As the NHL trade deadline of April 12 inches closer, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney has some decisions he has to make. If the Bruins are to make the playoffs in the tough MassMutual East Division and go on a postseason run, he has to decide as to whether or not he has to make a move to bolster the roster in some areas.
Boston is clearly in a win-now mode with their core players getting older. A move by Sweeney might be necessary for a playoff berth and a postseason run. Here are two areas that the Bruins could use an upgrade before the trade deadline.
Add Some Secondary Scoring
One issue that Sweeney has tried to solve over the last couple of seasons is adding secondary scoring. The Bruins know what they have with the top line of Brad Marchand (12 goals), Patrice Bergeron (10 goals), and David Pastrnak (12 goals), but after that, the scoring production has been limited. Of Boston’s 68 goals this season, 34 have come from the first line.
Last season, Sweeney acquired Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase in two separate trades from the Anaheim Ducks. This season, Ritchie has been the most productive forward after the top line with eight goals (five on the power play) and seven assists. Kase, meanwhile, has been out since the second game of the season against the New Jersey Devils with an upper-body injury.
After Ritchie, Charlie Coyle, acquired in February of 2019 at the trade deadline from the Minnesota Wild, is next in terms of goals with five. Craig Smith was signed as a free agent for three years and $9.3 million in October from the Nashville Predators and the Bruins were hoping he could add some scoring from the middle-six forwards. He has four goals in 22 games and Boston was hoping for a little more production from him.
Trent Frederic has provided some offense with three goals, but asking for much more out of him might be unrealistic. Jake DeBrusk has been a huge disappointment this season with just two goals in 18 games after signing a two-year, $7.5 million bridge deal in November.
Get a Top-Four Defenseman
Over the offseason, the Bruins lost Torey Krug in free agency to the St. Louis Blues, and right before training camp opened in January, Zdeno Chara signed with the Washington Capitals. At that point, it was clear that Boston was ready to move on from their veterans and see what they have with their younger blueliners.
It has been no secret this season that the Bruins have been decimated by injuries on defense. Of the six defensemen that were on the opening night roster, currently, only three are in the lineup.
Charlie McAvoy is becoming one of the top defensemen in the league, both offensively and defensively. He is second on the team with 14 assists. Matt Grzelcyk, who has missed 13 games this season with different injuries, and rookie Jakub Zboril are the other two defensemen currently playing who began the season on the team.
Rookie Jeremy Lauzon is still a couple of weeks away from returning from a fractured hand, and Kevan Miller is experiencing a setback with his recovery from his knee. Brandon Carlo is the latest one out after taking a hit from the Capitals’ Tom Wilson on March 5. The Bruins have already made one move, claiming Jarred Tinordi off of waivers from the Predators, but he is more of a fill-in, not a long-term solution.
Connor Clifton has been inserted into the lineup regularly lately and has held his own, and rookie Urho Vaakanainen has seen an increase in playing time, but do the Bruins feel that the 22-year-old could handle the pressure late in the regular season and in the playoffs? John Moore has struggled in his time in the lineup and he could be someone that Sweeney could move if another team was willing to take him.
Will Sweeney Make a Deal?
It will be interesting to see what Sweeney decides to do. If a move is to be made, there will have to be subtraction off of the current roster and it would not surprise anyone if DeBrusk or Anders Bjork become available in a potential deal. The Bruins also have some prospects that could be used in upgrading the current roster, but which prospects Boston is willing to part ways remains to be seen.
Scott Roche covers the Boston Bruins for The Hockey Writers. 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.