As the Feb. 24 NHL trade deadline draws closer each day, more and more names are being talked about in trades to teams that are buyers in the trade market. Two of the bigger names being floated around are Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers and Tyler Toffoli of the Los Angeles Kings.
While the Boston Bruins have interest in both of those players to upgrade their top-six forwards for another Stanley Cup playoff run, below is two other trade options that would not require a major return.
Joe Thornton Reunion in Boston?
Drafted first overall by the Bruins in the 1997 Entry Draft, he was traded on Nov. 30, 2005, to the San Jose Sharks. In 15 years in the Bay Area, he has turned out a nice career for himself and will go down as one of the best players in club history. He won the Hart Trophy in the 2005-06 season, but he is missing one thing from his list of accomplishments, a Stanley Cup championship.
Ray Bourque was on the back-end of his storied career in March of 2000 when the Bruins where stuck at the bottom of the league standings and missing out on a playoff berth sitting in the basement of the Northeast Division. Boston traded him to the Colorado Avalanche and one year later, Bourque finally got his glory and capped his career by winning the Stanley Cup in a seven-game series victory over the New Jersey Devils. With San Jose 12 points out of a wild card spot and fading fast, if Thornton wants a chance to win his first championship, could a reunion in Boston be on the horizon with the Bruins being serious contenders?
If Thornton is traded to the Bruins, what would that look like with their lines moving forward for the rest of the season and in the playoffs? He doesn’t solve the problem of adding a top-six forward as he would most likely be a third- or fourth-line center at this point in his career. If the Bruins can’t pull off another deal for a forward, does Charlie Coyle move from a third-line center to a right wing on the second line with Jake DeBrusk on left wing and David Krejci at center? Seems like Coyle is best fit for the third-line center spot. If Coyle is moved to a second-line wing, Thornton would center a combination of Sean Kuraly, Anders Bjork or Karson Kuhlman on the third line.
Thornton is working on a one-year, $2 million contract and his best fit most likely would be slotting into the fourth-line with any combination of Danton Heinen, Chris Wagner or Par Lindholm. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Thornton could be a net-front presence on the power play for the league’s second-ranked unit. Despite just two goals and 22 assists in 56 games this year for the struggling Sharks, he could provide a spark, knowing this could he last chance at winning a ring. But the real question is, does he fit the roster and fill a need? That’s what general manager Don Sweeney and the front office needs to decide.
With all the history between him and club there could be a potential trade, but he doesn’t solve the Bruins most glaring need — a second-line right wing.
The Kings cut ties with Kovalchuk on Dec. 16, 2019, by placing him on unconditional waivers. He cleared waivers and was free to sign with any team. The 36-year-old left wing drew interest from multiple clubs, including the Bruins. He settled on signing a $700,000 contract with the Montreal Canadiens.
In 17 games with the Canadiens, he has six goals and six assists with a plus-12 on left wing. In 17 games for the Kings this year, he had just three goals and nine assists. It seems he has found himself in Montreal as a different player. The success he has had in Montreal has drawn interest by some teams as a possible trade target. The Bruins, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers could be in line as a destination for his services in a playoff run.
Boston, like the other teams, had a chance to sign him a month ago off of waivers and passed. In order to get him now, from Montreal no less, it would come at a price of a draft pick or a low-level prospect. Even though he is a low cap-hit, signing him in early January for nothing seems like it should have been the move from the Bruins.
Would Kovalchuk solve the Bruins need for a top-six forward? Not likely, but he has a better chance than Thornton. What Sweeney and Bruins management needs to figure out is, if they can’t land either Kreider or Toffoli, what would be the best move to make without breaking up team chemistry.