The Boston Bruins are in a pretty good spot with the Feb. 29 NHL trade deadline approaching.
They are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division and sit just five points behind the first-place Florida Panthers. Boston is only one point above the Detroit Red Wings and two above the Pittsburgh Penguins, who occupy the wild-card spots, but the next team, the New Jersey Devils, are five points behind the B’s.
The playoffs are within Boston’s reach, and there are some areas the Bruins could improve as the deadline nears. We’ve listed a few of them below.
The Bruins, like pretty much every team, need help on the blue line. Targeting a top-four defenseman who could step in and improve the team now and in the future would be a sound strategy.
Zdeno Chara is still performing at a top-pairing level. His WARRIOR chart below compares his performance between last season and the current campaign. You’ll notice he’s improved in a few areas.
Boston’s captain hasn’t been given a ton of help, though.
He’s the only Bruins defenseman with 30 or more games played who ends more of his shifts in the offensive zone than he starts, per Behind the Net.
Bruins D-men also aren’t driving puck possession at a high rate, as evidenced by the lack of blue circles in the usage chart from War on Ice below. The goal is to have the largest, bluest circle located in the top left corner. Chara normally is in that area, which is why he’s so reliable. The only Bruins blueliners driving possession above 50 percent are Torey Krug and Colin Miller, but they don’t receive too many difficult zone starts. When you’re not controlling possession, you give up more shots, and the B’s have given up the fifth-most shot attempts per 60 minutes and the third-most scoring chances, both at 5-on-5, per War on Ice.
The Bruins could use more scoring from their blue line, too. Chara (32 points) and Krug (27 points) are the only defensemen with more than 20 points. Chara’s eight goals are the most among B’s D-men, five above Krug in second place.
Who could the B’s target to fulfill a top-four role and provide additional scoring depth?
Sami Vatanen of the Anaheim Ducks and Jacob Trouba of the Winnipeg Jets are worth targeting among young, talented players.
The Ducks have to re-sign Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm because both of them are RFAs on July 1. Keeping both will be expensive, though. Winnipeg must also decide Trouba’s future soon. He’s a pending RFA, and after re-signing Dustin Byfuglien earlier this month to a huge extension, it’s unclear where Trouba falls on the Jets’ depth chart among right-handed D-men. Winnipeg already has three defensemen set to make $5 million or more annually over the next two seasons.
If Boston decides to go with a rental option, a decent target could be Justin Schultz of the Edmonton Oilers. Schultz could provide an offensive spark, and a change of scenery probably would help him.
Right Wing Depth
Jimmy Hayes and Brett Connolly, who’ve tallied 28 and 22 points, respectively, are Boston’s top-scoring right wingers. Loui Eriksson has played some right wing this season, but he’s best suited on the left side.
David Pastrnak has continued to display his high-end offensive skill at right wing with 16 points in 29 games, but injuries have prevented him from establishing much consistency in his sophomore campaign.
Overall, the Bruins rank third in goals scored per game and fourth in power-play percentage. They have seven players with 30-plus points — only the Washington Capitals have more. None of those players are right wingers, though, so it makes sense to see what players at this position are available before the deadline.
Notable rental targets could include P.A. Parenteau of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Radim Vrbata of the Vancouver Canucks and Kris Versteeg of the Carolina Hurricanes.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images