The NHL trade deadline is less than a week away and the Boston Bruins find themselves in a precarious situation.
The Bruins are riding an 11-game point streak — and have won six in a row — heading into Wednesday’s tilt with the defending Western Conference champion Vegas Golden Knights. Boston sits two points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs for second place in the Atlantic Division. They’ve gotten offensive contributions from their four lines during their recent run, yet their secondary scoring hasn’t been all that consistent this season.
General manager Don Sweeney has an important decision entering the fourth trade deadline of his tenure. Does he go all in and trade for a big name? Or will he stand pat and hope that Boston’s recent success continues? This won’t be an easy decision and there are a plethora of factors that he needs to consider.
The Bruins were in a similar championship-contending position last season when they sent a first-round pick to the Rangers for Rick Nash. The move didn’t exactly pan out as the Bruins fell short against the Lightning in the second round. Nash wasn’t the same player after suffering another concussion late in the regular season.
Additionally, you have to take into account whether acquiring one player gets you that much closer toward raising the Cup.
It all depends on Boston’s mindset. Is it a win-now mentality? Or would they rather save their assets and trust their core players for their late-season push? On one hand, ownership will want to give Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask, David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Zdeno Chara — the five leftover pieces from the 2011 Stanley Cup squad — another shot at a deep playoff run, as you never know how many years they have left together.
With any trade, however, the Bruins will have to give in order to get, and not compromising the team’s future is also important. The last place they want to be is in the same exact spot they are in currently — but with none of their young assets because of a risky move.
Here are some of the potential trade targets the Bruins should pursue if they decide to go all in.
Artemi Panarin (Columbus Blue Jackets)
If the Bruins are indeed going all in, Artemi Panarin should be the first name on the list. He’s a blue-chip prospect and would immediately bolster Boston’s secondary scoring.
The 27-year-old leads the Blue Jackets in scoring with 67 points (24 goals, 43 assists) and has been one of the hottest names on the market since mid-December.
Panarin’s speed and offensive skill set are a perfect fit for Boston’s top-six. Yet, the Bruins need to approach any potential Panarin deal with caution. After all, very few teams pull a Peter Chiarelli and give up talented players like Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall for proverbial pennies.
Panarin is an unrestricted free agent this summer. He hasn’t given any indication on potentially signing a long-term contract extension for any team that acquires his services.
The price to land a near 70-point first liner is undoubtedly steep. Columbus will most likely ask for a first-round pick, Jake DeBrusk and a young prospect such as Jack Studnicka or Urho Vaakanainen. And possibly even more than that.
This would put Boston in a tough spot because they’d essentially trade away their entire farm system for a potential rental player.
Regardless of whether or not the Bruins end up pulling the trigger on Panarin, he appears to certainly be on the market. John Tortorella scratched the talented Russian winger Tuesday night in Montreal and addressed the situation in typical Torts fashion.
Too much information, Torts! 🤣💩 pic.twitter.com/jrFk5YSabW
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 19, 2019
Suspect, to say the least.
Brayden Schenn (St. Louis Blues)
Just a few weeks ago, it was almost a done deal that Brayden Schenn was going to be packing his bags and hopping on the next plane to Boston.
As reported by Jimmy Murphy, the Bruins and Blues were in serious negotiations and had a deal in place, But St. Louis decided to hold onto him for a little bit longer and see how things panned out. That decision is seemingly panning out as the Blues have won 11 in a row and sit comfortably in the third spot of the Central Division.
Schenn would be a good fit as Boston’s third line center in the off chance that the Blues decide to trade him. The 27-year-old is a big-body presence with a decent scoring touch. Schenn sits third among St. Louis’ scoring leaders with 39 points (11 goals, 28 assists). That is by far more than anything Trent Frederic, David Backes, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson have contributed during their third line stints this season.
Mark Stone (Ottawa Senators)
It is hard to find a bigger dumpster fire this season than the Ottawa Senators. The team will undoubtedly be selling off their assets as they sit dead last in the National Hockey League with 49 points.
The Bruins sent some of their scouts to Ottawa over the past few weeks and they have had their eyes on winger Mark Stone. The 26-year-old leads the Senators with 62 points this season and has already set his career high in goals with 28.
Stone is probably the second best top-six option next to Panarin. He’d Ideally find himself on the second line with Krejci and DeBrusk, thus keeping the potent top trio of Marchand, Bergeron, and David Pastrnak intact.
Yet, similar to Panarin, the Bruins will most likely have to give up a player like DeBrusk to make the deal work. It all really depends on if Sweeney is willing to pay a king’s ransom to make a big splash.
Wayne Simmonds (Philadelphia Flyers)
Another direction the Bruins could go to solidify the second-line wing position is Wayne Simmonds from Philadelphia. Simmonds has been linked to Boston — as well as a handful of other teams — the entire season and with the Flyers not in playoff contention, it is a real possibility.
Now does a player of Simmonds caliber put the Bruins over the top?
Personally, for the price, I don’t think so.
Simmonds, another player slated to hit the open market on July 1, only has 27 points this season. The Bruins won’t have to give up a first round pick for him, he still isn’t worth giving up valuable prospects for.
Kevin Hayes (New York Rangers)
The Bruins and Rangers have quite the trade history over the past two seasons. The two Original Six squads could very well find themselves as trade partners again.
A prime target for Boston is centerman and Dorchester’s own Kevin Hayes. Sweeney has quietly set his sights on Hayes for quite a while now. The 6-foot-5, 216-pound former Boston College product sits third on the Rangers in goals (14) and points (42) and second in assists (28).
Hayes might be the best bang-for-your-buck option, but he’d fill vital minutes on the third line. The Bruins wouldn’t have to give up nearly as much for Hayes compared to some of the other names on the list.
Chris Kreider (New York Rangers)
A final route the Bruins could choose to go is with Hayes’ teammate Chris Kreider (24 goals, 21 assists, 45 points with New York).
Kreider, like many of the aforementioned trade targets, is another top-six fit to skate with Krejci and DeBrusk. He’s a big-time player with an abundance of skill and I’m sure he wouldn’t mind being back in Boston again.
Acquiring Kreider bit of a stretch and the Rangers will most likely hold onto him, at least for the time being. But he would definitely help the Bruins quest for another championship if they can somehow make a deal for the Boxford-born winger.