Cam Neely laid his cards on the table, apparently feeling comfortable tipping the Bruins’ hand ahead of next week’s NHL trade deadline.

Then again, when you’re looking for just about everything — as Neely’s comments seemed to indicate — you’re probably a little more comfortable admitting as much.

The Bruins, despite their recent skid, are positioned to return to the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. They might not be the Cup contender they were last year or even looked like earlier this season, but some deadline improvements could send an impactful message.

“Another stiff defender would be good,” Neely admitted to The Athletic’s Fluto Shinzawa, before also adding, “and you could always use help on offense.”

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The B’s president acknowledged “that’s a big list,” especially considering the Bruins’ situation ahead of the deadline. Neely’s hopeful, however, the Bruins “can figure something out that’s going to give us opportunities to improve upon, for sure.”

The problem, as Neely alluded to, is a lack of assets. Since the Bruins went for it a year ago, they don’t have a first-round pick in the 2024 NHL Draft. They also don’t have a second-round selection, nor a third-rounder for that matter. If they were to deal a first- (or second-) round pick, it would have to come in 2025, and at what point do you want to stop kicking that can down the road? Boston is also extremely hamstrung by the salary cap, with less than $60,000 under right now.

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Obviously, it’s going to take some creativity to get anything done, but there are some options when it comes to checking the boxes Neely and the Bruins hope to check.

D Sean Walker (Philadelphia)
Look, the first thing out of Neely’s mouth, according to The Athletic interview, was a desire to add a “stiff defender.” Walker offers modest size at 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, but he has some offensive touch in addition to being able to play in his own zone. He’s averaging 19 minutes per night for the Flyers, and he has logged big penalty-kill minutes, which is also something Neely mentioned. The contract is definitely an issue. Walker’s on an expiring deal with a cap hit of $2.65 million, so it would either have to be a hockey trade or the Bruins would have to ante up in terms of prospects or (what’s left of their) draft picks to offset Philly eating some of the hit.

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D Nick Seeler (Philadelphia)
Walker is certainly the Flyers defenseman who’s better known and brings a coveted offensive touch to the ice. Seeler, though, might be the better fit for a Bruins team that needs to get a little stiffer. At 6-foot-3, 197 pounds, he’s a pretty big human being, and he’s not afraid to use that size, whether it’s moving players in front of the net or dropping the gloves. He’s right up there with Walker when it comes to PK time for Philly, too, and Seeler blocks a ton of shots. For now, he’s also cheap. The 30-year-old also will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, yet he carries just a $775,000 cap hit. The Flyers are reportedly having talks with both blueliners about extensions with Walker being more likely to move, according to The Fourth Period’s David Pagnotta. Seeler could still get an extension with the Flyers, according to Pagnotta, but he’s reportedly seeking something north of $3 million per season in a multi-year deal. He might not be good enough to justify parting with assets as a rental, and it would be tough to commit that kind of money for a stay-at-home D-man, but such is the calculus this time of year for NHL front offices.

D Erik Johnson (Buffalo)
The 35-year-old Johnson feels like the sort of late-career deadline pickup the Bruins have made at various times over the last couple of decades. He’s obviously not the player he was in his prime with Colorado, but he could be a solid addition for a contender looking for size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and blue-line depth. He’s averaging 14 minutes per night, which is the lowest of his career, but he is leading the Sabres in short-handed time on ice. The contract — one-year, $3.25 million — is a potential hold-up, too. The former No. 1 overall pick sounds open to moving, though, and his experience for a team like the Bruins could be invaluable, on and off the ice. Johnson has 55 games of playoff experience under his belt and won a Stanley Cup with the Avs in 2022.

LW Dominik Kubalik (Ottawa)
OK, so he’s putting up some truly horrendous numbers this season. The former Calder Trophy finalist has just nine goals and three assists in 52 games while averaging a career-low 12:45 of ice time per game. He’s not even really shooting the puck much at all, either, so it’s not like there’s a major shooting percentage outlier. In fact, his shooting percentage is up year over year after he scored 20 goals in Detroit last season. But is he potentially a change-of-scenery candidate? It’s not like Kubalik hasn’t produced at points in his career. He’s also a rental, so he should be motivated to save his market value and could benefit from a better lineup and system. The 28-year-old could theoretically help a power play, especially one like Boston’s which is struggling, and be that “help” on offense Neely mentioned. It’s not perfect, but as Neely himself said, the Bruins aren’t likely to have the ideal deadline situation present itself.

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Featured image via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images