By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
(With the NHL trade deadline less than a week away, Ty Anderson and 98.5 The Sports Hub will provide you with the deepest of dives into the plans and possibilities that await general manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins. Please keep in mind that not all of this information has any sort of inside scoop to it, and is largely based on what makes sense, prices paid around the league, and what teams are looking for in potential deals with the Bruins. And fun!)
The Boston Bruins are in it to win it, according to everybody that’s even met an insider.
That’s no secret, and speaks to the idea that the Bruins are aware of their status as a team with an aging core, and as a team that may very well be just a couple of moves away from elevating themselves to true contending status.
And to kick it all off, here’s a look at the first five names on the 98.5 The Sports Hub 2019 Trade Deadline Big Board.
20. Carl Hagelin (LW, Los Angeles Kings)
The 5-foot-11 Hagelin is far from the sexy name he used to be, with just two goals and eight points in 38 games between the Penguins and Kings this season. He’s also seen his shooting percentage evaporate into thin air in recent years, with just 18 goals on 361 shots since 2016 (a 5.0 shooting percentage). But the cost to rent the 30-year-old winger is likely going to be real cheap, all things considered. That could make him a seemingly worthwhile veteran addition to Boston’s bottom-six, which could certainly use an insurance policy, especially one that would come to town with 121 games of Stanley Cup Playoffs experience (21st-most among active NHLers). At the very worst, he’d be an upgrade over a potential Lee Stempniak signing, as Hagelin has actually played in meaningful NHL games at some point this season. (UPDATE: Hagelin is headed to the Capitals.)
19. Marcus Johansson (C/W, New Jersey Devils)
Marcus Johansson is an intriguing option: He can play both the left and right wing (he actually has some experience playing center, too) and has proven to be capable of moving up and down your lineup from line to line. The 6-foot-1 forward has turned it on of late, too, with five goals on 22 shots and 10 points in his last 12 games in an elevated role with the Devils.
If the Bruins strike out or find themselves unwilling to pay premiums for rentals like Artemi Panarin and Mark Stone, Johansson could be a solid pickup in the sense that he adds without sacrificing a significant piece of their future.
One thing that could stop this move from working: Johansson got put on the shelf for three months by way of a Brad Marchand elbow. Johansson did not hold back when criticizing Marchand for what he believed was an attempt to injure him. You’d like to think everybody could let bygones be bygones, but that’s always easier said than done, especially when you’re walking into a locker room with somebody that straight-up robbed you of playing time in a playoff season.
18. Ilya Kovalchuk (LW/RW, Los Angeles Kings)
In the interest of full disclosure: I’m a big Kovalchuk guy.
I was all in on the Bruins signing the Russian sniper last summer, but understood why they were not willing to match the three-year offer the Kings threw his way. Less than a year into that deal, and with Kovalchuk obviously falling out of favor with Kings interim head coach Willie Desjardins as the team falls to the bottom of the West, it appears that a break-up between Kovy and the Kings could be on the way. It’s believed that the Kings are even willing to retain some salary on the $6.25 million per year the 35-year-old is due through 2021 if it gets Kovalchuk out of town.
That latter points makes him an interesting possibility.
It goes without saying that there’s zero chance the Bruins should even consider locking themselves into two more years of $6.25 million Kovalchuk. But if the Kings were to eat money and make Kovalchuk a $5 million per year winger or swap bad contracts (read as: take David Backes off their hands), for example, that’s a different discussion.
Now, before you fall out of your chair at the idea of adding a 35-year-old with just 13 goals and 28 points in 49 games to your books for the next two years, consider this: Among forwards with at least 800 all-situation minutes this season, Kovalchuk ranks 101st in goals-per-60 (0.94) and points-per-60 (2.03). Those numbers would make him Boston’s fifth-most impactful goal-scorer, and sixth-most impactful point-getter. Sounds like a solid top-six addition to me.
Oh, and here’s what Bruce Cassidy said about Kovalchuk last summer.
“He’s a top-six guy, he can play left and right wing, he’s a big body. He’d be a nice addition,” said Cassidy. “I am sure any team would say that right now. He’s going to make your team better, and I think that’s what you always look at as a coach, and fitting [talented players] in is the easy part. The tough part is getting those types of players.”
17. Jesse Puljujarvi (RW, Edmonton Oilers)
It feels obvious that the Bruins are in need for another natural right-shot, right wing to plug behind David Pastrnak on the organizational depth chart. 2015 first-round draft pick Zach Senyshyn has still yet to make an NHL appearance (he’s the lone skater of that first round yet to play in an NHL game), and David Backes’ fall out of Boston’s middle six isn’t promising.
This makes Jesse Puljujarvi, the No. 4 overall pick from the 2016 NHL Draft and a player limited to just four goals and nine points in 46 games for the Oilers this season, an intriguing option should the Oilers indeed put him on the block.
A 20-year-old winger that stands at 6-foot-4, Puljujarvi should be more than what he’s shown at this point in his career, with just 17 goals and 37 points in 139 NHL games. That seems pretty obvious. But it’s also impossible to not ignore just how badly the Oilers have screwed him up. They’ve repeatedly tried Puljujarvi with Milan Lucic (who stinks these days, especially if paired with a speedy young player), and given him just 91 minutes of power-play time in his entire pro career to date.
You’d have to think a change of scenery would be best for all parties involved.
But given the fact that he’s 6-foot-4 and still just 20, you get the feeling that the Oilers would probably want more than most teams would be willing to spend, which is why he’s not ranked higher than No. 17.
Still, if the Bruins are as about their future as their unwillingness to part with their prospects would suggest, adding Puljujarvi to the mix and hoping a new city works would be a move that could both work now and down the road.
(Don’t discount the fact that Keith Gretzky, the man behind Boston’s successful draft in 2014, is now acting as interim GM for the Oil in the wake of Peter Chiarelli’s firing. That helps for two reasons: The biggest, of course, is that Chiarelli is gone and the Bruins likely feel as if they can deal with Edmonton now. The other is that Gretzky certainly knows some of the pieces in the Boston pipeline, and would likely have an interest in at least one piece in Boston’s prospect cupboard.)
16. Richard Panik (LW/RW, Arizona Coyotes)
This is a potential under-the-radar move that I think could make a ton of sense for the Bruins.
Through 54 games this season, Panik is averaging a career-high 16:52 per night, and has totaled 11 goals and 24 points.
And on an Arizona team that struggles to score (they’re one of the few teams that’s struggled worse than the Bruins this season), Panik ranks second among all Coyotes at even-strength primary assists (nine) and has generated 84 even-strength scoring chances for the ‘Yotes this season, good for fourth-most on their team this season. He’s also been one of their best forwards on a penalty kill group that enters Tuesday ranked as the league’s top shorthanded unit.
Panik is another left-shot forward, but it’s worth mentioning that he has top-six experience both in Arizona and Chicago. Most importantly, he could be a player Cassidy trusts to protect a lead late in games, which is something you cannot say for Peter Cehlarik or Karson Kuhlman, two wingers most recently deployed as second-line options for the B’s.
The Bruins would not have to marry Panik, either, as the 28-year-old is a pending unrestricted free agent.
Click here for 98.5 The Sports Hub’s complete coverage of all things 2019 NHL Trade Deadline.