By: Nathan Anderson | Follow me on Twitter @nathandrsn
We all recently witnessed one of the best Stanley Cup Finals we’ve ever seen. After games two and three, where we saw both teams trade right hooks, games four through six were incredible battles between the two best hockey teams in the world. The pace was fast, and the teams were physical, but they were also highly skilled. Both squads had star players like Cale Makar, Victor Hedman, Nate MacKinnon, and Steven Stamkos, but one could argue that they were not even the most influential players in the series.
The depth players for both teams were huge in this series. I think a lot of hockey Twitter started to take notice of Nick Paul throughout the playoffs. Tampa acquired Paul this season after spending nearly seven seasons in the black hole that is Ottawa. The 27-year-old is 6’3″, 225 pounds, and he can fly when he gets going up ice. He is a guy that would be an excellent addition to the Bruins’ third line, either on the left-wing or down the middle, but unfortunately, he just signed what will maybe be a career-long contract extension with the Lightning.
I’ve written several articles where I ripped on the Bruins for not being built for the playoffs. I still stand by that opinion, but I think I do need to adjust it a little bit based on what I just watched. Previously, many people (including me) were critical of the 2019 Bruins for not being tough enough. The Blues pushed them around for seven games and beat them up en route to a Stanley Cup Championship. The reason we all feel so betrayed by that loss is that it is what the Bruins did in 2011 to the Canucks, so it feels as though Don Sweeney let our franchise get beat at its own game.
That loss caused a reactionary response from many of us, saying that Sweeney needed to beef up the roster and add some guys who could play physically so that the Bruins would be ready for the playoffs. Well, in the most recent final, the Lightning were undoubtedly the more physical team, but they lost the series. That kind of puts our preconceived beliefs into a proverbial blender as it says that maybe the solution is not as simple as just getting a bunch of enforcers to cover for the skilled top six.
Although he was on the losing team, a guy like Nick Paul is the key for groups like the Bruins. Guys that can skate with speed but also mix it up in the corners are crucial for the third line, and even the fourth line. J.T. Compher is a little bit like that for the Avalanche. In his post-championship interview, Jared Bednar said the key to the Avalanche’s success was their skating ability. I have not had the fortune to be able to watch a lot of the other 29 teams in the league besides the Bruins but based on some capfriendly.com filters, I want to highlight a couple of guys that the Bruins could have their eye on to fit the Nick Paul or J.T. Compher mold.
Tanner Pearson – Vancouver Canucks
Coming in at 6’1″ and just over 200 pounds, Pearson is a little bit smaller than Paul, but from what I’ve seen of him throughout his career, he plays big. He already has playoff experience in big-time games from his time with the LA Kings, so he could be an attractive target for a potential playoff run this upcoming season. He has a limited no-trade clause in his contract, but he only gets to list seven teams he cannot get traded to, so if the Bruins are a contender, hopefully, they are not on that list.
Pearson also becomes a free agent after the 2023-2024 season, at which point he will be in his early 30s, so he could even be a decent third or fourth line signing for the team when they look to retool after Bergeron, and maybe even Marchand leaves. He is slightly less physical than Paul, but he has used his body more in the past, so it could be a product of the system he plays in.
Filip Chytil – New York Rangers
Chytil would be a bit of a risk, I’ll admit. During the regular season, Chytil has not shown the production of guys like Nick Paul and J.T. Compher. In the Rangers’ playoff run this past year, however, Chytil scored some big-time goals to help the Blueshirts keep their magical season alive. He has the physical profile to play the role I have described. If the Bruins could pick him up either at the trade deadline or in the offseason after his contract runs out next summer, he could develop into an instrumental player as he is still very young at 22 years old.
Jordan Greenway – Minnesota Wild
I would love it if the Bruins were able to get this guy. My only worry is that he is due for a big season and could land a big contract at some point. The 24-year-old Boston University alum is a 6’6″ 227-pound machine who can skate like the wind when he gets going. I watched him dominate at BU, and I see no reason why, in the right atmosphere, he cannot replicate that in the NHL.
He is still young, with plenty of time to find his stride in the league. His cap hit is a flat $3 million with a partial no-trade clause in the 2024-2025 season, so if the Wild have a tough year this season, he could be available at the trade deadline to bolster the bottom six. This player is an intriguing idea that the Bruins should certainly keep an eye on. If Greenway were to find his footing in Boston, I do not doubt he’d would be a fan favorite.