There is no current rumor linking the Devils to Bruins' center Patrice Bergeron, but there are rumors out there that Bergeron could be traded this summer and I thought it would be fun to think about it.
Why might the Bruins want to trade Patrice Bergeron? Although Bergeron led the team in scoring a few years ago, he has fallen to third on the Bruins' depth chart since the free-agent signing of Marc Savard and the development of David Krejci. They hold the 2nd overall pick in this year's draft and could very well end up with Tyler Seguin - another center. The Bruins do have some cap problems which will be exacerbated by drafting Seguin (the #2 overall last year, Drew Doughty, counted for 3.475 mil against the cap this past season), who will presumably be able to step right into the Bruins' lineup straight out of juniors. They already have 54 million committed to 18 players - Seguin would make it 57.5 million for 19 players and the Bruins have some promising RFAs to re-sign as well in Blake Wheeler, Mark Stuart, Vladimir Sobotka, and Daniel Paille. This reality has led to the suggestion that the Bruins will try to trade Bergeron, who at 4.75 million is their highest-paid forward.
Bergeron is a guy with good skill and playmaking ability but who was picked for the Canadian Olympic team primarily for his two-way play and faceoff dominance. Bergeron led the Bruins in faceoffs taken and won a whopping 58% of them in 2009-2010. He tied for the team lead in points with 52 and was essential to keeping the Bruins in the playoff mix as Savard was lost for half the season. He also was the top forward in time on ice - he had slightly less time than Krejci at even strength, but had more time on the PP and especially the PK.
The big question mark surrounding Bergeron is his history of concussion. He suffered his first concussion in October 2007 and was unable to play for the rest of that entire season (you may remember the hit by Randy Jones that caused him to go face-first into the boards). He suffered another concussion in December 2008 and was cautiously kept out of play for a month after that.
Given the Bruins' cap troubles and his injury history, it may be possible to get Patrice Bergeron for cheaper than a player of his caliber might otherwise cost. I believe the Bruins will have to dump one of their larger salaries, but they are stuck with Tim Thomas the immovable object and Marco Sturm, who has a no-trade clause. They could also potentially trade Michael Ryder, but given their depth at center, I'm not sure whether they might consider Bergeron more expendable. I think much of it depends on who they end up drafting - if they get Seguin, they will have an embarrassment of riches at center. If they get Taylor Hall (a winger), I see them trading Ryder.
I think that Bergeron would be a good fit for the Devils. He has the requisite skill to be a scoring center, but he also plays a great two-way game and is among the best in the game on the faceoff dot. He becomes a UFA at the end of next season, so the Devils do not have to make a long-term commitment to him if he doesn't meet expectations or if extra money is needed to re-sign Parise. The concussion history is definitely scary, but again, we're not talking about a long-term commitment here. The Bruins would not seek an NHL-ready player in return given their cap issues - they would make the trade for prospects and draft picks.