Should Bruins Pursue Kevin Labanc Trade With ‘Open For Business’ Sharks?

Labanc's numbers have slipped a bit the past two seasons

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The San Jose Sharks are at a franchise crossroad, and it appears moving players once thought to be potential cornerstones might be on the table.

That includes Kevin Labanc, according to The Athletic’s Kevin Kurz.

In a month in which they could reshape their roster, with the expansion draft, entry draft and beginning of free agency all upcoming, the Sharks are ramping up trade discussions with teams, according to multiple sources.

Names that have been dangled as potential bait include Kevin Labanc, Radim Simek and Dylan Gambrell. The club would prefer to make a so-called ?hockey deal,? a trade that involves established NHL players on both sides, but is also hoping to gain more picks in the upcoming draft ? something that general manager Doug Wilson has already said he expects to achieve.

If Labanc really is available, he makes all the sense in the world for the Bruins.

A rich man’s Danton Heinen, Labanc showed impressive scoring ability early on in his career. And while those numbers have leveled out, he’s only 25 and the analytics show that he does drive play and is an overall useful offensive player, even when he’s struggling to impact the scoresheet.

Health hasn’t been much of an issue, as he’s played pretty much every game the last three years. He slashed 17-39-66 in 82 games during the 2018-19 campaign, 14-19-33 in 70 during 2019-20 and 12-16-28 across 55 contests this past season.

So, the numbers are declining, which is not something you like to see from someone who has three more seasons left at a $4.725 million cap hit. But if you are a believer that it’s merely bad luck (after all he has been playing on a woefully underachieving Sharks team), then it would seem to make sense that he’s just a change of scenery guy.

Put him with a healthy Charlie Coyle who is a menace with the puck and can make plays, and a left winger like Nick Ritchie who will get to the net and wreak havoc, and that could be a good situation for Labanc.

Perhaps his most valuable asset as it relates to the Bruins is that most of his scoring comes at even strength. He’s been criticized for his struggles scoring on the power-play, but that isn’t really a void the Bruins need filled (though that could change depending on who does and does not return in free agency). They wouldn’t need him to play on the first power play unit, which would give him an opportunity to find his footing as a second-unit skater.

Furthering the case is the way he played in the Sharks’ 2019 playoff run, which saw them fall just short of facing the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Final. He played in 20 games and had four goals with five assists, and most notably was on the ice for all four goals in San Jose’s controversial five-minute power play against Vegas in which they scored four goals — and buried the go-ahead fourth tally.

That type of scoring is valuable for a Bruins team that too often has had middle six players disappear in the postseason.

At his worst, Labanc is a third line winger. At his best, he’s a 60ish-point player. The Bruins have the personnel to put him in the right situation, and if there’s any season guys should get a pass for not playing particularly well, it’s this past one.

Generally, the change of scenery guys can be a big risk. But Labanc has enough to hold on to that trading for him, especially making a hockey trade, could be a worthwhile venture for the Bruins to pursue.

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