While the Boston Bruins have been putting together a historic season, general manager Don Sweeney is still looking to add vital pieces to push the team over the top as Stanley Cup favourites. Bo Horvat’s name had been among those linked to the Bruins before the former Vancouver Canucks captain was dealt to the New York Islanders. With Horvat now off the table, many quality names are still available. However, the cap-strapped Bruins have their work cut out for them as Sweeney attempts to make a deal ahead of the trade deadline. For many reasons, the best fit for the Bruins would be to facilitate a trade for Chicago Blackhawks captain and three-time Stanley Cup champion, Jonathan Toews.
Stanley Cup or Bust
This season could potentially be the Bruins’ last as top contenders in the Eastern Conference. They should stop short of nothing to make the necessary roster additions to give them the edge when the results matter the most. Patrice Bergeron took his time in deciding whether or not to come back for one more kick at the can. While he is still playing two-way hockey at the most elite level, it would almost be shocking for the Bruins captain to return next season. His return, along with the return of David Krejci, catapulted the Bruins out of an offseason where many looked at their center depth as a pressing issue. Krejci’s future beyond this season also remains in the air, making it much more essential to go all in on this season.
Toews fits the bill in every aspect for the club, as he would give the Bruins three premier centers on their top three lines. While he is not the offensive threat of his younger days, his leadership qualities and postseason experience would fit seamlessly with the Bruins’ current culture. During the playoffs, his two-way play and prowess in the faceoff circle would be monumental. He has owned the faceoff dot this season, winning a career-high 63.3% of his draws.
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The Bruins also currently don’t have a left-handed center in their top six, and the addition would give coach Jim Montgomery the ability to deploy a top-notch faceoff man on their strong side of the ice in any situation. Puck possession is a crucial aspect of the game and one the Bruins have already dominated this season. By adding Toews, they would gain another edge by having that all-important first possession more times than not.
How the Bruins Could Make the Acquisition Work
All season long, the Bruins have been hard-pressed by salary cap restrictions, as they have had to waive players such as Mike Reilly, Craig Smith and Nick Foligno at various points of the season. So for the club to acquire Toews, who carries a cap hit of $10.5 million average annual value (AAV), Sweeney will need to move some salary off the roster. The Blackhawks captain has a remaining cap hit of approximately $3.689 million, while the Bruins have only $3.25 million available in deadline cap space.
Elliotte Friedman recently reported that it will cost any team pursuing Toews a second or third-round draft pick to acquire the three-time champion. When speaking on Patrick Kane and Toews rumours on a Jan. 19 episode of “The Jeff Marek Show” Friedman added, “But, yes, I do think in both cases, there might need to be a third team involved.”
A three-team trade would be the most viable option for the Bruins to acquire the center’s services. The Anaheim Ducks ring a bell as a potential third team, as Sweeney has a history of making deals with them. However, one problem for the Bruins is they don’t have a second-round pick in the upcoming two entry drafts, as they were used to acquire Hampus Lindholm at the deadline last season.
The Bruins could still make the trade without adding a third team by potentially sending the Blackhawks their 2023 third-round draft pick along with Craig Smith and a prospect such as Jakub Lauko, who it appears they have been trying to showcase with a recent call-up before the All-Star Break. Of course, the Blackhawks may inquire about Fabian Lysell as part of the return, but the Bruins should be reluctant to ship their top prospect in return for an aging center. Johnny Beecher could be a more likely option the Bruins would be willing to part ways with, as the former first-round selection has struggled offensively with the Providence Bruins this season.
Toews Fits Now and In Coming Seasons
The hypothetical addition of Toews would benefit the Bruins greatly this season but also has the potential to help them in the next few seasons should Bergeron and Krejci decide to hang up their skates. He could center the Bruins’ third line in the immediate future with Charlie Coyle and Taylor Hall skating on his wings.
With the cost of acquiring Toews substantially lower than other available centers, such as Dylan Larkin, the Bruins should be locked in on the Blackhawks captain as their primary trade target. In the bigger picture, the 34-year-old could sign a more team-friendly contract while playing in a second or third-line role. The move also potentially helps bide the club time as they search for center depth in the post-Bergeron era, whenever that time comes. The time for Sweeney to act is now as players with a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree, such as Toews, are rarely available on the trade market.