Five Depth Forwards The Bruins Could Consider At The Trade Deadline

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(Image: Perry Nelson / USA Today Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

With all the talk of the Bruins going out and acquiring a big-name trade chip in a blockbuster move, we seem to be overlooking the possibility of Don Sweeney simply making a depth acquisition. In recent seasons, we’ve seen Sweeney go out and acquire a cheap depth player that was completely off of everyone’s radar–like the Tommy Wingels and Drew Stafford trades, or the Brian Gionta signing.

While everyone seems to unanimously agree that the Bruins should avoid expensive rentals wherever necessary, some of the players below who are on expiring contracts likely won’t cost a whole lot–as in mid-to-late round draft picks and middle or lower tier prospects. Some of the skaters listed have not necessarily been linked to the Bruins, so this list is pure speculation on my part, based off what we’ve seen Sweeney do in the past:

Richard Panik

A pending UFA this summer, Panik seems like the most likely Coyote to be moved heading into the deadline. The 28-year-old winger makes $2.8-million and has scored 11 goals and 24 points, on pace for 34 points. Panik has been a bottom-six role player for most of his career, in spite of his offensive outburst for the Blackhawks a few seasons ago and decent output this season.

Although he is unrestricted this summer and likely a “rental,” Panik probably wouldn’t cost an insane amount to pick up. The Czech would be a nice way to shore up the third line and bottom-six.

Magnus Paajarvi

The 27-year-old Swede has been a decent role player for the Senators over the last two seasons with seven goals and nine assists this year. Paajarvi is only making $900,000 this year before he hits unrestricted free agency this summer.

The former 10th-overall pick has not panned out to be anything more than just a depth player for the vast majority of his career thus far. Although he would probably be a rental, Paajarvi would likely be very inexpensive to acquire and can bolster the depth for a playoff run that will presumably see injuries mount.

Alex Chiasson

With the Oilers seemingly having no end in sight for their struggles, it would be wise for the organization to sell off parts for this season with an eye for next year. One of those parts is the 28-year-old Chiasson, who is making $650,000 until the end of the season when he hits free agency.

The Boston University product has 17 goals and 10 assists for 27 points on the year and could be a fine piece to either experiment as a second line right wing, or to plug in on the third unit. It would be interesting to see what Edmonton’s ask would be, though. It probably would not be outrageous, but Chiasson does have a nice contract considering his production.

Artem Anisimov

Anisimov would certainly cost more than the players above, but he isn’t a rental. With the Chicago team that has been looking to get younger, he may be available, according to a report from Pierre LeBrun.

Anisimov carries a cap hit of $4.55-million for this season, and the next two. So, it would be interesting to see the cost the Blackhawks ask for if he is even made available. The Russian center has had three-straight 20-goal seasons playing alongside talented players, like Patrick Kane, but has regressed to a smaller role this season to go along with less production (nine goals and 27 points in 56 games).

While the 30-year-old is certainly a bigger name than the other players mentioned in this article, he would still fill a depth role for the Bruins as a potential third-line center. With that contract, the Hawks would presumably have to eat some cash in order to move it off their books and to entice other teams. While he seems like the Blackhawk that is most likely to be moved, Anisimov has a 10-team no-trade list as well. Making a move like this might not even make sense for the Bruins’ long-term plans passed this year, so Anisimov might just be some food for thought.

Carl Hagelin

Man, has Hagelin lost a ton of value in recent seasons. At 30 years of age and making $3.75-million until the end of the season, the Swede would be a very cheap rental to acquire from the Kings, seeing as the organization likely just wants to get anything it can for the winger.

He only has three goals and eight points this season but is a speedy guy with a decent playoff resume (47 points in 121 games to go along with two Stanley Cups). If Hagelin would be able to find some semblance of the offensive upside he has shown in the past, and continue his speedy, defensively-sound game, he could be a worthwhile addition for the Bruins.

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Five Non-Rental Players The Bruins Can Target At The Trade Deadline

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(Image: Noah K. Murray / Associated Press)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

The NHL Trade Deadline is nearly upon us, and with it comes the rumor mill that has been running rampant all over Twitter. Whether it be about a big fish like Artemi Panarin or a lesser-known commodity like Ryan Dzingel, fans and analysts have shared opinions while insiders have provided reports that have sent Twitter into shambles.

There has been plenty to discuss about the Bruins, given the team’s scoring struggles and the recent loss of David Pastrnak–you can read about the injury in Garrett Haydon’s article breaking the news.

With plenty of concern about trading for a rental player given the Bruins’ recent history with those types of moves in mind (see Nash, Rick), here are five non-rental forwards that the Bruins can target to help the team for now and in the future:

Tyler Toffoli

Toffoli’s name came up in Mike Cratty’s recent article, detailing five scorers the Bruins could target outside of Artemi Panarin. Toffoli has had a down year while playing on the Kings–one of the league’s worst teams–with only 12 goals and 15 assists. The 26-year-old is only on pace for 18 goals and 40 points, compared to last year’s clip of 24 goals and the 31 goals he scored in 2015-16.

However, if given the right situation (alongside a gifted playmaker, like David Krejci), Toffoli could return to that form; he’s currently slotted in on the King’s third line alongside Mike Amadio and Brendan Leipsic–not exactly a combination that sets Toffoli up for success.

Toffoli is locked up for this year and next at a $4.6-million cap hit, and trading him would allow the rebuilding Kings to recoup some assets; it’s just a matter of what the Bruins might have to give up to get the winger.

Kyle Palmieri

The Devils have regressed quite a bit since their playoff birth last season, largely due to Taylor Hall’s inability to stay healthy, the team being ahead of schedule with its performance last year, and not being able to get a save from either goaltender. This gives reason to believe that the Devils may not be totally out of the woods yet with their rebuild.

Since arriving in New Jersey in 2015-16 after a trade from the Anaheim Ducks, Palmieri has been a perennial 20-30 goal-scorer. The 28-year-old has 24 goals and 42 points on a putrid Devils team this season and is on pace for 35 goals and 63 points.

With a cap hit of $4.65-million for this year and the next two seasons with a modified no-trade clause, Palmieri would be a fantastic addition to the Bruins’ top-six as he is not only capable of providing more-than-adequate offense, but he is also an excellent all-around player and leader. The Smithtown, New York, native also lives and trains in Boston over the off-season.

With that being said, we are left with three burning questions. First, would the Devils even be willing to move Palmieri? Second, would Palmieri waive his NTC? Then number three, if they are willing to move Palmieri, what would the asking price be? Presumably, I would guess the price would be high,  considering Palmieri’s age, production, importance to the Devils, and term remaining on his deal–but man, would he look great on the Bruins.

Brayden Schenn

Schenn’s name has been tossed around a bit this season, especially given the St. Louis Blues’ early struggles. The 27-year-old center has had an “okay” season with 10 goals, 25 assists, and 35 points, and is on pace for 16 goals and 51 points.

Schenn had a career season with 28 goals, 42 assists, and 70 points in his first campaign with St. Louis last season; before that, he scored at least 25-goals in two-straight years with the Flyers. Luke Schenn’s younger brother can also play both wing and center, bringing a complete 200-foot game, and doesn’t shy away from throwing his body around.

So, Schenn could be a potential solution at wing in the top-six, as he was featured on his off-side (right wing) during his days in Philadelphia, or he could also play third-line center if the Bruins were to choose to load up down the middle.

Schenn carries a cap hit of $5.125-million until the end of next season. Again, it’s just a matter of what the asking price would be.

Chris Kreider

Much like Schenn, Kreider’s name has been tossed about frequently in the same breath as the Bruins. The Rangers forward and Boxford, Massachusetts, native is signed through next season with a $4.625-million cap hit.

The 27-year-old currently has 24 goals and 43 points for a middling Rangers team and is on pace for 36 goals, 27 assists, and 63 points, all career-highs. The Boston College product is a prototypical power forward for today’s NHL; he can skate like the wind, makes a living in front of the net, uses his body, and can rifle the puck off the rush.

On the Bruins, Kreider would slot in to aid the top-six. Yet again, the predicament arises when considering New York’s willingness to move him, and the potential asking price.

Charlie Coyle

It seems like the Weymouth, MA, native has been linked to the Bruins in trade rumors for nearly his entire career. The Boston University product has 10 goals and 18 assists this season, on track for 15 goals, 26 assists, and 41 points.

At 26-years-old, a 15-20 goal-scorer and 40-50 point-getter is by and large what Coyle likely is at this point in his career. He has scored at least 15 goals twice previously in his career with 18 in 2016-17 and 21 in 2015-16. This season would also mark the third time Coyle has surpassed the 40-point plateau in his career as he had 42 in 2015-16, and 56 in 2016-17.

Like Kreider, Coyle can play a heavy, powerful game at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, and has the ability to answer the bell if he has to.

Coyle is locked up at $3.2-million through the end of next season and is capable of slotting anywhere in the top-nine, whether it be at wing or center. The Wild’s lines have been shuffled around nearly all season as Coyle has been featured at center and right-wing on the first, second, and third lines; a firm role alongside David Krejci or as third line center could provide certainty and do him a world of good.

Bonus/Wildcard: Adam Henrique

After spending the first six-and-a-half seasons of his career with New Jersey, Henrique finished with 20 goals and 36 points last season after being traded to the Ducks. The 29-year-old center has the exact same numbers as Coyle this year with 10 goals and 28 points–on pace for 15 goals and 41 points.

Including last season, Henrique has totaled at least 20 goals three times while reaching the 30-goal mark once. As for as points go, Henrique has had at least 40 points on three occasions to go along with one 50-point campaign.

A center who is defensively responsible and has a solid ability to put the puck in the net, Henrique has a $4-million contract that runs out after this season before a five-year, $5.825-million extension with a modified-NTC kick in. That contract extension alone makes it unlikely that Henrique is part of the “major surgery” general manager Bob Murray is considering that Elliotte Friedman talked about in his weekly 31 Thoughts column. Even with that being said, Henrique is just some food for thought, hence the “wildcard” label.

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Bruins Cannot Afford To Make A Panic Move At The Deadline

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( Photo Credit: Aram Boghosian / Boston Globe )

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

We’re now just about two long weeks away from the NHL Trade Deadline, and after a bit of a turbulent week on the ice for the Bruins, the airwaves of Twitter and radio have been calling for some action on the trade front.

Hypothetical packages for the be-all-end-all trade target, Artemi Panarin, and “#WeWantWayne [Simmonds]” have been strewn all about the internet. Heck, names like Ryan Dzingel have been tossed out there as well. We’re even back to talking about Jeff Carter for some reason (take a look at that contract, woof).

The issue with all three players mentioned above is that they are all unrestricted free agents come July 1 along with the believed asking prices, that’s not even mentioning Kevin Hayes, Mark Stone, or Matt Duchene.

Look, don’t get me wrong, if the Bruins could snag a top-six winger or third line center who would be here for more than a few months without giving up a ridiculous package, then go make that deal. Even Bruce Cassidy daydreams about acquiring a scorer:

However, let’s not go around here ready to mortgage the farm to maybe be marginally good enough to take on Tampa Bay in a playoff series.

On the other hand, I understand that Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and especially Zdeno Chara are not getting any younger, and you don’t get continuous kicks at the can–age could catch up to someone, and there’s the possibility of retirement (Chara).

Looking at the Bruins as a whole, one minute, this team plays as good as any other team in hockey. The next? It looks a lot like the same mediocre, bang-your-head-off -the-wall type of play that caused them to miss the playoffs two-straight seasons in 2014-15 and 2015-16. The footage from Saturday’s win over the lowly Los Angeles Kings is exactly what comes to mind after giving that description of the team’s performance of late:

If you’re Don Sweeney and the rest of the Bruins’ brass in the front office, you’re in a sticky situation. Like I said, you have one side of the argument that looks at the Bruins’ situation with the mindset that Bergeron, Krejci, Marchand, and Chara are all on the wrong side of the age bracket, and that they deserve one more shot at Lord Stanley.

On the other hand, the Bruins have plenty of young talent–Ryan Donato, Trent Frederic, Danton Heinen, Jack Studnicka, Urho Vaakanainen, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, to name a few–that makes the future seem bright, disappointing seasons aside.

For the Bruins in both the short-term and long-term, Don Sweeney cannot afford to make a deal in haste. A “panic” move that could mortgage the future for a rental or player who does not put the team over the top would be devastating to the team’s long-term plans and short-term success.

Not to mention the fact that selling low on struggling young talent (Heinen, JFK, and Donato) is as risky as it gets. While it may not be clicking right now for those three, it does not automatically mean that they’re “done” or “never going to make it.” We’ve watched it happen before where a seemingly lost young player gets dealt then pans out (see Seguin, Tyler–not to say either of those guys is the next Seguin).

Also, it was well-documented that Don Sweeney was not thrilled at all about being without his first round pick at least year’s draft, and he would be wise to keep it under lock and key.

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Giving up a plethora of young players or picks for a rental only to watch the Bruins fail to make it deep in the playoffs while the prospects that were traded away pan out would be a horrific look for management. A move like that would leave the Bruins with an outlook on the future that is much less favorable than it is now.

If the right deal presents itself, then I trust Don Sweeney to make that move. I say “right deal” as in a move that can give the Bruins a solid chance at actually contending this year when the playoffs roll around without giving up an outrageous amount to acquire said player.

Careful thought and patience from Sweeney (yes, more of it) is going to have to be the key when considering potential trades come February 25th.

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It’s Critical That The Bruins Take Advantage of Their Upcoming Schedule

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(Image: AP Photo / Charles Krupa)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

After beating the New York Islanders on Tuesday night in Patrice Bergeron’s 1000th NHL game, the Bruins will embark on a schedule that, on paper, has some favorable matchups for the B’s over the course of the next 11 days.

The Bruins will take on the New York Rangers, the third-to-last place Los Angeles Kings twice, the bottom-feeding Chicago Blackhawks, the free-falling Anaheim Ducks, and the struggling Colorado Avalanche during this span.

First, up for the B’s is a trip to Madison Square Garden tonight as they’ll face-off against the Rangers.

The Rangers sit seventh in the Metro and twenty-first in the league, having gone 5-4-1 in their last 10 games (22-22-8 on the year, 1-2-1 since returning from the break). Head coach, David Quinn’s team, has been lackluster in its own end, allowing the fifth-most goals in the NHL (175). The scoring has not been there for the Blueshirts either as they have the sixth-fewest goals-for in the entire league (148).

All in all, the Rangers’ goal differential stands at minus-27, fourth-worst in the NHL, a result of the team’s inconsistency both offensively and defensively.

Henrik Lundqvist has performed admirably this season, considering the roster the team has iced in front of him on a nightly basis. The 36-year-old has played a ton this year with the eighth-most games played among goaltenders (38)–not ideal for any goalie, let alone an aging legend. However, Lundqvist has struggled lately, allowing three or more goals in three-straight starts.

As for the skaters, the bulk of New York’s offense is only coming from their top guys, namely Mika Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Kevin Hayes, and Mats Zuccarello. Zibanejad gave the Bruins fits in the first meeting between the two sides with two goals, but he is the driving force of New York’s offense; shut him down, and you have a solid chance of shutting the rest of the offense down as well.

While Zuccarello’s numbers don’t look gaudy (he only has 29 points), the Norwegian has only played in 38 games after missing some time early in the year. Behind him, only two more Rangers have at least 20 points.

The Bruins may have lost to the Rangers just a few weeks ago, but that was in a game where the team was devastated after Tuukka Rask went down in a bad collision. After Rask went down, the team was flat, and a struggling Jaroslav Halak had to step in unexpectedly.

As for the Kings, they have struggled since the puck dropped on their season. With 158 goals-allowed and 125 goals-for (a minus-33 differential), the Kings have had trouble both scoring and getting a save.

Jonathan Quick has had a down year by his standards when he hasn’t been on the shelf, and Peter Budaj–who has a GAA of 5.02 in three games–lost his job to Jack Campbell as Quick’s backup; he hasn’t played since November.

Offensively, the Kings don’t have much going for them up front, as previously mentioned. Marquee signing Ilya Kovalchuk has been a disappointment with only 11 goals in 43 games while Anze Kopitar is having just an “okay” year according to his reputation–only 16 goals and 40 points in 52 games. Meanwhile, younger players like Tyler Toffoli and Alex Iaffolo haven’t quite taken the reigns like the organization had hoped.

Also, franchise defenseman Drew Doughty has failed to live up to the massive contract extension he signed last summer, and after trading Jake Muzzin, the Kings are already beginning to commit to a long term rebuild.

The Bruins are yet to play the Kings this year but have looked much better in their last two games compared to the two losses after the bye week.

Looking at the Blackhawks, Chicago’s dynasty has come to an end as the Hawks are the last place in the league and are in the pool that’s all about “lose for Hughes” in hopes of being able to take Jack Hughes first-overall this summer.

The Hawks have allowed a league-worst 198 goals-against, but have somehow managed to score the eighth-most goals in the league with 173, making for a goal differential of minus-25, fifth-worst.

While the Hawks have no trouble scoring goals, thanks to their high-powered top-six, led by Patrick Kane, who has been on fire with another MVP-caliber season with 78 points, they just can’t seem to get a save. Corey Crawford had missed significant time due to injury and was not anything to write home about when he was healthy, while Cam Ward has struggled mightily after being thrust into the starting role.

At the same time, young-gun Collin Delia has been fantastic for Chicago as Ward’s backup. It will be interesting to see who goes in net for Chicago and if it’s Ward, which version of him shows up.

After a couple down seasons, Jonathan Toews is on track to have a season similar to that of what is expected from him. As for the bottom-six production, it falls off a cliff once you move down from the top two lines.

An aging defense corps, mixed with an inability to get meaningful depth production makes for a bad combination, especially considering the lack of help on the backend for the declining Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith.

The Bruins have already beaten the Hawks once this year, too. In a 3-1 final at the Winter Classic, the Bruins were able to effectively neutralize Chicago’s top producers while getting strong play from up and down the lineup, hopefully, a sign of what to expect next week.

Moving on to the Anaheim Ducks, who were in an absolute free-fall going into the All-Star break, and still are. The Ducks have lost five straight after winning two in a row following up their 12-game losing streak–for those of you keeping score at home, that’s 17 losses in their last 19 games, yikes.

The Ducks have looked limp almost all year as times have seemingly passed them by in the NHL, not to mention the fact that they have not been able to catch a break with the injury bug.

At 26th in the league, the Ducks have not been able to get quality goaltending after John Gibson has regressed a bit. On top of that, the Ducks have allowed 24 goals in their last four games (172 on the year, tenth-worst), including a nine-spot given up to Winnipeg last week.

Scoring hasn’t been the Ducks’ forte either as 33-year-old Ryan Getzlaf leads the team in scoring with just 34 points in 48 games. Outside of guys named Getzlaf, Adam Henrique, Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, or Ondrej Kase, no one can put the puck in the net–none of those guys listed has more than 12 goals or 34 points on the season.

In total, the Ducks are tied with the Kings for the fewest goals scored in the league at 125, and their differential of minus-47 is the worst in the NHL by a country mile.

With calls for Carlyle’s job and questions about Bob Murray’s management of the team, the Ducks are in turmoil.

Anaheim has already lost to the Bruins this year as well, a 3-1 loss at TD Garden. They were outshot and outplayed by Boston, on top of failing to take away the Bruins’ biggest threats. They allowed two power-play goals as David Pastrnak had a goal and two assists, Torey Krug had a goal and an assist, and Brad Marchand had two assists.

The Bruins will also host the Colorado Avalanche as well, who they lost to earlier this season in a clash between two of the top lines in hockey. That game saw the Bruins lose John Moore, and Zdeno Chara after they were already without Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Kevan Miller, and Urho Vaakanainen.

This matchup will see that same clash once again, but with a healthy Bruins team and a Colorado team that has struggled mightily since the early-season meeting. The Avs have dropped out of the playoff picture in the Western Conference, too, but sit only two points back of Vancouver for the second wild-card spot.

The top line of Colorado needs no introduction. Mikko Rantanen (74 points) and Nathan MacKinnon (72 points) have been other-worldly this season, both fourth and sixth in the league in points, respectively, while Gabe Landeskog (59 points) is en route to scoring 40 goals.

However, the Avs have gotten next to no production from their other forwards. After Landeskog, there is a stark drop off as the next highest-producing forward is Carl Soderberg with 31 points, followed by Alexander Kerfoot with 26.

Colorado’s goaltending has not been up to snuff either. Semyon Varlamov has been the very definition of a pedestrian after a good start to his season, and Philipp Grubauer, who was thought to be the next solution in net when he signed, has just been plain bad all season.

Although they already beat the Bruins this season, the Avs have lost four straight, allowing at least four goals in each loss–five goals twice, and six once. On top of that Colorado has lost 11 of their last 14 and their wins have become more sparse since the first half of the season. When they win, it’s on the backs of the top line; when they lose, it’s due to the first line getting shutdown and ineffectiveness from the other forwards.

From the Bruins’ perspective, no game is an “easy” game or an automatic win these days; everybody knows that. Although they tend to struggle in New York and Anaheim, the troubles of those two teams make those matchups appear very favorable for the Bruins; the same can be said for the Kings as well. While the high-powered top producers for the Avs and Blackhawks have been all-world this year, if the Bruins can shut them down, they should fair well.

The Bruins absolutely cannot afford to take any games off, not just during this upcoming stretch, but for the rest of the season as well. As things currently stand, the Bruins sit just one point back of the Montreal Canadiens for third in the Atlantic with a game in hand and just two back of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

With some enticing meetings over the next few games, the Bruins’ ability to rack up points and potentially catch or surpass the Leafs or Habs is going to be crucial.

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What Does The Jake Muzzin Trade Mean For The Bruins?

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(Image: Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

The Toronto Maple Leafs have gotten their defenseman. News broke last night that the Leafs had acquired left-handed defenseman Jake Muzzin from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forward Carl Grundstrom, the rights to defenseman Sean Durzi, and Toronto’s 2019 first round pick.

This move shows the world that general manager Kyle Dubas is serious about addressing the Leafs’ biggest issue, defense and that the Kings are on their way to a rebuild or retool of some sort.

Muzzin joins the Maple Leafs as a piece to their top-four defense that has been missing for years, instantly improving the team’s defense. The 29-year-old plays a heavy, responsible defensive game, but can move the puck up the ice nicely and chip in on offense with his booming slap shot. Assuming he slots in on the top pair with Morgan Rielly, guys like Ron Hainsey and Travis Dermott will be able to play roles better-suited to their skillsets.

Muzzin gives the Leafs flexibility, both in terms of roster make-up and the salary cap, since he can play either side anywhere in the top-four and carries a $4-million cap hit for this year and next. A Woodstock, Ontario, native and a Leafs fan growing up, Muzzin also brings playoff experience and knows what it takes to win the Stanley Cup, having won with the Kings in 2014—these assets can be invaluable to a young, inexperienced team like Toronto.

So what exactly does all of this mean for the Bruins?

Well, for one thing, the Leafs addressed their most glaring issue, a defense that the Bruins have been able to expose on a regular basis recently, most notably in last year’s playoffs. So, a Bruins team that has well-documented scoring woes this season may find themselves having a much harder time scoring goals against the Leafs in a potential playoff matchup, at least on paper as of right now.

Another implication is that it may put pressure on Don Sweeney to go out and make a move that addresses the Bruins’ issues, most notably second line right wing, and third line center.

However, since the deadline is still a little under a month away, there is no immediate rush to go out and make a deal. After all, the organization has to have liked what it has seen from Peter Cehlarik so far at second line right wing. Also, not to be forgotten is the fact that the 29th-overall pick in the 2016 draft, 20-year-old Trent Frederic (10G, 7A in 37 games for Providence this season) is making his NHL debut on Tuesday night at third line center, centering Danton Heinen and his boyhood idol, David Backes.

Cehlarik and Frederic are seemingly the only possible in-house solutions left to fix the holes at these positions. If Cehlarik can keep up what he’s done (2G, 1A in three games) and Frederic is able to step in and make an impact, then there is no immediate need to go out searching for a trade–they’re still only a hot week away from catching right up to Toronto, mind you.

On the other hand, if “the Atlantic arms race is upon us” as Ty Anderson said, and these two players fail to make a meaningful impact going forward, then the Bruins cannot afford to stand idly by and not bring in a potential solution via trade if management feels they are truly in the mix for Cup contention this season.

As I talked about in a recent article, the Bruins have a couple possible courses of action they can take. First, the team can go for it and acquire a top-six, big-name winger, or they can simply make depth acquisitions if they like what they see in-house. If management feels that the team is not true contenders this season, they can stand pat, ride out the season, and take their chances with what they’ve got right now.

With reason to believe Kyle Dubas may not be done dealing just yet, considering he had all but told the league that the Leafs are going for it, Don Sweeney and company have some decisions they’ll need to make before 3:00pm on February 25th.

The Muzzin trade only gives Don Sweeney that much more to think about as the deadline creeps closer.

Trade season is upon us, folks! Buckle up.

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Bruins’ Keys To Success Coming Out Of The All-Star Break

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(Image: Bob DeChiara / USA TODAY Sports)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

After nine days off, the Bruins will return to action on Tuesday, January 29th, as the Winnipeg Jets come to town. While it is just one game, the way the Bruins play on Tuesday night can set the tone for the remaining 33 games of the regular season.

As things currently stand the day after the All-Star game, the Bruins hold the first Wild Card spot in the Eastern Conference — two points behind the Montreal Canadiens for third in the Atlantic Division (the Bruins have two games in hand on the Habs) and three points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for second in the Atlantic.

While those deficits don’t seem like too much to overcome, the Bruins cannot afford to fall into an extended rut as Montreal has been hot lately and Toronto seems to be coming out of a slump, which could result in their cushions on the Bruins growing.

After the way the last few games went for the Bruins going into the bye week and the All-Star break, it’s no secret that the team needs to be better, collectively. With that being said, let’s get into keys for success for the Bruins coming out of All-Star Weekend:

Staying Healthy: 

The injury bug that walloped the Bruins through the first half of the season has been well-documented, and while injuries are mainly out of human control, the Bruins absolutely cannot afford to lose a key player or a few for an extended period of time. The team was able to weather the storm just fine without Chara, Bergeron, etc. but the remaining schedule appears to be much tougher than the first leg of the season. So, if another key cog to the Bruins’ lineup goes down, it may not be as easy for the team to get by as it was the first go around.

Quality Goaltending (from BOTH goaltenders):

Speaking of health, Tuukka Rask gave us all quite a scare after the hit he took in the collision with Filip Chytil in the last game before the break. For those of you who haven’t seen it, please direct your attention here:

Woof, Tuukka fan or not, you have to feel for the guy, he got DEMOLISHED, but it seems like he’s going to be alright, after all, after exiting the game with a concussion, at least according to David Pastrnak and Rask’s agent:

Before his injury, Rask had been playing some incredible hockey, working his way up to tied-eighth in the NHL in save percentage with colleague Jaroslav Halak at .919. Since getting off to a rocky start, Rask has been much improved, especially after returning from his leave of absence — he’s also one win away from becoming the Bruins’ all-time leader in wins.

In terms of Halak, his performance has regressed steadily by the month since his gaudy start. Halak had a 4-0-2 record and a .947 save percentage in October, a 4-3-0 record and .928 save percentage after in November, a 4-3-0 record and .910 save percentage in December, and now a 1-3-0 record and .846 save percentage through January so far. Now, every goalie has slumps, but the play of late has been alarming for Jaro.

Rask’s ability to keep up his strong play in spite of his injury and Halak being able to pull himself out of his slump is going to be imperative for the Bruins to have success going forward.

Playing with intensity each night for the full 60:

The Bruins made a habit of scoring, then allowing their opponent to answer almost right away in the games leading into the break (most notably in the most recent loss to Washington, see video below), which is simply unacceptable.

This team needs to be able to take the lead and protect it because goal-scoring won’t always be there to bail the team out like it did in the game against St. Louis. The Bruins cannot afford to sit back on their heels and get too comfortable if they want to be able to go on a run, rack up points, and catch/surpass Toronto and Montreal.

Contributions from up and down the lineup in all situations, not just the top line:

Don’t get me wrong, it is fantastic to see the top line rip teams apart, but it is not going to translate into playoff success, just look at last year’s second round. Secondary production has been better of late, especially with the addition of Peter Cehlarik on the second line, but Jake DeBrusk has gone cold recently, which doesn’t help. The power play has also looked anemic, too.

When the top line goes quiet, which can happen, it will be up to DeBrusk to find his stride again, Krejci and Cehlarik to continue their production, and for the youngsters on the third line (Ryan Donato, Danton Heinen, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson) to keep building confidence and bury more of their chances.

The top line isn’t off the hook, either. Brad Marchand, Bergeron, and Pastrnak’s importance to the offensive output cannot be understated, and they’ll need to continue what they’ve been doing all-season-long.

Consistency on the backend:

Brandon Carlo and Matt Grzlecyk have been the Bruins’ two best defensemen, overall, to this point in the season, considering every other member of the defense corps has missed time in one instance or another. Both will need to continue their strong development and play as we creep closer to April.

As for two other key d-men, Charlie McAvoy and Zdeno Chara, they need to be able to find their games as the latter portion of the schedule begins. McAvoy has shown flashes of brilliance (like the game at Montreal) along with some clunkers. An extended bill of health should allow him to stay on the right track.

As for Chara, still, the team’s best shut-down defender, the level the 41-year-old was playing at before his knee injury had flashes of vintage Zdeno Chara. After taking a few weeks to get back up to speed, hopefully, Chara can hit the ground running and regain that form.

Looking ahead:

A lot of the Bruins’ future success seems to depend on health, and for a good reason, too. If key players can stay in the lineup, and if the team plays to its full potential (like in the five-game win streak from the end of December through the beginning of January), the Bruins should like their chances throughout the remainder of the schedule.

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Bruins Pastrnak Gets First All-Star Nod And Finally The Recognition He Deserves

Image result for david pastrnak winter classic

(Image: Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

David Pastrnak is certainly no secret around here. The 22-year-old’s talent is on display on a nightly basis as people all across New England make the trek to TD Garden, or tune into NESN or 98.5 The Sports Hub to watch or listen to this bright young player do his thing.

Pastrnak has gone from an elite young player oozing with potential to a superstar (who is still oozing with potential; he’s only 22, mind you). His talent and production has not gone unnoticed around these parts as he was recently voted #1 in NBC Sports Boston’s “Top 20 Under 25” for 2019.

The Czech forward currently sits at 27 goals and 29 assists for 56 points through 49 games this season, and he is on pace for 45 goals, 49 assists, and 94 points. Last season, No. 88 scored at a near point per game clip, too, with 80 points (35G, 45A) in 82 games. He’s also scored the most goals all-time out of any Bruins player under the age of 23 (121).

After being selected to represent the Bruins on the Atlantic Division team in this year’s All-Star game, Pastrnak is preparing to make his first appearance of his young career at All-Star Weekend.

With his first selection to the All-Star game, Pastrnak could finally be getting the recognition he deserves, at least on the national level. Like I said, David Pastrnak is no secret in and around Boston, but in national conversations he is often overshadowed by other elite young players like Kyle Connor, Brayden Point, Dylan Larkin, Patrik Laine, and William Nylander (who, for whatever reason, thought he was worth more money than Pastrnak despite not being all that close to Pastrnak’s point or goal production last season, and only has four points– 1G, 3A–in 20 games this season).

Now, I’m not trying to say that these guys are not worthy of the attention they receive; of course, they are. However, Pastrnak’s meteoric rise to “superstar” status in the NHL has been nothing short of amazing; his point totals are as follows: 27 points in 40 games as a rookie in 2014-15, 26 points in 51 games in an injury-plagued 2015-16, 70 points in 75 games in 2016-17, 80 points in 82 games in 2017-18, and now 56 points through 47 games this season, as previously stated.

In fact, looking back at his 2014 draft class, Pastrnak makes a strong case to be worthy of the No. 1 overall selection if the draft were to be redone. Currently, he has the second-most career points of that draft class with 259 in 303 games, just nine points behind Leon Draisaitl with 268 in 319 games.

On a side note: the 2014 NHL Entry Draft was absolutely loaded with forward talent, such as Draisaitl, Pastrnak, Point, Larkin, Nylander, Sam Reinhart, Viktor Arvidsson, and Nikolaj Ehlers (to name a few, woof). Right now, it’s looking like Pastrnak, Draisaitl, and Point are all making very strong cases to be considered the best player to come out of that draft.

Pastrnak does more than just score goals for the Bruins, too. A player that isn’t afraid to throw his body around, go to the dirty areas, hustle, backcheck, and take hits himself, Pasta does it all. He sees the ice brilliantly and has fantastic hands, although he is prone to turnovers, which just happen when one has the puck on his stick as much as he does.

Now, with his first All-Star selection (of many, hopefully), Pastrnak’s name is now cemented in the national conversation more than it ever was before. He’s still getting better, too, continuing to push passed other elite players from his draft class and around the league, cementing himself as one of the league’s best (tied-18th in points and tied-ninth in goals).

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Weighing The Bruins’ Options As The Trade Deadline Nears

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(Image: Grant Halverson / Getty Images)

By: Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Here we sit on January 19th with the NHL Trade Deadline over a month away on February 25th. While it may seem a long ways off, the deadline creeps closer with each passing day, and there has been plenty of buzz-generating as the trade winds stir with a number of moves and rumors this week.

So, with all of that in mind, here is a look at all the options on the table for the Boston Bruins as 3:00pm on February 25th looms:

Make a big splash for a bigger name:

This is what many fans and talking heads have been calling for all season long. It’s no secret that the Bruins have had a gaping hole at right wing on the second line, and it seems like they have been looking for a guy to play next to David Krejci (and now Jake DeBrusk) for about three years or so now. The Bruins have been mentioned in the same breath as guys like Michael Ferland, Jeff CarterCharlie Coyle, Wayne Simmonds, and Brayden Schenn who play productive, heavy, and sound two-way games that have historically complimented David Krejci’s style.

Obviously, acquiring one of these players can solve this team’s problems at second line right wing (all four of them), or third line center (in the case of Coyle or Carter, potentially). Plugging these holes could be just what this team needs in order to solidify itself as a serious contender.

While it would be very exciting to see the Bruins go out and make a big splash to aid their scoring woes outside of their top five forwards (Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, Krejci, DeBrusk), there are so many questions that come up.

First, are the Bruins really contenders this year? They’ve shown on a few occasions this year that they may be more than just a winger away from being a real threat. There have also been issues at third line center as well. If the Bruins are not contenders this year, after all, they may seem best-suited to ride out the season and make their moves over the summer.

Another question is, what would the price be for a bigger name? Trade Deadline season always drives prices up no matter what, especially for rental players, like Wayne Simmonds. So, the Bruins would have to be careful if they make a move, especially for a rental, given what they gave up for Rick Nash last season.

Make smaller depth moves:

General manager Don Sweeney has made his fair share of depth acquisitions in recent years whether it was Lee Stempniak, Tommy Wingels, Nick Holden, Drew Stafford, or John-Michael Liles.

These types of moves can be double-edged swords. On the one hand, you can give up basically nothing for someone that ends up providing solid production, like Stafford or Wingels, who the Bruins gave up conditional late-round picks for.

However, on the other hand, you can overpay for a depth rental who does not play very well or contribute much at all, like Nick Holden, who was disappointing, overall.

So, this could be an option for the Bruins, if they feel that internal solutions, like Peter Cehlarik, are the fix for the second line. If that were the case, then the Bruins could look for guys to bolster their forward and defense depth since the Stanley Cup Playoffs have proven time and time again that there is no such thing as too many defensemen.

Stand pat, ride out the season, and take their chances in the offseason:

At times, it seems as if the Bruins are more than just one or two pieces away from being serious contenders. The young kids like Danton Heinen, Ryan Donato, and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson haven’t been able to show that they are what we’d hoped they be for long stretches of time. There’s also the constant worry of the revolving door on Krejci’s right, which may be far too expensive to fix by February 25th.

So, if the Bruins like what they’ve seen from Peter Cehlarik on the second line, feel confident in the kids on the current third line, and feel they have the adequate organizational depth to account for injuries.

With the most recent hot streak this team has been on, and a floundering Toronto Maple Leafs team, the Bruins may like the way things are shaping up for them and choose to wait it out. If that’s what Sweeney decides, the Bruins will take their chances when the playoffs come before making their big moves to put them over the top over the summer, either via trade or free agency.

Looking Ahead:

Don Sweeney and the rest of the Bruins’ brass certainly have a lot of options they can look at that go down several different routes, whether they be trades or betting on the current team. Regardless of which course of action is taken, Sweeney has to be sure of his long term plans for this team and must be very wary of overpaying in a trade, especially for a rental.

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The Boston Bruins and Rick Nash: What Could’ve Been

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at Boston Bruins

Photo: (Bob Dechiara/USA Today Sports)

By Patrick Donnelly | Follow me on Twitter @PatDonn12

Earlier today, former Bruin Rick Nash announced his official retirement from the NHL.

You can find Garrett Haydon’s article breaking down the news here.

For context, Nash’s early retirement comes as a result of concussion issues as he suffered one with Boston that he likely came back from too early. A true shame that head injuries forced a player of his caliber out of the game; Nash sat third in active goal leaders with 437 and had 805 points in 1,060 games played.

Looking back at last season and the trade that brought Nash from the New York Rangers to Boston, the Bruins gave up a ton for a player who would only suit up in 11 regular season games and 12 playoff contests. That is not exactly ideal for a player that the Bruins gave up a first round pick and a promising young defenseman (Ryan’s Lindgren) for, among other assets (Ryan Spooner, Matt Beleskey with 50% retained salary, and a seventh rounder).

Nash instantly looked like a perfect fit alongside Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, filling a hole that had been on Krejci’s right side since Jarome Iginla replaced Nathan Horton for the 2013-14 season. The Brampton, Ontario native played a style that was a perfect compliment to David Krejci’s game, harkening back to the days of the Milan Lucic-Krejci-Horton line.

While Nash was productive for the Bruins with three goals and six points in 11 regular season games to go along with three goals and five points in 12 playoff games, it was a stiff price to pay for a guy who neither stuck around long term nor brought a Stanley Cup. So, aside from a concussion and an embarrassing second-round exit at the hands of a far superior Tampa Bay Lightning squad, things went decently for Nash and the Bruins.

This all brings me to last summer. Personally, I think the Bruins would have been able to keep Nash for more than just a portion of last season. Even Elliotte Friedman said he believes the Bruins really liked their chances to re-sign Nash on 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. After the news broke today, Darren Dreger confirmed that the Bruins were among teams keeping tabs on the power forward:

Things did not end up panning out for the Bruins as Nash decided to forgo free agency to evaluate his future which led to him starting this season without a team and his retirement today.

Ultimately, Nash will be remembered for his contributions with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Rangers, but it’s not hard to wonder what he and the Bruins could have done for an extended period of time, health permitting.

It’s no secret that Boston has had a gaping hole at second line right wing all season long. It was an issue last season too before the acquisition of Nash, although Ryan Spooner ended up being a fine temporary solution. Had Nash gotten healthy and re-signed in Boston, the 6’4″ 211-pound winger presumably would have picked up right where he left off on the second line, and we wouldn’t be having this season-long conversation.

With this hypothetical second line of DeBrusk-Krejci-Nash, there would not be nearly as much pressure on the first line to drive the offense game in and game out, and the sophomore slumps of Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato wouldn’t be as glaring, but rather much more manageable.

So, if general manager Don Sweeney and Nash had struck a deal to keep the right-winger in Boston, the Bruins would not be forced into a pricey trade market in search of a second line wing, and this team’s secondary scoring issues would not be as pressing of a matter.

More importantly, however, you can’t fault the guy for looking out for his long-term mental health and his family; there are more important things in life than hockey, after all.

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