Recently, I discussed a few potential players that the Detroit Red Wings should consider targeting from the Toronto Maple Leafs. Another division rival who general manager (GM) Steve Yzerman may want to contemplate doing business with is the Boston Bruins. Once Brad Marchand, Charlie McAvoy, and Matt Grzelcyk are fully healthy and off long-term injured reserve (LTIR), they will be over the salary cap. Yzerman would be wise to take advantage and target these three Bruins because of it.
Craig Smith is a player who some fans believe that the Bruins will part ways with due to their salary cap trouble. He is about to enter the final year of his contract which carries a $3.1 million cap hit. Overall, that is reasonable when noting that he is a solid middle-six winger who contributes decent secondary scoring. For example, during the 2021-22 season with the Bruins, he scored 16 goals and recorded 36 points in 74 games. Adding that kind of production to the Red Wings’ group wouldn’t be a bad thing in the slightest.
When looking at the Red Wings’ lineup, it’s fair to say that Smith would be a good addition to their third line. He would offer them a bit more scoring, which is crucial if they want to make a push for the playoffs in 2022-23. With that, Smith could also be an upgrade to the team’s second power-play unit. Furthermore, he is noted for playing with an immense amount of effort. That’s the kind of veteran a team on the rise should have to mentor its younger players.
With the Bruins eventually needing to clear cap space, Smith’s trade value probably isn’t as high as it could be. A third-round pick and prospect would likely be enough for the Red Wings to land the 32-year-old for the season. Overall, that would be a fair asking price and a deal worth considering.
It seems possible that Bruins GM Don Sweeney would be willing to trade Mike Reilly to become cap compliant. The 29-year-old was a healthy scratch at times last season, and the Bruins have a surplus of left-handed defensemen. He also carries a $3 million cap hit, so moving him would erase Boston’s financial problems. When looking at the Red Wings’ defensive group, it’s fair to say that he could be a good fit.
A nice element of Reilly’s game is that he is capable of playing both the left and right sides. As a result, he could provide an upgrade on either side of the Red Wings’ bottom pair. Furthermore, when he is playing at his best, he can produce decent offense from the point as well. Although he only recorded 17 points in 70 games with the Bruins last season, he had 27 assists in only 55 games the season before. If given power-play minutes with the Red Wings, who’s to say that he couldn’t hit that pace of production again?
With Reilly coming off a down year and the Bruins eventually needing to clear up cap space, the Red Wings wouldn’t need to part ways with much to land him. A fourth-round pick and depth player would likely be enough for this trade to be finalized. If he can bounce back, it certainly would be an avenue worth exploring.
Connor Clifton could also be an intriguing addition to the Red Wings blue line. He is the exact opposite of Reilly, as he is a right-handed defenseman who is more known for his physicality and defense-first style of play. In 60 games this season, he recorded just 10 points, but he also had a whopping 156 hits. The latter is something that the Red Wings could use more of, so perhaps there could be a match here.
Clifton would provide the Red Wings with another bottom-pairing option if acquired. However, at worst, he would be a serviceable seventh defenseman who could give the team more bite due to his tenacity. When utilized, he also would work very well on their penalty kill because of his overall dependability.
Similar to Reilly, I doubt that the Red Wings would need to part ways with anything more than a fourth-round pick to acquire Clifton. He offers less offensive upside than Reilly, but also comes with far more physicality. Overall, he would be a decent under-the-radar pick-up if acquired.
Nevertheless, Yzerman has some intriguing options from the Bruins if he wants to make another addition before the start of the 2022-23 regular season. Out of this group, Smith has the potential to make the most impact, but both Reilly and Clifton would also give them more to work with on the blue line. Alas, let’s see if these two clubs can strike a deal soon.
Michael DeRosa is a contributor who covers the Boston Bruins, Chicago Blackhawks, & Detroit Red Wings 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 NHL Trade Rumors.