(Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism

The Boston Bruins have lost four of their last five contests, revealing numerous holes in their current roster. They lack consistent scoring, are in dire need of a physical defenseman, and, above all, haven’t been able to close out games. While the Black and Gold are struggling to find their footing as they approach the New Year, one aspect of their game remains untouched: The Bruins have been anchored by the tandem of Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark all season, channeling their fan-favorite connection to lead the Bruins to a 19-6-6 start.

After Ullmark was awarded the 2022-23 Vezina Trophy due to his dominant 1.89 goals against average and .938 save percentage, Swayman is in line to follow in his footsteps. The 25-year-old has been spectacular this season, holding the National Hockey League’s second-best SV% of .928. Boston is home to two of the NHL’s premier netminders, and some Bruins fans are questioning how practical the goalie duo is given the team’s needs up and down the lineup. While dishing Ullmark at the deadline may improve Boston’s roster on paper, it will only strip the team of the lone established identity that has emerged this season.

If it Isn’t Broken, Don’t Fix it

The tandem of Swayman and Ullmark, specifically their habit of alternating starts throughout the season, has worked to perfection for the Bruins. The pair of goalies took turns occupying the crease for the majority of Boston’s record-breaking 65-win campaign last season until head coach Jim Montgomery decided to steer away from what had worked when the team arrived at the playoffs. The Bruins started Ullmark in the first six games of the opening-round series with the Florida Panthers, giving the nod to Swayman in the seventh game in desperation for a win.

Whether it be due to injury or lack of rest, Ullmark experienced various collapses throughout his six playoff starts last April, including allowing five goals in a pivotal second game that tied the series at one. In Game Six, Ullmark allowed six goals, leading to the decision to go to Swayman in Game Seven. Montgomery and the Bruins coaching staff overthought the situation, leaving behind a strategy that saw profound success throughout an 82-game season. As long as Swayman and Ullmark continue their dominance between the pipes, trading Ullmark at the deadline would only repeat the season-ending mistake they suffered last spring. Not only does the rotation produce results, but it also appears to bring a non-tangible morale boost for both them and the team.

Swayman Not Primed For Full-Time Role

Let’s say the Bruins package Ullmark at the deadline for a top-six forward or some help on the blue line, and Swayman is promoted to the full-time starter. Brandon Bussi is recalled from the Providence Bruins to be his backup. In his fourth season with Boston, Swayman has never surpassed more than 41 games played in the crease. If he were promoted to regular starter, he wouldn’t be trading off games with Bussi, who lacks NHL experience.

In the 2022-23 season, there were seven starting goalies to start 60 or more games between the pipes for their respective teams. The Nashville Predator’s Juuse Saros and the Winnipeg Jets’ Connor Hellebuyck both made 64 starts to lead the NHL. That season, Swayman made just 37. With Bussi behind him, Swayman would most likely be slotted into a similar role as the most-played goalies across the league. Instead of receiving three to four days off between games, his rest time would be cut in half, and it is unknown whether the young goalie would be able to perform well under new circumstances. While Bussi’s 2.94 GAA and 0.901 SV% have been adequate in Providence this season, he wouldn’t be a reliable option in the net right away, and Bruins fans may start to miss Ullmark.

Finding a Trade Partner Could be Difficult

While there’s no doubt Ullmark has substantial value across the league and would be in high demand at the deadline, finding a sufficient return that’s worth it for the Bruins could be a challenge. History has proven that the asking price for goalies is relatively high. Last March, for the Los Angeles Kings to acquire defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov and goalie Joonas Korpisalo, they had to not only fork over Jonathan Quick but a pair of first and third-round draft picks to the Columbus Blue Jackets–an asset the Bruins currently don’t hold. Boston doesn’t own a first-round draft pick in the 2024 Draft, as general manager Don Sweeney used it as a bargaining chip to acquire Tyler Bertuzzi from the Detroit Red Wings last season to bolster their Stanley Cup odds.

Ullmark, 30, still has some gas left in the tank but would most likely require a first-round selection if traded to potential targets such as the Carolina Hurricanes, the San Jose Sharks, or the Buffalo Sabres, who are looking to rebuild their young talent. Since the Bruins can’t offer that until the 2025 Draft, teams would ask for more, primarily if the Bruins pursued a top-six forward like the Calgary Flame’s Elias Lindholm, home to a team who could also use some help in the net.

The Bruins possess a luxury that no other team in the NHL is lucky enough to have. Before the Bruins consider breaking that up, they must consider all the possible effects of trading Ullmark before pulling the trigger at the trade deadline. Until Boston can establish a trustworthy identity in front of their goalies, trading their most prized possession is something they can’t afford.