By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
It’s widely known that in order to get, the Boston Bruins are going to have to give.
Given what the league’s general managers know about Boston’s situation — the Tampa Bay Lightning are reloaded and looked prime for another run while the Toronto Maple Leafs added John Tavares to the picture — they’re likely gonna have to give a lot. Such is life when you’re talking about keeping up in the National Hockey League’s nonsensical division-centric playoff format. And maximizing the window still left open by the play of Patrice Bergeron, Zdeno Chara, and Tuukka Rask.
Bruins general manager Don Sweeney knows this is true whether or not he addresses it directly.
And after establishing the club’s untouchables, it’s time to look at just who could be dangled out there by Sweeney.
The biggest chip is an obvious one: Puck-moving defenseman Torey Krug.
Of course, this wasn’t always ‘obvious.’
But following the signing of left-shot defenseman John Moore to a five-year deal, and with Matt Grzelcyk signed to an affordable two-year deal worth $1.4 million per season, Krug stands as the likeliest candidate to be moved out of Boston.
I mean, think about it: The Bruins are paying Grzelcyk more than they would their average seventh or eight defenseman, and the Bruins have essentially said that they don’t believe they can win with both Krug and Grzelcyk in the same lineup. Also: you don’t commit almost $14 million and five years to a free agent in the case of Moore unless you have legitimate plans for him to play right off the bat. Now, I say this knowing full well that The B’s have done some silly things with their money over the years. But that kind of ‘strategy’ with playing a long game with Moore would be up there as one of the biggest blunders.
Krug can also net the Bruins the greatest return, though, and that’s why he tops the list as the most likely to depart.
The 5-foot-9 defenseman is coming off a career-best 59 points last season, and is now one of just seven defensemen in Boston history to have multiple 50-point seasons. And in 102 games since Bruce Cassidy took over as the Black and Gold’s head coach in Feb. 2017, Krug has recorded 77 points. That stands as the ninth-most among all NHL defensemen over that span.
On the hook for $5.25 million for another two seasons, too, Krug would be an instant boost to any team’s offensive production from the backend. He can also quarterback any team’s top power-play unit with the best of them.
If Krug is deemed too valuable to the Bruins, though, the 24-year-old Grzelcyk could instead be part of a trade package.
His contract could be a bargain compared to Krug’s current deal if you’re a rebuilding team, and Grzelcyk straight-up thrived in a third-pairing (borderline second-pairing) role with the Bruins a season ago. And considering Krug’s resume over 63 games of Grzelcyk, you could argue that it make as much sense for the win-now Bruins to sell high on the Charlestown, Mass. native’s first season as a (relatively) full-time NHLer as it would to trade a proven asset in Krug.
Adam McQuaid, slated to begin the season as a healthy scratch, is another piece that the Bruins could consider as a trade piece. The Bruins obviously love what McQuaid has done for the Bruins during his time in Boston, but it’s fairly obvious that McQuaid is going to want to actually play next season. And, again, if the Bruins’ right-side trio of Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, and Kevan Miller is healthy, McQuaid is not getting that chance. Not at anything close to a full-time basis, at least.
But there is one scenario in which a healthy blue line does let McQuaid play: A Brandon Carlo trade.
Now, by no means do I think that the Bruins want to trade Carlo. They’ve resisted trading him in the past — it’s believed that the Avalanche wanted Carlo to be the centerpiece of a Matt Duchene and/or Gabriel Landeskog trade two seasons ago — but he is definitely a player that teams would most ask about in any potential trade. A 6-foot-5 defender with a legitimate skating game, the 21-year-old has the developing skillset and know-how to be an all-zone impact player on the right side.
I think you can make the case that the Bruins have missed Carlo’s shot-suppression skills in back-to-back postseason runs, so making a trade that officially robs them of that seem unlikely. But Carlo’s (largely poor luck-based) health woes, as well as wild card of an RFA-loaded 2019, could play a factor in the Bruins’ willingness to move him for a scoring upgrade.
It’s just hard to imagine the Bruins carrying eight defensemen — or eight defensemen of this caliber, anyway — for a full season. So maybe everybody with the exception of Zdeno Chara and Charlie McAvoy should be considered up for grabs.
Up front, it probably goes without saying that the Bruins would be happy to get out from under the David Backes contract before it’s too late. (It may already be after Backes’ second season in Boston ended with yet another concussion for No. 42.) Rumor has it that they actually looked for potential suitors for Backes this summer, too. Unfortunately for the Bruins, though, Backes possesses a full no-movement clause for the upcoming season, and there’s no chance he waives it for a non-contender.
Which is surely frustrating, as the Bruins likely thought they had options in the Central at one point with the Blues and Wild. But the Blues’ trade for Ryan O’Reilly has ruled out a reunion there. And barring a trade that’s yet to materialize or surface in the rumor mill, it’s tough to imagine the Bruins and Wild working out a deal that makes sense for either team.
Another interesting trade chip up front? Danton Heinen. Again (and similar to Carlo and Grzelcyk), it’s not that the Bruins want to trade Heinen, but rather it may make the most sense for them when it comes to meeting a team’s asking price.
In his first full season in the NHL, the versatile Heinen contributed 16 goals and 47 points in a role that saw him consistently move up and down the lineup, and from left to right wing and then back again. Had it not been for a massive cool-down to close out his season — with just four goals and nine points in his final 27 games — Heinen would’ve hit the 50-point mark. Had Heinen eked out another three points, that benchmark would have made Heinen the first rookie to hit the 50-point plateau since Brad Boyes in 2005-06, and just the fifth player to reach that mark in the last 28 years.
Heinen is also in a weird spot as the third piece of a youthful left-side group headlined by the star power and offensive flair of high-skill scorers Jake DeBrusk and Ryan Donato. And on a left-wing depth chart still headlined by the all-world play of Brad Marchand. In other words, if everybody’s in their natural position, that makes Heinen your fourth-best option. So, if the Bruins are to deal from a position of strength, Heinen is a piece they could theoretically afford to lose.
Which is what the price they’re willing to pay will ultimately come back down to, no matter the position.
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.