All the chatter leading up to the 2022 trade deadline, it was likely that the Boston Bruins were going to grant forward Jake DeBrusk his wish and move him to another team. When the 14th overall pick of the 2015 Entry Draft reportedly requested a trade last summer, which became public in November, to general manager (GM) Don Sweeney, it was clear that he was not going to move him for the sake of moving him.
When Sweeney confirmed the trade request public to the media in November, he said that he was in no rush to make a move and would wait until he found a deal that would benefit his team as much as it would benefit DeBrusk. After confirming the trade request, Brad Marchand made it difficult for his GM to make a move. The Bruins’ first-line left wing has been suspended twice this season for a total of nine games for two separate incidents.
Following a game against the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 28, Marchand was suspended three games for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson in a game that DeBrusk just happened to be a healthy scratch with Erik Haula. Then on Feb. 8, Marchand lost his cool and received a six-game suspension for punching and swinging his stick in the face of Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry. With their leading scorer out of action and left wing depth limited, keeping the 25-year-old DeBrusk had to be done.
Bruins Give DeBrusk Early Contract Extension
Five hours before the trade deadline of 3 o’clock Monday, the Bruins announced a two-year contract extension with DeBrusk that carries an average annual value (AAV) of $4 million per year. Speculation began as to why the Bruins would extend him with the trade deadline hours away. Following the end of the season, DeBrusk was scheduled to be a restricted free agent (RFA) and whichever team he was on would be on the hook for a $4.41 million qualifying offer. That may have played a piece into teams pulling off a trade with Sweeney knowing what was waiting on the other end this offseason.
Signing DeBrusk to the two-year deal would make his trade value better up until the deadline and any team acquiring him would know that they have him under contract for two seasons. Sweeney was hoping that this would make it easier to swing a deal, but unfortunately for Boston’s GM, no team was willing to make a move on the winger.
Bruins Hope DeBrusk Stays Motivated
Going into the trade deadline, Sweeney addressed one of his team’s needs on Saturday when he acquired defenseman Hampus Lindholm from the Anaheim Ducks, then on Sunday, they agreed on an eight-year contract extension with the left-shot. Next on the Bruins’ GM list was a second-line center or a top-six forward, preferably a right wing. Sweeney failed to address those needs and not doing so, he kept DeBrusk on his roster.
When he was moved up to the top-line with Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on Feb. 24, DeBrusk put together some of his best hockey in the last two seasons. He has six goals and three assists in that time, but he has looked like a different player that was struggling to stay in the lineup as a bottom-six forward. He was skating better, strong on the puck, quicker on zone entries, strong on the forecheck, and becoming a net-front presence. He was back to being the player he was prior to the coronavirus shut down in March of 2020.
It is most likely he became the player he has been over the last month to up the chances he got moved at the trade deadline. It didn’t happen. Now, with a two-year extension under his belt, he will remain with the Black and Gold the rest of the season and Sweeney hopes that with the deadline passed that he can help the Bruins for the remainder of 2021-22.
“I’ve been having discussions on Jake for months. Today wasn’t any different in terms of where teams thought he fit into their group and what they were trying to do. Some teams were down the road on other things. We’ll pivot back, maybe. But it doesn’t really matter at this point. I sent a clear message to Jake, and he sent one to us, that he just wants to play hockey. Bottom line is he knows he’s an important part if he plays to his capabilities. He’s going to help us and help himself.”Don Sweeney (from ‘Inside the inaction: Why the Bruins didn’t get a big trade done on deadline day, and what’s next for Jake DeBrusk,’ The Athletic, March 21, 2022)
When DeBrusk looks behind him as to who his competition is as the first-line right wing, is he looking at Jack Studnicka or Oskar Steen as possibilities? Most likely as the Bruins are getting too much production from David Pastrnak on the second line and Craig Smith on the third as right wings to move them around. Could 2021 first-round pick Fabian Lysell work his way to Boston or to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League (AHL) once his season is over with the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League (WHL)? Maybe, but most likely Lysell is not going to make his way to Boston and the most obvious place is in Providence, but you never know what things look like when the time comes.
There is no doubting that the talent is there for DeBrusk to be a 20 or even 30-goal scorer in the NHL. His career-high of 27 in 2018-19 and then 19 more the next season before the COVID-19 stoppage proves that when he’s playing well, he can supply top-six offense to any team. This season he has 15 goals and 11 assists and right now, with the Bruins not addressing any forward needs at the trade deadline, they need him to stay motivated for the rest of the season and into the playoffs. If he does, he can help them for the rest of this season on the ice and then in the offseason when his trade request might finally come true.
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.