The Boston Bruins are fighting for position in the competitive Atlantic Division playoff race, and must now overcome losing David Pastrnak for two weeks. We design trades that make sense for the Bruins ahead of the Feb. 25 trade deadline:
Who should the Bruins trade for?
The Bruins are perpetually seeking solutions for their secondary scoring issues behind the Patrice Bergeron line. Last season they took a swing with a pending unrestricted free agent in Rick Nash … and whiffed, as Nash had 3 goals and 2 assists in 12 playoff games with a minus-7 in what would be his last NHL season due to concussion complications.
There are other veteran UFA options to rent in the coming week, and if the Bruins want to match the forward depth of Eastern Conference foes like the Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs and Washington Capitals, they best ante up to get one. Of course, it would be nice to get one and then perhaps keep one around after the season. Which brings us to Stone.
The Senators’ winger has 26 goals and 31 assists in 56 games this season, his fifth straight campaign with more than 20 goals. The 26-year-old Stone is basically the Bergeron of right wings as far as his combination of offensive effectiveness and defensive acumen goes. He drives play at a rate that far surpasses his teammates, too. Slot him on David Krejci‘s line and you really have something.
What will he cost? That depends entirely on David Backes. The Senators are in a position to trade Stone or Matt Duchene and really snag an impressive return if they take on salary coming back the other way. A 34-year-old Backes with a $6 million cap hit would be the perfect candidate for such a dump. If Ottawa would be willing to take that contract on, then a package that includes a first-rounder, a third-rounder and either Jake DeBrusk or Ryan Donato is your starting point.
Wayne Simmonds of the Philadelphia Flyers can help any wannabe contender, including the Bruins. He’s got grit, is a big body who will get in front of the net and, most importantly, can score (not to mention all those leadership intangibles that we can’t quite quantify). Simmonds would be a huge asset on the power play, but that’s an area where Boston has been OK. The Bruins’ real issue is in even-strength scoring, where their 98 5-on-5 goals rank 25th in the league. The Bruins were burned by paying a high price for a rental in Nash last season, and it didn’t work out. So I don’t know if they’ll bite on Simmonds.
Here’s where I propose a splashy trade. As the Kings wade through what they hope is just a retooling, every player should be on the table, except Drew Doughty and Anze Kopitar. That includes Toffoli, who the Kings might be showcasing after promoting him to the top line on Thursday. Toffoli, 26, has term beyond this season, which would further entice Bruins management. He has a manageable $4.6 million cap hit for the next two seasons, which is palatable for Boston, and he could plug in as a middle-six winger.
The Kings need to be looking for speed and youth, so they could ask for Donato as part of the package, but that might be too rich for Boston. Instead, the Bruins can offer a first-round pick and defensive prospect Jakub Zboril, a 2015 first-rounder who hasn’t been able to crack through Boston’s lineup yet, but could get a shot in Los Angeles.
Chris Peters, NHL draft and prospects writer: Ryan Dzingel, LW, Ottawa Senators
I don’t think the Bruins want to overpay for a rental, but they obviously need some help up front. I think one of the more underrated players rumored to be available at the deadline is Dzingel. He’s already matched his career-high of 41 points and he’s about to surpass his career-high in goals as well (currently sitting on 21 for the season). He has the easy-to-manage $1.8 million cap hit on an expiring deal, and if he proves to be a fit, he could be an affordable re-sign in the offseason, assuming he enjoys his time in Boston.
Sens GM Pierre Dorion has shown apprehension towards trading within the division, but he’s not exactly in a position of strength here. What he should be doing is compiling draft picks and/or prospects. The big fish Dorion has to dangle are Duchene and Stone, which leaves Dzingel in the shadow a bit. I think the Bruins could probably get away with trading a second-round pick for Dzingel straight up. Ottawa needs earlier picks in this draft, but I don’t think Dzingel could fetch a first. The other option could be offering up a prospect from the depth of their farm system. Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson is a name that comes to mind as a prospect who hasn’t quite managed to break through in Boston, but still has a lot of upside and could fit a role. He’ll also be an RFA without arbitration rights this offseason, making him a relatively easy re-sign for Ottawa. I’d imagine there would need to be a pick or an additional prospect in there as a sweetener to make it work, though.
It was clear even before news of the Pastrnak injury broke that the Bruins would need to do some shopping at the deadline. While they’re certainly firmly positioned as a contender, they still have two things going against them right now: a) the top of the Atlantic Division will be an absolute slog to navigate yet again, and b) finding a viable source of consistent secondary scoring has been a bugaboo that continues to plague them.
Their top line has earned its reputation as the best line in hockey, and despite some formidable challengers emerging this season in other cities, they’re still the one you’d least like to run into over the course of a seven-game playoff series. But the top-heavy way they’ve constructed their forward group is a headache come the postseason for the Bruins too. For as good as Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Pastrnak are when they’re out on the ice together, they can only account for a certain portion of any given game. Against the Leafs, if they focus on trying to shut down Auston Matthews‘ line like they have in the past, they’ll leave themselves exposed to the combination of John Tavares and Mitch Marner. Similarly, in a series versus Tampa Bay, you can’t necessarily throw all of your resources toward defending Brayden Point‘s line when Steven Stamkos is waiting in the wings.
Even with Pastrnak healthy and thriving as one of the league’s top scorers, the Bruins have struggled to put the puck into the net. They’re 28th in 5-on-5 scoring, and only the Kings and Arizona Coyotes generate less offense overall. The league-worst shooting percentage currently residing south of 7 percent isn’t helping matters, but it’s hard to pin their woes entirely on that when they’re still only 24th and 21st in expected goals scored in those two categories.
Even if GM Don Sweeney is reluctant to pay a premium for a rental after whiffing on Nash at last year’s deadline, there’s a couple of logical upgrades for him to target with term left on their beyond just this season. The most intriguing one is Kreider, who would represent a calculated home-run cut for a Bruins team that should be doing everything in their power to make a real go of it while this current core is as good as it is. It’s easy to overlook his performance because the Rangers have been such a mess otherwise, but Kreider for his part is having a fantastic season individually. He’s on pace for career-highs in goals (35) and points (63), doing a large chunk of his damage at 5-on-5. There he’s 17th in goals, and 43rd in points. In terms of his impact on the team’s underlying numbers relative to his teammates, he’s also top 10 in shots, goals scored and expected goals.
Any way you slice it, he’s been an absolute monster. He’s also big, fast and strong defensively, making the transition into the Bruins’ lineup a seamless fit. Aside from Artemi Panarin and Stone — both of whom will take a king’s ransom to acquire, and are pure rentals — he’s one of the few wingers presumably available who can actually move the needle in any tangible way, making him an immensely valuable target.