Boston Bruins look to a younger faster blueline.


Mar 24, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk (55) prior to a face-off during the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It was rumored all throughout the off-season and into the preseason.  As a team tight against the cap, Boston’s only logical area of the ice to trade off was their defense, an area in which the Bruins not only possessed depth but also high-priced skaters. As the days till the Bruins’ season opener match-up against Philadelphia dwindled, numerous reports suggested Boston would move a defenseman. Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli determined Saturday afternoon that veteran defenseman Johnny Boychuk was the odd man out.

The Bruins traded Boychuk, 30, to the New York Islanders for three draft picks. Boston will attain New York’s second-round picks in 2015 and 2016 as well as a conditional third-round pick in 2015. The Bruins will acquire the conditional pick if the Islanders trade Boychuk to an Eastern Conference team throughout the 2014-15 season. The Bruins will now enter the regular season with seven defeseman, including Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller.

Boston, by any means, was not impelled to part way with Boychuk and his $3.36 million contract to be complacent with the cap. By entering the season with Boychuk’s salary and factoring in Marc Savard‘s long-term injury exception, the Bruins would be about $500,000 under the ceiling, per CapGeek. Many Bruins fans are puzzled by the timing. It seemed plausible that Boychuk would not return for the 2015-16 season, with north of $6 million coming his way. It’s money the Bruins are not in good position to spend, even for a proven and veteran defender like Boychuk. But for the current season, Boychuk did not have to be the defender packing his bags and walking out the door. Instead, Boston could have parted ways with Adam McQuaid or Matt Bartkowski.

Chiarelli solidified his stance and favored the team’s future. And by going all in on the future, youngsters like Bartkowski or Miller will have to step up and play big and play bigger minutes. The trade depicts how much Chiarelli entrusts Bartkowski, who is more likely to see action Wednesday and beyond than Miller, to play top four minutes. Bartkowski produced zero goals in 64 games last season. Yet in this years preseason, Bartkowski has proven his skating ability and produced a goal against no other than the Islanders last week.

Of Boston’s seven defensemen, five of which are between the ages of 21 and 27, Dougie Hamilton being the youngest and McQuaid is 27. Thus, the Bruins are in a new, younger age of defense. With Boychuk’s departure, the two lone veterans are captain Zdeno Chara (37) and Dennis Seidenberg (33) along the blue line. While Boston will lose the brawn of Boychuk, they will upgrade with more speed on defense. Though the Bruins did have streaks of bad luck against the Canadians in the playoffs, they were caught on their heels and were vulnerable to Montreal’s speed. Chiarelli has now attempted to rev up his defense with young skates in an attempt to make the Bruins a younger and faster team.

The Bruins blue line will be under much scrutiny this upcoming season. Wednesday night’s tilt against the Flyers will be a solid examination of where Chiarelli’s young defense is at and how assimilated the group is. Bartkowski, regardless of who he is lined up with, will have to play big and play with an edge along the boards. His skating ability is strengthening, and hopes this development will help produce goals.

Johnny Boychuk will be missed by the Bruins. His size and skill, work ethic and leadership night in and night out epitomized Claude Julien‘s system of Bruins hockey. Whether it was his sheer brawn or his famous “Johnny Rocket” shot, Boychuk’s absence will be felt early on the ice and in the locker room. Chiarelli now looks for names like Bartkowski or Miller to fill those large skates along the Boston blue line.