Lately, it would be generous to say that the Boston Bruins have been playing uninspiring hockey. Whether it’s letting a late lead slip away or staking their opponent to an early lead, the Bruins have found a way to giveaway points in bunches. After 32 games, Boston sits in the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, one point in front of the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals (each having played fewer games). That is a far cry from the lofty expectations set by the organization and the fans.
As you might have expected, everyone has an opinion on what the Bruins need to do to get back on track. The most commonly suggested solution is for the team to trade for a goal scoring right winger. Some of the names people have thrown out include Taylor Hall, Evander Kane, and Chris Stewart.
Top End Talent
The problem is that top end talent, whether you deem that to be Hall or Kane, will cost at the bare minimum, one roster player, but more likely, two for salary cap purposes. So essentially, you would be taking two pieces away from a team that prides itself on depth to add one top end player. There is no denying that this team needs top end talent, but would the addition of one of these players outweigh the cost this season? How about going forward?
Looking ahead to the future, if the salary cap doesn’t increase, the Bruins will be in serious trouble. The team is already experiencing salary cap constraints, which led to the loss of their top RW in each of the last two offseasons. Adding a player with a major salary cap hit to replace two roster spots makes it more difficult to re-sign players going forward, effectively increasing the cost to acquire the player. To put names to faces, the Bruins have to re-sign Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Reilly Smith, and Milan Lucic this summer. Unless one of those players is going the other way in a trade, the Bruins won’t have the luxury of retaining all of those players. The slight advantage the Bruins have is that the first three players on that list will be restricted free agency, giving the Bruins some additional leverage. Playing hard ball with core members of your team is a risky game to play, especially with the emphasis the Bruins organization has placed on team chemistry.
In terms of on-ice potential, there is no question that Taylor Hall or Evander Kane would offer an upgrade over what the Bruins have had on their top line this season. As much as Seth Griffith has exceeded expectations, he’s not in the same stratosphere as Kane and Hall. The same goes for Matt Fraser and David Pastrnak (although this writer holds him in pretty high regard). The question is will either of these players make an impact so powerful that it puts Boston over the top. The way this team has played so far, I don’t think it does. They have struggled to score as a team, but the addition of one, albeit top flight, scoring winger won’t totally fix that.
More of the Same
Once you get into the next tier, players like a Chris Stewart, it’s a totally different story. The price is lower, but so is the potential impact. Stewart, in the absolute best case scenario, is your first line winger opposite Lucic. But he also has the potential to be a better fit on the third line. The Bruins have plenty of players that fit that mold right now, which suggests Boston can do without that addition.
Based on their current struggles and the high cost of top end talent, the Bruins would be best served riding it out with their current roster until closer to the trade deadline. The most important factor will be how well (and if) David Krejci is able to play. Without Krejci, the Bruins are probably on the outside looking in at the group of top Stanley Cup contenders. If Krejci comes back, this team may look a lot better, to the extent that one piece (primarily Taylor Hall or Evander Kane) could put them over the top.
So what do you think, should the Bruins pony up the picks and prospects and make a trade soon? Should they hold off and wait until the trade deadline? Or maybe you think they need to deconstruct this team and start from scratch. Whatever you think, let me know in the comments below or on twitter.