One of the biggest stories of the 2022-23 NHL season through the first nearly four months has been the Boston Bruins. Expected to struggle out of the gate missing their leading scorer from last season and two of their top-four defensemen, they have far exceeded expectations through the first 51 games, they are doing it at a historic pace. At their All-Star Break, they have an NHL-best 39-7-5 record.
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Despite the start and season they are having under first-year coach Jim Montgomery, there is still work that needs to be done by general manager (GM) Don Sweeney over the next four weeks leading into the March 3 trade deadline at 3 o’clock. The deadline will come fast and the Black and Gold’s GM has plenty of questions to answer as he sits down and looks at the big picture for the best team in the NHL record-wise. Here is an in-depth look at the upcoming trade deadline for the Bruins.
Bruins 2023 Trade Deadline Needs
There are some glaring needs that the Bruins have. In addition to the bottom-six forwards, preferably a right wing that can add offensive production, as well as a seventh defenseman. There are a couple of ways Sweeney could go on the blue line. He could make a move for depth like he did the last two trade deadlines with Mike Reilly and Josh Brown, or he could go ahead and make another splash for a top-four defenseman like he did last season when he acquired Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks.
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As far as a right wing goes, there will be plenty of veterans available that can fill that void. Several teams are already out of playoff contention and will be looking to move upcoming unrestricted free agents (UFA) with low cap hits that would require a big haul going back. Then there’s the question, does Sweeney make a big splash and add a top-six or top-nine forward, mainly a center, that also addresses a need once Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci finally hang up the skates for good? There are fewer options if they decide to go that route and if they do, it would be a deal that there are a lot of assets that end up getting moved. Let’s take a look at some of the potential trade targets, as well as some of the assets they have to get a deal or two done.
Bruins Assets Mostly With Prospects
Sweeney has never been one to shy away from including a first-round draft pick in a deal or even a second, but with the 2023 Draft expected to be a deep one, wherever they pick, there’s a good chance they can get a good future prospect. With that said, for a team in a win-now mode, nothing is out of play. Aside from draft picks, here are some notable prospects at the GM’s disposal.
Moving top prospect Fabian Lysell is an option, but only if a deal is made to lock up a long-term solution at center. If a blockbuster trade is going to be done, it starts with the Bruins’ 21st overall pick in the 2021 Entry Draft. He has grown in his first full season of pro hockey with the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL). He is NHL-ready and would be in the NHL with just about any other team.
The Bruins’ top defensive prospect is Mason Lohrei who is having a stellar sophomore season at Ohio State University. An offensive defenseman that carried over his offensive skill set from the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL to college, he has logged over 30 minutes a night multiple times this season for the Buckeyes and projects as a top-four defenseman.
Parting ways with Lohrei should only be done in a blockbuster deal. Trading both Lysell and Lohrei should not be an option as only one is an option to complete a blockbuster deal.
A rising star in the Bruins prospect pool, Brett Harrison is having another strong Ontario Hockey League (OHL) season. Recently traded from the Oshawa Generals to the Windsor Spitfires, he has joined Seattle Kraken prospect Shane Wright on the top line and is thriving offensively. A natural center, he’s on the wing with Wright, but there is a bright future for him in the pros as a center.
At the 2022 Draft, the Bruins’ first selection in the second round was Matthew Poitras, a center with the Guelph Storm in the OHL. He is having an impressive offensive season and becoming a scoring threat 5-on-5 and on the power play. He projects as a middle-six center, but is still some time away from the NHL. A team that does not need immediate help up the middle could acquire him and wait for him to continue to develop his game.
The Bruins’ closest NHL-ready center is John Beecher. His offensive numbers are not what you would like with the P-Bruins, but he has been very good on face-offs and is a very good penalty killer. Projected as a middle-six NHL center, he’s not too far away from getting a spot in Boston or somewhere else if traded.
One prospect in Providence who could draw some interest is Jakub Lauko. When he’s come up to Boston this season, he’s filled nicely on the wing. He has developed his game nicely in the AHL and he has proven that he’s NHL-ready now and he could easily be part a prospect piece of a trade to complete one for Sweeney. Finding room for him even next season in Boston is going to be tough as well.
Bruins Trade Candidates From Current Roster
If the Bruins are going to bring in a player from another team, there is going to have to be money and bodies going out of Boston. Depending on where Sweeney adds, he’ll have to make some subtractions, but there could be some under-the-radar moves from the current roster.
This season, Matt Grzelcyk has been good since returning from offseason surgery that forced him to miss the beginning of the season, but he does have an injury history and ling undersized, he can be a non-factor come playoff time. Asking him to survive the physical pounding a body takes in the spring is a risky ask. With one more year of team control and if a left-shot defenseman is brought in, he could be moved out.
As usual, Brandon Carlo has become a penalty-killing beast with Derek Forbort, but if a right-shot defenseman is available and if they have control, it’s easy seeing the Bruins moving Carlo. A big physical shutdown defenseman, the Colorado native does have an injury history like Grzelcyk that could be concerning toward the end of the season and playoffs. Under team control next season, he is someone that could draw some interest.
Ok, so Craig Smith is not going to have teams lining up for his services, but a change of scenery could do him some good. His frustration this season has been getting more frustrating by the day and his emotion is starting to show. No matter where he is in the lineup, it’s been a struggle for the former Nashville Predators forward. He is in a contract year and could find success somewhere the pressure is less.
If a team is looking for an offensive defenseman, then Mike Reilly could be their guy. His offensive game thrived when he was acquired at the trade deadline in 2021, but last season and this season, it just has not worked out for him. He’s buried in the AHL with Providence, but with one year remaining on his contract after this season, Sweeney moving him is a move that he would jump at if given the opportunity.
I’m not sure many people saw the breakout season coming that Trent Frederic has had. He already has a career-high in goals with 10 and barring a long-term injury, he should record three more assists for a new career-high of 11. He’s extremely cheap and in the final year of his contract. He will be an unrestricted free agent (RFA) next season, but he’s raising his stock for his next deal.
Stuck in the middle of nowhere with the Bruins, the 13th overall pick of the 2015 Draft has played in just two games since Nov. 23 for Montgomery. He has shown flashes of being a bottom-six defenseman, but he has been very inconsistent. A young piece for a team’s blueline that is a left shot would be worth a shot for a team looking for a final piece of a trade.
Bruins Potential Trade Targets
The needs the Bruins have are not as big as some of the other contenders, but there are still needs. You know that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning, just within the Atlantic Division, are going to add, and if you’re going to get out of the first two rounds of the playoffs, you’ll have to go through at least one of those two teams. Here is the options Sweeney has to add to his current roster and fill some of the needs.
This is a long shot for Sweeney, but you just never know. Timo Meier would require a haul going back to the San Jose Sharks and he has an expensive cap hit, but he is a restricted free agent following the season. Signing him long-term and fitting David Pastrnak under the cap would be tough, but stranger things have happened.
If Sweeney can’t get a big name forward and has to settle for building on defense, then Jakob Chychrun is an interesting option. The Arizona Coyotes left shot has been on the Bruins’ radar at recent deadlines and is again.
Building on defense for the playoffs is an option and a top-four of Chychrun, Charlie McAvoy, Lindholm, and any combination of Connor Clifton or Carlo, whoever is not moved, is a way to win a lot of tight playoff games. He is also under contract for two more seasons.
The Bruins saw first-hand last spring what Max Domi can provide in the playoffs as he played a big role in the Black and Gold’s elimination in seven games in the first round. He finished the Carolina Hurricanes 2022 playoff run with three goals and six assists and if the Bruins could get that out of him if acquired, what an addition to the bottom six in terms of production. He would not cost a lot as he is a UFA following the season. A good rental option.
If there is one roster that Montgomery has some familiarity with, it’s the St. Louis Blues. He spent two seasons as an assistant coach under Craig Berube and with the Blues on the outside looking in from the Western Conference playoffs, they have some pieces that teams would be very interested in.
One of those players is Ivan Barbashev who is another bottom-six addition. A veteran that plays with a chip on his shoulder and can produce offensively, he would be a nice fit for Montgomery’s roster. Another player that could easily slide up and down the lineup in Boston.
Domi has two teammates that are going to possibly be available and the first one is Jonathan Toews. The veteran center still has plenty left in the tank and an addition to the Bruins would make them deep down the middle. His production is down a little bit with 14 goals and 14 assists, but he still playing at a high level.
Like Toews, Patrick Kane is another member of the Blackhawks that most likely will be moved by the deadline and he offers a much-needed right wing depth behind DeBrusk and Pastrnak. He has nine goals and 25 assists this season, but he would not need to put up big numbers on this Bruins team and he would be a nice addition to Charlie Coyle and the third line.
Bruins Have Options, But Questions of How to Get Things Done
It’s no secret that the Bruins have nearly no salary cap to work with, which is a reason why if bodies come in, bodies have to go out. Does Sweeney want to break up the momentum his team has going through the first 51 games? There is the saying, ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,’ however, additions are needed to try and survive a deep playoff run and win their veteran core a second Stanley Cup championship.
The Bruins’ GM will have to get creative to make the numbers work and will have some big decisions to make in terms of what prospects or draft picks he’s going to part with. It won’t be easy, but things have to be done. If there is one thing that the 2022-23 Boston Bruins have done so far, it’s they’ve told the front office that they deserved the opportunity to go all-in and cap the season with a title. It’s either ‘championship or bust’ for this team in the spring.