Last season, Boston Bruins general manager Don Sweeney pulled off two trades that ended up helping his team reach the Stanley Cup Final. Landing forwards Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild and Marcus Johansson from the New Jersey Devils provided depth for the Black and Gold.
Sweeney will be active up until the Feb. 24 deadline looking for a piece or two to add to the current roster. One place he would like to upgrade the Bruins is a wing for the second line. Two targets that are on his radar would be just as good of an upgrade as the two he got last year.
The former Boston College standout and Massachusetts native will become an unrestricted free agent for the New York Rangers at the end of the year. Sitting 11 points out of wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton has a decision to make – try and sign Kreider to an extension, or trade the left-wing and get some prospects back before allowing him to walk for nothing this summer.
Kreider has a salary cap hit of $4.625 million. He has 17 goals and 15 assists this year in 48 games, while averaging nearly 18 minutes on the ice a night. At 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, he could provide the Bruins with a presence on the second line that they have been missing most of this year with his physicality. Slotting him with some type of combination of Coyle, David Krejci, Jake Debrusk and Anders Bjork could solidify the top-six forwards.
There are many suitors for his services should Gorton and the Rangers officially make him available. Kreider does have a no-trade clause in his contract. The Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues and Pittsburgh Penguins are among title contenders along with the Bruins that have been linked to having interest.
Kreider was drafted by the Rangers 19th overall in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Letting a homegrown talent go is never easy, but Gorton has a decision to make. If he can’t sign him to an extension, then is it best to trade him for young assets rather than letting him walk with nothing in return? In 508 career games, Kreider has 150 goals and 153 assists. He twice has hit career-high in goals with 28 in 2016-17 and 2018-19.
Gorton has a history of trading free agents to be at the deadline and flipping them for young talent and draft picks. If he is to make Kreider available, it will be worth watching what the asking price would be and will meet it.
Should the asking price for Kreider be something that Sweeney and the Bruins don’t want to meet, then Tyler Toffoli is another option. The 27-year-old right wing for the Los Angeles Kings has 13 goals this year, but has the talent to hit 20 or higher. A change of scenery could do him some good as the Kings appear headed for an overhaul and rebuild.
Toffoli scored a career-high 31 goals during the 2015-16 season. He’s been on a decline with his goals since then with 16, 24 and 13 in the last three years. However, he would still most likely be the answer the Bruins are looking for on the right-wing on the second or third lines. He is an unrestricted free agent this year with a $4.6 million cap hit.
What would the return be for Toffoli? A prospect could go back in return or even a draft pick. He could be the Johansson of last year’s trade deadline for Boston. The Bruins’ interest in Toffoli has been known for a while. If they wanted to get him, they can. The Calgary Flames have also expressed interest, but if the Bruins are really interested, they should make the move. Going to a Cup contender could rejuvenate him.