By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
If the Boston Bruins are to keep up with the challenges posed by the Tampa Bay Lightning and Toronto Maple Leafs next season, Bruins general manager Don Sweeney is likely going to have to swing for the fences on another big trade.
Whether that’s for another left-handed defenseman (though the John Moore signing complicates that somewhat) or right winger to plug next to David Krejci on Boston’s second line, however, remains up in the air. Fortunately for Sweeney, there’s options for both on the trade market. Unfortunately for Sweeney, however, the B’s will have to give — and probably a lot, really — to get.
The Bruins — loaded with prospects, picks, and a plethora of players inching (or sprinting in some cases) closer to the National Hockey League — can and should stomach that if it means contending now. Who and what they move for an upgrade is a worthwhile topic.
But the question should instead be who is not on the table for the Bruins in any potential big trade?
The top of this list is pretty obvious: It begins with the first line trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and David Pastrnak.
These guys are the backbone of the Boston forward group, and all three are paid well under market value. Seriously, we don’t talk about this fact enough: The Bruins pay a combined $19.66 million for this trio for the next four reasons. Just for comparison’s sake, please note that the Blackhawks pay $21 million for just Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, while the Kings will shell out over $22 million for the Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, and Ilya Kovalchuk forward trifecta next season.
So, unless Sweeney is looking to get chased out of town faster than Peter Chiarelli did after one playoff miss in eight years, they’re not going anywhere. They’re not even in the same room as anything that the B’s put on the trade table.
Moving down the forward list, Jake DeBrusk’s playoff run should elevate him to untouchable status. I know that sounds crazy after just one NHL season, but if you watched the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs with any sort of a close eye, it should be obvious. And given some of Boston’s on-ice shortcomings in recent playoff runs, having a player that gets what it takes to score big goals and contribute in the playoffs is something that’s waaaaay too valuable to let part the organization.
DeBrusk has the makings of an offensive analytics darling, too. Not only did he record the fourth-most scoring chances generated at even-strength play a year ago (behind the aforementioned top liners), but he also finished with the most even-strength rush attempts among all Boston skaters, and was able to draw 22 penalties (second-most on the Bruins).
If the game is going to continue its move towards breakneck speed — which it absolutely is, by the way — DeBrusk’s a keeper.
There’s nothing concrete to this idea, either, but you would have to imagine that fellow youngster Ryan Donato is not somebody the Bruins would part with via trade. And while this is a ridiculously minor thing to cite when saying somebody is ‘untouchable,’ but the Black and Gold have some slightly significant PR stuff planned with Anders Bjork this season ahead of the 2019 Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium. (Bjork, of course, played his college hockey at Notre Dame.)
It’s also important to note that in the case of both Bjork and Donato, Sweeney was able to convince them to stay with the team that drafted them and sign an entry-level deal with the B’s. Not only before their college career was over, too, but also when they could have easily pulled a Jimmy Vesey and decided that they were going to choose their destination as a free agent.
In other words, the Bruins have done their part to convince those talents to trust them with their professional careers. You can’t abandon that by trading either player a year into signing each. If anything, the Bruins would first seek to improve either player’s on-ice contributions by sending them to Providence for additional seasoning.
On the backend, Charlie McAvoy has the skills to be a No. 1 defenseman in the NHL. You could almost make the case that he’s already that guy for the Bruins (though I’m sure his pairing partner, captain Zdeno Chara, would have something to say about that). When you see where the game is trending — with an emphasis on speed, skill, and active defensemen that support the offensive attack but are able to turn on a dime and get the hell back — McAvoy looks like Drew Doughty-lite out there. He’s also the perfect player for Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy to build his defensive system around as a contender for years.
Trading that kind of player is a fireable offense. On the spot, too. And I’m not sure that there’s a player out there that Sweeney would even entertain trading McAvoy for, at least when it comes to the Bruins’ needs (on the right side or on defense).
And Chara — given his age, contract, and captaincy on a youthful team — is not going to be included in any trade discussions.
Another name on this list: Tuukka Rask.
Now, this is not all because I think that the hot-and-cold starter can still be part of a Cup-winning team. I simply think that the ship has sailed on Tuukka Rask being traded out of Boston. At least for the time being, and especially when it comes to teams willing to give you a king’s ransom for the former Vezina Trophy winner. Teams are increasingly hip to the idea that if you build a great defense, you can get by with a goalie that doesn’t make $7 million per season. And if Rask survived the 2015 Draft Night Bonanza that Sweeney put the club through — which saw Milan Lucic traded to the Los Angeles Kings and Dougie Hamilton sold to the Calgary Flames for three draft picks — there’s no way Rask doesn’t survive this summer.
But to play devil’s advocate here, who would you have start in Rask’s place if you were to trade him for scoring help? (Say Jaroslav Halak three years removed from being an effective NHL starting goaltender and I’ll scream real loud, I swear to you.)
That question alone is your answer as to why Rask won’t get brought up in almost any trade discussion the B’s have this year.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.