The 2022 NHL trade deadline is just one week away, and the Boston Bruins figure to once again play a prominent role.
Here are 10 thoughts about the upcoming deadline from a Black-and-Gold perspective.
— It would take a collapse of epic proportions for the Bruins to miss the playoffs. The B’s open the week with a three-point lead and a game in hand over Washington for the first wild-card spot. More important, however, is the Bruins’ commanding 14-point gulf between themselves and the Columbus Blue Jackets, the first Eastern Conference team outside the bubble. Losing that lead with 23 games to play is nearly impossible, and the Bruins should approach the deadline as a team with legitimate hopes to go on a deep playoff run.
— So, what should Don Sweeney’s trade deadline strategy be? He certainly has options, and they all make varying degrees of sense. Admittedly, a lot would need to break right for Boston to actually win the Stanley Cup, but we’ve seen similar teams get hot and win it all. The Bruins had a front-row seat in 2019 as the Blues did just that. So, everything should be on the table for improvements, and if that means the rental market, why not? Sweeney probably shouldn’t be unloading top prospects (more on that in a bit) for a month or two of a player, but taking a very small-picture approach for one more run isn’t the worst thing in the world given the Bruins’ recent run. The best-case scenario is to add talent that can help this season and is signed with term beyond 2021-22. That’s no big revelation, as just about everyone is looking for that. But while this team is good enough to contend this season, Sweeney would also be wise to have one eye on the future with an aging core.
— Speaking of that aging core, the only move that would make no sense is doing nothing at all and standing pat. That hasn’t been Sweeney’s style, so it’s unlikely, but given the uncertainty around Patrice Bergeron’s future, you have to strike at every chance you have. If there ever were a player worth loading up for, it’s the Bruins’ captain.
— However: Boston probably would be best-suited to hang on to prospects Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei. After a few years of draft difficulties, Lysell and Lohrei look like hits, and they’re on the developmental road. If the Bruins want to go “all in,” it should be with any and all of their draft picks and/or down a rung on the farm system ladder.
— There’s not an obvious area of need. The Bruins could use a traditional second-line center despite Erik Haula’s recent play. They could also use a left-shot defenseman. Secondary scoring also remains a bit of a need, especially on the right side.
— The Bruins have been really good defensively this season. Their expected goals-against numbers are better than what you’d imagine, and improved goaltending from Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark has helped them improve their tangible goals-against figures. Do you trust that young defense corps in the playoffs, though? That’s the tough question. It’s also why the Bruins’ reported interest in someone like San Jose Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton makes sense. Middleton is unlikely to cost the Bruins much, but he’s a tough, serviceable defenseman who adds depth. We saw last year how valuable that can be in the playoffs. Ottawa’s Josh Brown, to whom the Bruins haven’t been connected, is another similar type to consider.
— Up front, the Tomas Hertl option lingers, but it sounds like the Sharks want to sign him to an extension. If he becomes available, then that’s the sort of player — if Boston could work out an extension — who makes sense for a bigger splash.
— If not, then pairing a veteran D-man or two (like Middleton or Brown) with a middle-six forward might make the most sense. Second-line center is probably the biggest area of need, but that’s not going to come cheap, at least not to land someone like Hertl or Philadelphia’s Claude Giroux. Winnipeg’s Andrew Copp looked like a great option, but he has a history of concussions and that was before leaving the game Sunday following a big hit. Maybe it’s worth giving Ottawa a call about Nick Paul, who would be a real shade of Chris Kelly-type move.
— The Jake DeBrusk dilemma lingers. All indications are he’d still like to be traded, though the Bruins might be thinking twice about that given his recent production. Is there a trade out there where Boston could move him in a deal and get back an upgrade at the position? Arizona and Vancouver are options for blockbusters, but just how much value DeBrusk adds in those packages is unclear.
— Don’t rule out a surprise move. Practically no one predicted Don Sweeney would grab Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson at the 2019 deadline, and they were pivotal players on the run to the Cup Final. Even the move to get Ondrej Kase in 2020 came from the clouds. Sweeney’s best in-season deals have more or less come out of nowhere, so don’t rule that out again this year.