By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
As the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate their Game Six Stanley Cup win over the Dallas Stars, the rest of the National Hockey League is anxiously anticipating the chaos that is about to happen during the off-season. In less than a week, the 31 teams across the league will participate in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft followed by the start of the NHL Free Agency that begins on October 9th.
As with every off-season, global pandemic or not, the period before the free agency deadline is one of the craziest times of the year. Trade rumors, signing rumors, and the typical extreme blockbuster hypothetical trades from fans that are still bitter from their team’s exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Following a second-round defeat to the eventual Champions, Tampa Bay Lightning, the Boston Bruins are finding themselves in the center of most of these rumors. General Manager Don Sweeney has plenty of big decisions to make with not only his expiring contracts but also potential acquisitions.
With all this uncertainty surrounding the trade market, salary cap, and the future of the organization, I decided to put myself in the shoes of Sweeney and survey possible trade pieces for the team. There were a few names such as Arizona Coyotes defenceman Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Columbus Blue Jackets forward Josh Anderson, and even Winnipeg Jets forward Patrik Laine. However, realistically, there was one name that I continued to come across – Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere.
Shayne Gostisbehere started his hockey career as a teenager in the USHS-Prep with South Kent Prep where he finished third in team scoring in his first season back in 2009-10 and as captain in 2010-11, scored 7-29-36 numbers in 24 games to finish second in team scoring. Following that, Gostisbehere played one season with Union College in the NCAA before going 78th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft by the Philadelphia Flyers.
Gostisbehere would play two more seasons in the NCAA, finishing off with an incredible 2013-14 campaign. The Pembroke Pines, Florida native led Union College to their first-ever NCAA Championship, winning the Most Outstanding Player of the Frozen Four, after he scored a goal and two assists against the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Earlier in the year, Gostisbehere was a finalist for the Hobey Baker, won the ECAC Player of the Year, ECAC Best Defensive Defenseman, and made it to the ECAC First All-Star Team.
One week after winning the NCAA Championship, Gostisbehere signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Flyers and finished off the ’13/’14 season with the Adirondack Phantoms – Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate. Things were looking on the up for the young defender, until he tore his ACL in November of 2014, sidelining him for the entire 2014-15 season.
During his recovery process, Gostisbehere still had the mindset to impress the Flyers management and earn a spot on the roster, saying “my goal will be to make the team out of camp,” Gostisbehere said. “If not, there’s a good reason why. I haven’t played a lot. I’ve been injured most of the year, so if I get sent down here, I’ll do everything in my power to get back up.” (quote courtesy of Randy Miller, NJ.com).
Shayne failed to make the NHL roster right out of training camp, but it didn’t take long as he played his first game of the 2015-16 campaign on November 14th, recording his first career NHL assist on a Wayne Simmonds game-tying goal in a 3-2 overtime win over the Carolina Hurricanes. It was a beautiful play from Gostisbehere, too, using his talented skating to avoid the pressure on the blueline and open some space for a shot on goal that is deflected by Simmonds.
From that point on, “Ghost” played every game for Philadelphia, finishing the year with 17-29-46 totals in 64 games played, finishing second in the Calder voting for best rookie of the year. He truly made the league aware of his high-level skating and stickhandling as a mobile defenseman. Following a solid 2016-17 season, Gostisbehere broke out in the 2017-18 regular-season, scoring 13 goals and 52 assists for 65 points in 78 games – placing him fourth in scoring amongst defensemen, only three points behind John Carlson for the league-lead.
After a 37-point year in 2018-19, Gostisbehere struggled this past season for the Flyers, scoring only 12 points in 42 games and two points in 5 postseason games. He was often a healthy scratch during the season and into the postseason as well. It was a disappointing year for the now 27-year-old which leaves us to where we are now with Shayne – a trade.
Earlier in the week, Pierre LeBrun of The Atheltic (@PierreVLeBrun on Twitter) mentioned that Gostisbehere was officially on the trade block. There had been many rumors about the defenceman in the past, but this is the first time there is a true belief that Philadelphia is looking to ship him out. Right now, Shayne Gostisbehere has three years remaining on his contract at a $4.5 million cap hit. However, as LeBrun also mentioned, his contract is front-loaded and from this point on, his actual cash payout is $3.5 million.
Now how can the Boston Bruins turn this opportunity into a potential trade?
As we all know, the Boston Bruins are very likely losing the services of defenseman Torey Krug on October 9th meaning the team will be losing out on a left-handed, offensive blueliner that has been at the forefront of the offense for the past few seasons. Krug has been a powerplay quarterback and has been one of the top reasons why the Bruins have had one of the best man-advantages in the NHL.
Throughout the past couple of days, Boston has also been in many rumors and reports regarding Arizona Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. OEL brings that offensive talent but at a much higher price tag. Ekman-Larsson just finished his first season on an eight-year contract that pays him $8.25 million per season. Unlike Gostisbehere, OEL has never hit the 60-point mark and only hit the 50-point plateau once in his 10-year career (55 in ’15/’16).
While Ekman-Larsson has been a solid top defender for the majority of his tenure with the Coyotes, the cost to acquire him in a trade will likely be much higher than Gostisbehere. Arizona appears ready to move on according to the reports, but they are still aware of the need for players like OEL in his position around the league, raising their asking price as a result.
For Gostisbehere, after a disappointing year and injuries (knee), the Flyers know that teams are going to be less willing to move a large number of pieces back to Philly to acquire the defenseman. With the flat cap staying around for the unforeseeable future, the NHL is a buyers’ market right now and someone like Gostisbehere could be a lower risk, high reward in comparison to OEL.
Without a doubt, the Bruins won’t ever replace Torey Krug identically. His style of play is unmatched in the league and his chemistry with the team is a huge part of his success. With that said, Boston will need someone to make that jump and replace his presence. The Bruins do have Jakub Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon, and Urho Vaakanainen in the system but as for the 2019-20 season, it still isn’t the best option in my opinion – at least for the present, the future is a different story.
There have been two other players that have been all over the NHL rumor mill – Bruins RFA Jake DeBrusk and Bruins Anders Bjork. On TSN’s Trade Bait on October 1st, DeBrusk ranks as 7th and according to different rumors and reports, the Bruins have been having conversations with moving the young forward. Although, moving a player just for his RFA rights can be risky due to the uncertainty of him agreeing on a new deal with his new team.
On the other hand, Anders Bjork just recently signed a three-year contract extension with an AAV of $1.6 million, making him a solid trade piece if the Bruins wish to do so. The Bruins could very well package Bjork and a future 2nd Round Pick, as much as that hurts to do so, to entice Philadelphia. Perhaps, you include a defenseman such as Jakub Zboril (RFA) to add a prospect to the mix as well.
Gostisbehere needs a change of scenery. He has proven himself in the past with impressive point totals and has been good on the power-play as well. Since 2016-17, Gostisbehere is third on the Flyers in power-play points (75) while averaging 64.2% of Philadelphia’s power-play time during that period (also third on the team). He, like Krug, could be the quarterback of the power-play unit. Shayne also had a 52.6 CF% and while that isn’t elite, for $3.5 million it isn’t that terrible either.
In my opinion, a trade for Shayne Gostisbehere makes more sense when considering it may be a “buy-low” situation with fairly high upside compared to an Oliver Ekman-Larsson who will cost more to not only acquire, but to pay each season.
What are your thoughts? Let me know via Twitter @tkdmaxbjj!