By: Jason Cooke | Follow me on Twitter / X @cookejournalism
The National Hockey League trade deadline is almost a month away, and the Boston Bruins have decisions to make before the 3 p.m. cutoff on March 8th. Boston clearly should not be a seller in the NHL marketplace—the B’s are tied for first place in the league with 71 points coming out of the All-Star break, and are gearing up for another run at a Stanley Cup. But the Bruins shouldn’t necessarily be buyers, either.
Last season, general manager Don Sweeney went on a shopping spree, adding Tyler Bertuzzi, Dmitry Orlov, and Garnet Hathaway to an already-loaded roster. Sweeney was obligated to go all in at the deadline, given Boston’s record-breaking situation and what looked to be a prime opportunity for a banner, and he did just that. However, the Bruins simply can’t afford to be that aggressive in 2024.
Let’s take a look at the Elias Lindholm trade, who was dealt by the Calgary Flames in exchange for Andrei Kuzmenko, Hunter Brzustewicz, Joni Jurmo, a 2024 first-round pick, and a conditional fourth-round pick in 2024 from the Vancouver Canucks. That’s one haul for the 29-year-old Lindholm, who was caught up in Bruins trade rumors just days before the trade broke airwaves last week.
The Athletic’s Julian McKenzie and Corey Pronman put together a handful of Lindholm mock trades, including one that involved the Bruins sending Matt Poitras, Trent Frederic, and a 2025 first-round pick. At the time, Bruins fans laughed at the idea of coughing up two premier young players and a first-round draft pick. As it turned out, the Canucks had to part ways with a similar package. Brzustewicz is a touted prospect, and they lost a pair of draft picks in the process. In return, they received one of the league’s top centers, who has a line of 9-23-32 in 49 games this season. They brought in a difference maker but had to say goodbye to vital future pieces, something the Bruins simply don’t have to give up.
In Boston’s current position, that trade wouldn’t make sense. Frederic has posted 14-15-29 alone, not to mention the raw promise Poitras brings and, of course, the first-round selection. For the Bruins, any trade offer that involves sending a first-round pick isn’t feasible; Boston doesn’t have the right to any picks in 2024 in the first three rounds, with only one first-rounder in 2025. In theory, the Bruins could part ways with their 2025 pick, but that wouldn’t be ideal for a team that has to sit out the first round this June. Boston has a solid prospect pool with Georgii Merkulov and Fabian Lysell, among others. Still, it’s important to keep picking in the first round to build a stable farm system moving forward.
Most importantly, buying at the deadline hamstrung Boston headed into this season, and they can’t afford to do that again. If it weren’t for Sweeney’s bargain bin gambles on Morgan Geekie, James van Riemsdyk, and Kevin Shattenkirk, Boston would be begging for depth to round out their roster. Currently sitting on just over $850,000 of cap space, according to Cap Friendly, Boston would have been left to bear through a bridge year, which is exactly what most fans expected this year to be. The Bruins aren’t in a position to make that gamble again. The year to go all in was 2022-23, and the Bruins fell short.
Buying requires assets, and selling requires a lack of hope. The Bruins don’t possess either, so I wouldn’t expect to see the Bruins in the trade deadline buzz over the next month. However, that’s not to say the Bruins don’t have holes that need addressing. The defensive core could probably use another two-way defenseman, and it wouldn’t hurt to bolster the middle six with an experienced, skillful forward. Unless Sweeney can pull off the move without sacrificing draft capital or rising prospects, Boston might have to stick with what they have the rest of the way, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.