The 2023 Trade Deadline is getting closer and closer. As first place in the NHL, all eyes are on the Boston Bruins to see what they’ll do. The team has been reported to be interested in a number of big-name free agents, including defenseman Jakob Chychrun from the Arizona Coyotes.
One of the challenges that is going to face the Bruins’ front office as they try to make a deal is their weak prospect pool. They’re not going to have a lot of young pieces that will entice teams trying to rebuild. The one major piece that will draw interest, Fabian Lysell, is probably the one prospect they cannot afford to part with.
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General manager Don Sweeney has made big deals without parting with their top prospects in the past, like with the Taylor Hall deal. But in order to make that deal, they had to include a player on the current roster, Anders Bjork. Given the current state of the prospect pool, management may have to include current roster players in order to make a deal go through. In addition, the Bruins will need to clear some cap space in order to bring someone else in and may be looking to offload someone, even if the return isn’t great.
While the current roster has clearly proven to be incredibly successful and to have a good thing going. If they want to bring in reinforcements, they’ll have to make some adjustments to the roster and send some guys out as part of a trade deadline package.
As I’ve written previously, Connor Clifton is approaching unrestricted free agency this summer, and with his career year this season, he may have just priced himself out of Boston’s range. Given the fact that he may not re-sign with the organization and he’s one of the few pieces that may generate some interest on the trade market, he may be a sacrifice the team is willing to make, particularly if they are able to use him as part of a package that would bring in an upgrade at the position.
The 27-year-old defenseman and Quinnipiac University product has 14 points in 51 games so far in 2022-23 and is a plus-17. Prior to this season, he had 20 total career points and still has a chance to surpass that in a single season this year. He’s in the final year of a three-year deal that carried an average annual value (AAV) of $1 million. Given how well he has played this season, he certainly deserves a pay raise in his next deal and everyone knows that the Bruins are in a bit of a salary cap crunch.
Now, the Bruins’ defensive depth is not the greatest at the moment. They certainly need to add to their blue line at the deadline, and may not be exactly eager to part ways with someone who has been part of the winning formula this season. But, if they can bring in a Luke Schenn for fairly cheap, then it may not be the worst decision to use Clifton as part of a deal to bring in a bigger name on defense, particularly if Clifton signs an extension with the team right away.
Craig Smith is not going to be a player any team is going to come knocking for, but he is a current roster member that the Bruins may try to work into a deal to clear his salary off the books. Team management made a similar move at the 2020 Trade Deadline with David Backes, sending him, their first-round pick, and Axel Andersson for Ondrej Kase.
It might be a challenge for Sweeney to pull off and could require a significant sacrifice, but it might be necessary with the team knocking on the salary cap’s door. Smith currently carries an AAV of $3.1 million. Like Clifton, he is an unrestricted free agent this summer and it is highly unlikely that the team brings him back.
Smith has three goals and nine points in 37 games. It is by far the worst season of his career, but at 33 years old, he should get a chance somewhere else next year. A change of scenery may be good for him to make the best impression for any teams that may be thinking about adding him this offseason. The Bruins placed him on waivers back in December and he wasn’t picked up, so it will certainly be a challenge to trade him. But if they put the right deal together, anything can happen at the trade deadline.
A.J. Greer has been a complete surprise for the Bruins this season. He was signed to a two-year deal this past offseason for the league minimum. He carries a cap hit of $762,500 and could certainly be enticing to the right team that may be looking for a cheap talent with a big body who can make a hit when necessary. He’s only 26 years old and stands at 6-foot-3. He’s reinvigorated his career this season with five goals and nine points in 36 games.
He has not been a consistent presence given the Bruins have a crowded group of forwards this season with many performing better than expected, particularly Trent Frederic. Out of the forwards, he is probably the most expendable and enticing. He’s locked in for at least one more year at the league minimum and could find a more consistent starting spot on another team. On his own, Sweeney may be able to flip him for a lower level defenseman. In combination with draft picks and a good, but not great, prospect, Sweeney may be able to get a decent return to help with the playoff push this year.
Approaching 2023 Trade Deadline
The 2023 Trade Deadline is currently three weeks away. With so many teams up against the cap, it will be fascinating to see how many big deals are able to be pulled off. Based on all the reports coming out, the Bruins seem to be interested in everyone and anyone.
Related: Bruins Need More Sweeney Success at Trade Deadline
The last two trade deadlines, Sweeney has knocked it out of the park with the acquisitions of Hall and Hampus Lindholm, two players who have made important contributions to the success of the team this season. Given this could very well be the last chance guys like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Brad Marchand have at winning the Stanley Cup, the team shouldn’t be afraid to be a bit aggressive this year.
That being said, they also need to be cautious to bring in the right piece. The Bruins have had something really special going this season and the last thing anyone wants is for someone to come in that messes with the team chemistry and cohesion. If they’re going to depart with a player currently on the roster, they’ll have to really put the time and thought into it.