The 2020 NHL Trade Deadline is less than 24 hours away and the Boston Bruins still have feelers out on players who could boost their lineup for a playoff push.
While the team moved on from their first-round pick in the trade that saw David Backes and Axel Andersson dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for Ondrej Kase, they do still have pieces that can be moved in a deal for a big acquisition prior to Monday’s deadline.
Having never seen Kase in a Bruins uniform yet, it may not seem necessary for the Bruins to go all-out and make a move when the piece to put them over the top might already be on the roster. With that said, though, the Bruins aren’t in a place where they can hope that Kase is all they need as teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to gain ground in the standings.
Though Chris Kreider is being floated as the most logical name for the Bruins for a variety of reasons, not having a first-round pick this season would make a deal harder to swing given the Rangers commitment to being better sooner than later as they are already a few years into this rebuild.
Palmieri Provides More Guarantees Than Kreider
A player like Kyle Palmieri who has also been linked to the Bruins, however, could make a lot of sense and could potentially be had with more future assets than the Rangers would be willing to deal for.
For all of the talk that Kreider makes sense to play alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, there are a few concerns that cannot be ignored. For starters, Kreider is a left-shot winger who would have to either play on his off-wing or force the Bruins to move DeBrusk to his off-wing – something they’ve tried in the past without much success.
Another factor that should give the Bruins pause is the fact that Kreider is a pending unrestricted free agent and would come with no guarantees beyond the 2019-20 season.
In general, rentals are typically a bad idea if they come at the cost of first-round draft picks and high-end prospects in addition to a solid roster piece. This is even worse when considering the Bruins don’t have a first-round pick and would have to add even more to sweeten the pot for the Rangers.
You have to give to get.
Palmieri, on the other hand, comes with more guarantees than Kreider in the sense that he is a right-shot winger and is already locked up for the 2020-21 season and wouldn’t be a rental.
The Bruins would finally have that shoot-first right-shot winger to pair with Krejci to take some of the pressure off of him and DeBrusk but also off of the Patrice Bergeron line.
There’s also this notion that Kreider would be the better get of the two forwards for one reason or another and that may have to do with the hype that has always surrounded him as well as his rare combination of size, speed and skill.
On paper, though, Palmieri’s offensive output is nothing to shake a stick at. Scoring 73 goals and 136 points in 193 games over the last three seasons compared to Kreider’s 68 goals and 134 points in his last 197 games over the last three seasons should be a good indicator for fans who may be sleeping on Palmieri.
This season, Palmieri has scored 22 goals and 42 points in 57 games to Kreider’s 24 goals and 45 points in 60 games.
Palmieri would be fourth on the Bruins in goals and tied for fourth in points while Kreider would rank fourth in both of those categories.
Offensive output isn’t everything, of course, and the numbers really are so close that it doesn’t even make sense to give one the edge over the other. In general, the natural right-shot forward with term on his deal just makes more sense for the Bruins as they seem primed to compete for not just this season but for at least the foreseeable future with this current core as well.
Palmieri Won’t Come Cheap for the Bruins
The price to acquire Palmieri is the major sticking point, of course, especially with the aforementioned lack of a first-round draft pick.
With the Devils already having three first-round picks, two of which coming with conditions that could push those picks to 2021, and no picks in the second or third rounds of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, there is room for the Bruins to make a worthwhile offer.
Logically, the Bruins would have to start with either Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork as a roster player who can help ease the losses of both Palmier and Blake Coleman, the latter of whom was traded to the Lightning this season.
Heinen is a good and vastly underrated player even by fans of the Bruins, but his future on the team could be uncertain with the additions of Kase, who also came with term on his contract, and Palmieri in this scenario. He’s signed through the 2020-21 season at a respectable $2.8 million annual cap hit.
Bjork is the more unproven of the two forwards in Boston but his upside is so much higher that it would seem foolish to move on from him given his potential. It would also be foolish to move on from him given his chemistry with Charlie Coyle.
Coyle, by the way, was the Bruins biggest deadline acquisition last year and came with term similarly to the way Palmieri would. The Bruins would eventually lock him up for the long-term given how well he fit with the team.
In addition to a player like Heinen or Bjork, the former of whom being the more logical piece to include in a deal, the Bruins would also likely have to part with a prospect like Urho Vaakanainen or potentially a package of players like Jakub Zboril and Trent Frederic along with a second or third-round draft pick.
It seems like a steep price to pay, but trades take two to tango and aren’t facilitated in a vacuum. The Bruins window to win is now and moving on from pieces who seem close but are blocked at the next level by players ahead of them on the depth chart isn’t a bad way to manage assets.
Factors to Consider When Trading Prospects Away
The Bruins have consistently had a need on the right-wing for years. Palmieri would fit that need and do so for longer than just a quarter of a season and one playoff run.
On the flipside, Vaakanainen has been good but certainly hasn’t lived up to the expectation placed on him by scouts so early in his career. This isn’t to say that he isn’t going to ever be that minute-eating top-pairing defender in the NHL, but it’s also hard to ignore the fact that Jeremy Lauzon has already leap-frogged him in the pecking order and is making the best of his opportunity.
Factor in that the Bruins also have Torey Krug, who’s future is admittedly up in the air, Matt Grzlecyk and Zdeno Chara, who’s future should also be considered unclear, and there isn’t a clear need for Vaakanainen in a prime role in the immediate future.
If the Bruins do think Vaakanainen is still a major piece worth keeping for their future plans and they have uncertainties about Krug’s long-term future in Boston, they could try and package other prospects together as mentioned with Frederic and Zboril.
Zboril is even further down on the depth chart than Vaakanainen and his window for making an impact in Boston is dwindling with each passing season. Frederic isn’t panning out as many would have hoped at the AHL level and on paper, he’s behind both Jack Studnicka and John Beecher as long-term center options in Boston.
As far as current players on the Bruins roster goes, center is also not an immediate need in their top-nine as Bergeron, Krejci and Coyle provide one of the best trios in the entire NHL.
Going big now makes sense for the Bruins as their current core’s window is closing. Palmieri and Kase being the team’s two biggest additions this season could be what it takes to put them over the hump.
Given the fact that this group was one win away from winning the Stanley Cup just one year ago, they’ve earned this vote of confidence from general manager Don Sweeney.