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.
But the truth is that the Bruins are not going to be a true contender until they add something -- preferably another center capable of upgrading their third line to actual third-line status -- by this time next week. That's where The 98.5 The Sports Hub Big Board's latest list comes into play, with a focus on some pivots that could certainly help lift the B's this spring.
(For the Big Board's first five names, click here.)
15. Chris Kreider (LW, New York Rangers)
If the Rangers really want to jumpstart their rebuild and continue to stockpile assets like there's no tomorrow, they should consider moving Boxford, Mass. native Chris Kreider to the highest bidder. And if the Bruins are serious about bolstering their strength on the wings beyond just this season, they'd consider trading for Chris Kreider.
In what has been an undeniable breakout season, the 27-year-old Kreider enters deadline week with 24 goals and 44 points through 59 games. At his current pace for the Blueshirts, Kreider will smash his career-high of 24 goals and finish the year with 33, and set a new career-high in points with 61 (his previous high was 53).
A ridiculously speedy winger capable of generating looks both off the rush and from in tight spaces around the net, the 6-foot-3 Kreider is also under contract through next season at $4.625 million. He would be a massive get for anybody, but especially so for a Boston team that's struggled to generate quality scoring chances at various points this season. There's also something to be said for the Bruins potentially parlaying one of their organizational surpluses (left-shot left-wingers) into a legitimately absurd trio that sees that group feature Brad Marchand, Jake DeBrusk, and Kreider. That puts you in Tampa Bay's league from an offensive depth standpoint, especially if it's properly complemented with capable centermen.
(A bonus: Kreider can take a goalie out of action if the Bruins truly need to upset a team in the postseason. Kidding! Kinda.)
But it all makes me wonder: Is Kreider even available or do the Rangers still consider Kreider, at 27 and due a big payday before his Age 29 season, to be a part of what they're (quickly) rebuilding over there?
Nevertheless, a move for Kreider would be quite a home run swing from the Black and Gold. But the unlikelihood of it all, at least in-season, is what bumps it closer to the bottom of our Big Board.
14. Eric Staal (C, Minnesota Wild)
A move to Minnesota has done wonders for Eric Staal.
In three years with the Wild, the 34-year-old has recorded 87 goals (the 18th-most in the NHL) and 178 points (the 38th-most in the league), proving he can still be the high-end scorer he was during his lengthy run with Carolina. And with some veteran know-how and with that goal-scoring prowess still there, there's no doubt he would provide an obvious lift to Boston's attack, both at five-on-five and on the man advantage, down the middle.
There may be some 'buyer beware' attached to Staal, though, as he has just one goal and three points in his last 15 playoff games over the last three seasons, and has not been part of a playoff series victory since the Hurricanes topped the B's in the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals. (I will never, ever, ever forgive Scott Walker, and I don't care what you say.)
Another interesting wrinkle that could derail the idea of such an addition? Staal's 10 team no-trade clause is 'strategic,' likely meaning it's full of non-contenders and Staal's comments seem to indicate that he would prefer to stay in Minnesota.
13. Mats Zuccarello (LW/RW, New York Rangers)
If the Bruins want to upgrade their middle six that won't break the bank, it's hard to find a safer bet than Mats Zuccarello.
A career-long Blueshirt, Zuccarello finds himself in a contract year on a seller, and while he admits that it's affected his play, it hasn't really stopped him from being his productive self, with 11 goals and 37 points through 45 games this season.
Consistency has been the name of the game for Zuccarello, too, as he has posted at least 15 goals and 49 points in five straight seasons. The 5-foot-8 winger has done his best work as a passer this season, with 15 primary assists this year (second-most among Ranger skaters). Zuccarello has been a workhorse for New York this year, with at least 20 minutes of ice-time in 23 of his 45 appearances to date, giving Boston another (much-needed) dependable option on the wings.
Another plus? Sweeney and the Bruins have been frequent trade partners with the Rangers' Jeff Gorton of late, with three trades made between the Original Six franchises over the last calendar year.
12. Charlie Coyle (C/RW, Minnesota Wild)
The Weymouth, Mass. native, who has recorded 10 goals and 28 points through 60 games for a hot-and-cold Minny team, has been linked to the Bruins for what feels like the entire season. Boston's reported interest was first brought to light by The Athletic's Joe McDonald, and backed up by Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.
That was back when the B's didn't have a third-line center, and in case you're unaware, they still don't have a third-line center.
Now, Coyle isn't exactly a dominant center, as his 46.0 faceoff percentage is the 11th-worst among players with at least 480 draws this season, and is currently skating on the wing for the Wild. But that versatility that could make Coyle a solid add for the Bruins, as he could skate on their third line or on David Krejci's wing. (Coyle would be a rarity for the B's as a right shot forward.) And at 26, the Bruins would also be acquiring Coyle in what you would consider his prime years.
He's also a local talent, and lord knows the Bruins fall over themselves for anybody within 50 miles of Boston.
Hell, if you've even sipped a single Dunkin coffee they seem to wanna bring you in for a look on Krejci's line.
What makes Coyle incredibly interesting, though, is the fact that there's still another year left on his current contract, which comes with a $3.2 million cap hit through the 2019-20 season. That is something that is of an obvious interest to the Bruins, according to just about everybody, as they'd obviously love to have some sort of safety net of term to fall back on when it comes to an acquisition that impacts their future by way of a loss of picks and/or prospects.
But speaking on The Hockey Show on 98.5 The Sports Hub last weekend, Billy Jaffe seems to believe that Coyle will insist that he's a $6 million a year player come 2020, which really doesn't seem to make a ton of sense for the Bruins given his production to date, with a career-high 21 goals in 2015-16 and 56 points in 2016-17.
Still, perhaps the Bruins will simply worry about that later and take Coyle and his affordable $3.2 million cap hit in the now. (UPDATE: Coyle is now a Bruin.)
11. Matt Duchene (C, Ottawa Senators)
If the Ottawa Senators are smart -- I know, I know, these jokes write themselves -- Matt Duchene is a goner.
That seems to be the case, too, as the Senators are keeping the 28-year-old out of action until a trade comes to fruition.
And for all of the character assassination that seems to be tied to Duchene on a fairly regular basis, it feels worth mentioning that any team that acquires Duchene is getting one hell of a boost, with Duchene having posted 27 goals (including 22 even-strength goals, the 11th-most in the league this season) and 58 points through 50 games this season.
Consider the fact that the Bruins need a center (the ability to moonlight as a top-six winger is also a nice plus), and it's hard to say that there's many fits better than Duchene, especially if he's feasting on inferior competition as their third-line pivot.
So, uh, why is he ranked 11th? Well, the word is that Duchene would love a sign-and-trade so that he can get an eight-year deal from his next team (he can only get a seven-year contract if he waits until the summer). I'm not exactly sure that works out for the Bruins, as they certainly seem to appreciate what their pipeline may offer down the road in terms of center prospects (Jack Studnicka and Trent Frederic are both centers they believe in) and their cap structure moving forward, as Charlie McAvoy and Jake DeBrusk are both due significant paydays over the next two summers.
There's certainly a difference between going all-in on your cap for John Tavares (like the B's tried last summer) and going all-in for the mercurial Duchene, who is paced for just the second 70-point season of his NHL career.
Up next: The countdown shifts to No. 10 through 6, featuring some of the wingers that the B's will be in on as the week heats up. In the meantime, click here for 98.5 The Sports Hub's complete coverage of all things 2019 NHL Trade Deadline.