(Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA Today Sports)

By: Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis

With every passing second, we get closer and closer to the March 8 NHL Trade Deadline. Bruins President Cam Neely has already gone on record saying the team could use “another stiff defender,” and the team has been linked to defensemen all over the league. So here are eight defensemen the team could target in the coming days.

Noah Hanifin

Age: 26

Stats: 60 Games, 11 Goals, 24 Assists, 35 Points

Contract: $5 Million x 1 Year

Although it seems less and less likely to happen, it’s impossible to discuss the 2023-24 Boston Bruins trade deadline without mentioning Noah Hani. The former Boston College Eagle is a perfect fit for the Bruins. He’s a stout defender who covers well in the defensive zone, can jumpstart the breakout and ignite transition, kills penalties, and can run a power play. The problem? Hanifin is the top defenseman on the mrket,d he may not even want to come to Boston.

Recent reports have linked Hanifin to the Tampa Bay Ligh, which, ironically enough, maybe the only team in the NHL with less trade than the Bruins. He will undoubtedly require a first-round and top prospect, among other assets, to acquire, and the price may be too steep for Boston. But if Don Sweeney wants to put all his eggs in the Hanifin basket, they have the cap space this offseason to re-sign him and make him a Bruin for the foreseeable future. As I said, it may not be likely, but it’s a situation to monitor as the deadline approaches.

Nick Seeler

Age: 30

Stats: 62 Games, 1 Goals, 11 Assists, 12 Points

Contract: $.8 Million x 1 Year

If I were Don Sweeney, Nick Seeler would be one of the two defensemen on this list I would prioritize at this deadline. Although there are some rumblings that Philadelphia may try to re-sign him, I can’t help but be intrigued by what Seeler brings to the table. The 6-foot 3-inch defenseman is one of the better pure defenders in the league, and he can do everything Derek Forbort brings to the table but better.

Seeler has been a rock on the Flyer’s second pair the past few seasons, and he plays the type of solid, responsible, mistake-free game the Bruins are sorely missing on their back end. He excels in his zone, is an excellent shot-suppressor, and plays a grittier hockey style that makes defensemen fan favorites in this city. He would be a significant upgrade to Boston’s bottom pairing and could even cameo in the top four if the injury bug continues to bite. He won’t go for as much as Chris Tanev did, and if the Bruins want to make an impact move without mortgaging the future, Seeler is the guy.

Sean Walker

Age: 28

Stats: 62 Games, 6 Goals, 16 Assists, 22 Points

Contract: $2.7 Million x 1 Year

Sean Walker, who is Nick Seeler’s defense partner, would be another player the Bruins could look to add without mortgaging away their future. Although he isn’t someone I’d describe as a ‘stiff’ defender, Walker is a great skater with a more prevalent offensive side to his game and solid defensive metrics. David Pagnotta of The Fourth Period has linked Walker to the Bruins, and they’d be wise to continue monitoring the Flyers to see if he riggles free.

He may not be the third-pairing brute fans have in mind, but Walker is an excellent penalty killer, drives play at even strength, and uses his speed and athleticism to defend at a high level. Walker would be an upgrade over Matt Grzelcyk, Derek Forbort, and Kevin Shattenkirk, but he wouldn’t block Mason Lohrei. If Don Sweeney can acquire Walker and extend him, he’d be setting up his team’s defense corps for years.

Matt Roy

Age: 28

Stats: 59 Games, 3 Goals, 15 Assists, 18 Points

Contract: $3.2 Million x 1 Year

Matt Roy is attractive because he would likely be a targeted piece in a Jake DeBrusk trade. Roy is an elite second-pairing defenseman for the LA Kings, a team that desperately needs top-six scoring following injuries to Adrian Kempe and Viktor Arvidsson. If the Bruins wanted to trade their streaky winger and make an addition to the present-day roster, Roy could be a good fit.

Roy’s defensive metrics are off the charts both at even strength and on the penalty kill, making him a noticeable upgrade over Derek Forbort and maybe even an upgrade over Brandon Carlo. Roy can contribute more offensively than both players, and the Kings have yet to commit to signing him long-term following this season. It would be one of the bold moves the Bruins could make, but watch the Kings this week to see if both teams emerge as trade partners.

Alexander Carrier

Age: 27

Stats: 57 Games, 4 Goals, 15 Assists, 19 Points

Contract: $2.5 Million x 1 Year

Nashville is in an interesting spot as they’re close to locking up a wild card spot but still have players they’re willing to sell off before the deadline. Carrier is a still-developing defenseman with solid offensive and defensive upside and great penalty-killing metrics. The Predators are said to have been shopping for Carrier this offseason, so he would be easier to acquire than some other defensemen on this list.

He doesn’t have the offensive game of Walker or the defensive game of Roy, but Carrier is a solid fourth or fifth defenseman who has the potential to develop into even more with a different team. He plays significant minutes against opposing teams’ top lines and would likely thrive in place of Derek Forbort or Kevin Shattenkirk. The money is relatively easy to figure out, and Nashville has no interest in re-signing him, so Carrier may be an affordable option the Bruins can lock up long-term.

Olli Maatta

Age: 29

Stats: 53 Games, 4 Goals, 11 Assists, 13 Points

Contract: $3 Million x 1 Year

Olli Maatta is your classic low-event third-pairing defenseman. He defends well, does his job, and doesn’t deviate much from expectations (except for in the highlight below). Maatta isn’t a household name around the league, but he’s been an excellent five-on-five defender for years. He’d be perfect for Boston’s bottom pairing and add some much-needed consistency (and less excitement, in a good way).

Maatta was part of the Pittsburgh Penguins squads that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017. He played over 17 minutes a game on each cup run as a 21 and 22-year-old, and that kind of experience would be crucial for a Bruins defense group that has faltered in some critical situations. If Detroit decides to peal some pieces off its roster, Maatta should be someone the Bruins look to acquire.

Brian Dumoulin

Age: 32

Stats: 58 Games, 4 Goals, 8 Assists, 12 Points

Contract: $3.2 Million x 2 Years

Much like Maatta, Brian Dumoulin was a back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships member with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Dumoulin is another rental who would solidify the team’s bottom pair and help their five-on-five team defense. Dumoulin isn’t overly physical or aggressive but is responsible, plays his position well, and does whatever his team asks of him.

Seattle is outside the playoff picture and will no doubt look to sell off assets to recoup value. He brings the kind of postseason experience and pedigree that this Bruins team desperately needs and plays the game they could use in their zone. If he comes cheap, he’s someone the Bruins should pursue.

Jake Middleton

Age: 27

Stats: 62 Games, 7 Goals, 13 Assists, 20 Points

Contract: $2.5 Million x 2 Years

Jake Middleton would become an instant fan-favorite if the Bruins chose to acquire him. he plays the rugged, physical, and ferocious game that will excite fans. He has no problem dropping the gloves, will stand up for his teammates, and, most importantly, clear out the front of his net.

Since Minnesota Wild Captain Jared Spurgeon went down with an injury, Middleton has been holding down the fort on the top pair with rookie Brock Faber. This makes him an even more intriguing option, as he can slot into the team’s bottom pair and act as a guide and mentor for Mason Lohrei. The Bruins were linked to Middleton last season before they acquired Dmitry Orlov, and he’s the type of player who adds a dimension of snarl and swagger to a team that seems to be missing that.