Bruins Could Regret Moving on From First-Round Pick

On Feb. 21, the Boston Bruins traded their 2020 first-round pick, David Backes and Axel Andersson in a deal that netted them Ondrej Kase from the Anaheim Ducks. The Bruins added a young, talented and controllable forward while only retaining 25% of Backes’ ugly contract. The Bruins also moved on from a first-round pick at the deadline two seasons ago for Rick Nash, a move that did not help them get over the hump to win a Stanley Cup.

Ondrej Kase Boston Bruins
Ondrej Kase, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Will the Bruins regret moving on from their second first-round pick at the deadline in three years? Only time will tell, but their mild success at the deadline in the past dictates they may. The underwhelming additions at past deadlines for the Bruins such as Rick Nash and Lee Stempniak insinuate the Bruins may once again have not added the punch they need and that they will ultimately fail to reach their goal of winning the Stanley Cup as they did in those respective seasons.

Why They Pulled the Trigger

The Bruins have been in need of a top-six right wing to fit with David Krejci for years. After acquiring Marcus Johansson last season for a second and fourth-round pick, it seemed they had found a fit. However, Johansson moved on to the Buffalo Sabres this offseason once again leaving a gaping hole in their top six.

Alexander Steen,Marcus Johansson
St. Louis Blues’ Alexander Steen defends against former Boston Bruin Marcus Johansson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Dwyer)

Instead of paying the price for a pure scorer such as a Taylor Hall, the Bruins opted to go for a cheaper option in Kase while overpaying to move on from Backes’ contract. Even in a deep draft, the team felt that Kase was a more important piece to them than their 2020 first-round pick, which would’ve come near the end of the draft anyway for the Presidents’ Trophy winners. This factor, along with the depth of their farm system at both defensemen and forward, may have led them to pull the trigger. Young players like Jack Studnicka and Urho Vaakanainen among others seem just about ready to make the jump to the NHL level but after them, the talent in the Bruins prospect pool drops significantly.

Related: Reviewing the Bruins’ 2015 Draft

Still, moving on from a first-round prospect is bold for a player like Kase unless you believe he is the piece that could truly put you over the top and lead you to a Stanley Cup. But his inconsistency at the NHL level along with the magnitude of their need for a top-six winger reads like a bad script for Boston.

Why They Could Regret It

There is no doubt that the Bruins are in a race with time for the Stanley Cup due to their aging core. However, in any trade, it is still important to realize the value being exchanged. The Bruins moved on from a first-round pick for a rental of Rick Nash, a much more consistent scorer on the wing and a player with a much higher pedigree, yet were bounced in the second round of the 2018 NHL Playoffs by the Tampa Bay Lightning. (from ‘Rangers Trade Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins,’ New York Times, 02/25/2018) While Nash contributed, he ultimately was not worth the price the Bruins paid for a chance at a Cup run. The point being, on deadline deals you can never be sure of what you’re getting. In Kase’s case, this is heightened even more.

Boston Bruins forward Rick Nash
Boston Bruins forward Rick Nash (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Jeffrey T. Barnes, File)

Kase has shown little evidence of being the scorer the Bruins desperately need. He mustered just 7 goals in 49 games for the Ducks after just 11 goals last season and a career high of 20 the season before. He also managed just one point in his six games with the Bruins since the trade, which is a small sample size but still not a promising beginning to his Bruins career.

Related: Bruins and the 2006 NHL Draft – Gorton’s Trades Still Paying Off

With the first-round pick exchanged for Kase, the Bruins could’ve added more pure skill to a prospect group that has been headlined by physical forwards drafted over the past few years including John Beecher and Trent Frederic. Instead, they will most likely have to bank on Jack Studnicka’s emergence at the NHL level.

Looking Ahead

The question will become will this move get the Bruins over the top and if they end up hoisting the Cup it will all be worth it. However, they face a different postseason format post-COVID-19 and it will be interesting to see how the break will affect the team and their chemistry with new teammates.

Teams such as the Lightning and Washington Capitals pose the biggest threat in the Eastern Conference. Both teams have a lot of scoring that will force the Bruins’ role players to once again step into bigger roles. Kase will get his opportunity to prove himself as a possible answer for the Bruins in their top six.