By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter @zcarlone21
Although the NHL’s trade deadline for this season is over a month away from now on April 12th, it’s no secret that the Bruins could use some help in their lineup, or can they? As of today, the Bruins sit in first place in the MassMutual East Division with a record of 11-3-2. There are not many holes within the structure of this team, but rather, there are places that could use some improvements. General manager Don Sweeney and his crew will decide in the coming weeks whether it’ll be worth it to go all-in before this year’s deadline.
Of those places that could use some improvements, the most glaring is the group of left-handed defensemen. When fully healthy, the Bruins have rolled this season with defensemen Jeremy Lauzon, Matt Grzelcyk, and Jakub Zboril on the left side. The problem is, they have not all stayed healthy. All three are currently dealing with injuries, with Grzelcyk and Zboril missing Sunday’s outdoor game and Lauzon leaving that game with an upper-body injury in the first period. Searching for a cheap, durable left-handed defenseman could go a long way for Sweeney and the Bruins.
I don’t think it’d also hurt the Bruins to look for another bottom-six forward either if the price is reasonable. The forwards in the bottom-six have a lot of experience and a lot of miles on their skates, but with forward Ondrej Kase spending most of his tenure with the Bruins thus far on the Injured Reserve, it wouldn’t hurt. So the question remains, who should the Bruins take a look at with approximately $2.9 million right now in cap space and $8 million by season’s end?
Mattias Ekholm (NSH) – D
There’s been a lot of talk as of late about the Bruins interest in a guy like Ekholm. The Nashville Predators defenseman is a left-handed shot, has a wealth of playoff experience, and has a very cheap cap-hit for a player of his caliber. He wouldn’t be a rental, either. His cap hit of $3.75 million runs through the 2021-22 season. This is the guy that general manager Sweeney should be ringing about the most. He won’t come cheap, however.
The Predators are definitely not in the same boat as the Bruins and will probably turn to sellers within the next few weeks. However, they are going to hold a high price tag on Ekholm just because of his cap hit. I’d expect if the Bruins would land him, it’d cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a first or second-round pick and a middle-tier NHL prospect. This decision is going to rely on whether Sweeney feels comfortable sticking it out with his young defensive corps now or paying up for a well-established improvement.
Marc Staal (DET) / Alexander Edler (VAN) – D
Staal, 34, is no stranger to the Bruins. The former New York Ranger spent most of his career playing against the Bruins in the Eastern Conference and the playoffs. Playing in his first year with the Detroit Red Wings, he has four points in 20 games. Staal isn’t known for being a producer on offense, but he’s very sound defensively and has played surprisingly well this season despite his stats. Of course, what everyone wants to hear is that he would be a cheap option from a rebuilding Red Wings squad compared to somebody like Ekholm.
Edler, 34, would be another ideal guy for the Bruins to trade for if they can’t fetch Ekholm or Staal. A pending free agent after this season, the Canucks D-man is making $6 million this season. There lies the Bruins problem with picking him up, unless the Canucks can eat about half of that cap. He would serve as a mentor for the Bruins young defensemen, having played 82 career playoff games, and wouldn’t cost them so much.
Bobby Ryan (DET) – F / Mattias Janmark (CHI) – F
Both Ryan and Janmark aren’t just any other bottom-six guys the Bruins should add. The Bruins have many gritty, hard-working forwards in the bottom-six with guys like Sean Kuraly and Chris Wagner. Ryan and Janmark, while considered bottom-six guys too, have a little bit more offensive touch to their games as well.
Ryan, 33, is making the most of his time with the low-achieving Detroit Red Wings, notching nine points in 19 games. The former 35-goal scorer would both serve as another mentor for guys like Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka and could possibly pot goals at a higher rate than the likes of Kuraly and Wagner. His best playing days are behind him, though.
Janmark, 28, has six goals and ten points in 19 games with the Chicago Blackhawks this season. The Blackhawks are doing surprisingly well this season so far, but if Janmark becomes available, he is a younger, sexier option for the Bruins and could give the bottom-six, perhaps more so the fourth-line, a little offensive spark.
The Bruins should be all-in to win the Cup this season. They’ve come so close in years past, and with the future unknown for pending free agents David Krejci and Tuukka Rask, as well as captain Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand only getting older, it should be a no-brainer that the Bruins should try to improve. Ekholm would cost a lot, but it would most likely be worth it. All of the other names listed would be much cheaper, speaking of somewhere around a mid-round pick. Who do you guys think the Bruins should go after? Leave your thoughts in the comments!