By: Max Mainville | Check me out on Twitter @tkdmaxbjj
The Boston Bruins are just eleven games into the 2021 regular-season and already are in the talks to potentially make a move for a player around the league. In the altered schedule that sees NHL teams play a scheduled 56 games, having your planned playoff roster is very important sooner rather than later, and with the Trade Deadline on April 12 – it shouldn’t be much of a surprise to hear trade rumors.
On the recent episode of Sportsnet’s 31 Thoughts Podcast with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek, Friedman brought light to some Bruins rumours, mentioning that the Boston Bruins are “sniffing around” on Vancouver Canucks forward Jake Virtanen.
Virtanen, 24, was drafted 6th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft by the Canucks – the same draft the Bruins would pick David Pastrnak at #25. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound power forward has been one of the most talked-about players on the Canucks roster for the past few seasons and not necessarily for his on-ice production.
When selected in the top-ten, many fans questioned the decision considering the talent on the board. However, the Canucks management opted to go with the big, fast forward who just happened to be from British Columbia. While yes, Virtanen has shown glimpses of obvious skill and talent, the big issue for him is his glaring inconsistency.
As of now, his career-best season came during the 2019-20 campaign where he scored 18 goals and 18 assists for 36 points – all three being career-highs while averaging just around 13 minutes on Vancouver’s bottom-six. With a successful playoff run considering what many people predicted of the Canucks, there was a lot of promise for Virtanen and the Westernmost team in Canada.
Unfortunately for the Canucks and their fans alike, the young winger has not been as productive as was hoped, resulting in him being a healthy scratch numerous times this year. As of right now, Virtanen is on an eight-game pointless skid and only has one goal in 11 games this season.
So why would the Boston Bruins look to acquire a player who has evidently been struggling offensively and has not been anything special whatsoever defensively either? The answer is simple – depth.
We are not even at the quarter-mark of the ’21 season yet and the Bruins have already had to deal with the adversity of injuries up and down the lineup. David Pastrnak, Ondrej Kase, Jake DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Craig Smith, and Jack Studnicka have all missed time or are still missing time due to injury, forcing management to bring up guys like Anton Blidh and Karson Kuhlman onto the main roster.
Virtanen is a right-winger who shoots right and could be another option on the wing should a forward be forced out of the lineup due to injury or what seems to be the inevitable COVID protocol. Another issue – money. Vancouver just extended Virtanen to a two-year contract extension in October of last year where he’ll be making $2.55 million annually.
For a depth piece, that may be a little on the expensive side considering the Bruins will have to give assets in return to make the trade go through. Likely at least a third-round pick would be involved, maybe a lower-end prospect as well if Vancouver wants that much back.
Within the Bruins fanbase, there is considerable chatter regarding shipping out forward Jake DeBrusk – even in this hypothetical trade for Virtanen. DeBrusk, 24, has only played six games this year – tallying one assist. In comparison to Virtanen last year, DeBrusk also plays a slightly better defensive game analytically, but that could be a result of playing alongside veteran center David Krejci.
To send DeBrusk, a former 27-goal scorer to Vancouver for Jake Virtanen seems like a step backwards for Boston in my opinion. Right now, DeBrusk has shown he can produce at a high level – but needs to work on consistency. Virtanen too needs consistency, but has also been playing bottom-six minutes when not being scratched.
If General Manager Don Sweeney can find a way to entice the Canucks to send Virtanen to Boston for virtually nothing in return, then sure – pull the trigger. Until then, perhaps a trade for Calgary Flames forward Sam Bennett makes more sense if you do decide a trade is needed. With everything said, I think the Bruins should steer away from Jake Virtanen. Boston sits atop the MassMutual East Division – there isn’t a desperate need for a player like him right now.
What do you think? Should the Bruins look to bring Jake Virtanen into Boston or explore other options? Let me know via Twitter @tkdmaxbjj.