By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Bruins need a top-six right wing. And their best option might be Charlie Coyle.
Emerging as the Bruins' most consistently productive forward in the 2019 playoffs, Coyle may finally be realizing the potential that made him the 28th overall pick in the 2010 draft. His combination of size, speed, and skill jumped off TV screens like it always had, but this time he finished plays on top of it (nine goals in 24 playoff games).
With Coyle signed for 2019-20, the Bruins at the very least have themselves a reliable No. 3 center. But their biggest need remains a legit right-shot right wing for the top-6. And when you go over all of their available options, Coyle may be the one that requires the least amount of sacrifice.
Other moves can always be made. It feels like the entire rest of the NHL showed in recent days that cap-crunched teams can make things happen, while the Bruins ... extended Steven Kampfer. Sweeney can't honestly tell fans now that there's nothing he can do. There are ideas. But they mostly range from impractical and expensive to starry-eyed and utopian. All would require some kind of offering to the hockey business gods.
They could move Coyle (or restricted free agent Danton Heinen, assuming he re-signs) up to the top-6 permanently, but they'd sacrifice established chemistry and potential production on the third line while languishing under the weight of David Backes' contract.
They could spring for an unrestricted free agent - perhaps even re-sign Marcus Johansson. But that would require moving Backes, which would attach him to a first-round pick plus a prospect or other picks. Or they could trade another core player like David Krejci or Torey Krug, but removing a key piece while adding another is predictably a zero-sum move.
They could trade for a restricted free agent, or an impending RFA in the final year of his entry-level contract. But that would require the biggest sacrifice of all: sending a fat set of assets to the FA's team, signing him to an extension, and moving albatross contracts to make it happen in the first place. Think Vegas' trade for Mark Stone, plus an extra pick and prospect out the door just to get someone like Backes off the books.
None of these options would be a neatly wrapped package. It would be more like Aunt Bethany's gift-wrapped cat in Christmas Vacation. But that's probably what it's going to take for Don Sweeney to accomplish all his biggest goals of the offseason while adding a legitimate winger to his top-six.
Who's Out There?
The names you'll see below are all similar players. Right-shot wingers with at least some size (6 feet and up) who can either score or reasonably replace Coyle on the third line. The biggest variances are age and acquisition cost. If Coyle or Heinen are not the answer at right wing, it may have to be one of these guys. The questions would be whether Sweeney is willing to take the necessary steps to get them.
Unrestricted Free Agents
The Ducks just bought out 34-year-old Corey Perry, and it wasn't because he's still good. Signing him right up would be a classic Bruins move, the latest in a long line of aging or underachieving wingers with little more than a prayer of reaching their full potential or approaching past production. Perry would likely be closer to Jaromir Jagr than Nathan Horton. It's unlikely he has anything left in the tank, but his presence is just a statement of how barren the UFA market is for right-shot wingers.
If the Bruins peg Coyle as their top-six RW, they could replace him with Joonas Donskoi, Devante Smith-Pelly, or Alex Chiasson in the bottom-six. Not an ideal scenario and not necessarily the moves that put you over the top for a Cup run, but the most doable ones at this stage. These options would come with the assumption that they can't or won't get rid of Backes' contract.
Kings winger Tyler Toffoli was a popular idea for a trade deadline acquisition last February. He's coming off a down year after having established himself as a reliable 20-30 goal scorer in the Kings' top-six. He could slide right in on either of the top-2 lines in the final year of his deal at just $4 million. The issue, of course, is the price point for rebuilding Los Angeles in a trade.
The Predators' Craig Smith is a similar player in a similar situation, but he'd be better suited as a third-line forward. And if the Bruins want to bring aboard his contract ($4.25 million cap hit) or extend him, they might as well do that with Johansson.
The least likely move for the Bruins to get their top-six wing is to trade for the rights to a restricted free agent, or someone who's headed that way next summer. Moving Backes and maybe even another big contract would be imperative. The trade package would have to be heavy enough to choke an [expletive] elephant. But it would ultimately set up the Bruins with a young, talented right wing to pair with David Pastrnak on the depth chart for years to come.
If you want to dream big, just try to reconcile with the absolutely asinine amount they'd have to give up to get Brock Boeser (116 points in 140 career games) from the Canucks. Would the Blue Jackets consider cashing in on Josh Anderson (27 goals in 2018-19) instead of hammering out a long-term deal? Easily the most unrealistic moves, but the kind of hail mary that could be attainable if Sweeney can find a willing partner and would pay the price.
Whatever It Takes
Sweeney is in a spot where he undeniably wants to make at least 1-2 more serious runs at the Stanley Cup while Zdeno Chara is still active, and Bergeron and Krejci can still play like true top-six centers. He has to find a real, actual weapon to fill out his primary two lines. Has to happen.
And perhaps Coyle has reached such a level that he can be that guy. Sweeney would still need to replace him on the third line in hopes of getting a similar kind of run that Coyle just gave him this summer. Nobody's saying it's easy. But if the Bruins want to get right back to the Cup Final in the next 2-3 years, it might be essential.
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].