By: Dan Anderson| Follow me on Twitter @DanAnderson5970
As I have completed my review of Western Conference teams, it’s now time to look at the Eastern Conference. There are two teams, in particular, I have been monitoring as possible trading partners with the Boston Bruins for help on defense. One of these two teams is the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes have been able to roll out an impressive number of quality NHL defensemen over the past few years, some of whom have moved on, such as Justin Faulk to St. Louis and Noah Hanifin to Calgary. Current Hurricanes Jaccob Slavin and former Bruin Dougie Hamilton are the top pair for Carolina. Their blue line has had depth over the past few years led by former University Of New Hampshire standouts Brett Pesce and Trevor Van Riemsdyk, younger brother of James of the Philadelphia Flyers, and current Washington Capital.
Currently, the Hurricanes have more depth at left defense than right. The team is also under salary cap constraints; as it stands, they probably cannot sign unrestricted free agent right defender Sami Vatanen, who was told to explore free agency. UFA and right defender Trevor Van Riemsdyk signed with the Washington Capitals on October 11, 2020. Carolina needs a goaltending upgrade they cannot currently make as well without the benefit of trade. Beyond Slavin at left defense, the roster stands as Brady Skjei, Jake Gardiner, and restricted free agent Hayden Fleury. Carolina has enough money to sign Fleury and their other RFA in former UNH Wildcat Warren Foegele.
Who should the Bruins target in a trade from the Hurricanes roster? Teuvo Teravainen is an option at forward, but I doubt the Bruins and Hurricanes could agree on an acceptable swap. Teravainen is one of a handful of scorers the Hurricanes can count on; I don’t see a salary dump moving from Teuvo to Ondrej Kase or Jake DeBrusk. Let’s also eliminate one defenseman as a possibility: Jake Gardiner. While I understand Gardiner is better at offense than defense, he is such a liability on defense. I think he’s better off playing on the Bruins opponent’s blue line than their own. The Bruins don’t win May 13, 2013, in the three-goal come from behind game seven against the Toronto Maple Leafs without Gardiner playing for Toronto. Jake was a minus two plus/minus that night, and was on the ice for a goal scored by Toronto. For three of the five goals the Bruins scored that night, Jake Gardiner was playing defense.
Fleury could be an option if the Bruins are looking to add a defensive-minded defenseman with potential, as Haydn is only twenty-four years old and a former seventh pick overall. The Bruins already have an RFA left defenseman going to arbitration in Matt Grzelcyk, and an unsigned unrestricted left defenseman in Zdeno Chara. I am not sure that Bruins management wants to add another contract issue to the mix, nor would Carolina trade one of their younger and less expensive options. Did I mention that Fleury is 6’3” and weighs two hundred and eight pounds? Two twenty-six-year-old defensemen in Jaccob Slavin and Brady Skjei remain as possible targets. Both are similar in height and weight; all three (Fleury, Slavin, and Skjei) are 6’3” and range from 207 to 210 pounds. Contractually, Slavin and Skjei are close; only $50,000 separate the two with Slavin having an extra year. Despite being a much lower draft pick than Skjei, Slavin is the better player.
What would it take to pry Slavin away from Carolina? Rumors have been circulating that the Hurricanes have interest in Jake DeBrusk. The Bruins have to be considering trading DeBrusk if he’s looking for close to five million dollars per season when a bridge deal makes more sense. While talented and fast, DeBrusk’s streaky play can be extremely frustrating; he needs to be more consistent. The Bruins missed out on Taylor Hall, but both Mike Hoffman and Evgeni Dadonov are available on the free-agent market; could a DeBrusk for Slavin trade be in the works?
Carolina will want more compensation than that; perhaps some prospects and or draft picks, or potentially, the Bruins could downgrade to DeBrusk for Skjei, which should require less additional assets. Carolina gets a scorer, younger player with upside, and some salary-cap relief, while the Bruins upgrade an area of need on defense while using free agency to cover the loss of a second-line left-winger. By signing either Hoffman or Dadonov, this would leave either newly signed Craig Smith or Ondrej Kase to battle for the second line right-wing position playing with David Krejci. The thought of trading Brandon Carlo for Slavin has crossed my mind, but I don’t think it would benefit the Bruins, especially if the trade is for Skjei instead.
After this potential transaction, the Bruins lineup, combined with free-agent activity, would be Marchand and Pastrnak centered by Bergeron on the first line. Second-line would be Hoffman/Dadonov and Smith/Kase, centered by David Krejci. The third line pivot is Charlie Coyle, with Anders Bjork on his left and either Kase or Smith. Fourth line? Looks familiar with Kuraly at center and Wagner at right-wing, with the addition of Trent Frederic at left-wing, replacing Nordstrom. On defense, the pairings from first to third would be Slavin and McAvoy, Grzelcyk replacing Krug with Carlo, and either Chara if re-signed or Lauzon with Connor Clifton.