By: Scott Wood | Follow me on @ScottHoHPodcast
As soon as Jake DeBrusk took his trade request public, it put pressure on Don Sweeney and the Bruins to make a timely decision. No longer could it be dismissed as a background rumor or a “will they or won’t they” storyline? It turned into an inevitability.
To their credit, DeBrusk and his teammates have all said and done the right thing in response to this request. Taylor Hall said shortly after the news hit that “he’s not a distraction at all” and that it was part of the culture in the Bruins’ room that they deal with these kinds of situations “head-on.”
Jake DeBrusk hasn’t sulked or become disinterested either. It doesn’t seem like ill-will toward his teammates or the management staff in Boston. He described it as a “crossroads in his career” and has been a positive contributor on the ice, as the only current scoring threat on the Bruins’ bottom-six, matching Taylor Hall’s five goals on the season (no other forward has more than two).
But every day that goes by without a deal in place comes with consequences. The coaching staff has to juggle this conflict when deciding how to deploy DeBrusk. They are tasked with having to strike a balance between protecting the asset, not devaluing DeBrusk on the open market, and icing the best possible roster. The longer we go without a deal in place, there are consequences that make it more challenging to accomplish.
If DeBrusk gets powerplay time and continues to score goals as we saw against Edmonton Oilers Stuart Skinner, it can increase his trade value. However, it also increases his value to the Boston Bruins, who are struggling to find offense from anywhere other than their top-six forwards. How would Sweeney justify landing something akin to a second-round pick for a contributing player when his team is battling for a playoff position?
Sweeney will not be selling this season, and nor should he. If a hockey trade isn’t on the table, then the sooner he makes the deal for futures, the more time he has to further flip those assets for help today.
Then there’s the injury risk of playing DeBrusk every night, especially considering how opposing teams appear to be okay taking liberties with the Bruins’ top players lately. The Bs have been far more “nail” than “hammer” of late, and all it will take is a poorly timed hit along the boards for any prospect of trading DeBrusk is dashed.
There’s always the option of playing DeBrusk in a limited scope and keeping him on the bench, but then you’re sinking his trade value even further than his play in the Covid-shortened 2021 season already has.
The best way to deal with this situation is to take the best offer on the table as soon as possible. It’s not as though they don’t have an idea of what his value is. The Bruins have been rumored to have made DeBrusk available at the past two Entry Drafts, dangling him for a first-round pick in 2020 and then again in 2021. Sweeney used his ample cap space in the offseason signing Taylor Hall, Eric Haula, and Nick Foligno, who, when added to the current stable of Brad Marchand, Trent Frederic, and the surprisingly effective Anton Blidh, left a plethora of players who could play DeBrusk’s position. Sweeney had planned for the departure.
It has been rumored that as many as 15 teams have inquired about the asking price for DeBrusk, but Sweeney’s line is that he will do this on “his terms” and his timeframe.
The timeframe and terms are no longer his to claim. The request is public. The distraction is real and current. You have an idea of what DeBrusk’s value is across the league – deal with it and move on. It won’t end well otherwise.