The NHL Trade Deadline is less than three weeks away, giving teams less than ten days to make moves following the Olympic Trade Freeze. The Bruins currently sit atop the Atlantic division, possessing a seven point lead over the second place Tampa Bay Lightning. They are second in the Eastern Conference, trailing on the Pittsburgh Penguins. They will, without question, be buyers at the deadline. They have a very deep roster, consisting of many young, talented players, which raises the question, do they need to make a trade to improve their team. While a trade is not a necessity, it seems very likely that Peter Chiarelli will bring in at least one player to give his team a boost down the stretch and into the playoffs. So who could be moved?
The Bruins first round pick in 2009, Jordan Caron has had a tough time establishing himself as a full-time NHL player. While Caron has struggled with his consistency, at only 23 years old, it is still likely that he will develop into a third line player in the NHL. Unfortunately for Caron, the Bruins possess one of the deepest forward groups in the NHL, leaving Caron as the 13th forward for the foreseeable future. With his path to the NHL blocked, Caron would benefit immensely from a change of scenery, making him more valuable to another team than the Bruins. Although the 13th forward could be moved, Peter Chiarelli is unlikely to move any other players from his NHL roster.
Chiarelli’s desire to maintain his current roster suggests that prospects and draft picks will be going the other way in any deadline deal. With limited cap space and a relatively tight cap situation carrying into next season, the Bruins are unlikely to make a major move, so if they trade draft picks, it will likely be a second round pick or less. In terms of prospects, top prospects Ryan Spooner and Malcolm Subban are likely off limits, while the next tier of prospects could be aggressively shopped. Who is in this next tier?
The Bruins drafted the dynamic Russian forward in the second round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He’s shown flashes of top line scoring ability, but he’s been terribly inconsistent. The Bruins have tried to cash in on Khokhlachev’s potential in the past, including him in the collapsed Jarome Iginla trade at last year’s trade deadline. This year, Khokhlachev has shown flashes of his offensive potential, while also struggling a bit in the defensive end. He is third on the Baby B’s in points with 12 goals and 19 assists, which, when coupled with his -2 plus/minus, accurately summarizes his season to date. The Bruins don’t have many top offensive prospects in the system, so it might seem unwise to move Khokhlachev, but with the relative youth of Boston’s top six forwards, he may prove to be expendable.
Local product David Warsofsky has made himself known to Bruins fans this season. He made his NHL debut in December and has recorded two points in six contests. He’s an offensive defenseman, similar to teammate Torey Krug, albeit with a lesser ceiling. The major knock on Warsofsky is his small size, making it more challenging for him to defend bigger NHL forwards. That being said, Warsofsky has very strong offensive skills that could see him flourish in the role of a power play specialist/sixth defenseman. Boston currently possesses a surplus of young defensemen with offensive skills, between Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Matt Bartkowski. This surplus has blocked Warsofsky’s path to the NHL in Boston, rendering him expendable. He will likely see extended playing time between now and the deadline, showcasing his skills for potential trade partners.
Drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Craig Cunningham has made steady progress towards the NHL over the last four seasons. This season, he has led the Providence Bruins in goal scoring, ranking second in points behind Nick Johnson. The 23 year old center made his NHL debut in December, but was sent back to the AHL after the game. His performance in the AHL has given the team hope that he will be ready to assume a bottom six role in the NHL in the near future. The Bruins forward depth has pushed Cunningham further down the depth chart than he would be on many teams, making him a very likely trade candidate. Cunningham doesn’t possess the size that most checking forwards require, but his offensive skills help balance out his lack of size, making it likely that he will be able to hold his own in the NHL.
As they approach the NHL Trade Deadline, the Bruins have a full complement of draft picks (minus their sixth round selection) at their disposal, as well as the players I’ve mentioned. Boston has a strong roster at the moment, making the available assets more than enough to acquire the piece(s) they desire. Be sure to check back in the next few days for more details on the players the Bruins might target at the deadline, and as always, follow me on twitter for updates at @kirkvance.