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 to their current group. Sweeney has already made his first move, acquiring center Charlie Coyle from the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Ryan Donato and a conditional fifth-round pick. Still, the Bruins need more if they’re toppling Tampa Bay.
That’s where The 98.5 The Sports Hub Big Board’s latest countdown comes into play, with a focus on some potential top-six wingers that could certainly help lift the B’s this spring.
13. 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.
12. 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 56 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 85 even-strength scoring chances for the ‘Yotes this season, good for fifth-most on their team this season. He’s also been one of their best forwards on a penalty kill group that enters the deadline 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.
11. 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.
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.
A move for Kreider would be an absolute home run.
But the unlikelihood of it all, at least in-season, is what bumps it closer to the bottom of our Big Board.
10. 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.
9. Derick Brassard (C, Florida Panthers)
Now, the Bruins have seemingly acquired their third-line center with the aforementioned Coyle pickup. But you can never have enough center depth, and if the Bruins are unable to add a top-six winger by Monday’s deadline, the ability to move Coyle up to David Krejci’s right and add another potential third-line center should be worth an investigation.
That could lead the Bruins to veteran pivot and current Panther Derick Brassard.
Traded from the Penguins to Florida earlier this month, there’s many that believe the Cats will flip the 31-year-old Brassard by Monday’s deadline. And while this season has not been his best (he has just 10 goals and 19 points in 50 games between the Pens and Panthers this season), there’s something to be said for Brassard’s resume and versatility.
Since 2013, only four NHLers have skated in more playoff games than Brassard, and only seven have been more productive, as Brassard is on the trade block with 23 goals and 59 points in 90 postseason tilts.
But a sneaky big reason why I’d be interested in a Brassard addition: He would give the Bruins another left-shot faceoff man next to Sean Kuraly, which has to be welcomed in a division and playoff format that will force you to consistently go up against some of the league’s top centers in Toronto and Tampa Bay. Also: You may remember that Brassard was a beast in Ottawa’s first-round series win over the Bruins in 2017, and was consistently getting the better of Patrice Bergeron at the dot.
(Any player that can do that somebody that I would like to think could provide a lift to your team.)
UPDATE: Brassard has been traded to the Colorado Avalanche.
8. 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.
(Update: The Bruins are in on Staal, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, but he’s reluctant to leave the Wild.)
7. Tyler Toffoli (RW, Los Angeles Kings)
The word on the B’s interest in Tyler Toffoli is… tricky. Toffoli seemed like a hot name to the Black and Gold when their search for offensive help first began, but has since cooled. Perhaps Toffoli’s ‘meh’ season with 12 goals on 168 shots (his third straight season of a dipping shooting percentage) has limited their interest, but this is still a player that would check off a ton of boxes for the Bruins as a right-shot, right winger with term on their contract. It’s also no secret that the Kings would love to shed some salary, meaning a trade with L.A. could allow you to unload some prospects currently stuck in limbo.
6. Mike Hoffman (LW/RW, Florida Panthers)
A 20-goal scorer in five straight seasons (his 130 goals over that span rank as the 20th-most in the league since 2014), Mike Hoffman is a seemingly new name to the trade block. It’s largely due diligence on the part of the Panthers, but it’s worth mentioning that the Bruins had an interest in Hoffman last season, and that he would certainly fit a need for Boston.
Of course, Boston’s interest was before the fallout between Hoffman and Erik Karlsson’s love interests (something that you could argue spelled the end of the Senators as a somewhat competent organization), so it would be curious if that whole situation has pushed Hoffman off the table for the Bruins. I mean, this is a team with an extremely close locker room, and an organization that invests in the person as much as they do the on-ice production (sometimes to a fault), so it’s worth asking.
5. Wayne Simmonds (LW/RW, Philadelphia Flyers)
Hey wait a minute, wasn’t Wayne Simmonds already on this list? Yes. But that was before the original No. 5 on this list (then-Sens winger Ryan Dzingel) was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for a pair of second-round picks, and before Gustav Nyquist was traded to San Jose, so the bump has arrived for The Wayne Train.
But he’s also in the midst of a four-year downward trend, and is due for a big payday as a 31-year-old free agent this summer. For the Bruins, who have already made this mistake with long-term deals for Matt Beleskey and David Backes for a combined $49 million, it just seems like the absolute worst time to buy in on No. 17.
Over the last two seasons, Simmonds is averaging just 0.58 goals per 60 minutes of five-on-five play. That’s the 11th-worst rate out of 108 skaters with at least 1,700 minutes of time on ice. He’s even struggling to generate chances, with just 6.53 shots per 60 minutes, ranking him 86th out of that 108-skater group.
Nevertheless, and as of Monday morning, the Bruins remain posted on Simmonds.
But they’re not alone, as the Lightning and Predators are two potential landing spots for the gritty winger. The bidding war has yet to truly intensify on Simmonds. And per Jim Matheson, the ask on the part of the Flyers could be a first-round pick and prospect. (The Bruins are unlikely to do that.)
4. Artemi Panarin (LW, Columbus Blue Jackets)
I mean, it’s hard not to, as Panarin is an incredible talent, with 24 goals and 68 points through 58 games this season.
In fact, since joining the NHL ranks four years ago, only seven NHL players have been more productive than Panarin, with 301 points in 301 games. He’s also a pending unrestricted free agent, and has shown a limited interest in re-signing with the Blue Jackets. Acquiring him would give the Bruins perhaps the league’s most lethal one-two punch on the left side, with Brad Marchand and the 27-year-old Russian on the same top six group.
But Panarin’s availability, after the Blue Jackets’ deals for Matt Duchene and Dzingel, seems extremely limited (read as: you’d have to knock Columbus over with an offer). “It seems obvious that Panarin is leaving this summer, but it feels like the Blue Jackets are going to go for it with him in the fold. Important to remember that that franchise is still looking for their first real playoff run,” one NHL source reminded 98.5 The Sports Hub.
3. Micheal Ferland (LW/RW, Carolina Hurricanes)
Micheal Ferland has been a quietly strong goal scorer over the last two seasons, with 37 goals over the last 130 games between the Calgary Flames and Carolina Hurricanes. He also plays with an edge that the B’s certainly would love to add to their playoff mix, with 314 hits over the last two seasons. But the Hurricanes own the league’s longest playoff drought, having missed the postseason in nine straight seasons. They also have an extremely tight-knit locker room, so there’s some natural reluctance to mess with that. So, much like the Panarin ask, it could take a lot to pry him loose.
2. Kevin Hayes (C, New York Rangers)
The Bruins have been hot for Kevin Hayes since the start of their trade season, really. The younger brother of B’s bust Jimmy Hayes, the 26-year-old is on the trade market with 14 goals and 42 points through 51 games this season. Hayes is also averaging a career-high 19:27 per game as a do-it-all center for first-year head coach David Quinn’s group. The Dorchester, Mass. native is a left-shot center, which could be of value to the Bruins behind a right-shot duo of Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, and could allow the Bruins to move the recently acquired Charlie Coyle into a top-six wing role.
A pending unrestricted free agent, it’s believed the Jets and Flames also have interest in the 6-foot-5 Hayes.
UPDATE: Hayes is off to Winnipeg, according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie.
This potential WPG-NYR deal is WPG 2019 first-round pick, Brendan Lemieux and a conditional pick in exchange for Kevin Hayes. Believe an agreement is in place but trade call not set yet.— Bob McKenzie (@TSNBobMcKenzie) February 25, 2019
1. Mark Stone (RW, Ottawa Senators)
To the shock of nobody, Mark Stone is the top trade target on this market. He’s a 6-foot-4, right-shot right wing that’s posted five straight 20-goal seasons, and has already matched his 2017-18 output with 62 points through 59 games. He’s also drawn interest from every serious contender, including the Bruins. But speaking with multiple sources, the asking price is laughably high. You’re likely talking multiple first-round picks, multiple prospects, and maybe even a roster player. All for a pending unrestricted free agent. It’s so high people within NHL front offices are wondering if the Sens truly want to trade Stone.
But there’s no doubting Stone’s potential impact on the Bruins, should he indeed find himself traded by 3 p.m. today.
I mean, think about it: He would essentially give you a 1A and 1B complexion on your top two lines, whether it’s Stone riding to the right of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on your first line, or with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on line two. He would be the perfect complement to David Pastrnak, and give the B’s enough guns to hang with the Lightning.