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The Bear Cave


July 25, 2009 8:02 AM

Ward Out, Morris Close, and Eaves Seeking a New Deal

Since he took over the job during the summer of 2006, Boston Bruins General Manager Peter Chiarelli has proved that he is more than capable of running an organization. From Zdeno Chara to Blake Wheeler, Chiarelli has succeeded in bringing some of the best talent to Boston. However, Friday was a unique day to watch for those that follow the game closely.

During the late hours of the morning, the Bruins announced that they had traded defenseman Aaron Ward to the Carolina Hurricanes, in exchange for forward Patrick Eaves and a fourth round pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Eaves' career with the club will last for approximately one day, as he was immediately placed on waivers, with the intention of having his contract bought out. The whole idea behind that move was to free up cap space. But why? During his 1:00 conference call with the media, Peter Chiarelli mentioned that his next move would involve the acquisition of a defenseman. Ten hours later, Boston allegedly has a new player, as TSN has reported a one-year deal worth $3.3 million for Derek Morris. A press release hasn't been sent out by the team, meaning the contract isn't official yet.

When the first transaction became public, there was a lot of disappointment in the Boston area, as fans had grown attached to Aaron Ward. His experience, leadership, and hard work on the ice fit the Bruins' motto perfectly, while his commitment to the community showed just how much he cared about New England.

The 36-year old blueliner was acquired by the Bruins from the New York Rangers just prior to the 2007 Trade Deadline. Ward finished the 2006-07 campaign by playing 20 games in a Boston uniform, recording three points on one goal and two assists. The following season was Ward's best in terms of production with the Bruins. In 65 regular season games, the Windsor, ON native had five goals, eight assists, and 54 penalty minutes. He also picked up one helper in six postseason contests against the Montreal Canadiens. 65 was also the magic number for games this past season, as Ward spent seven brief stints out of the lineup. While on the ice, Aaron registered three goals, seven assists, and 44 penalty minutes. The majority of that time was spent playing alongside Zdeno Chara on the B's top defensive pairing. Ward did find the back of the net during the playoffs, beating namesake Cam for the first goal of round two.

In return, the Bruins received Patrick Eaves and a fourth round draft pick from the Carolina Hurricanes. While this is all extremely serious, there will likely be quite a few laughs when the season begins. Assuming everything happens according to plan, Eaves will become one of the shortest tenured players in the history of this 86-year old franchise. The 25-year old was placed on waivers, with Boston's intention being to buy out the remaining two seasons of his current contract. Because he is under the age of 26, the Bruins will only be forced to pay one-third of his remaining salary, while doing so over a span of four years (double the current contract). This means that the organization will have a mere cap hit of $258,333 for three of the next four seasons. The lone exception to that will be 2010-11, when the Bruins will receive a cap credit of $41,667 for Eaves' escalating three-year deal.

In terms of play on the ice, this was a tough pill for the fans to swallow. However, in terms of working the salary cap, this was pure brilliance, as $2.5 million was removed for $258K. That brilliance continued later in the day, when TSN reported the signing of Derek Morris to a one-year deal worth $3.3 million. If there is one thing that fans have learned about Peter Chiarelli during his tenure with the Boston Bruins, it is that he knows what he wants, and he knows exactly what he has to do to get what he wants. Assuming that TSN's report is correct, one would have to believe that Chiarelli had a number in mind with Morris, figured out the best way to clear that cap space, and went ahead with the deal.

Because the contract with Derek Morris hasn't been made official, we'll wait to discuss what he brings to the Bruins' organization. Unfortunately, we will also have to wait and see if Patrick Eaves clears waivers in order to cap crunch. Stay tuned, as those details will hopefully be available within the next few days.

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