When looking at the Boston Bruins, there’s no question they would benefit from adding a second-line center and left-handed, top-four defenseman. Although these are needs that they should at least try to address at the trade deadline, there is another weak point that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough — the right-wing position.
After David Pastrnak, the Bruins’ offensive production from their right-wingers falls off rather significantly. With how talented their Atlantic Division rivals are, this is a recipe for disaster come playoff time. Thus, upgrading this position is another area the Bruins should focus their efforts on this deadline season. Even if they do not bring in a star, a middle-six winger would still be beneficial for them to add. Let’s now dive into exactly why.
Craig Smith Is Struggling in the Bruins’ Top-six
Craig Smith is the kind of heart-and-soul player that all NHL teams love to have. He quickly became a fan favorite amongst Bruins fans last season, as he had 13 goals, 32 points, and a plus-21 rating in 54 games. However, this campaign has been the exact opposite, as he has just six goals and eight assists in 37 contests. This drop in production is certainly concerning, but even more so when noting that he’s recently spent a good amount of time on the team’s first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
Over his last nine games, Smith has one goal and hasn’t recorded a single assist. When looking at how much his offensive contributions have decreased this season, it does feel like the right time to bring in some competition for his spot in the top-six. If he continues to struggle like this moving forward, the 32-year-old may be better suited to play on the third line. The Bruins simply need more offense from their top-six, and it just isn’t coming nearly enough from the Wisconsin native.
Oskar Steen Has Cooled off Dramatically
After recording 20 points in just 16 games with the Providence Bruins this season, Oskar Steen earned himself a spot on the NHL roster. He also started his time with Boston in amazing fashion, as he had five points in his first seven contests. Naturally, this kind of start created excitement amongst Bruins fans, but, unfortunately, he has cooled off significantly since then. Over his last 12 games, he only has one goal. That is a long stretch of games to produce so infrequently, so one has to wonder if the 23-year-old’s permanent spot in the bottom-six could be in jeopardy.
Related: Bruins’ 2022 Trade Targets From the Montreal Canadiens
Steen still deserves a lot of credit for clawing his way up to the Bruins’ roster. However, if the opportunity is there for them to bring in a proven veteran at the deadline, they should jump on it. The Swedish winger may benefit from a little more time in the American Hockey League (AHL) again if he continues to struggle offensively. Yet, with Marchand receiving a six-game suspension for his unnecessary shenanigans, it could help buy the rookie some time to get out of his cold streak.
Nick Foligno Hasn’t Been the Answer All Season
When the Bruins signed Nick Foligno, there was an expectation that he would be an upgrade to the team’s third-line right-wing position. Since then, however, the 34-year-old just hasn’t been the answer. In 27 games, he has one goal, six assists, and a minus-6 rating. With that, he has dealt with a plethora of injury problems, so he hasn’t had much time to get back on track. Furthermore, he has seen time back at his natural left-wing position but on the fourth line when everyone is healthy. For the remainder of the season, it might be best to leave him there. That is assuming they don’t move Jake DeBrusk by the trade deadline, of course.
Unless Foligno is able to recapture his old form, it’s hard to determine if he can be a long-term solution for the Bruins at right wing. Yet, when looking at his statistics from last season, perhaps there is a bit of hope that he can bounce back from here. In 49 games between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Maple Leafs, he scored seven goals and had 13 assists. If he can produce at a pace more similar to this from here, it would lower the Bruins’ need for another winger. There is still time for him to, but if he doesn’t, the team will have a decision to make when it comes to their next move.
The Trade Market Is Expected to Have Plenty of Options
The trade market is expected to have many right-wing options. For example, when looking at Frank Seravalli’s recent trade targets piece, some players in it include Phil Kessel, Reilly Smith, and Rickard Rakell. The Bruins have also been linked to Conor Garland from the Vancouver Canucks. Some other rental candidates who could be worth considering are Alexander Barabanov and Calle Jarnkrok. Those are only some of the many they should at least be glancing at.
Ultimately, whether they go after one of these rentals or a player with term like Garland, it has the potential to be very positive for the Bruins. They are in need of secondary scoring, and adding a middle-six to a top-six winger could help that. Simply put, it just seems that they need a little more firepower up front in this area.
Although I think the need for a center and left-handed defenseman is more important, there’s also no denying that the Bruins would benefit from adding a right-winger to their current roster, too. As we inch closer to the trade deadline, it will be intriguing to see what occurs on that front. Until then, let’s hope that Smith, Steen, and Foligno can all improve their play.