The NHL trade deadline is six days away and despite little activity so far, there expects to be a flurry of activity by 3 o’clock on Monday. Several teams, including the Boston Bruins, are out searching to upgrade their rosters, while some teams are willing to listen on some players that are in the final year of their contracts and they know that re-signing them most likely won’t happen this upcoming offseason.
One move was made on Monday when the Colorado Avalanche acquired defenseman Josh Manson from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for a 2023 second-round pick and prospect Drew Helleson. Manson was one of several Ducks’ that was on the radar of several teams for defensive depth.
Monday, Elliotte Friedman reported on the NHL Network, in regards to Jake DeBrusk saying, “Boston is trying to win a Stanley Cup and unless they get a deal that makes them better, I think he’s staying.’’ Well, there is certainly a lot to break down there.
Keeping DeBrusk is a Mistake
In November, DeBrusk requested a trade through his agent after he was a healthy scratch once again against the Vancouver Canucks. Last season, he was a healthy scratch multiple times by coach Bruce Cassidy, with the most notable time being in Game 5 of the second-round playoff series against the New York Islanders with the series even 2-2. Boston would lose Game 5 at home, before being finished off two nights later in Game 6 on Long Island.
After scoring a career-high 27 goals in 2018-19, he was one shy of a second consecutive 20-goal season with 19 when the season was stopped in March of 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic with 12 games remaining in the regular season. It was not a given that DeBrusk would have scored that one goal as the regular season wore down, but the odds were pretty good that he was going to reach the mark.
Since the Bruins returned to the ice in the summer of 2020 at the Toronto playoff bubble, then in the 56-game shortened regular season of 2020-21 and then this season, things are not gone the way that DeBrusk or the Bruins would have thought they were going to go. He struggled through the 2020-21 season with five goals and 14 points in 43 games after signing a two-year bridge deal before the season for $7.35 million.
Despite DeBrusk and Cassidy saying all the right things before the season started, it was another frustrating first half of the season for the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft. He started the season on the third line with veteran Erik Haula and Nick Foligno, but there was poor production, not playing aggressively and just looking like he had no confidence. On Feb. 24, DeBrusk was moved to the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron and he has been a different player.
He has six goals and eight points since being bumped up with Marchand and Bergeron, while looking like a different player. He recorded his first career hat trick against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 28 and has been playing with a chip on his shoulder. He has been aggressive on the forecheck, entering the offensive zone with speed, driving to the net, shooting the puck with confidence, being a net-front presence, and just playing with a ton of confidence. DeBrusk has been a streaky scorer and this season is no different, but the chip he’s playing with most likely is turning himself into a trade chip.
Trading DeBrusk is the Only Option
A restricted free agent following the season, he is due a $4.41 million qualifying offer from whatever team he is on. That is not an offer that the Bruins and general manager Don Sweeney would feel comfortable picking up, which would make him a free agent. If Boston holds onto him through the deadline, it’s likely he finishes out the season and will be lost for nearly nothing.
Moving him is the option Sweeney and the Bruins must choose. Get value back. If it’s a rental, then so be it. If you can use him to create a blockbuster deal with someone, then do it. Getting the opportunity with Marchand and Bergeron is one that he has taken advantage of and raised his trade value. His trade value right now will not be as high as it is at this time. DeBrusk wants out so bad, that it was reported by Pierre LeBrun of TSN that his agent, Rick Valette, told teams he’s willing to work out an extension to facilitate a trade.
DeBrusk does not want to be in Boston and has made it clear since November. If he is kept beyond March 21 at 3 o’clock, who is to say that he’s going to continue to be the player he is? The chip he has been playing with is a trade chip that he has become to Sweeney. If the Bruins are indeed going for a Stanley Cup championship, then moving the former first-round pick is the move to become a Stanley Cup contender. Sell high while the getting could be good. If he stays and returns to the old Jake DeBrusk of the last 14 months that is unproductive, then the blame will fall on Sweeney.
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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.