By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Charlie Coyle's role on the Bruins may not be clear until David Pastrnak returns from a thumb injury. For now, there are two possible fits for him and one is better than the other.
With Pastrnak out due to a thumb injury sustained in a fall after a recent team dinner, Bruce Cassidy has had to utilize Danton Heinen on the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Heinen has unsurprisingly played some of his best hockey of the season with a goal and four assists in his last five games. But it's only deepened the void left at second-line right wing.
That could be where Coyle fits on the Bruins roster to start. Bruins GM Don Sweeney issued a brief statement on the trade on Wednesday night, but didn't hint at any particular role for Coyle, who can play both center and right wing.
"Charlie brings unique qualities to our team – he is an experienced, productive, two-position player with size, skill and speed," Sweeney said. "Charlie will provide the necessary depth in all areas of our game as we continue to battle for a playoff position."
The Bruins' current third-line center, Trent Frederic, doesn't quite look NHL-ready. He's scoreless in 11 games with a 49.1 Corsi For percentage and just 9:23 of ice time per game. Coyle represents a clear upgrade over the 20-year-old Frederic at this stage of their careers.
At the same time, Coyle is better suited at right wing than center. His faceoff win rate this season (46.0 percent) is right in line with his career average of 46.4 percent. So if the long-term plan is to make him the third-line center, they'll have to deal with inconsistency in that area of his game. (Frederic, despite his struggles, has won a strong 54.7 percent of faceoffs.)
Providence call-up Karson Kuhlman has performed admirably on the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci with two points in three games. But he's not a long-term solution at that spot, nor is he a piece you want on your main roster in the postseason (Mark Stone or Wayne Simmonds would be significant upgrades). That's why it shouldn't surprise anyone if Coyle starts there. He'd also be a clear improvement over Kuhlman.
Ideally, the Bruins make an even bigger move before the NHL trade deadline to make a marked upgrade at second-line right wing. They've been rumored to be in on both Simmonds and Stone, and the Coyle trade makes it clear that they are aggressive buyers in this year's market. Second-line scoring remains their biggest need and the biggest reason they bowed out in five games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in last year's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It would be stunning if Sweeney truly believed that Coyle is the piece that puts that line over the top for a Cup run. But his combination of size and skill does make him a potentially good fit for Krejci's right wing - for now. It's time wait for Monday's NHL trade deadline to see if another shoe drops.
Matt Dolloff 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 Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].