As the NHL trade deadline of March 21 inches closer, the Boston Bruins are still a couple of needs away from contending in the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs. As is the case with the deadline just 10 days away, Bruins’ scouts have been attending games across the league looking at possible trade targets.
Boston of course would be interested in landing one of the big names that could very well be available in defensemen Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes, center Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers, or right wing Rickard Rakell of the Anaheim Ducks. If general manager Don Sweeney is not able to land one of those players or another top trade target, there are some potential low-risk, high-reward players that could be acquired to fill a need. Here are four players that would fit that for the Black and Gold.
Jarnkrok is a veteran that would give the Bruins center depth and the 30-year-old is having a solid season for the Seattle Kraken. He has 12 goals and 14 points and can also play the wing in the middle-six. Can the Bruins survive the rest of the season and playoffs with Erik Haula as their No. 2 center? That remains to be seen, but if Sweeney can’t address the second-line center need at the trade deadline, Jarnkrok supplies depth.
He is in the final year of a six-year, $12 million contract he signed with Nashville Predators that carries a team-friendly $2 million cap hit. Selected 51st overall by the Detroit Red Wings in the 2010 Entry Draft, the Bruins will have a need for a right wing if Jake DeBrusk is moved as he currently is on the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Like the center spot, if the return in any DeBrusk deal does not bring back a wing, Jarnkrok is a cheap rental middle-six wing that is approaching a career season for goals.
There is no question the Bruins’ forward depth and Jarnkrok can play both in the middle and on the wing. He might not be the answer to the No. 2 center issue, but he is middle-six depth for a team that does not have much.
Soucy is having a good season for the Kraken and he brings some toughness with him as a 6-foot-5, 210-pound left-shot defenseman. He is averaging just over 17 minutes a night after being selected in the expansion draft from the Minnesota Wild, and good things have been happening for the first-year Kraken when he’s on the ice as he has a plus/minus of plus-10 on a team that is struggling in the Western Conference. Seattle has a minus-62 goal differential, with the Montreal Canadiens being the only team worse than them with a minus-77.
He has seven goals and seven assists this season and has one more year remaining on his contract that carries another team-friendly $2.75 million cap hit. The current state of the Bruins’ left-side is Matt Grzelcyk, Mike Reilly, Derek Forbort as the three main players this season, with Urho Vaakanainen, Jack Ahcan, and even Connor Clifton taking some shifts. Adding some depth and some grit and toughness is almost a must.
If Sweeney wants to get a real cheap in acquiring a left-shot defenseman, then it’s worth kicking the tires with Kraken GM Ron Francis on trying to get Lauzon back. Sweeney left the 24-year-old unprotected in last July’s Expansion Draft and Francis made Lauzon the very first pick.
In 2020-21, Lauzon became a valuable piece to the Bruins penalty-killing unit with Brandon Carlo, as well as establishing himself as a key part of the defense in his first full season in the NHL. This season for Seattle, he is averaging 17:42 a night, but with the Bruins in 2020-21, he averaged 18:43. Leaving Lauzon exposed was a move that backfired on Sweeney, but with the other options that were available for Francis from Boston (Connor Clifton, Jakub Zboril, Nick Ritchie to name a few), the only other attractive piece would have been Zboril.
Seattle could see Lauzon as a part of their future, but it doesn’t hurt for Sweeney to check in on his availability. Following the season, Lauzon will be a restricted free agent (RFA) as his two-year, $1.7 million contract, which carries an $850,000 cap hit, he signed with the Bruins expires.
The Bruins are in need of not only a second-line center, but also a wing. If they fail to address that need with a big name, Zacha is someone that would be available from the New Jersey Devils. He is versatile where he can play both on the wing and at center. He would come with a very team-friendly, $2.25 million cap hit and is a restricted free agent following the season.
Already in his seventh NHL season at 24 years old, along with being versatile 5-on-5, he can kill penalties, and be power play depth if needed. In the 2020-21 56-game shortened season, he scored a career-high 17 goals and finished with 35 points in 50 games. This season, he has 13 goals and 15 assists in 54 games and is a middle-six forward that is available with some Devils prospects becoming NHL-ready as early as the beginning of the 2022-23 season.
The Bruins middle-six is playing very well right now, especially the third-line of Trent Frederic, Charlie Coyle, and Craig Smith, but if Jake DeBrusk is traded, there is a need for a first-line right wing. If a DeBrusk deal does not get a wing back to replace DeBrusk, then moving Smith or David Pastrnak up to the top line and slotting Zacha in as a middle-six forward is a cheap option.
If Sweeney can get some big names on the trade market, then none of these players would be necessary. If not, then these are cheap options to fall back on that could be a low-risk, but have a high reward if the deal works out. Calling Francis and the Kraken to see what he’s willing to part with is a call a lot of teams are going to make. Sweeney should make that call as well and try to connect with Tom Fitzgerald in New Jersey where the two have a past trade history.
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.