It has been just over three months since Jake DeBrusk requested a trade from the Boston Bruins through his agent. The fact that it has reached this point between the player and the team should not be surprising. It has been a frustrating last year for both DeBrusk and the Bruins.
During the three months since the 25-year-old made his request, it has been hard for Sweeney to honor that request. First-line left wing Brad Marchand has been suspended twice since the request was made. He was suspended for three games for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson of the Vancouver Canucks on Nov. 28. Then on Feb. 8 in the final seconds of a 4-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, Marchand lost his cool and punched Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry, then rubbed his stick in his face and was suspended for another six games.
The NHL trade deadline is 13 days away at 3 o’clock on March 21 and there is still a very good chance that Sweeney makes a deal that includes DeBrusk. There are plenty of needs that the Black and Gold have for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs and DeBrusk should be used to fill a need.
How We Got Here
In his first three seasons in the NHL, DeBrusk was one of the bright young forwards with a promising future. In his first season in 2017-18, he had 16 goals, a career-high 27 assists for a career-high 43 points. In 2018-19, he scored a career-high 27 goals and had 15 assists. In 24 Stanley Cup playoff games that year, he had seven goals and 11 assists and was a big part of the Bruins reaching Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final, before losing 4-1 at home to the St. Louis Blues.
The following season of 2019-20, DeBrusk was on his way to a second consecutive 20-goal season with 19 with 12 games remaining when the NHL paused the season on March 12 at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. After that pause, things have not gone as they were going before the pause. In 13 games at the Toronto playoff bubble, he had just four goals and finished with a plus/minus of minus-3.
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In the offseason, DeBrusk was a free agent, hit the open market, and did not find a team to offer him a deal. Instead, right before Thanksgiving, he re-signed with the Bruins on a two-year bridge deal for $7.35 million that carries a $3.675 million annual average salary (AAV). In 43 games last season, he had five goals and 14 points, while going in coach Bruce Cassidy’s dog house. He was a healthy scratch multiple times, including in Game 5 of the second round of the playoffs against the New York Islanders with the series tied 2-2. Boston would lose the final two games of the series.
DeBrusk’s Trade Value High Right Now
After both DeBrusk and Cassidy said all the right things in training camp and he had a good start to the season by scoring the game-winning goal on opening night against the Dallas Stars, things went downhill like they did last season. By November, he was a healthy scratch and then found himself buried on the fourth line by February. That’s when things changed.
When the Bruins embarked on a six-game road trip out West and with Craig Smith struggling as the first line right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand, Cassidy moved DeBrusk from the fourth line up to the top line. He took full advantage of moving up next to two potential Hall of Famers is a move that DeBrusk welcomed. He scored two goals against the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 24, including the game-winning goal in overtime in a 3-2 victory. He set up Marchand for the game’s first goal two nights later in a 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks, then he saved his best for last against the Los Angeles Kings. He scored the first three goals of the game for his first career hat trick and also had an assist in a 7-0 Boston win.
“It’s a great honor to play with two Hall of Famers,” said DeBrusk. “Just wanted to try to get on pucks and try to win some races on the forecheck, take away the goalie’s eyes, simplify my game, and I think I’ve gotten some puck luck the last little bit. It’s been trending in the right direction, so I was really excited for sure.”
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Since scoring a goal on Feb. 19 in a 3-1 win over the Ottawa Senators, DeBrusk has seven goals and two assists. He has a different look to him as he is aggressive on the forecheck, using his speed on zone entries, getting to the front of the net, shooting the puck with confidence, and looking like the player the Bruins were expecting when they picked him 14th overall in 2015.
Sell While DeBrusk’s Value is at it’s Highest
Despite his recent play, it’s been reported that DeBrusk still wants to be traded by the deadline. This is where Sweeney needs to take full advantage of his high value right now and make a deal for the streaky forward. This would be a good time for an old-fashioned blockbuster to get a target like Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes or J.T. Miller of the Vancouver Canucks. Include some prospects and make it really enticing for the opposing team. The Bruins are home for two more games this week after their 3-2 overtime loss to the Kings Monday night and this would be a good time to make a move before they go back out on the road.
There is going to be a team that needs secondary scoring and there might even be a team that is desperate to add a player like DeBrusk and right now with his play, a team could overpay for him. One drawback to a team acquiring DeBrusk is he is going to be a restricted free agent and will be eligible for a $4.441 million qualifying offer this summer. That, however, is something that they will have to deal with in the offseason, and acquiring him would be seen as a move for the present.