(Photo Credit: Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

By: Tom Calautti | Follow me on Twitter @TCalauttis

With the NHL Trade Deadline just five days away, it’s time for Don Sweeney and the Bruins organization to get to business. One of the team’s most significant needs throughout the 2023-24 season has been center depth, and many expect Boston to at least look into acquiring a center at the March 8th deadline. Here are some centers that may fit the bill:

Nic Dowd

Age: 33

Stats: 45 Games, 8 Goals, 8 Assists, 16 Points

Contract: $1.3 Million x 2 Years

If the Bruins aren’t satisfied with the defensive play of their current four centers, then Nic Dowd could be an option for them. The Washington Capital has been one of the NHL’s best defensive forwards for several seasons and has become one of the more sought-after centers on the market. Dowd dominates in the defensive zone and is one of the few bottom-six centers in the league that can play shutdown minutes against the opposing team’s top line.

He won’t light up the scoresheet, but he would give the Bruins someone who can win draws (51.4 percent for his career), kill penalties, and play key defensive zone minutes in crunch time for a team that has struggled closing out games. He’s affordable, has term on his deal, and fills a role this team has struggled to replace since Thomas Nosek left in free agency. He’s someone Sweeney needs to take a look at.

Adam Henrique

Age: 33

Stats: 60 Games, 18 Goals, 24 Assists, 42 Points

Contract: $5.8 Million x 1 Year

With Elias Lindholm and Sean Monahan already traded, Adam Henrique has become one of the best remaining centers on the market, almost by default. In the seven years he’s played in Anaheim, Henrique has consistently put up 15-20 goals, around 40 points, and won faceoffs at above a 50 percent rate. Some insiders have reported that it’s almost guaranteed that Henrique will move before the deadline; the question is how much it will cost to acquire him.

If acquired, Henrique would most likely slot in between David Pastrnak and Pavel Zacha (assuming he returns sooner rather than later). Henrique would provide the Bruins with an experienced, two-way center that can add scoring punch to the top six. The problem is Anaheim would have to retain a large portion of his salary, and Boston would most likely need to find a third team to take on more salary. At this point, I’d say a move for Henrique is unlikely, but the organization needs to consider it.

Tommy Novak

Age: 26

Stats: 51 Games, 13 Goals, 21 Assists, 34 Points

Contract: $800,000 x 1 Year

If I’m the Boston Bruins and I have to shove all my poker chips into the center on one player, it would be Nashville’s Tommy Novak. The Minnesota native is in his third NHL season and has been steadily improving with each year in the league. He’s on pace to eclipse his career highs from last season (17-26-43) and still hasn’t even reached his prime. His salary wouldn’t be as much of an issue in any deal, and the Bruins can extend him in the offseason with their plethora of cap space.

I look at Novak as a longer-term investment for the Bruins. He could slot in as the team’s number-two center right now, but I think he has more room to grow and develop. He has a great scoring touch around the net, can contribute to the power play, and is an underrated passer. Nashville may be hesitant to move him, but with his contract up at the end of the season and many potential roster decisions for Barry Trotz and company, Novak may be someone the Bruins can acquire even with their limited assets.

Alex Wennberg

Age: 29

Stats: 60 Games, 9 Goals, 16 Assists, 25 Points

Contract: $4.5 Million x 1 Year

I put Alex Wennberg on this list because the Bruins have been linked to him by multiple reporters over the past few weeks. Wennberg is a pass-first center that can play up and down the lineup any night. He isn’t someone who will score many goals (career high of 17), but he’s defensively responsible, plays a 200-foot game, and has all the attributes the Bruins organization seemingly covets in a bottom-six center.

Wennberg is another example of a player for whom Don Sweeney would need to get creative with the salary cap to acquire him. Seattle doesn’t have much space, and a deal for him would almost require a third team to take on some salary, but Wennberg is a veteran center who plays the game the right way. He’d be an instant upgrade at the bottom of the forward group and provide some much-needed center depth for the Bruins.

Tyler Johnson

Age: 33

Stats: 46 Games, 12 Goals, 6 Assists, 18 Points

Contract: $5 Million x 1 Year

Tyler Johnson would be the ultimate bargain bin move for the Bruins. The former Stanley Cup Champion was dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks as a cap casualty in 2021 and hasn’t been much of a factor there ever since. He’s been plagued by injuries over the past three seasons, and his numbers have undoubtedly taken a hit due to the nature of Chicago’s roster (it’s awful). But he has 12 goals this season and looks to be the best version of himself that he’s been in a while.

If other contenders price the Bruins out of other top center targets, they may view Johnson as a low-risk, high-reward rental reclamation project. It wouldn’t take a lot to acquire Johnson, and Chicago has plenty of cap space to retain the majority of his salary, so there’s a chance Boston looks at him as the most fiscally responsible trade option for a team in a bridge year.

Honorable Mention: Shane Pinto

Age: 23

Stats: 18 Games, 6 Goals, 10 Assists, 16 Points

Contract: $775,000 Million x 1 Year

I almost fell off my couch when I first read the rumor in September of 2023 that the Boston Bruins were interested in Shane Pinto. The 23-year-old had 35 points and 20 goals in his first entire NHL season and has been one of Ottawa’s best players since returning from his 41-game gambling suspension. Pinto agreed to a one-year deal with the Senators once he returned from suspension and has the opportunity to hit free agency following this season.

This is the ONE scenario where I recommend the Bruins go all-in to acquire a player at this deadline. Pinto is a young, blossoming center thriving on a lousy team with salary cap issues. Reports have come out that Ottawa wants to extend him, but I refuse to believe he isn’t available until the ink on that deal is dry. Boston could solve their center issues for years by making this one trade. It would almost certainly require a first-round pick and top prospect, but if Pinto can be acquired without parting with Mason Lohrei or Matt Poitras, it’s a move the Bruins HAVE to explore.