By: Pierce Brody | Follow me on Twitter @PierceBrody3
The Boston Bruins have been known for their stellar goaltending in the past two decades, from Tim Thomas to the current tantalizing tandem of Linus Ullmark and Jeremy Swayman. But it seems that they may have a tough decision regarding the pair in the upcoming year.
With the emergence of Linus Ullmark as a Vezina trophy candidate this year, some may argue that the Bruins should consider trading the still-young Jeremy Swayman to ensure optimal resource and cap management. Swayman, a 24-year-old Alaska native, has become a fixture of the Bruins roster. Swayman’s early career success in the NHL, despite a few bumps to start this season, has led some to believe that he has the potential to become a top-tier goalie in the league.
However, with Ullmark taking the reins as the Bruins’ true starting goalie, Swayman’s future with the team may be questioned. Ullmark, who is reasonably signed for two more years at five million each, has played exceptionally well in his second season with the Bruins. His numbers are comparable to top goaltenders like Andrei Vasilevskiy and Igor Shesterkin. With Ullmark firmly established as the team’s top goalie, the Bruins may consider trading Swayman to maximize his value to the Bruins.
Swayman has borderline top-10 goalie statistics this year, although he’s only played in 23 games thus far. This level of play in a limited sample size makes him a valuable trade asset for the Bruins. He is also due for a raise this season as a restricted free agent at the end of this season, which may raise problems for the ever-cap-strapped Bruins.
Another reason the Bruins can feel comfortable separating from one of the premium backstops is the goalie prospect depth, primarily Brandon Bussi. Selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NHL Draft, Bussi is currently playing for the Providence Bruins in the AHL. Already having a productive season, he was featured in the AHL all-star game. Bussi’s strong play this season has raised some eyebrows, and he could become a viable backup option for Ullmark soon. However, he is still several years of development away from being a potential NHL-ready starter.
Ultimately, the decision to trade Swayman will come down to what the Bruins believe is best for the team’s long-term success. While Swayman’s potential value on the trade market may be tempting as his younger years are spent as a well-worked backup, he is still very young for an NHL goalie and could quickly emerge as a top-tier goalie in the league. The Bruins may also consider the impact that trading Swayman could have on team morale and chemistry, especially concerning fellow netminder Ullmark and their famous hugs.
A Swayman trade could do wonders for this Bruins team and its future. As the team has a heavily depleted farm system and an aging roster, a savvy move here could create the next era of steady winning hockey. The Bruins could use a potential trade to revamp the center position if Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci retire or to restock their farm system and draft picks. Regardless of preference, this goalie-hungry league will surely provide the offers. Former trade examples clarify the potential return, like the former prospect Dan Vladar fetching a third-round or Marc-Andre Fleury retrieving a conditional first-round pick for Chicago, despite playing a subpar half-season.
Goaltenders like Swayman, highly successful at the NHL level while still young, are seldom traded, so a clear example is hard to come by in the modern NHL. The most recent trade I could uncover was the Roberto Luongo catastrophe nearly 20 years ago, which is unlikely to be an enlightening example given its age. Yet, it’s hard to imagine the Bruins accepting anything less than a first-round pick or another asset of equal value before the deadline or during the offseason.
Swayman has established himself as a valuable member of the Bruins organization, and trading him could potentially hurt the team’s overall chemistry. In the end, the Bruins will have to determine what their team will look like from top to bottom for the next few seasons in the upcoming months, and Swayman is starting to look like he might be the fulcrum of it all.
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