Bruins’ Trade Deadline Targets

It is hard to believe that trading season is here once again, but as the NHL’s annual All-Star Game creeps a little bit closer that means the deadline is right around the corner. This season there appears to be more of a buyer’s market than anything, which greatly benefits a team like the Boston Bruins. As the Bruins get healthier and the wins continue to pile up, it only strength?ens the team’s case to buy at this deadline.

With a number of young players on ‘value deals,’ there might not be a better time for the them to load up and make a push for their first Stanley Cup since 2011. There are ample teams already waving the white flag, and a number of good fits sitting on the trade market as we speak. General manager Don Sweeney made a splash last season for Rick Nash, would it surprise anyone if he had an encore in mind this time around?

Don Sweeney Bruins
Don Sweeney, Boston Bruins, 2018 NHL Draft, Dallas, TX, June 22, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Although we are a little over a month away from the actual day, trade chatter and actual activity are bound to pick up in the coming days and weeks. In response to that reality, today we kick off our deadline content with a look at which sellers the Bruins match well with for a deal. Over the next few weeks, we’ll search all of those teams and look for solutions to the Bruins’ issues.

The Bruins’ Situation

Obviously the biggest thing the Bruins need is health, but with Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara both back in the fold, health is slowly becoming reality. Once Charlie McAvoy gets back into the lineup, the Bruins will have all of their big guns on the ice and they’ll really be able to see what they have. When healthy, however, they already have some clear holes on their roster.

Head coach Bruce Cassidy could do himself a lot of favors if he gets a second scoring line going. We all know how good David Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Bergeron are as a line, but you aren’t going to win in the NHL with only one line going. Pastrnak has chemistry with fellow Czech David Krejci, who I firmly believe is the most underrated player in Boston sports right now. Krejci, a battle-tested second-line center who is clutch in the playoffs, can easily handle second line duties with Pastrnak, while Marchand and Bergeron hold down the top unit.

David Krejci (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In order to do that, however, the Bruins will need to add another top-six winger. Jake DeBrusk is playing good hockey and has chemistry with Krejci already, so he’s a natural fit on the left side with the Czech duo. On the right wing with Marchand and Bergeron? Well, there really isn’t a strong internal option right now.

David Backes, Chris Wagner and Ryan Donato lined up as right wingers in the Bruins’ loss to the Washington Capitals on Thursday, but do any of those players seem like worthy top-line candidates? Donato has the skill to eventually move up the lineup, but he simply is not there yet.

Don Sweeney’s Wish List

Number one on the wish list, in my opinion, should be a top-six right winger to play the spot that Pastrnak does not. If you elect to keep the top line together, then you’ll still need a right winger for the Krejci line. There’s no way around it, the B’s need another winger if they want to make this work.

Second on the list is a third-line center, the spot currently held by Noel Acciari. While he hasn’t played badly to this point, he is no doubt playing higher in the lineup than he should and could get exposed in the playoffs against deeper teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tampa Bay Lightning and eventually the Pittsburgh Penguins and Capitals.

Lastly, you can never go wrong with depth players. Another veteran defender or a bottom-six winger isn’t something to go crazy for, but those kinds of additions are cheap and could prove to be valuable when injury hits or slumps occur. If those kinds of deals are out there, then the Bruins should at least explore them.

Noel Acciari Bruins
Noel Acciari, Boston Bruins, Dec. 2, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

We’ve seen the Bruins get caught with players like Colby Cave and Steven Kampfer in the lineup longer term, and saw earlier in the season how a lack of depth can lead to multiple AHL players in the lineup at once. Depth players aren’t sexy, heck most fans don’t even think they are important, but adding a player or two that can step in can only help in the playoffs.

Allow me to remind you of the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, where the Vancouver Canucks essentially were on their ninth defender at points in that series. Same with the 2006 Buffalo Sabres, who were dressing four AHL defenders due to injury in the Conference Finals. Depth matters in this league.

The Dance Partners

Of course, while Sweeney could have every intention of filling those holes at the deadline he can’t do anything without a partner. It takes two to do the trade dance in the NHL and sometimes that can be harder than it seems. That said, there are far less buyers than sellers and that will benefit a team like the Bruins.

Outside of the Bruins, I mark the following teams as buyers and not really good fits for a trade: Maple Leafs, Lightning, Capitals, Penguins, Columbus Blue Jackets, Winnipeg Jets, Nashville Predators, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars. I also think bubble teams like the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche and Buffalo Sabres will be more buyer than seller as we approach the deadline.

So, who does that leave on the dance floor? In the Eastern Conference, the biggest two sellers are the Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators. Both are strong trade partners for the Bruins. The St. Louis Blues will be selling out west, and they represent a potential ‘one-stop shop’ for a club like the Bruins. I think the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks will be selling too.

Related: Koekkoek for Rutta – What Did the Blackhawks Get?

It’s only early January, so this list is bound to expand and could include teams like the Minnesota Wild, New Jersey Devils and Vancouver Canucks by the time we reach the deadline. In fact, with the results simply not falling in their favor, the Devils could be a loss or two away from selling. TSN’s Darren Dreger hinted at as much earlier this week on TSN 1290 in Winnipeg.

If I look at the Eastern Conference, I mean there are teams that we haven’t heard from yet. Toronto plays the New Jersey Devils tonight. I’m getting the sense the New Jersey Devils are real close to moving out some pieces.

All of the teams listed as sellers are good fits for the Bruins, and I’ll be taking a long look at them over the coming weeks. Which players could check off the items the they are searching for? We’ll take a look starting Monday with the Blues.