With the NHL trade deadline 12 days away, the Boston Bruins are going to get a first-hand look at some possible trade targets ahead of the March 21 deadline. In this edition of Bruins Weekly, we will look at who is visiting the TD Garden this week, take a look back at a special night, and look at a troubling trend that the Black and Gold have had in the last eight days.
Bruins Trade Targets Visiting TD Garden
The Bruins opened a three-game homestand with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings Monday night, but the final two games remaining on the homestand will give general manager Don Sweeney a front-row seat for some possible trade targets ahead of the deadline.
Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks make their annual visit to Boston and will bring with them defensemen Calvin de Haan. Not a big point producer, the 30-year-old would be the perfect complementary player as a left-shot with Charlie McAvoy, as he would be more of a stay-at-home blueliner and allow McAvoy to be more aggressive offensively. In the final year of a four-year, $18.2 million contract that carries a $4.55 million cap hit, de Haan is a player that a lot of teams are interested in and can help the Blackhawks get back some assets as they continue their rebuild.
Saturday night, the Arizona Coyotes make their only trip to Boston and will bring one of the highly sought-after defensive trade targets with them in Jakob Chychrun. A left-shot, the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Entry Draft would be exactly what the Bruins need on defense, a left-shot to pair with McAvoy on the top pairing and is under team control for three more seasons. The return would be very expensive for the 23-year-old, but a McAvoy/Chychrun future pairing in front of goalies Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark is one that would make coach Bruce Cassidy very happy.
Also coming in with the Coyotes is former Bruins’ first-round pick in 2006, Phil Kessel. Regardless of recent results, there is a need for the Black and Gold at right wing. This season, Kessel has six goals and 28 assists for Arizona, but he is in the final year of an eight-year, $64 million contract, and the 34-year-old is a trade piece that could fetch the rebuilding Coyotes with a future piece in either a draft pick or prospect. There is a good chance that whichever team Arizona is able to work out a deal with will ask them to retain some salary.
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Selected fifth overall by Boston in 2006, Kessel had 66 goals and 60 assists over 222 games in three seasons with the Bruins, before being traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in September of 2009. Acquiring Kessel as a rental would be a good fit for the Bruins for the remainder of the regular season and would give them some depth on the right wing.
After the Coyotes game, the Bruins head back out on the road for a four-game trip that ends on March 21 against the Montreal Canadiens, with the puck being dropped four hours after the trade deadline passes at 3 p.m. There is no doubt going to be a lot of moving parts for the Bruins over the next 12 days.
Reunions in Columbus as Nash Has Number Retired
It was a busy Saturday night at Nationwide Arena against the Columbus Blue Jackets. It was not only Nick Foligno returning to face the team that he played nine seasons for and 599 career games, but the Bruins got their first look at former bottom-six forward Sean Kuraly, who signed with the Blue Jackets last summer after five years of wearing the Black and Gold.
Kuraly, who is having a career season in Columbus with eight goals and 13 assists, played 270 games for Boston from 2016-2021. Kuraly spoke before the game and said he was grateful for his time in Boston playing with some future Hall of Famers at the TD Garden.
“We got to play deep in the playoffs for a few years in a row. I got to learn from some future Hall of Famers, got to be in the same locker room as some pretty great players and great people and great leaders,” said Kuraly. “A lot of great teammates and friends that I made over the years. Just got to learn. I think the biggest thing is I got to learn a lot about being in the NHL and really, really thankful for that.”
As for Foligno, he has struggled this season in Boston with two goals and 10 points, but the 34-year-old was a staple in Columbus for nearly a decade, before being traded last season to the Toronto Maple Leafs. Regardless, Columbus will always be a special place for the 28th overall pick in 2006 by the Ottawa Senators.
“I have so many great memories of my time here, just the people that I got to work with, so much respect for the organization from the top down with the McConnell family and so on through, [general manager] Jarmo [Kekalainen] and [president John Davidson],” said Foligno, who served as the club’s captain from 2016-21.”It’s really nice to come back and just celebrate that with them. I think the way it ended, in a way, was kind of quick with getting traded out of here. So, it’s nice to come back to say thank you to everybody again. I’m enjoying it. My head’s spinning a little bit, obviously, but it’s just great to see everybody.”
Both players had a hand in the game. Foligno picked up an assist on Craig Smith’s third-period goal that tied the game at 3-3. After Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins a 4-3 lead, Kuraly assisted on Jakub Voracek’s goal with 2.8 seconds left in regulation that tied the game 4-4. The Bruins would go on for a 5-4 win when David Pastrnak scored the only goal of the shootout to help the Bruins finish their six-game road 5-1-0.
Before the game, Rick Nash had his No. 61 go into the rafters. Like Foligno, Nash spent nine seasons with the Blue Jackets, playing in 674 games. After a stop with the New York Rangers, he finished his career with the Bruins in the 2017-18 season, before he retired due to concussions. During the pregame ceremony, several members of the Bruins sat on their bench to honor Nash in a classy gesture.
Bruins Continue to Blow Late Leads
On their recent six-game road trip, the Bruins won five of six games, with their only loss coming at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks, 4-3, on a Trevor Zegras power play goal with 22 seconds left in the game. That was the beginning of a concerning trend that has plagued the Black and Gold in the last eight days.
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Saturday night against the Blue Jackets, Voracek tied the game with 2.8 seconds left in regulation, but the Bruins were able to secure the second point with a shootout win. Against the Kings Monday night, once again Boston was unable to hold onto a one-goal lead in the final minute. Trevor Moore banged home a rebound with 25 seconds left in the game to force overtime, before Andreas Athanasiou scored 1:53 into the extra session to steal two points at the TD Garden.
The Bruins have won seven of their last nine games, but could easily be on a nine-game winning streak if they were able to hold onto late leads. In total, they are 47 seconds away from securing three more points that could end up being big in the standings later in the season.
Ahcan Returned to Lineup
Before the Bruins headed West for their six-game road trip, they recalled Jack Ahcan for defensive depth. He was not needed on the trip, but he was needed when Boston returned home to face the Kings.
Prior to Monday night’s game against the Kings, Matt Grzelcyk was a game-time decision and ended up missing the game with an upper-body injury. In his place, Ahcan was inserted into the lineup with Brandon Carlo, and the 5-foot-9, 184-pound 24-year-old played well considering it was his first game action in 15 days when he last suited up for the Providence Bruins in the American Hockey League (AHL). Ahcan finished with 14:17 of time-on-ice and looked comfortable with Carlo.
After the game, coach Bruce Cassidy did not believe that Grzelcyk’s injury would be long-term, but Ahcan, playing in his fourth game of the season and the seventh of his career, proved that he is more than capable of being effective in the NHL despite being undersized.
The Week Ahead
- Thursday: vs. Chicago Blackhawks, 7 p.m.
- Saturday: vs. Arizona Coyotes, 7 p.m.
- Tuesday: at Chicago Blackhawks, 8:30 p.m.