(Photo credit: Nick Wass/Associated Press)

By: Zach Carlone | Follow me on Twitter! @zcarlone21

As we gear closer towards opening night for the Bruins 2021-22 season, there are still a few questions marks left for the status of the team. We’re inching closer to preseason action starting on September 26th with a game against the Washington Capitals, and some players have to be eager to bounce back from forgettable performances last season. One of those players is Bruins left winger Jake DeBrusk. It’s been a bumpy road for the 24-year-old over the past few seasons, and many weren’t expecting him to be in a Bruins uniform on opening night.

With a crowded bottom-six after the handful of free-agent signings from Bruins general manager Don Sweeney, DeBrusk is truly going to have to fight for his spot on the team. That’ll include playing more meaningful hockey for Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. DeBrusk played so poorly at times last season that he was watching a few games from the press box. This year must be better, and there’s no getting around it. The former 14th overall pick has one year left on a two-year, $7.35 million deal he signed prior to last season. He’ll be a restricted free agent following the 2021-22 campaign.

There is still some speculation that DeBrusk could still be traded at some point leading into the season. He’s been involved in trade rumors all offseason, and those rumors seemed to intensify after the Bruins signed Nick Foligno, Erik Haula, and Tomas Nosek as players to add to their bottom-six forward group. With the preseason right around the corner, those rumors have cooled off, but Sweeney could still be communicating behind closed doors with other general managers around the league. Here are some teams that I think could still be interested in DeBrusk:

Edmonton Oilers

Edmonton Oilers general manager Ken Holland has been attempting to acquire a better supporting cast for Oilers stars Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, and it really hasn’t panned out as well as he has hoped. On July 28th, the Oilers signed free agent Zach Hyman to a massive seven-year, $38.5 million deal with the hopes of having him play on a line with McDavid. They also committed a ton of money into extending defenseman Darnell Nurse, who scored himself an eight-year, $74 million deal. They also traded for former Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who still has a hefty expense left on his current contract. Holland has spent a lot of money this offseason yet still has the wiggle room to add depth if he desires.

Trading for DeBrusk seems like a logical fit for the Oilers. He’d immediately get time playing in the middle-six with the hopes of turning into a permanent producing winger. Still at 24-years-old, the value and potential is still on the table. A reasonable return for the Bruins from the Oilers if a deal ever were to strike could include something in the ballpark of their second-round pick in the 2022 draft. Young players the Bruins could also be interested in include 22-year-old winger Kailer Yamamoto or 25-year-old left-handed defenseman William Lagesson. The most reasonable and beneficial trade package from the Oilers to the Bruins in return for DeBrusk could be Lagesson and a 2023 third-round draft pick.

Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames need a shakeup, and bringing in a young winger with something to prove could be rewarding. After making the playoffs for four of the last twelve seasons and only advancing past the first round in one of those four appearances, it’s clear the Flames need something new in order to compete in a fairly weak Pacific division. They have a large serving size of pending free agents after the 2021-22 season, including unrestricted free agent Johnny Gaudreau and restricted free agent Matthew Tkachuk. They lost former captain Mark Giordano in the expansion draft to the Seattle Kraken this offseason as well.

The idea of creating a bigger package involving DeBrusk for Flames center Sean Monahan is quite intriguing. Monahan has been a subject in offseason trade rumors, and he has two years remaining on his contract worth $6.375 million AAV. As a two-way center, the 26-year-old could plugin as David Krejci’s replacement on the second line, bringing both offensive and defensive components down the middle. The price tag for Monahan, if any deal with the Bruins would take place, could cost DeBrusk, a first or second-round draft pick, and another player with a salary cap (Bruins defenseman John Moore is a possibility).

If the Bruins decide to go a different route, they could look into acquiring one of the Flames two 2022 second-round picks or even players like defenseman Jusso Valimaki, 22, or winger Andrew Mangiapane, 25. The cost for Valimaki would most likely require more than DeBrusk, while a one-for-one swap between DeBrusk and Mangiapane seems even.

Los Angeles Kings

By the end of this, you’re probably going to be wondering why all three teams included are from the Pacific Division, and my explanation is simple. I’m sure the Bruins don’t want to move DeBrusk within their conference with the risk of him breaking out into a productive middle-six forward still a possibility, and most of these teams in the Pacific Division need to go younger before they start competing again. The Los Angeles Kings are no different, and Kings general manager Rob Blake has been on a mission to improve his squad this offseason. There’s a lot to be excited for in Los Angeles, and adding DeBrusk could elevate that rush even more.

After winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and 2014, the Kings have only qualified for the playoffs in two of the last seven seasons. This offseason, they traded for winger Viktor Arvidsson in a deal with the Nashville Predators and signed two-way center Phillip Danault to a six-year, $33 million contract. They added veterans to the mix of a young team that includes former second overall pick Quinton Byfield, 19, center Gabriel Vilardi, 22, and a few other young players with untapped potential. Adding DeBrusk gives them more insurance on the wing, and taking a flier on a 24-year-old in need of a bounce-back season might not be a bad thing.

As for a trade package, the Kings may be willing to part ways with more draft picks. They traded away their 2021 second-round and 2022 third-round pick in a deal for Arvidsson, but a potential 2022 second-round pick return for DeBrusk isn’t out of the question. If the Bruins include a late-round selection along with DeBrusk, maybe the Kings would be willing to forfeit their second-round selection in 2022 for a flier. If the Bruins want a player in return, potential names they could be interested in could include center Tyler Madden, 21; center Jarred Anderson-Dolan, 21, or center Rasmus Kupari, 21.

If we are making any predictions towards the 2021-22 season, I think Jake DeBrusk will be on the Bruins for the majority of it. In all likelihood, he will start the year on the Bruins and potentially be flipped at the deadline to a team for a possible rental as the Bruins expect to take another run at a Stanley Cup championship. DeBrusk’s contract with the Bruins expires after this season, but they still own his rights as a restricted free agent, meaning this could be a make-or-break first few months of the season for DeBrusk. It’s all up to Cam Neely, Sweeney, and Cassidy to determine DeBrusk’s future with the club.