Two of the NHL’s final four teams last season were big-time buyers at the trade deadline, picking up pieces that were major contributors down the stretch.
The Tampa Bay Lightning made the biggest splash, acquiring Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller from the New York Rangers, while the Winnipeg Jets swung separate deals for Joe Morrow and Paul Stastny. They were bold moves, yes, and they made their respective teams better, but neither club was able to reach the Stanley Cup Final, bowing out to the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights in the conference finals.
It was just the latest example that winning the deadline doesn’t always mean winning it all, but every year there will be teams that feel they are a piece or two away from a deep playoff run, and it’s hard to criticize a team for taking a shot even if they fall just short.
The Boston Bruins once again figure to be active at the trade deadline where they, too, have taken shots in years past.
The Bruins went out last season and landed Rick Nash from the New York Rangers, a move that looks worse in hindsight after Nash suffered what ultimately was a career-ending concussion. That, however, overshadows the fact that Boston won eight of 11 games down the stretch with Nash in the lineup, and the future Hall of Famer was the club’s lone bright spot in its second-round loss to Tampa Bay, where he scored a pair of goals in the Bruins’ only win of the series.
General manager Don Sweeney isn’t afraid to get in there and mix it up in the trade market, and early indications are this season figures to be no different The Bruins’ defense corps is solid, and the goaltending situation is among the best in the NHL. There’s depth up front, but it’s fairly redundant depth on the third and fourth lines, and even the second line has inconsistencies. Adding a second-line winger who can score, especially in 5-on-5 situations, should be Sweeney’s No. 1 priority at the deadline.
The Bruins reportedly have been active in trade talks ahead of the Feb. 25 deadline, with TSN’s and The Athletic’s Pierre Le Brun reporting Boston is most likely to zero in on a robust market for unrestricted free agent forwards. Le Brun also indicated prices are too high for potential buyers at the moment, but the market should open up as the deadline nears.
Here are some UFA forwards to keep an eye on with the Bruins.
Artemi Panarin, Columbus (cap hit: $6 million)
The 27-year-old Russian sniper recently broke off contract talks with the Blue Jackets and seems intent on reaching free agency. Despite that, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman said there’s a “ton” of interest in Panarin, despite the fact interested teams won’t even get a chance to talk contract extension with him. But the talent is undeniable; Panarin has 20 goals and 40 assists through 50 games and is always in the 30-goal neighborhood at season’s end. The price, as speculated by The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa, is going to be very high, and it would likely cost the Bruins some high-end, young talent and a draft pick.
Mark Stone, Ottawa (cap hit: $7.35 million)
There’s still a chance the rebuilding Senators re-sign Stone (and fellow UFA Matt Duchene) to an extension. But if the sides can’t come to terms, Stone would be one of the best available trade options. He has a very good shot and can do damage 5-on-5, with 18 of his 22 goals coming at even strength. The price would be high there, too, as Ottawa likely would seek a first-round pick and a young, controllable player, as well.
Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia (cap hit: $3.975 million)
The Bruins know all about what Simmons can do, as he’s been a thorn in their side at times over his 11-year career. He’s having a down year — 16 goals, eight assists — but he was a 30-goal scorer as recently as two years ago. And wouldn’t he be a perfect fit on the Bruins’ second line alongside David Krejci, who has thrived when he’s had big, strong wingers on his side? LeBrun noted Friday that he could see the Bruins and Lightning as the best fits for Simmonds, and the B’s scouted the Flyers’ game with Vancouver earlier this week, so that’s something to keep in mind. Boston would also be able to fit him in financially without having to maneuver much money at all.
Other potential options: Mats Zuccarello (New York Rangers), Kevin Hayes (New York Rangers) Jakob Silvferberg (Anaheim), Pat Maroon (St. Louis), Michael Ferland (Carolina)