Bruins’ Rivals Add Depth for Playoff Run

As the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline approaches, contending teams in the Eastern Conference are making moves in an attempt to dethrone the Boston Bruins from the top of the conference and make a run for the Stanley Cup.

Related: Esposito – The Trade That Shaped the Bruins

The Tampa Bay Lightning and Pittsburgh Penguins both bolstered their forward lines with a pair of trades in the last week. Boston has yet to make a deal to counter the moves. With that said, let’s take a look at what these trades mean for the Bruins.

Lightning Acquire Coleman From the Devils

Interim New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald has been wheeling and dealing. On Feb. 16, the Lightning landed Blake Coleman from the Devils for top prospect Nolan Foote and a first-round draft pick.

Blake Coleman #20, New Jersey Devils
Blake Coleman #20, New Jersey Devils, October 20, 2018 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Tampa Bay is the hottest team in the league. They have won 11 straight games and are on the verge of passing the Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division standings. Adding Coleman makes them a more dangerous team offensively.

Boston can match the talent and skill of the Lightning’s top line. David Pastrnak (43 goals), Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (52 assists) form the top line in the league while Steven Stamkos, Brayden Pointe and Nikita Kucherov each have over 20 goals on the Bolts’ first line. However, the Lightning have Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat to send over the boards on their second line, with a combined 51 goals. By comparison, David Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Karson Kuhlman have a combined 35 for the Bruins. Coleman will likely slot in on the third line.

Alex Killorn (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Last season, Tampa Bay won the Presidents’ Trophy, but were swept in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Looking to makeup for that early playoff exit, adding Coleman gives them three scoring lines and shows that management is going all-in.

What It Means for Boston

The Lightning have the highest goal differential in the NHL with a plus-56. Adding Coleman, a 20-goal scorer, to the third line adds to their depth. If the Bruins are to hold them off and win the Atlantic, they will need to make a move to add a second-line, scoring right-winger. This would be the toughest best-of-seven series matchup for the Bruins.

Penguins Get Zucker From Wild

On Feb. 10, the Penguins made the first splash by trading for Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild for forward Alex Galchenyuk, prospect Calen Addison and a first-round draft pick. It was a steep price, but they have team control over Zucker for three more seasons of his five-year, $27.5 million contract.

Jason Zucker
Jason Zucker (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Quickly slotted onto the Penguins’ first line with Sidney Crosby and Dominik Simon, Zucker made his presence felt right away by scoring a goal in his first game. He has three goals in four games with Pittsburgh.

Related: Bruins Need to Go All-In at the Trade Deadline

Pittsburgh recently took over first place in the Metropolitan Division from the Washington Capitals and look ready for a long playoff run. Adding Zucker (a four-time 20 goal scorer) give the Penguins a formidable top-six as he could even flank Evgeni Malkin on the second line.

What It Means for Boston

Right now, Boston has the better first line, but Pittsburgh closed the gap by adding Zucker. The Penguins also have the option of moving lines around. If the Bruins can add a goal-scoring, right-winger to their second line, then they would match the Penguins’ top two lines.

Capitals and Islanders Add to Their Blue Line

The Capitals traded for San Jose Sharks defenseman Brenden Dillon to add depth to their blue line. Washington sent a 2020 second-round draft pick to the Sharks and a 2021 conditional third-round pick for the physical defenseman who was on the Bruins’ radar.

Brenden Dillon Sharks
Brenden Dillon, San Jose Sharks, Nov. 28, 2017 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Pittsburgh and Washington were not the only Metropolitan teams that made a trade. The New York Islanders took advantage of the Devils’ fire sale and acquired defenseman Andy Greene for prospect David Quenneville and a 2021 second-round draft pick.

What It Means for Boston

It doesn’t mean much for the Bruins except that the Capitals and Islanders bolstered their defense. Unless one of those two Metropolitan teams slip into a wild-card spot, they will battle the Penguins for the right to get to the Eastern Conference Final.

Lightning and Penguins Set the Market High

After dealing away top prospects and first-round draft picks, the Lightning and Penguins have set the market high for teams planning to sell at the deadline. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney needs to make a move to solidify his team’s top-six forwards. It will hurt to lose a top prospect, but it’s also necessary to add players to the roster if they plan to go all-in to win this season and compete with the Lightning, Capitals and Penguins in the playoffs if they get there.

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