Chiarelli, Bruins Fulfill Intention of Bolstering Defensive Corps

Wednesday, 03.05.2014 / 7:34 PM
Caryn Switaj  - BostonBruins.com

BOSTON, MA - Leading up to the NHL's Trade Deadline, Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli and his staff had targeted adding defensive depth to their roster.

"It's about being on top of the market, being in touch with the other GMs, and finding where all of the players slot in and finding some players for the Bruins," Chiarelli told BostonBruins.com on Wednesday morning.

"We're looking for one, maybe two depth defensemen. When I mean depth, it doesn't mean they can't play up the lineup, it just bolsters our depth and they're serviceable guys, so it's a good day, it's an exciting day, it's a culmination of a lot of days."

That culmination led to just what Chiarelli had anticipated - two pick-ups for the Bruins to join a defense corps that has grown in the months since Dennis Seidenberg's ACL/MCL season-ending injury and the re-aggravation of Adam McQuaid's injury.

By the time the trade deadline passed on Wednesday, the Bruins had acquired Andrej Meszaros from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a conditional 2014 third round draft pick, and claimed defenseman Corey Potter off waivers from the Edmonton Oilers.

"Today marked three busy days, really busy days for us. Maybe yesterday [Tuesday] was the busiest day. But we ended up acquiring two defensemen," Chiarelli said in his opening statement of a press conference at TD Garden on Wednesday evening.

The 28-year-old Meszaros is a veteran of 571 NHL games, including 246 with the Ottawa Senators (2005-08), 133 with the Tampa Bay Lightning (2008-10) and 192 with the Philadelphia Flyers (2010-2014). He's also suited up in 46 career postseason games and has represented Slovakia in the past three Winter Olympics along with Zdeno Chara.

"He’s a big defenseman, a thick defenseman," Chiarelli said, of the 6-foot-2, 223-pound blueliner. "I’ve had a history with him. He’s played internationally with Slovakia. He plays both sides, he’s heavy on the puck, he’s more apt to push the puck than to defend but he can defend, and he’s heavy."

Chiarelli knows him from his Ottawa days and has had many discussions with Flyers GM Paul Holmgren about him throughout the past two or three months.

The 30-year-old Potter is a right-shot defenseman who has skated in 120 NHL games with the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Edmonton Oilers, and 327 AHL games. He adds another sizable presence at 6-foot-3, 204-pounds.

"He’s more of a two-way defenseman. He’s been in and out of the lineup. He’s responsible defensively, he’s got good range," said Chiarelli.

"We acquired these two players for depth, and when I say for depth, I just want to be clear, it doesn’t mean that they’re just reserves - it means I look at our defensive corps as a whole, and we’re just bolstering that corps and we’ve got a lot of games in a short period of time, so that was our intention going into this trade deadline."

The Bruins' back end now consists of eight capable, healthy players in Zdeno Chara, Johnny Boychuk, Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton, Torey Krug, Kevan Miller, Meszaros and Potter. When McQuaid is healthy, it only adds to the depth.

Looking back to the 2013 postseason, and the injuries the Bruins faced on defense, this allows insurance both in the playoffs and the hectic schedule down the stretch.

"Going into the playoffs, we like to have eight NHL defenseman who are capable of playing in case we have injuries like last year," said Assistant General Manager Jim Benning. "Wade Redden got to play some games [in the 2013 playoffs), and then Torey [Krug] and Matt Barktowski got to play a lot in that New York Rangers series, so it's our philosophy that you can never have enough good defensemen as insurance, in case of injuries."

With the back end shored up, Chiarelli was asked during the Deadline Day press conference about his comfort with the Bruins' forward corps and if he was involved in any discussions regarding transactions up front.

"My main intention of today was to bolster our depth," he said. "You know, you get in these conversations, and I know there’s been talk about [Thomas] Vanek going to Montreal, and they’ve strengthened their team, good for them. It never seems that we’re an anointed winner of Trade Deadline Day, and I’m fine with that. They’re a better team, and I look forward to facing them."

"But to answer your question, yes, on the periphery, but we had healthy cap space with Seids [Dennis Seidenberg] and potentially Adam [McQuaid], so that’s what we were looking at. We weren’t really in that mix anyways. I’m happy with our forwards."

He's also confident in the entire group moving forward, though any Bruin would also agree that there is still much improvement that can be made heading into the postseason.

"You’re never fully satisfied with everybody," said Chiarelli. "I like that fact that we’re scoring, I like the fact that we’re creating chances and I like the fact that we’ve had pretty decent performances from all four lines…so I’m good there."

"I think Loui’s [Eriksson] game is coming, I watched him play all his games in Russia and it’s really coming. You saw he’s getting confidence, I think the tempo there helped him. Jarome [Iginla] is playing well, that line is playing well. I think Bergy’s [Patrice Bergeron] line is playing well. I’m good with the forwards, they’ve shown me that I can rely on them going into the stretch in the playoffs."

"The D, we’ve talked about the D. So the team, I feel pretty good about our team. 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 [as every year] – it’s a challenge peaking at the right time and we face that challenge again."

The Bruins sit first in the Atlantic Division with 83 points, three points back from Pittsburgh for the Eastern Conference lead, as they head into the final 21 games of the regular season.

The goal was to bolster the team through addition, rather than subtraction, heading into this stretch, though the Bruins keep all options open.

"You know, it’s the chemistry you want to try to maintain and preserve, and I think we’ve got a good group here," said Chiarelli. "And it didn’t mean that I didn’t look at potentially moving guys off. Some of those discussions were to move off some players. I didn’t really want to do it, so, mission accomplished there."

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