Well, the trade deadline is just about here.
Feb. 24 is the big day for the NHL, and the Boston Bruins are expected to at least have their hands in just about everything.
Last season, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney landed Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson, two players who played key roles in Boston’s deep postseason run.
Will he make similarly impactful moves this season? Possibly.
Here’s everything you need to know with the deadline around the corner.
Middle six winger
This one is pretty obvious seeing as it’s been a need at every trade deadline since *checks notes* 2014.
Karson Kuhlman and Anders Bjork have done mostly well flanking David Krejci, but there’s still plenty of room for an upgrade.
It seems like Kevan Miller can’t be relied on to make an impact (or even return) this season. Connor Clifton has missed time with an upper-body injury and appeared to be falling out of favor in the games leading up to his injury. Jeremy Lauzon looked good prior to getting suspended, but it’s unclear if he’ll maintain his current pace up through the rest of the season.
John Moore is a fine third-pairing defenseman, but if the Bruins can find an upgrade over Moore (and Steven Kampfer for that matter), it wouldn’t hurt. If nothing else, it would give Bruce Cassidy a plethora of options when setting his lineup.
PLAYERS BRUINS HAVE BEEN LINKED TO
Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers
Other possible landing spots: Penguins, Blues, Avalanche (and probably a bunch of others)
Why he would/wouldn’t be a good fit: Assuming the Bruins would put him on the second line, Kreider probably would become Krejci’s best right winger since the injury-shortened Rick Nash era (and Nathan Horton prior to that).
He’s a great skater, good shooter and able defender who’s willing to throw his weight. He would upgrade not only his own line but also Boston’s forward unit as a whole because guys like Kuhlman or Bjork on the third line are more valuable than on the second.
Why it will happen: The window is closing for the Bruins to capitalize on the Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara core. If there’s ever a time for bold, risky, moves it’s now. To the fault of really no one, the Bruins got burned on the Nash trade, but Sweeney must know the group he has now can compete for a Cup and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go all-in by swinging for the fences on Kreider.
Why it won’t happen: Well, the asking price is going to be high. A team like the Bruins that’s tight up against the cap probably could get New York to retain some salary, but they’d need to make it worth the Rangers’ while with additional picks.
Sweeney indicated he regrets giving up a first-round pick in the Nash trade, so he might not part with one for Kreider.
Tyler Toffoli, RW, Los Angeles Kings
Other possible landing spots: Flames, Flyers
Why he would/wouldn’t be a good fit: Toffoli is a step down from Kreider, but it’s not an enormous drop-off. He’s played much of this season with Jeff Carter and a revolving door of left wingers, and has managed 14 goals and 16 assists on a disastrous Kings team. He hasn’t played to his potential since signing his latest contract, but maybe a better situation elevates him.
He’s also a Stanley Cup champ who has 47 postseason games to his name, so spring hockey is familiar to the 27-year-old.
Why it will happen: The asking price, for one, would be a bit more agreeable compared to Kreider. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman indicated in January the Bruins have a Toffoli deal “in their back pocket,” so it seems one Sweeney call to Rob Blake can get the winger to Boston.
Why it won’t happen: The Bruins manage to get Kreider, or the Kings trading Kyle Clifford prompts them to keep Toffoli and try to extend him.
Josh Anderson, RW, Columbus Blue Jackets
Other possible landing spots: Oilers, Penguins
Why he would/wouldn’t be a good fit: The answer to this depends on which version of Anderson you’re getting. This year’s Anderson has struggled to stay healthy and presently is dealing with a shoulder injury, with limited offensive production when available. But last season’s version slashed 27-20-47 and was an important part of Columbus’ postseason run.
Why it will happen: The Bruins think they can get Anderson back to his 2018-19 form. The 25-year-old put up big numbers last season, and his style of play is built for postseason hockey. The possible ceiling could become too enticing to pass on if the Bruins truly believe they can put Anderson in a situation where he’ll thrive.
Why it won’t happen: Sweeney determines the risk isn’t worth it. Anderson’s had a down year, but there’s still upside and he’s going to be an RFA. In other words, Jarmo Kekalainen won’t just hand him over for a minimal return because he hasn’t been great this campaign.
Ilya Kovalchuk, RW, Montreal Canadiens
Other possible landing spots: Oilers, Flames
Why he would/wouldn’t be a good fit: Kovalchuk would add some experience to an otherwise young middle-six wing group. The 36-year-old isn’t the player he once was, but his time with the Canadiens (all 16 games) has looked far better than his Los Angeles run. That said, he’s getting big minutes in Montreal, ice time he probably wouldn’t get in Boston. Would that limit what he brings to the Bruins? Maybe, and getting the Kings-level Kovalchuk would be a big miss for the Bruins.
Why it will happen: This isn’t the first time the Bruins have been linked to Kovalchuk — they courted him when he was a free agent in the summer of 2018 and after the Kings parted ways with him earlier this season. So recent history suggests Sweeney thinks he’ll improve the Bruins.
Why it won’t happen: Boston could have gotten him without giving up assets earlier this season, so landing him now would require them to part with something, which they might be skeptical to do. Furthermore, the Bruins and Canadiens aren’t exactly typical trade partners, so Montreal might not want to do its rival a favor, even if the Habs are likely going to miss the playoffs.
Brenden Dillon, D, San Jose Sharks
Other teams linked to him: Jets, Hurricanes
Why he would/wouldn’t be a good fit: He effectively would become Kevan Miller’s replacement, thus likely bringing an end to the Moore-Clifton carousel next Matt Grzelcyk on the third pairing. Dillon’s been logging heavier minutes than usual this season (19:18 per game) and coming to Boston and playing a little less might actually help the Bruins get more out of him. And while the Bruins don’t need to load up on goons, Dillon would bring some of the edge many think Boston is lacking.
Why it will happen: Sweeney decides he prefers Moore and Clifton as seventh/eighth defensemen and feels he still has the resources to get a blueliner while still leaving himself enough assets to upgrade up front as well. Think of 2018, when he landed Nick Holden from the Rangers only to also get Nash days later.
Why it won’t happen: Sharks GM Doug Wilson is known to be a tough negotiator, and the Bruins could be turned off by the asking price of a guy who would be a luxury more than anything. Again, you could do a lot worse than Moore as your sixth defenseman.
Joe Thornton, F, San Jose Sharks
Other teams linked to him: Lightning, Maple Leafs, Golden Knights
Why he would/wouldn’t be a good fit: The best fit would be in terms of the storyline. The 40-year-old Thornton no longer is the player he used to be, but returning to Boston for a final Cup run would be fascinating if nothing else. Maybe he slots in on the third line with Coyle and uses his passing ability to help facilitate more goal-scoring for the center.
Why it will happen: The Bruins end up liking the idea of the vibe Thornton would bring to the dressing room, and the cost is minimal. He’s only making $2 million this season as well, so it’s not like major cap gymnastics are needed to land him.
Why it won’t happen: He doesn’t necessarily present a better on-ice option than Kuhlman, Bjork, etc. at this juncture, and the only way he cracks the lineup is by shoehorning him in, thus making the act of acquiring him needless.
Players the Bruins haven’t been linked to, but present an interesting fit
Blake Coleman, LW, New Jersey Devils
Why he would/wouldn’t be a good fit: Coleman is a perfect fit for the Bruins. The 28-year-old has hit 30 points each of the last two seasons (he’s 21-10-31 in 54 contests this campaign), can play on either wing on any line and is a fine enough defender. He has great hands too, which Bruins fans have seen firsthand.
He also has a team-friendly contract, making $1.8 this season and next.
Why it will happen: New Jersey decides it’s willing to make pretty much everyone available, and the Bruins think whatever assets they need to part with are worth it for a guy that is on a bargain contract that can score goals.
Why it won’t happen: The Devils seemed to think they could contend for a playoff spot this year, and though they missed the mark on that, it doesn’t mean they’ll; stop employing the accelerated rebuild approach for next season. Guys like Coleman should help them do that, meaning they’d need to be blown away to move him.
Andreas Athanasiou, LW, Detroit Red Wings
Why he would/wouldn’t be a good fit: You could forgive Athanasiou for a down year (7-14-21 in 40 games) given he’s spent much of this season with Valtteri Filppula and Luke Glendening as his linemates. But even on some simply disastrous Red Wings teams in recent years, he’s been an impactful player, posting a career-best 30 goals and 54 points last season. He’s still only 25, and there’s plenty of tantalizing skill there.
Why it will happen: The Bruins see Athanasiou’s shortcomings as something that’s the product of a bad fit in Detroit, and thus think they can get the 2018-19 Athanasiou more so than the 2019-20.
Why it won’t happen: Despite a down year, Steve Yzerman likely still wants a hefty return for Athanasiou based on past results and/or he doesn’t just want to relinquish an RFA. This could be a similar situation to Anderson in many respects in terms of negotiation.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports Images