By: Michael DiGiorgio | Follow Me On Twitter @BostonDiGiorgio
A Bruins regular season would not be complete without trade rumors. The Bruins are almost always rumored to be in on a specific player or shopping their own. Don Sweeney, current General Manager, is always doing his due diligence to improve his team, from sending scouts to NHL games to making phone calls to other General Managers. The latest buzz features two young Bruin names that their fans might be reluctant to give up.
Hearing Bruins are active on the trade front, but also Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork are names that have come up in recent weeks. Bruins aren’t necessarily shopping them, but there’s chatter that NHL teams are asking about them as a starting point in trade packages. #NHLBruins— Bruins Network (@BruinsNetwork) January 7, 2020
The key takeaway in this tweet is the “Bruins aren’t necessarily shopping them.” Don Sweeney would not be fulfilling his job as General Manager if he didn’t field calls and negotiate deals. Other teams’ General Managers are doing the same, which is why there’s chatter. What are the Bruins giving up in these players and who would be worth receiving?
Anders Bjork was drafted 146th overall in the 2014 draft out of Notre Dame. He had a fruitful career for the Irish, amassing 109 points in 115 games. Bjork is a young 23-year old impending restricted free-agent who has had the misfortune of two straight seasons ending due to shoulder surgeries. This season, the 6-foot, 190-pound left-winger is finally fully healthy and improving every game. He’s largely played with Charlie Coyle as his center and recently been placed on David Krejci’s line. The Bruins have longed to find David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk’s wing partner and Bjork has the tools to be the answer.
He hasn’t been scoring but Notre Dame’s Anders Bjork has looked really good for the Bruins. I imagine he could be a possible piece if the Bruins go big game trade hunting. Loads of character and plenty of speed. https://t.co/e9FTkH6mFK— Bucci Mane (@Buccigross) December 20, 2019
Danton Heinen is the second Bruin to be included in the rumors. Heinen was drafted 116th overall in the same draft as Bjork (2014). He played two years for the Denver Pioneers, eclipsing 93 points in 81 games before heading to Boston for eight games in the 2016-17 season. The 24-year old’s versatility has been one of his many strengths in Boston. He recently signed a 2-year, $5.6M deal in this past offseason. He will become a restricted free agent in 2021. He’s been asked to play with Bergeron, Krejci, and Coyle and has succeeded immensely. Heinen has the defensive tenacity, vision, and nose for the net that is required of a top-nine winger. He is a role player needed on a team to make it deep into the playoffs.
If the Bruins potentially have two long-time wingers in their possession, why would they be willing to trade them?
NHL General Managers generally make trades based on three reasons: they’re looking to rebuild their roster, they’re looking to make a playoff push, or they’re looking to acquire talent for one of their impending free-agent stars.
If Don Sweeney is fielding calls for Bjork and Heinen, it is more than likely to acquire an impending free-agent to fulfill his top-six winger issue. Both young forwards have shown promise and have the talents to help lead a team deep into the playoffs. The Bruins also control their rights for the next several years. Giving up on players too early has bitten this organization before with the likes of Tyler Seguin. So if Sweeney does pull the trigger, a well-established NHL scorer should be included in the return.
The Bruins have brokered trades to acquire impending free-agents (rentals) before in Rick Nash, Marcus Johansson, and Jaromir Jagr. None of the three were in Bruins’ uniforms the following season, which makes these trades tricky. Rentals are a risk because they could hit the free-agency market the following year. The NHL team loses not only the player they acquired but the player they traded away.
The New York Rangers have two of the three aforementioned motives to strike a deal. They are seven points behind the Florida Panthers for the final Wild Card spot. They won the Artemi Panarin sweepstakes in last year’s offseason, handing him $81M for the next seven years. They also netted the second overall pick, jumping from the sixth spot, in last year’s lottery. On paper, their roster was primed to make a playoff push.
The Rangers also have an impending unrestricted free-agent in Chris Kreider. Kreider, who hails from Boxford, MA, was drafted 19th overall in the 2009 NHL Draft out of Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He went on to play three years at Boston College, tallying 92 points in 114 games. The 6-foot-3, 217-pound left-winger has the speed that NHL GM’s salivate over. He’s currently playing on the Rangers’ top line with 12 goals, which would rank fourth on the current Bruins roster. He is playing out the last year of his four-year, $18.5M contract.
Kreider is making $4.6M this year and will look to increase to at least $5M per year on his next deal. Kreider is a big-bodied winger that would fit the Bruins mold well, especially if he had Krejci feeding him the puck each night. However, the Bruins should be cautious and ensure Kreider plans to sign a long-term, cost-effective deal if he is traded to his native state.
The Los Angeles Kings are a team that falls into the rebuilding category. The Kings are last in the Western Conference with an aging roster. The Kings have $21M tied up between three of their top-six forwards all over the age of 33. They’ve been guilty of giving out poor contracts and have had a history of the injury bug. A few bright spots on their roster have some NHL teams calling. Tyler Toffoli is a 27-year old winger, who is also on the last year of his contract with Los Angeles. He, too, will be looking for a pay increase as he sits third in scoring on the lowly Kings with 11 goals.
Tyler Toffoli proving every angle is a good angle 😍 pic.twitter.com/SK2X9gRHcR— LA Kings (@LAKings) January 1, 2020
The last scenario the Bruins could entertain is packaging a young forward to trade David Backes’s deplorable contract. The Toronto Maple Leafs traded Patrick Marleau, who had a similar contract, to the Carolina Hurricanes for a seventh-round pick this last offseason. The Leafs had to send a first-round pick in order to rid themselves of Marleau’s contract.
The same will apply to Backes, but Sweeney could decide to dangle Heinen or Bjork, instead of his coveted first-round choice. A package that includes Backes, Bjork or Heinen and another draft selection could send New Jersey Devil Miles Wood and a draft selection to Boston. Miles is a 24-year old left-winger who is in the midst of a team-friendly $2.75M per year deal. The Devils are second-to-last in the league in points and could also be looking for a new direction.
General Managers wear many hats and one of them is to improve their team, even if they sit atop the standings. The Bruins are first in their division and second in the Eastern Conference. Their Stanley Cup window is dwindling because of their aging core of players. Zdeno Chara is playing out his one-year deal, Patrice Bergeron has sat for a few games to keep him fresh for the playoffs, and David Krejci has one more year on his 6-year deal signed in 2014. The time to bing a Stanley Cup back to Boston is now. Heinen and Bjork were drafted to be a part of a long playoff run but if an NHL team calls and offers a deal that they can’t pass up, Sweeney may take the risk.