The Boston Bruins, like pretty much every team in the NHL, could stand to upgrade on defense.
If they want to swing for the fences, then John Klingberg is their guy.
Since he’s yet to receive a contract extension from the Dallas Stars, Klingberg seems likely to be traded this offseason. He’s a pending unrestricted free agent, so he’d likely just be a rental. But high-end rental blueliners have fetched a lot in the past.
That prompted The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun to suggest that the Stars could fetch a first-round pick, a prospect and maybe another pick in a Klingberg deal. One would have to think the start would be the first-rounder and prospect, then the additional picks would come into play if there’s a bidding war.
It’s a hefty price, to be sure, but Klingberg is a two-way defenseman who’s an elite puck-mover and can play well over 20 minutes a night. Those guys don’t become available every day.
All things being equal, he makes some sense for the Bruins, but there are definitely holdups.
For one, Klingberg is a right shot, so he immediately would slot in on the second pairing. His puck-moving abilities make sense with a player like Charlie McAvoy, who has a great shot, but playing Klingberg on his off side for the heck of it doesn’t seem shrewd. If Brandon Carlo is bumped down to the third pair and Klingberg is on the second, then the Bruins likely would have to put either Mike Reilly or Derek Forbort with Klingberg.
From a balance standpoint, a Forbort-Klingberg pairing would make sense. But it’s debatable that Forbort, with his limited offensive upside, would be able to help get the most out of Klingberg. At the end of the day, you shouldn’t part with major assets for a big-name player if the fit might be clunky.
An alternative way to look at it exists, however. Having McAvoy, Klingberg and Carlo down the right side would be an impressive collection of depth, so figuring out where the left-shots go is something of a champagne problem.
At the Stars’ suggested asking price, it wouldn’t make sense for the Bruins to pursue Klingberg without having a contract extension in place — like what happened with the Mark Stone trade from Ottawa to Vegas. Evolving Hockey predicts a five-year contract with a $6.9 million annual cap hit for Klingberg on his next team, which is steep but not unreasonable. The Bruins have Patrice Bergeron’s current contract coming off the books this offseason, and if they do end up trading Jake DeBrusk as he’s requested, that too will open up some cap space (DeBrusk also is a pending RFA).
If Evolving Hockey is in the right neighborhood, the Bruins could swing a trade for Klingberg that comes with an extension. It would possibly limit what else they could do in the offseason, so they have to be asking if Klingberg is that valuable of a player.
The question the Bruins need to be asking here is if Klingberg is worth the cost relative to what he’d actually bring to Boston. Every team would benefit from adding a Klingberg-type player, but the Bruins might ultimately be in a position where they’re better off pursuing a lower-tier defenseman so that they don’t drain their assets and cap space into one top defenseman. They conversely could take the belief that you add the best player you can add and worry about fit later, which is hardly a crime since it shows a general manager is all-in on his team.
With the trade deadline two months away, though, maybe the best approach for now is to sit tight and see how the market develops.