weak. That said, there are a few players that should get a measure of interest from Burke.
Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Smyth’s leadership and physical presence would be a nice fit in Toronto, but with Smyth hell bent on staying in Edmonton to finish his career there is little chance of him coming East to join the Maple Leafs.
At 6’4, 240 pounds, Los Angeles King forward Dustin Penner has the size that Burke likes. That said, Penner is not known for his physical prowess and when you consider how poorly he has played the past two seasons, there is no way Burke brings Penner into the fold—Burke has enough underachievers on his team already!
Ultra-pest Sean Avery looks to be retiring, and really, who needs that sideshow in Toronto?
One of the better options out there would be Boston Bruins forward Chris Kelly. At 31 years of age Kelly still has enough youth on his side to continue to contribute at a decent level. He can be tough to play against, but is not really regarded as a rugged player. With a career high of 16 goals this season, Kelly can contribute enough offense to justify playing upwards of 15 minutes per game.
While it would be a long shot to lure Kelly away from Boston, Kelly, who stands 6’0″ and weighs in at just under 200 pounds, is regarded as a decent shutdown forward and he brings a compete level that Burke so desperately needs from his troops.
Kelly currently earns $2,125,000, but could earn as much as $2.5 million per season on a 2-4 year deal, which might price him out of Burke’s range.
Fellow Bruin Greg Campbell could also be an option for Burke. Campbell is a lot tougher than Kelly, but he doesn’t have the offensive upside of Kelly and he is not as good defensively either.
And then there is Shawn Thornton. At 34-years of age, Thornton is the oldest of this trio of Bruins, but he might just be exactly the type of player Burke needs.
While not offensively talented, Thornton, who stands 6’2” and weighs in at nearly 220 pounds, would bring a ton of leadership and character to the Maple Leafs and a love for chucking the knuckles—a skill both Burke and Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle admire.
Originally drafted 190th overall in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs, Thornton doesn’t play many minutes in Boston, but there is plenty of evidence that when he is on the ice that he can be a game changer. Whether it is sparking his team with a big fight or making a huge hit on an opposing player, Thornton is the type of player that commands a measure of respect from the opposition.
Earning $812,500 with the Bruins this season, Thornton should be available for under $1 million which, when you consider how cash strapped the Maple Leafs may be this summer, should fit the bill for Burke.
Thornton, Kelly or Campbell could be a valuable addition for Burke—heck, signing all three would make a great fourth line!
Any way you slice it, there are few options out there for Burke to consider, this trio of current Boston Bruins players might just be it.
Until next time,