Dear Santa: Boston Bruins Wish List for 2023

With the way the Boston Bruins’ season has been going, whether there is a need for much of a discussion on this is up for debate. Comfortably sitting atop the NHL, the Bruins could, in theory, only have one wish, win the Stanley Cup. That doesn’t cut it, though; there must be more to wish for that will help the team build towards this goal. So, Bruins’ fans writing their wish lists out, make sure to include these topics to the North Pole. 

A Trade Partner for Salary Cap Relief

All I want for Christmas is you… to take Mike Reilly, Craig Smith, Anton Stralman, or Chris Wagner” is a freestyle of the always popular Mariah Carey hit song Don Sweeney may be performing at his local karaoke bar of choice. The Bruins are backed all the way against the cap. With roughly $30,000 available, there is no amount of wiggle room for the Bruins’ front office to work with when looking for a trade deadline addition. These four contracts are buried in Providence with the American Hockey League (AHL) club, but some portion of their salary cap hit still falls on the big club in Boston. 

Craig Smith Boston Bruins
Craig Smith, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The problem the Bruins are facing, is that there are at least 12 teams around the league with $0 of cap space available. That means over a third of the league is removed as a trading partner before even turning to negotiations and finding an asset the Bruins would like to receive as a return. Given this lack of financial freedom, if the Bruins can convince any team, (Arizona? Anaheim?) to take on these contracts, it will be for nothing in return, and quite possibly require a sweetener in the form of a draft pick or prospect alongside the NHL contract. Given the Bruins’ abysmal prospect pool, draft picks will likely be the only currency available to move. 

Related: Bruins’ Sweeney Will Have to Get Creative to Trade Smith or Reilly

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This is where Santa can step in. If he can whip up some magic, maybe the Bruins are able to talk to one of the teams with cap space into taking a contract from the team. Maybe the front offices can get creative over some milk and cookies to draft up a three-team trade, where one of the few teams with an abundance of cap space act as a landing point to retain some of the salary from the player to lower the cap hit for the final acquiring team. In this scenario, the Bruins could move their asset without any return other than the financial relief removing his contract provides. Whatever asset the team receiving the player would give up, could instead be diverted to the layover spot where part of the cap hit was retained. A move like this wouldn’t help the Bruins down the line, but it would make the best out of a bad situation during this season. 

Continued (Relative) Health

This may be one of the most surprising requests, given that the Bruins started the season with three key contributors, Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk on the injured reserve (IR), but the team has been relatively healthy otherwise. Derek Forbort and Brandon Carlo are the only skaters who have missed significant time. David Krejci has missed some games at various stretches, but never for a prolonged period. Even Jeremy Swayman’s injury, which appeared bad in real time, only required a two-week stint on IR. For a team with as many veterans as the Bruins have, and given the physical nature of hockey, this stretch is impressive. 

Charlie McAvoy Boston Bruins
Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

This health reflects the players’ preparation for sure, but credit also must go to the training staff. Each of the three players who were slated to miss months at the beginning of the season, came back at least a month ahead of schedule. Swayman’s injury should have required extra recovery time, but the staff was able to accelerate his timeline and get him back on the ice in half the time originally projected. Taylor Hall had the same turnaround time during the preseason. With his opening-night availability in doubt, the staff worked their magic and had him on the ice in Washington, D.C., against the Capitals, a game where he would score what would be the decisive goal. 

So, time to ask Santa, to keep this team healthy throughout the season. It is well known, that to win a Cup, a team must be both good and lucky. Good, in the sense they are built to win, have players capable of elevating their play for the moment, and factors like that. Lucky, in the sense that sometimes it requires a good bounce here or there, but more often, lucky in that there are no major injuries that derail a playoff run. Given the Bruins’ utter dominance of the league so far, this seems like the only way the team can be stopped. Santa will have to work hard to keep this group healthy, but if it happens, few, if any, teams will be able to stop them. 

Continued Depth Scoring

Four of the Bruins’ top-10 goal scorers come from the team’s bottom six. On any given night, the Bruins could be carried offensively by any of their four lines. Sure, the production of David Pastrnak has paced the team at almost 1.5 points per game, but every spot in the lineup has found a way to contribute offensively.

Related: Bruins’ Depth Continues to Shine on Third Line

What has traditionally been a weakness of the Bruins is now one of the team’s greatest strengths. This strength will prove even more important in the playoffs where a cold stretch from Pastrnak will not undo the team. By being able to roll out four lines, each capable of causing havoc and creating offensive opportunities, the Bruins will be setting themselves up to be an incredibly tough out in any playoff series.  

Send to Santa

So B’s fans, here are some talking points when you write to Santa. Be sure to mention that the Bruins deserve to find themselves on the nice list. They haven’t fought nearly as much as they could have, only averaging one fight per three games. Marchand has been on his best behavior, which, while true it won’t land him the Lady Byng he’s joked about, is a step in the right direction to be under a penalty minute per game. The team has even been fun to follow off the ice, whether it be the goalie hugs, pregame tunnel antics, or the Christmas shopping trip the team took.

None of this feels too outlandish, really it all comes down to keeping the status quo. The Bruins have been a buzzsaw from the start of the season, so Santa doesn’t need to make any overwhelming changes.

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