After starting the 2022-23 season with an array of injuries to top players like Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk, the Boston Bruins are now almost completely healthy. Derek Forbort is the lone Bruin currently on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), but he will be back in a few weeks. Once he returns, Boston will be over the cap, and they will need to move a contract out. As a result, Chicago Blackhawks general manager (GM) Kyle Davidson should be contacting Bruins management immediately.
The Bruins have zero power in trade talks, as the league is well-aware of their salary cap troubles. As a result, they will need to give up at least one sweetener in any move that leads to them becoming cap compliant. With the Blackhawks rebuilding, they should consider taking advantage of this. Let’s now look at three players that Davidson should be targeting from Boston.
Mike Reilly has become the Bruins’ biggest victim of their salary cap crunch. Although he is a very serviceable NHL defenseman, he has been placed on waivers twice this season and is currently in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Providence Bruins. This has naturally led the 29-year-old defenseman to become disgruntled, as Mark Divver of the New England Hockey Journal reported that he is hoping to be traded. Therefore, he may be the most likely Bruin to be moved, and the Blackhawks should have him on their radar.
Trading Reilly and his $3 million cap hit until the end of the 2023-24 season would help Boston’s salary cap space immensely, so the Blackhawks could easily land a third-round pick and prospect for doing them this favor. Given the fact that they are in a full-on rebuild, they would be wise to go down this avenue. Reilly is also a solid, bottom-pairing NHL defenseman who contributes well offensively, so it would be an all-around win for the Blackhawks to land him.
When looking at the Blackhawks’ roster, Reilly would be an upgrade over left-shot defensemen like Jack Johnson, Jarred Tinordi, and Filip Roos. As a result, he would stand a very good shot of playing second-pairing minutes at a minimum. Furthermore, due to his slick passing ability, and ability to create offense from the point, he would be a lock to join their power play. Lastly, this is a player who recorded 27 assists in 65 games back in 2020-21, so what’s the harm in taking a chance on him? If he finds his previous form, he would become a major trading piece for the Blackhawks at the deadline.
The other notable trade candidate on the Bruins is Craig Smith. The 33-year-old winger has bounced in and out of the lineup this season due to his struggles, as bottom-six players like Pavel Zacha, Nick Foligno, and A.J. Greer have been noticeably outplaying him. In 10 games on the season thus far, he has just a goal and two assists, and that’s very low for his standards. Therefore, with the Madison native carrying a $3.1 million cap hit for the year and his placement on the team’s depth chart lowered, it may be best for Boston to move him.
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Similar to Reilly, acquiring Smith would surely lead to the Blackhawks also getting at least a notable draft pick and/or prospect in return. However, unlike Reilly, Smith would only be on the books for one season, so that may make him more appealing to Davidson. With that, if Smith were to heat up following a move to Chicago, he could net them a decent return at the trade deadline. After all, the 2009 fourth-round pick is a quality third-line winger while playing at his best. His 16 goals and 36 points in 74 games last season show that quite effectively.
If the Blackhawks were to acquire Smith, he would work quite well in their middle six. Whether he is on a line with Jonathan Toews or Jason Dickinson, he would have the potential to provide Chicago with some much-needed secondary scoring. With that, his offensive skill and excellent forechecking ability would make him a sweet addition to the club’s power play. It also doesn’t hurt that his plethora of experience could make him a solid mentor for the team’s younger players.
If the Blackhawks were to take on either Reilly or Smith, it could very well lead to them landing a prospect or a draft pick. Although they wouldn’t be able to acquire a top prospect like Fabian Lysell, Mason Lohrei, or Brett Harrison, it still would be big for them to add to their system. One prospect who stands out in this scenario is goaltender Kyle Keyser.
Keyser is starting to get a lot of attention due to his excellent play down in Providence so far this season. In six appearances on the year thus far, he sports a 4-0-1 record, .931 save percentage (SV%), and 1.87 goals-against average (GAA). This is encouraging to see from the 23-year-old, as it could be an indicator that he’s heading in the right direction with his development. However, with the Bruins having a long-term tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman, there may never be an opening for him to land a permanent role on the team’s NHL roster. As a result, if he keeps this play up, he could become one of Boston’s top trade candidates.
Goaltending is an area where the Blackhawks surely could use more depth. Alex Stalock and Petr Mrazek are unlikely to be a long-term tandem for Chicago, so adding another goaltending prospect could be beneficial. It also would not hurt to add some friendly competition for fellow prospects Arvid Soderblom and Drew Commesso.
Nevertheless, we will have to wait and see if the Blackhawks take advantage of the Bruins’ salary cap trouble. Bringing in Reilly or Smith would surely lead to them getting a sweetener, so Davidson would be smart to at least consider the prospect of doing business with them.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHL Trade Rumors.