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Numbers Game: Bruins and Thrashers make a deal

Scott Cullen
2/18/2011 4:52:53 PM
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Boston cleared out some salary to Atlanta in order facilitate the Bruins' acquisition of Tomas Kaberle.

Numbers Game looks at the players involved in the Bruins-Thrashers two-for-two swap.

The Thrashers Get: RW Blake Wheeler and D Mark Stuart.

Wheeler, 24, presents a rare combination of size (6-foot-5, 208 pounds) and speed, so there seems to be so much potential there; the trick is unlocking it to make him more than an occasional contributor.

After his 2008-2009 rookie season, during which he scored 21 goals, 45 points and was plus-36, Wheeler appeared to be well on his way to becoming a solid top-six winger.

Since then, he's been underwhelming.  Not terrible, but while 11 goals, 27 points and a plus-8 rating in 58 games doesn't hurt the team, it seems easy enough to replace in the lineup and, given Wheeler's physical gifts, he should be able to do better than that.

Perhaps in Atlanta there will be an opportunity to play more than 15 minutes per game, maybe with a little power play time, and Wheeler could once again score 20-plus goals.

A restricted free agent in the summer, Wheeler's cap hit this year is $2.2-million.  If he finishes well, he would seem to fit as the kind of player that the Thrashers would like to sign long-term so that he's a steady contributor in their top six forwards for years to come. 

Based on the Thrashers' current right wingers -- a group that includes Anthony Stewart and Niclas Bergfors -- Wheeler could have the most upside of the bunch and it will fall to the Thrashers' coaching staff to bring the most out of him on a ocnsistent basis.

Mark Stuart is a 26-year-old, strong stay-at-home defenceman who had a couple of decent seasons with the Bruins, but has struggled this year. 

While five points and a plus-8 rating in 31 games doesn't seem so bad, Stuart's shot differential per 60 minutes (from www.behindthenet.ca) was worst among Bruins blueliners and, as a result, he has frequently been a healthy scratch.

Stuart will hit and block shots, so he has a role to play, but it will be interesting to see how he fits with the current group of Thrashers defencemen. 

Barring another Thrashers trade, it's difficult to see Stuart in the lineup regularly for a group that includes Dustin Byfuglien, Tobias Enstrom, Ron Hainsey, Zach Bogosian, Johnny Oduya and Brent Sopel, but Sopel is an unrestricted free agent with Stanley Cup experience, so it's possible he could be appealing as depth for a contender or Oduya could end up as the odd man out.

In any case, Stuart is an unrestricted free agent as well, so it would certainly benefit him to get into the lineup as much as possible over the last 23 games of the season to help rebuild his value on the open market.  If he fits well in Atlanta, it would be easy to see Stuart as a stable part of the third pairing for the Thrashers.

While the Thrashers were doing the Bruins a favour by taking on salary, allowing the Bruins to acquire Tomas Kaberle, Atlanta did so with the hope that Wheeler will turn out to be a long-term asset for the franchise.

The Bruins Get: C/RW Rich Peverley and D Boris Valabik.

Peverley, 28, is an industrious forward who made his bones in Atlanta after he was picked up on waivers from Nashville in 2008-2009. 

After scoring 35 points and recording a plus-16 in 39 games that season, Peverley didn't quite meet those raised expectations in ensuing seasons.  Last year was a respectable 55 points in 82 games, but he was minus-14 and it's more of the same this year, as he has 34 points in 59 games, but is minus-16.

A versatile player who can play both centre and right wing, Peverley has also played in all situations for the Thrashers, so he shouldn't have trouble fitting in with the Bruins.  He may not be required to play as much on the power play, which could knock his production down a little.

Peverley is signed through next season, at a cap hit of $1.325-million (via www.capgeek.com) and should be a regular contributor on the Bruins' third line.

Valabik is a 25-year-old towering blueliner who hasn't been able to stick in the NHL after he was drafted 10th overall in 2004. 

In 80 career games, he has seven assists and is minus-14, but you get some idea of his skill set when you see his 210 penalty minutes.  With Chicago in the AHL this season, Valabik has nine assists and a minus-5 rating in 165 penalty minutes in 49 games, so he should add some toughness, but in Providence, not Boston.

Valabik stands 6-foot-7 and isn't afraid to drop the gloves, but his lack of mobility has hindered him when it comes to playing a regular shift.  He'll be a restricted free agent in the summer in the summer, so he'll have an opportunity to show the Bruins that he's worth giving another shot.

Boston sent more salary to Atlanta in this deal and there is the possibility that Wheeler could pay off down the road for the Thrashers, but for a Bruins team aiming to win now, it makes sense as part of their larger plan, which included adding Kaberle.

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