Should Bruins Pursue Conor Garland Trade With Coyotes?

Garland has been breaking out and is a pending RFA

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March 23, 2021

The Boston Bruins could stand to add a goal scorer at the trade deadline, and trading for Conor Garland wouldn’t mark the first time Don Sweeney plugged a roster hole with a local kid.

SportsNet’s Elliotte Friedman on Tuesday mused that Garland could be a good fit for the Bruins, which comes a few days after his report that he thinks the Arizona Coyotes would move the winger for the right price.

From Friedman’s column Tuesday:

A name that surprised me: Conor Garland. I don?t think there?s much Arizona wouldn?t consider, but this one is very intriguing. He?s finishing his current contract at $775,000, is nearly a point-per-game player, and is tied for 24th in the NHL in even-strength points. I?m told the way the Coyotes see it is they need to replenish, and moving him could do it. He?s also arbitration-eligible this summer and next, followed by unrestricted free agency, so a much-deserved raise is on the way.

One thing Arizona has told teams: It?s not interested in multiple picks that are late in rounds. So you?ve got to bring more than that.

What the price is, we don’t know (more on that later). What we do know is Garland does, in fact, represent a good fit.

Boston has struggled mightily to create scoring 5-on-5 via its bottom three lines, and they’re running out of internal options to fix that — Sweeney has admitted as much. Maybe if Ondrej Kase comes back that could help, but the nature of his injury is so uncertain that it’s probably best to view his potential return as a plus, not salvation.

Garland, meanwhile, is in the midst of a breakout. The 25-year-old right winger had 22 goals and 17 assists in 68 games last season, and already he has nine goals and 16 assists in 31 games this season — all while playing for a lifeless Arizona team.

For years, the Bruins have tried to find a stable fit on the second line right wing. Garland absolutely could be that guy. Plus, he’s signed at just $775,000 this season, and is set to be a restricted free agent this offseason that’s arbitration eligible.

So the money isn’t an issue. But one thing that’s certain in trades involving promising, young, team-controlled players on cheap deals: The return typically has to be high. That’s of particular note given Garland plays for the Coyotes, who have a dreadful prospect pool, bad cap situation and don’t have their first-round pick in 2021.

Simple logic points to “the right price” for Arizona including first-round pick(s), plus worthwhile, NHL-ready prospect(s). The latter part is especially so for the Bruins if Friedman’s note about the Coyotes not being interested in late first-round picks is true.

If you’re the Bruins, that’s tough to part with. However, if you can get a legitimate scorer, that’s a deal you probably think long and hard about doing. Garland is a young player, and in acquiring him, perhaps you’re getting in on the ground floor and things only get better for him. He has 31 goals and 33 assists in his last 99 games, so improving upon that would make for one of the more him a useful top-six winger

The flip side though is that he’s only in his third NHL season. What if he’s a 50-point player and that’s his ceiling? You’ll obviously take that, but perhaps it’s better hoping that Jake DeBrusk finds his form and becomes that guy because you’ve not only already seen that potential from him, and it also wouldn’t entail the Bruins having to give up a ton so they can land Garland.

But if there’s anything we learned from two years ago when the Bruins sent Ryan Donato to the Minnesota Wild for Charlie Coyle, it’s that sometimes you have to take chances. Acquiring Garland would undoubtedly cost more, but the Coyle trade was a move that worked out well for the Bruins, even if parting with Donato was tough to sit with at the time.

Sweeney and Co. know the way the Bruins offense is going isn’t sustainable and that some move likely will have to be made. Even if Garland isn’t the most proven player in the NHL, he’s putting a great body of work together on an underwhelming team. Who knows what the Coyotes want for him, but unless it’s absurd, it makes all the sense in the world for the Bruins to go after Garland.

Thumbnail photo via Matt Kartozian/USA TODAY Sports Images
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