As the NHL trade deadline approaches on April 12, one of the teams that is expected to be very active is the Boston Bruins. There are currently multiple needs that the Black and Gold have if they are going to survive the tough MassMutual East Division and finish in the top four to get a playoff berth. A top-four defenseman is something that general manager Don Sweeney could look to target, but the biggest need is for a middle-six forward.
Last season, Sweeney acquired Ondrej Kase and Nick Ritchie from the Anaheim Ducks at the trade deadline. After both had disappointing performances in the regular season and postseason, Kase has been out since the second game of the season with an upper-body injury, while Ritchie has been a pleasant surprise in 2020-21 for the Bruins. Despite Ritchie supplying secondary scoring at left wing on the second line, an upgrade at right wing on either the second or even third line is a necessity.
Forward Is Sweeney’s Top Priority
The Bruins’ top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak has accounted for 38 of the team’s 89 goals, which is 43-percent of the team’s production. After Ritchie’s 10 goals, the scoring is spread out thin. Craig Smith has six goals, Charlie Coyle has five and rookie Trent Frederic has four. After that, no other forward has more than three.
There have been plenty of disappointing performances this season for the Bruins after the first line. Jake DeBrusk has been the biggest disappointment with just three goals in 21 games after coming up one goal short of a second consecutive season of at least 20 goals in the shortened 2019-20 campaign. He has missed the last five games as he is on the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols list. David Krejci has been another disappointment with just one goal in 29 games, but he does have 20 assists.
The Bruins rank 27th in the league with their 89 goals, but are second in goals allowed with 81. Boston has struggled 5-on-5 scoring only 51 goals, while giving up 56, and currently has a minus-5. The league average for 5-on-5 goals this season is 68, 17 less than what Boston has scored. Their power play over the last couple of seasons has been one of the best units in the league, but this season it has struggled. Currently, they are ranked 11th, which puts them at the edge of the top-third in the league. If the Bruins have dreams of a playoff run this season, getting at least one middle-six forward is almost a must to add more scoring to a team in need of it.
Defense Getting Healthy Is Best Option
Could Sweeney look to bolster the Bruins defense through a trade? Yes, but it should not be his top priority. Recently, Jeremy Lauzon returned from surgery for a fractured hand and Brandon Carlo was cleared from concussion protocols after he missed 10 games from a hit by Tom Wilson of the Washington Capitals on March 5. Carlo played his first game in three weeks Tuesday against the New Jersey Devils, but left after the first period of Thursday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with an upper-body injury. It remains to be seen what Kevan Miller has left as he has been out since Feb. 18 with knee issues surrounding the knee he had surgery on that required him to miss nearly 18 months.
After playing without half of the defensemen that were on the roster out of training camp to begin the season for nearly a month, the Bruins are almost fully healthy on the blueline with five of the six opening night defensemen recently back in the lineup. If Sweeney can get a deal for a defenseman that is one without giving up a lot of prospects, he should go for it. He already claimed Jarred Tinordi off of waivers from the Nashville Predators, but the best move right now might be to get the defense back healthy for the remainder of the season.
Adding a piece to the Bruins defense would be a good move, however, as has been the case for a couple of seasons and becoming more evident this season with each game that goes by, adding a middle-six forward, that can boost Boston’s secondary scoring issues is the way for Sweeney to go. Generating scoring chances and scoring goals once again has been the Black and Gold’s problem this season and one that could cost them a playoff berth.
One thing that could throw a wrench in the Bruins trade deadline options is the health of goalie Tuukka Rask. He’s played in one period since March 7 with an upper-body injury. If his absence is going to be prolonged, that could cause a change of plans by Sweeney. It’s going to be an interesting 10 days for Boston up until the trade deadline of 3 p.m. on April 12.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.