When the Boston Bruins traded Ryan Donato for Charlie Coyle, they made a commitment to be immediate contenders for the Stanley Cup. There’s no way around it as the team opted to trade a soon-to-be 23-year-old with about half a season of NHL experience from Massachusetts for a 26-year-old NHL forward who’s in the prime of his career who’s also from Massachusetts.
Coyle is a far more complete player than Donato at this point in their respective careers. Because of this, the Bruins felt that he could give them a better chance at winning a Stanley Cup in the present.
In a vacuum, Coyle is a good player who has all the potential in the world. Unfortunately, he’s yet to really put it all together despite his rare combination of size, speed and skill. While he’s shown that he’s a more-than-capable NHL forward who can play both wing and center, his potential to contribute offensively has made his actual production fairly disappointing.
This has been seen time and time again in Minnesota as Coyle has become a somewhat frustrating player to watch just given the fact that he has what it takes to be a star but still only has one 20-goal season under his belt despite being in his seventh season.
Related: Bruins 50-Goal Club
Still, a fresh start in Boston could do him a world of good, especially given the team’s need at top-six right wing and third-line center. Fortunately, both are roles that Coyle has filled at the NHL level in the past.
While David Pastrnak is injured, it makes sense on paper for the Bruins to use Coyle in a top-six right-wing role. When Pastrnak returns, however, the Bruins will have to decide on whether or not Coyle should remain on the wing or shift to center.
Bruins Need More Than Coyle
The addition of Coyle is fine, but if the Bruins are so intent on going all-in right now, then Coyle alone isn’t going to be good enough. The Bruins will need to make another acquisition to be anywhere close to the Tampa Bay Lightning (a steep hill to climb) and even the Toronto Maple Leafs who have one of the best top-nine forward groups in the NHL.
For this reason, acquiring a different player to be a third-line center doesn’t make sense. To put it bluntly, Coyle and a third-line player simply don’t move the needle far enough.
The Bruins traded away a relatively older prospect (though admittedly one with very high upside) and a low draft pick to fill one position of need. They have a ton of ammunition to go out and make a big trade to sweep up an impact winger while already having bolstered their depth down the middle.
With Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Tuukka Rask and especially Zdeno Chara not getting any younger, the Bruins need to sacrifice some of their future for the present. This is especially true when considering the Bruins already have a logjam of left-wingers and left-shot defenders.
The team already moved on from Donato who was part of the winger log jam and there’s a distinct possibility that they move on from another winger (either from the NHL roster or from the AHL), or a defender, as well as one of their early picks in the next two Entry Drafts.
Logically speaking, any deal involving a major impact player like Mark Stone or Artemi Panarin will command some sort of package and could end up costing both a forward, a defender and a pick.
Though Coyle isn’t a rental and will ultimately be a member of the team through the 2019-20 season, the Bruins have already committed to the 2018-19 season and will need to follow up in a big way if they have serious intentions of making a deep playoff run.
Acquiring an Impact Winger Will Bolster the Whole Lineup
As it stands, the Bruins have Pastrnak, Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen and Peter Cehlarik who are all options to play top-six wing positions, assuming Coyle plays center. It’s safe to say that both Pastrnak and Marchand are locks and DeBrusk should be considered a lock as well given his recent surge of production.
This leaves the team with one winger spot open and Cehlarik and Heinen, both of whom have bright futures, as possible trade pieces to include in a deal for an established impact winger. Assuming only one is sent in a deal, the other could very easily slot onto the team’s third line, bolstering the team’s depth in the process.
This is something that many of the league’s best teams have done in recent years as their skilled forwards haven’t been limited to the top two lines. Instead, teams are now running with very effective top-nine forward groups that can create mismatches for any team that fails to stack up.
The Bruins will need to follow this trend.
Outside of Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Studnicka, DeBrusk, Brandon Carlo and needless to say Pastrnak and Charlie McAvoy, nobody should be off limits for the Bruins. The latter two players mentioned occupy irreplaceable roles on the team while the former two are the team’s top two prospects.
Related: Bruins Prospect Pyramid
This means that players like Heinen and Cehlarik (as mentioned) as well as Trent Frederic, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jeremy Lauzon, Jakub Zboril, Zachary Senyshyn and even Anders Bjork should be considered possible trade chips.
If the Bruins are serious about this season, they’ll need to empty their pockets and prove it. Coyle was a good start, but general manager Don Sweeney will need to do more to truly build a contender.