Believe it or not, the NHL trade deadline is less than a week away. By 3 o’clock on March 21, the Boston Bruins are either going to have additions to their roster to help them navigate the remainder of the 2021-22 regular season and postseason, or they will look the same that is the one on a current four-game road trip.
It would be stunning if the current roster is the same one that takes the ice at the Bell Centre next Monday night against the Montreal Canadiens. That would mean that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney thought that his roster as is currently constructed is good enough to compete in the Eastern Conference playoffs or he did not like the offers that he was facing. To think that the current roster is good enough is a stretch. They are good enough to get into the playoffs, but they are not good enough to get out of the first round.
In his seven seasons as GM, Sweeney has made some splashes at the deadline and dealt away some key assets and he has made some minor moves, holding onto key assets. As the deadline approaches, what does the former Bruins defenseman do with his roster?
Bruins Have Deadline Needs
It is no secret that there are upgrades needed for coach Bruce Cassidy. A second-line center, a left-shot defenseman, and a middle-six right wing could be some additions. Since David Krejci left last offseason to return to his home country of the Czech Republic to continue his career, there has been a gaping hole behind Patrice Bergeron as the second-line center.
Related: Bruins’ 3 Biggest Trade Deadline Needs
Charlie Coyle started the season there, but struggled between Taylor Hall and Craig Smith. It was not until Jan. 1 when Cassidy shuffled his lines around that things started to click. Erik Haula was bumped up from the third line to the second line between Hall and David Pastrnak and things took off. Pastrnak has scored 25 goals since the move and the case can be made that a lot of that has to do with Hall and not Haula. Not taking anything away from Haula who has played much better himself, but he is not the playmaking center that Krejci or Bergeron is. Haula has held the position, as well as the Bruins, could have hoped, but the reality is, if you put a top-six center between Hall and Pastrnak, they could be an even more dangerous line than they currently are.
Some trade targets that Sweeney could look to get to fill that need could be Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks, Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers, or even making a big splash and trying to get J.T. Miller from the Vancouver Canucks. After that, the pickings for a top-six center are slim, and acquiring just about anyone else would be considered a move that just replaces what they already have in Haula.
Another priority for the Bruins would be a left-shot defenseman that could be paired with Charlie McAvoy. Jakob Chychrun of the Arizona Coyotes is going to be the prize blueliner that Sweeney and everyone else around the league would like to land. Chychrun, who was injured against the Bruins Saturday night and will miss two-to-four weeks, has three years remaining on his contract following this season, so the haul that would go back to Arizona would be an impressive one. Other blueline options as a left-shot are Hampus Lindholm of the Anaheim Ducks, Calvin de Haan of the Chicago Blackhawks, Jacob Middleton of the Sharks, and veteran Mark Giordano of the Seattle Kraken. Some of those names might not be top-pairing players, but they would supply toughness and stability on the left side.
Sweeney’s Trade Bait
It is no secret that the Bruins prospect pool is not that deep. As far as NHL-ready prospects, they have Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, Jakub Lauko, Jesper Froden and Oskar Steen. In reality, not many of those names are going to move the needle for other teams. Defenseman Jakub Zboril is someone that could have been used as trade bait by next week, but a season-ending injury in December against the Nashville Predators dashed those hopes.
On his current roster, Jake DeBrusk is a name that could be moved. He requested a trade back in November, but Sweeney has said from the beginning that he is not going to rush into a deal just to make one. His hands have also been tied with Brad Marchand being suspended twice for a total of nine games. Matt Grzelcyk is someone that could be expendable if Sweeney can land a top-pairing left-shot defenseman. Grzelcyk is a veteran that could draw the interest of other teams as he has a cap-friendly contract that has two more years remaining with a cap hit of $3.687 million.
It is likely that depending on the deal, Sweeney’s first-round draft pick in 2022 or 2023 could be in play as well to land a big trade target. Frank Seravalli reported Monday that teams are more interested in a 2023 first-round pick as compared to this upcoming draft. Two years ago, Sweeney sent the Black and Gold’s 2020 first-round pick to the Ducks along with David Backes and Axel Anderrson in exchange for Ondrej Kase, which turned into a tough deal for the Bruins to swallow. Kase never got his feet on the ground in Boston as the 2019-20 season was paused two weeks following the deal because of the coronavirus pandemic. Then last season, the 26-year-old struggled with injuries and ended up not being given a qualifying offer by the Bruins last summer and left in free agency.
In 2018, the Bruins’ first-round pick that summer, a seventh-round pick in 2019, and three players (Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey, and Ryan Lindgren) were sent to the New York Rangers for Rick Nash. In 11 regular-season games following the trade, Nash had three goals and three assists for Boston. In 12 postseason games, he had three goals and five poimts. Unfortunately, Nash had to retire from unresolved symptoms from a concussion at the age of 34 in January of 2019.
Sweeney Needs to Win the 2022 Trade Deadline
Following the Bruins elimination from the second round of the 2021 playoffs at the hands of the New York Islanders, Sweeney and Bruins President Cam Neely said that with the remaining veteran core that it was worth investing in to try and take one more shot to win one more championship. Prior to the COVID-19 shut down in late December, it did not appear to be a team that was worth investing in to make a playoff run. Since Jan. 1, that has changed.
As they begin the four-game road trip Tuesday night against the Blackhawks, Boston is just two points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for third place in the Atlantic Division and just five points behind the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning for second place. With the way the Bruins have been playing in the last two months, making a move to address one or even two of the needs mentioned above is worth doing. If anything, when the trade deadline passes at 3 o’clock in six days, Sweeney needs to win the deadline and what I mean by that is his roster needs to be better than it is at this moment.
Related: 5 Bruins Trade Deadline Targets That Address Current & Future Needs
Making a blockbuster deal is something that Sweeney has not done much of, if any, since being named GM. The mark has been set by his team that they have a player in DeBrusk that wants out and despite limited prospects, making a move is something that must be done at this point to put his team in a position to battle the rest of the Eastern Conference teams come May.