By: Mike Sullivan | Follow me on Twitter @_MikeSullivan
Early in the 2021-2022 season, Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk requested a trade out of the city. It’s widely believed that he wanted to be closer to his home in Western Canada. More specifically, Edmonton, Alberta. When the news broke, it wasn’t entirely shocking as he seemed to be in Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse. He consistently found himself playing in a third-line role when he believed he was more of a top-six forward. Honestly, I would agree with him.
Jake DeBrusk plays his heart out. He’s gritty, willing to battle, and you hardly ever catch him slacking. He just so happens to be the only positive selection that the Bruins had in that pitiful 2015 draft. If Sweeney were to trade him away, it would be the final nail in the coffin for a draft with absolutely nothing to show for it.
DeBrusk stayed with the Bruins through the trade deadline despite his request. When the deadline was over, and no move was made, many fans were happy to see him stay. I myself was one of those fans. I don’t like envisioning him on another team because I believe in his game and his work ethic. It’s also not as if he’s a bad player. Jake had a productive season as he proved worthy of first-line minutes, playing alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. On most nights, he did not look out of place. Jake had 25 goals and 17 assists (42 points) last season and a plus/minus of +6. That productivity could increase to 60 next season if he continues to progress upwards.
At times though, he seems stagnant, where he draws most criticism. He tends to be streaky. For example, in the first 25 games of the season, he had a total of eight points and a streak of seven games without a single point. As I said, streaky. In the last 52 games of the season, he scored 20 goals, tallying 14 assists for a total of 34 points. From February 19th to February 28th, he scored seven goals in five games, including a hat-trick against LA. If Jake can find his groove and stay there, he has the ability to be a viable offensive threat. It’s just a matter of finding that groove and digging into it.
If Jake still expects to be traded, it’s likely he will be headed to a western conference team close to (or in) Edmonton. The Bruins will certainly be looking to bolster their top-six forward group as they have to find a replacement for DeBrusk. There are many options for the Bruins’ upper management to look at, but here are some of mine.
#1 Edmonton Oilers
As we mentioned, Jake wants to be closer to home, and there’s no place closer to Edmonton than Edmonton! Luckily the Oilers have plenty of forward depth that they would be open to moving in a DeBrusk trade. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jesse Puljujarvi, or even Kailer Yamamoto would all potentially be on the move to Boston if a trade were to go down. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins was the first overall pick in 2011 but hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype. His best season came in 2018-2019, when he amassed 69 points in 82 games. (28 goals, 41 assists) He would immediately fill our second line center carousel and stay there solving that missing piece to the puzzle.
Jesse Puljujarvi is a 24-year-old right-wing who has struggled with injuries and staying consistent with his play. Maybe a change of scenery could help him reset his game. Puljujarvi’s best season came just this year as he put up 36 points in 65 games. I know 36 points doesn’t light up the stat sheet, but had he played in a full 82-game slate, he most likely would’ve put up numbers in the 50-point range. He was also the fourth overall pick in 2016, so he has the potential; it just hasn’t found its way into the NHL level. He’s only 24-years-old, so there’s plenty of time for the skills to grow and translate into the NHL.
Kailer Yamamoto is an interesting one. He’s a smaller guy who plays on the wing, standing at 5′-8″; he makes up for the lack of size in his speed. He’s shifty and creative with the puck, and the way the NHL game is trending, you need elite speed in your lineup. His best season was also this season, putting up 40 points in 81 games scoring 20 goals, and assisting on 21. If I were Done Sweeney, Yamamoto would be the last of these three players I’d choose from.
#2 Calgary Flames
Calgary is just a short ride away from his hometown of Edmonton, so a trade to the Flames geographically makes sense. The Flames also have a second-line center by the name of Sean Monahan, who could be on his way out of town. In 2017-2018 Monahan scored 82 points in 78 games, becoming a world-beater for Calgary, but since then, he’s unexpectedly hit a bit of a wall.
The past three seasons combined, he played a total of 185 games of a potential 246, putting up 99 points, 40 goals, and 59 assists. When he’s on his game, he’s an elite player, but the wall he hit is concerning to Calgary. The Bruins could take a leap of faith and offer a trade that includes DeBrusk and other assets to acquire Monahan. Although, it would be hard to complete that trade without giving up either Lysell or Lohrei in the process. To me, that’s a no-go.
#3 Vancouver Canucks
The Vancouver Canucks would be an interesting trading partner for the Bruins in this case. They’re kind of in no man’s land. They have a talented roster but can’t seem to break their way into a playoff spot. If they were looking to shake it up, they could be interested in DeBrusk. Two names pop out to me when looking at Vancouver’s roster: Brock Boeser and Conor Garland.
Brock Boeser is a former first-round pick in 2015 with plenty of talent. One thing that he’s been is consistent, although production was expected to be a little higher. Boeser is consistently in the 45-55 point range and only scored under 20 goals once in his six-year career. He’s also been plagued with injuries, shortening his seasons. He has never played a full slate of games, and he has only played over 70 games one-time. That one time was last season. When Brock is on his game, he’s dangerous; he’s comparable to Taylor Hall. He would slide into a top-six winger role and provide the Bruins with two solid scoring lines.
Conor Garland, on the other hand, is a very underrated forward. He came onto the NHL scene with the Arizona Coyotes in 2017-2019 before being traded to Vancouver, where he has produced 52 goals, 67 assists, and 119 points in 194 games. He’s only 26-years-old and a native of Boston, as he was born and raised in Scituate. We all know how much Sweeney loves the Massachusetts boys, so you know Garland is on his radar. I think Garland would be able to provide consistent secondary scoring, and that’s something that plagues the Bruins.
#4 Winnipeg Jets
If you’ve noticed, western Canada has a theme within these potential trade destinations. The Winnipeg Jets and GM Kevin Cheveldayoff were hit with unexpected news this past weekend. Newly acquired centerman, Pierre-Luc Dubois, informed the team that he would be testing the free agency market as an unrestricted free agent when his contract expires in two seasons. That makes the Jets awkward as they had to trade away budding star Patrick Laine and highly rated prospect Jack Roslovic to Columbus to acquire Dubois. Certainly, they wouldn’t want Dubois to walk away and get nothing in return.
That being said, Dubois is a 24-year-old rising talent in the league. He’s often regarded as a future elite center in the NHL, although he seems to be somewhat indecisive when it comes to his career path. He demanded a trade out of Columbus in early 2021, which landed him in Winnipeg, and he is now telling the Winnipeg Jets he will be testing free agency when his contract expires. This leads some to question his loyalty and commitment to an organization.
Pierre-Luc Dubois’ best season came in the 2018-2019 season when he recorded 27 goals and 34 assists for 61 points in 82 games. Last season, Dubois posted 28 goals and 32 assists in a 60-point effort in 81 games. He seems to be an offensive threat with time to grow into his own. He’s also a big body, standing at 6′-2″ and 220-pounds. With the Bruins clear need for youth in the center position, a trade for Dubois makes sense for Boston.
Jake DeBrusk could be a valuable piece for Winnipeg as they look to add more offensive depth and replace Andrew Copp. If this trade were to work its way into reality, the Bruins would need to add more than just Jake DeBrusk. Boston could expect to lose DeBrusk, a prospect, and a draft pick in a trade for Dubois. The problem is that the Bruins are lacking depth in their prospect pool. They truly only have two names that have significant value. Mason Lohrei and Fabian Lysell. If a trade were to go down, expect one of those two names to be in the mix.
I want to clarify that there is a genuine chance Jake DeBrusk will stay in Boston. This is all speculation, and if I’m being honest, I hope DeBrusk remains. The best option if a trade were to happen is Pierre-Luc Dubois. The thought of losing Lohrei or Lysell scares me as the Bruins have one of the worst prospect pools in the league. The Bruins harmed themselves deeply with their inability to draft youthful talent, which has never been more evident than now. As the core continues to age and the championship window squeezes tighter and tighter, the Bruins must find a way to rejuvenate their youth, and trades may be the only option left.