Recently, I discussed a few second-line center options for the Boston Bruins. With the loss of David Krejci, it’s clear that they would benefit from upgrading down the middle when it comes to their top-six. However, there are also some interesting third-line center options who could be worth exploring if the Bruins are content with Charlie Coyle and want to play things more conservatively.
The Bruins have utilized multiple forwards at the 3C position this season, and nothing has worked out as smoothly as they hoped. Most notably, Erik Haula has struggled manning the role, as he has a goal and four points in 19 games so far. Tomas Nosek has been the third-line center at times, but he is better suited for his expected role as the team’s fourth-line center. Most recently, we’ve even seen Trent Frederic get some time in the position, but he certainly isn’t a long-term option there unless his offensive production increases noticeably from here.
If the Bruins continue to struggle with depth scoring as the season progresses, they could very well make multiple moves to try to fix this. These three players could work very well for the third-line center position, specifically.
If the Detroit Red Wings fall back down to Earth as the season continues, Vladislav Namestnikov will certainly find himself on the trading block. The 29-year-old versatile forward will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and with Detroit not expected to have a deep playoff run, he ultimately could end up being moved regardless. This is a player the Bruins should absolutely look at if they want to upgrade their forward group.
The 2020-21 season was a rough one for Namestnikov, as he had just eight goals and 17 points in 53 games with the Red Wings. However, he has been excellent this season while playing a bottom-six role. In 24 contests, he has eight goals and 13 points. Thus, he has already tied his goal totals from last season in far fewer games. Furthermore, if he were a Bruin at this juncture, he’d actually be tied for second in goals with David Pastrnak and Patrice Bergeron. That kind of production is pretty good, I’d say.
Namestnikov also has a $2 million cap hit, so it wouldn’t be challenging for the Bruins to fit him within their salary cap. He also could be an intriguing option at left wing, too, especially for when Boston inevitably trades disgruntled winger Jake DeBrusk. Thus, this is another quality aspect of him, as he could be a fit for multiple different spots in the Bruins’ lineup.
Calle Jarnkrok is another player who can play all three forward positions. The 30-year-old has dealt with some injury trouble this season and is currently back on injured reserve. As a result of this, he’s been off to a very slow start with the Seattle Kraken. In 14 games, he has just a goal and an assist, which both came in Seattle’s contest against the Washington Capitals. With that, he sports a minus-8, so yes, things haven’t gone well for him.
Related: 3 Bruins Players Off to Hot Starts
So, why should the Bruins consider Jarnkrok after such a slow start? Before this season with the Nashville Predators, he was one of the most underrated top-nine forwards in the league. In 49 games this past season with them, he had a marvelous campaign, as he recorded 28 points. Before then, he also had 34 points in 64 games, so he certainly can be a very solid depth scorer when on his game.
Jarnkrok also comes with a very affordable contract, too. Like Namestnikov, he carries a $2 million cap hit and will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. The Kraken are also likely to be sellers, as they sport a 9-13-2 record and have a monstrous obstacle to overcome to get back into playoff contention. If he finds his old form as the season continues, the Bruins should certainly consider him. Once he’s fully healthy, he should be able to rebound.
Since the offseason, Chicago Blackhawks forward Dylan Strome has been in the rumor mill. However, things have escalated even further this season, as the 24-year-old center is no longer a mainstay in their lineup. He started the campaign with multiple healthy scratches, and he simply needs a change of scenery at this point. Frank Seravalli of Daily Faceoff also noted that interim general manager Kyle Davidson is still trying to trade him.
Strome’s value is understandably not at its best right now, either. When inserted into the lineup this season, he has a goal and three points in 13 games. It can be challenging for a player to not be given consistent playing time and return after long stretches. This is especially true when healthy scratches occur periodically. One has to wonder if he could find his previous form as the Bruins’ third-line center.
Keep in mind, Strome’s a player who is just two seasons removed from having 38 points in 58 games. During the campaign before, he also recorded 51 points in 58 games after being dealt to the Blackhawks. He has shown moments of offensive brilliance and could be an intriguing candidate to take over Haula’s spot down the middle if the latter continues to struggle.
A Notable Internal Option
To conclude, the Bruins also have young forward Jack Studnicka, who could get a chance as the team’s 3C this season. He has spent the majority of the season with the Providence Bruins, however. In 11 contests with the American Hockey League squad, he has three goals and six points. We’ll have to see if the 22-year-old gets called up if the Bruins’ depth scoring continues to be low. In four games with Boston this campaign, he had an assist.
At the end of the day, it feels as though that the Bruins simply need to make a change of some kind to their center group. Haula has not been the player that Boston expected offensively, and that does not mesh well at all with Krejci’s departure. Adding to their forward core with one of these three players, a second-line center or even Studnicka has to be considered. This is especially the case if the team’s scoring depth continues to remain ice cold as the season continues. With all of this, if the Bruins can maintain a winning record from here, expect them to be very aggressive at the deadline when it comes to this position.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks for The Hockey Writers. Since 2017, he’s written and edited for numerous websites. Besides his work for THW, you can also find him on NHLTradeRumors.me, BBallRumors.com, BaseballRumors.me, FootballRumors.me and The Rat Trick.