There are a couple of ways that Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney can construct the roster for the 2021-22 season. He could retain as many as his free agents that he wants, while also diving out into the free-agent pool from the other teams in the NHL. Friday, he signed Taylor Hall to a four-year contract to return to the Bruins. If things don’t work out in the free-agent market, then Sweeney could always look to make a trade.
If the Bruins are going to make a trade, then they would have to most likely part ways with some key young players, either off of their current roster or off their American Hockey League roster from the Providence Bruins. Sweeney could also look to add some draft picks in a deal, but in the end, most trades are going to require some young players as part of a deal. With that said, here are some young players or prospects that the Bruins could use to work out a trade this offseason.
The Bruins protected DeBrusk in the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft, but there’s no doubt that teams would be interested in acquiring the 24-year-old. If Sweeney is going to get a missing piece through a trade, most deals would likely include DeBrusk. Last offseason, DeBrusk signed a two-year bridge deal for $7.35 million with Boston with a cap hit of $3.675 million.
Would trading DeBrusk be considered giving up on him if you’re the Bruins? Probably as he did score 27 goals in 2018-19 and was one goal short of another 20-goal season in 2019-20 when the season was paused because of the coronavirus with 12 games remaining on the schedule. This past season was clearly a disappointment for the 24-year-old left wing who had just five goals and nine assists in 41 games, while sitting out some games as a healthy scratch. There’s no doubt that the talent is there to be a consistent 20-goal scorer, making him the Bruins’ best NHL-ready trade chip.
Zboril was Sweeney’s first-ever draft pick at No. 13 in the 2015 Entry Draft and was the first of three consecutive picks that year. He made the Bruins roster this season in the 56-game shortened season and played well, including in all three situations at different times for coach Bruce Cassidy on defense. He was paired with Kevan Miller on the third pairing and when the defense was hit with injuries, he moved up and down the pairings throughout the season. He ended up getting injured and found himself on the outside looking in during the playoffs.
A left-shot, Zboril is not going to put up big offensive numbers as he is more of a stay-at-home defenseman. In 44 NHL games, he has nine assists, all this season. He had 11 goals and 46 assists in 182 American Hockey League games with the Providence Bruins over three seasons. Could he be a piece to the Boston blueline in the future? Yes, but if he can be used as a trade piece to land a veteran left-shot defenseman, then it’s something that Sweeney needs to consider. His development has taken longer than the Black and Gold would have liked, but he is someone that was passed on by the Seattle Kraken in the expansion draft last week that could be an asset to another team.
Another first-round pick like Zboril, Vaakanainen has 16 NHL games under his belt, with nine coming this season when the Bruins were looking for bodies because of injuries on the blueline. The 18th pick in the 2017 Entry Draft has been good in the AHL with Providence and has seen a development in both his offensive and defensive game.
Vaakanainen has more of an offensive upside than Zboril and the 6-foot-1,185-pound left-shot from Finland carries an $894,167 cap hit, which would be a good deal for a team looking to build on defense. If he’s not traded, he will have an opportunity to make the Bruins roster this season depending on what the rest of the offseason looks like, but he could be easily used as a trade piece to fill that void too.
Not Many Other Options
If the Bruins are going to make some offseason trades to acquire players to fill holes on their roster, then these might be their best trade chips to get a deal done. Depending on who the return is, then one or more of these players might have to be moved. I’m not even saying that any of these players will be moved, but if the Bruins are truly building a championship-contending roster for the 2021-22 season, then parting with some of them might be necessary.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. A frequent user of the Oxford comma. Scott has been a sports writer for 25 years for different sites and daily newspapers. Writing started out as a hobby, but it has become a passion for Scott over the years.