By: Jacob Abenante | Follow me on Twitter @Jacobabenante
We are officially about two weeks into the Bruins offseason, and I can officially say I am underwhelmed. Starting with letting Torey Krug walk without even trading his rights to Craig Smith being our only impact signing, things are not going as I had imagined. My hopes were as high as could be going into free agency; the possibility to make a big splash and to make a final push with this core had me expecting fireworks.
Now circa about two weeks later, I sit here and ask myself, are we going to be worse than last year? Many different factors are playing into this thought process, but the main one today is Jake Debrusk. Will we sign him? Will we trade him? Will these rumors affect his mental makeup as a young player? Many different questions surround him, and I want to take a deeper look into what their answers could look like.
In today’s new flat cap Covid-19 era of the NHL, every team has to be extra stringent when re-signing and signing new players. A year ago, teams were making decisions with the plan for the cap to go up significantly over the next two years due to the TV rights being renegotiated and hockey’s popularity growing steadily at a positive rate. Since Covid, these plans have been flipped upside down. The Bruins are now tasked with many hard decisions regarding contracts this year, headlined by RFA Jake Debrusk. So, what could the contract look like? First, let’s look at what Debrusk has done and what his true comparable is in this new world.
Jake Debrusk will be 24 when the season starts in this coming January (hopefully) and in three seasons has the stat line of 203 GP | 62 G | 58 A | 120 PTS |. In my opinion, Debrusk projects to be a 25-30 goal, 65-point scorer at his peak with upside for more. Debrusk has great straight-line skating speed, and an above-average wrist shot to find holes many others can’t. Debrusk also has the intangibles many teams look for regarding his light-hearted team-first mentality. So, what will he cost to keep in the black and gold?
Let’s look at some comparable contracts recently signed by players in Debrusk’s talent and production range. Tyler Toffoli, who recently signed with rival Montreal Canadians to me, is a very comparable player to Debrusk. This year he produced 68 GP| 24 G | 20 A | 44 PTS |. Toffoli signed for 4 years $17 Million with an AAV of $4.25 Million; to me, this is a very fair and comparable deal to what Debrusk could be asking for. I feel the Bruins and Debrusk will most likely fall slightly shorter and smaller than that of Toffoli’s deal and will look like the classic Bruins bridge deal. The number to me will be between $3.25 to $3.75 Million and should come in at a two-year term. This gives both the Bruins more time to decide how they project Debrusk’s development, and it gives Debrusk more time to prove what he is worth.
The Possible Trade Return
With the Bruins being intertwined with many different free agent rumors and trade rumors, it seems many of these outcomes could result in Jake Debrusk being the odd man out. This is due to both fit and money constraints, but would a trade be worth it? The big question around every trade rumor, especially when talking about a player of Debrusk’s caliber, is what we will get back? I previously touched on how I feel Debrusk Projects, and that is a 25-30 goal, 65-point scorer at his peak with upside for more, so for a trade to make sense, the Bruins would need to get a better option in return. Two of the top wingers who are being thrown around in trade talks as of late are both Kyle Palmieri and Patrik Laine, neither of whom are perfect fits in a Debrusk deal.
Bruins have a little over $11 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.— Evan Marinofsky (@emarinofsky) October 12, 2020
They still need to re-sign RFAs Matt Grzelcyk and Jake DeBrusk. Also have to factor in UFA Zdeno Chara.
Unless, of course, they make some trades to free up space for bigger moves.
With Palmieri, you are getting a 25-goal scorer, one with some sandpaper finish, and don’t get me wrong; this is something the Bruins need, but not at the cost of Debrusk. Especially when Debrusk is six years younger and has a ceiling that most definitely could pass Palmieri. Now Laine is in a much different situation; rumored character issues aside, he is a pure sniper who, at 22-years-old has scored 247 points in 305 games played. If the Bruins could somehow swing Debrusk for Laine one for one, then as much as I like Debrusk, I am all for it, but that is not realistic. I think for the Bruins to get Laine from Winnipeg, and it will take Debrusk, a first-round pick, and possibly a mid-level prospect. To me, this is too much, especially for a player set to be an RFA that most likely will command $8-$9 million AAV.
The Bruins need more secondary scoring; the series with Tampa reminded us of that (again). Trading Jake Debrusk who is one of the best secondary scoring options in the organization, is not the correct answer to filling this need. The return to me will not be worth it, and the team would be much better off signing an impact-free agent who can help Debrusk and Krejci build a more effective second line. If whoever the Bruins choose to sign makes signing Debrusk harder with the current flat cap of $81.5 Million, I suggest the Bruins look elsewhere to create cap space and hold on to Debrusk with all of his upsides. Only time will tell what Don Sweeney and the Bruins brass will choose to do; let’s just all hope it results in the Bruins taking the ice as a better and stronger team when the puck drops on the 2020-2021 season.