Boston Bruins

By Ty Anderson,

(With the trade deadline looming, 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Ty Anderson and friends dive into the plans and possibilities that await general manager Don Sweeney and the Bruins in pursuit of a Stanley Cup. By shooting at a board and simply hoping for the best. 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 for the Bruins and most of all… fun! Believe in The Big Board.)

It’s back, baby: the 98.5 The Sports Hub Trade Deadline Big Board.

And we’re riding a one-year heater.

It was just last year that we linked the Bruins to both Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle, and both were acquired by the B’s to kickstart a post-deadline run that saw them come just one win shy of a Stanley Cup. Both players played massive roles for the Black and Gold’s success down the stretch, as Coyle emerged as the B’s most consistent scoring threat throughout their four-round run, while Johansson’s slick skating and zone-entry ability proved pivotal when things got tight.

OK, so we’re not throwing markers here, so maybe we don’t deserve a ton of credit for hitting on 10 percent of a list of 20.

But credit’s credit, and we want it. (We also want none of the blame if these moves don’t work out, for the record.)

This year sees the Bruins conducting a familiar search for top-six help to plug next to David Krejci on Boston’s second line. In fact, this has been their yearly quest since Don Sweeney took over for Peter Chiarelli back in 2015, and the search actually predates Sweeney, as this team has really been looking for top-six help since Jarome Iginla bailed in 2014.

How they get is anybody’s guess, really. In an obvious win-now situation given the age and performance of the majority of their top talents, Sweeney and Co. find themselves in true ‘no stone unturned’ territory, and may need to get a little fancy with the financial aspects of it all to go for the home run play should they believe in that being their best play.

So let’s take a look at some of their options heading in to Feb. 24…

20. Ilya Kovalchuk (LW/RW, Montreal Canadiens)

The Bruins had a chance to sign L.A. Kings misfit Ilya Kovalchuk for actual pennies (league minimum) and a two-way deal at that. They reportedly checked in on Kovalchuk following his contract termination with the Kings, too, but ultimately decided against signing the 36-year-old wing. That lack of interest from a contender saw Kovalchuk take his talents to Montreal, where he’s contributed six goals (three game-winners) and 12 points in 20 contests. Usage has been a big boost in Kovalchuk’s production (he’s averaging almost four minutes of ice-time per night since moving to Montreal), and with the Canadiens facing 1-in-100 odds of making the postseason, the Canadiens would be wise to pump-and-dump Kovy.

If acquired, Kovalchuk could slide into a second line role and feast on some matchups with center David Krejci driving the bus. I mean, you have proof that he can still hack it in such a role, too, at least based on his Canadiens sample to date.

But the fact that the Bruins passed on Kovalchuk when he would’ve cost them nothing hurts the odds of the Bruins seriously swinging a deal for the Russian. I mean, it’d be a beyond rookie move for Sweeney to circle back and now give up something real to bring in Kovalchuk. This man is the defending GM of the Year. He’s graduated from such silliness.

(It’s also worth noting that the Bruins and Canadiens have not made a trade with one another since Feb. 2001, when the Bruins acquired Eric Weinrich from the Canadiens in exchange for Patrick Traverse. They no like each other.)

OFF THE BOARD: The Canadiens traded Kovalchuk to the Capitals for a third-round draft pick.

19. Taylor Hall (LW, Arizona Coyotes)

If we were doing this in November, I would’ve put then-Devil Taylor Hall in the top five of this list. Probably even No. 1. He was expected to be the crown jewel of this deadline season, and while that could still happen between now and Feb. 24, it’s hard to imagine the Coyotes bailing on Hall given what they paid to bring him out of the Jersey swamp and to the desert.

To bring Hall to town, the Coyotes sent a 2020 first-round pick, a conditional third-round selection in 2021, and three prospects to New Jersey. The Devils also retained half of Hall’s $6 million salary and sent AHL forward Blake Speers to the Coyotes to complete the deal. The first-round pick in 2020 sent to New Jersey was Top-3 protected, and the 2021 third-round pick becomes a 2021 second-round pick should the Coyotes win a playoff round or re-sign Hall at the end of the season, and it will become a first-round pick should both conditions be met by the Coyotes and Hall.

That’s an awful lot to give up for a franchise like the ‘Yotes, and with the club just two points out of first place in the ultra-crowded Pacific Division, it’s hard to imagine them suddenly changing course and selling a first-line talent.

I just have a hard time wrapping my head around the Coyotes not seeing this through and giving themselves a chance in a wide-open West, which is why he’s ranked second to last on this year’s Big Board.

18. Do nothing

This would be a stunner. Both the Lightning and Capitals (your top two competitors in the East) made moves to get better, and while the Bruins can rest comfortably knowing they’ve been atop the NHL standings since the puck dropped on the new season, resting on your regular-season laurels would be a gigantic mistake given some of the team’s needs. This B’s squad could use another middle-six winger, and you can even make the case for another defenseman to stabilize their third pairing.

Another reason why this ranks so low? This would be the first time in Sweeney’s run as B’s general manager that he did nothing at or before the trade deadline. Hell, even in 2017 he added Drew Stafford from the Jets.

OFF THE BOARD: In addition to their deal for Ondrej Kase, the Bruins added Nick Ritchie before Monday’s deadline.

17. Wayne Simmonds (LW/RW, New Jersey Devils)

Power forward Wayne Simmonds is not what he used to be. You know that by now.

In New Jersey on a one-year, $5 million deal with the Devils, the 6-foot-2 winger has totaled seven goals and 23 points through 59 contests this season. That puts Simmonds on pace for a 10-goal season, which would be his lowest single-season total since his 2008-09 rookie season with Los Angeles. But if the price is right, Simmonds could be a worthwhile gamble as a high-character, bottom-six option for the B’s to plug in against some of the heavier competition that could come their way. But I would just advise against expecting Philly Wayne to show up. Just ask the 2018-19 Predators, who acquired Simmonds from the Flyers last deadline, and saw him put up just one goal and two helpers in 17 regular-season contests with Nashville.

Again, he’s pretty much cooked offensively, but I do believe his size and style could certainly help against a team like the Blues or Capitals. More than Brett Ritchie or David Backes would help you against those teams. It’d be a project, but if it costs you relatively nothing, Simmonds could be the 2020 version of Boston’s move for Tommy Wingels in 2018. Depth is depth.

OFF THE BOARD: Simmonds is reportedly headed to the Buffalo Sabres.

Apr 12, 2019; Winnipeg, Manitoba, CAN; Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien (33) skates past St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (70) in the first period in Game 2 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell MTS Place. (James Carey Lauder/USA TODAY Sports)

16. Dustin Byfuglien (D, Winnipeg Jets)

If the Jets and Dustin Byfuglien can work out a separation (contract termination) between now and the trade deadline as reported by multiple outlets, the 34-year-old Byfuglien will hit the open market as perhaps the most sought after defenseman. And given the fact that he’ll only cost cap space, you almost don’t care about the fact that Byfuglien has not played in a single NHL contest this season due to injury and then the subsequent dispute with the Jets. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, Byfuglien would be a downright menacing presence to have on a backend, and could be a true team-changer back in a complementary role if he shows any signs of being the man who totaled the 15th-most points among all NHL d-men from 2014 through 2019.

But the Jets haven’t provided any updates on the Buff situation, and with less than a week to go before the deadline.

15. Chris Tierney (C, Ottawa Senators)

Paced for the third straight 40-point season of his career, Ottawa forward Chris Tierney could represent a Marcus Johansson-esque move for the Bruins should they once again swing-and-miss on the deadline’s big guns this year.

Averaging nearly 17 minutes of ice-time per night for a Sens squad that has at times looked ahead of their rebuild, Tierney has been a definite even-strength killer this season, with all but six of his 30 points coming at even strength. For the record, those 24 even-strength points would put Tierney in a tie with Jake DeBrusk for the sixth-most on the Black and Gold. Another number to love? Tierney’s four shorthanded goals, which are currently tied for the most in the NHL this season.

He may be a tough pry out of Ottawa, however, as he is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent at the year’s end.

14. Andreas Athanasiou (C/W, Detroit Red Wings)

A 25-year-old forward capable of playing all three forward positions, Athanasiou could be a sneaky gem of this deadline.

First, if the name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because Athanasiou always does something against the Bruins, with seven goals and three assists in 18 career games against the Bruins. (Those numbers may seem modest, but they’re pretty damn good when you consider how dreadful the Wings have been over the life of Athanasiou’s NHL run against Boston.)

Secondly, I’m gonna ask that you throw Athanasiou’s league-worst minus-43 out the window off the jump. Detroit’s an absolute dumpster fire, and 11 of the 20 worst plus/minus ratings in hockey this season belong to Red Wing skaters. Instead look at these numbers: Athanasiou has generated the third-most high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five among all Detroit skaters, and he’s done that despite missing 17 games this season.

Break that down by his ice-time, and you’re talking about a forward averaging over three high-danger chances per 60 minutes, and almost eight shots per 60. Take him out of Detroit and put him into better situations on a better roster and his offensive luck may change. He’s also an absolute burner through the neutral zone and can turn on the jets in the blink of an eye.

Like Tierney, however, Athanasiou is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent at the end of the season, so the Red Wings don’t necessarily have to move him for futures if they still believe in Double-A being part of their long-term rebuild.

OFF THE BOARD: The Wings flipped Double-A to the Oilers.

13. Conor Sheary (LW/RW, Buffalo Sabres)

The Big Board comes through with its first local player in current Sabres winger and Winchester, Mass. native Conor Sheary.

Mired in the mud of a bad Sabres team, the 5-foot-9 Sheary has fallen off the planet this season, with just nine goals and 19 points to go with a career-low 12:58 of nightly ice time. It’s a massive, massive change from the start of Sheary’s career, which came with back-to-back Stanley Cups as a member of the Penguins, and the writing on the wall is there when it comes to a necessary change of scenery for all parties involved ahead of Sheary’s pending jump into unrestricted free agency.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Another left shot, and another player under six feet? Why? But The Athletic’s Joe McDonald has mentioned Sheary in some of his trade deadline coverage, and Joey Mac’s not really in the business of throwing poop against the wall (he was on top of the Charlie Coyle stuff last deadline). Also: the B’s love their local guys.

The 27-year-old Sheary has six goals and 19 points in 57 career Stanley Cup Playoff contests.

OFF THE BOARD: Sheary is going back to Pittsburgh.

12. “We had a lot of conversations but the right deal never presented itself”

I’d love to rank this one lower (see: do nothing), but with the prices established thus far — and on the better names down the bottom — this could be a real thing the Bruins end up saying when they hold their post-deadline press conference.

It’s basically a fancier “do nothing.”

And if I hear this as everybody else makes moves to get better, you should lose your mind. That is all.

11. Mike Hoffman (LW/RW, Florida Panthers)

The Bruins have been linked to Mike Hoffman for like a billion years now, and maybe this is finally the time it happens.

A free agent this summer, Hoffman enters deadline week with 22 goals and 47 points through 59 games, and with Florida just two points out of third place in the Atlantic Division and three points out of the second wild card spot in the East.

In other words, this one will take a “hockey trade.” And if the Panthers bite on a Hoffman trade, it feels like it will almost certainly be for defensive help, or for some longer term security that isn’t provided given Hoffman’s pending free agency.

But Hoffman is certainly saying all the right things when it comes to wanting to stay with the Cats.

“I like it here. The two years I have been here have been great. I have built some strong friendships and I want to stay, want to make that happen,” Hoffman, who has seven goals and 14 points in 25 career playoff games, told The Athletic. “At the end of the day, all you can do is produce. Work on your on-ice habits, and usually the other stuff follows.”

10. Craig Smith (RW, Nashville Predators)

If the Bruins are left to scour the deadline’s second-tier options, Nashville’s Craig Smith should be at the top of their list.

A 6-foot-1 forward, Smith has spent his entire pro career with the Predators (he actually ranks fifth on the franchise’s all-time goals list), but is also a 30-year-old pending free agent who could be on the outs given Nashville’s tight cap structure.

The math would seemingly suggest that the Wisconsin-born Smith could be on the outs, and that the Preds should try to get something for him while they still can. Now, the counter to that is that the Predators have won seven of their last 10, and are just three points out of the second wild card in the West (and with a staggering three games in hand). But given all the picks and prospects traded by the Predators over the last few years in their attempts to maximize their window, deciding not to sell on a middle-six forward who will cash in as a mid-30s talent on his next contract seems a little crazy.

So, operate under the assumption that Smith could be dealt and it’s not hard to see his potential fit in Boston.

A five-time 20-goal scorer (and paced for a sixth 20-goal season this year), Smith has become one of the league’s more underrated right-side contributors, with 63 goals, 117 points, and 494 shots on goal since the start of the 2017-18 season. Including all NHL right wings, Smith’s 63 goals since 2017 rank as the 21st-most, his 117 points are 32nd, and the 494 shots he’s landed on net trail just 12 right wings for the most in the league over that span.

Nov 27, 2018; Nashville, TN, USA; Nashville Predators right wing Craig Smith (15) skates with the puck during the first period against the Colorado Avalanche at Bridgestone Arena. (Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports)

9. Jean-Gabriel Pageau (C, Ottawa Senators)

When you have a three-headed monster of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, and Charlie Coyle down the middle, you’re probably not looking at another center as your ideal deadline addition. But Ottawa’s J.G. Pageau, a 5-foot-10 center in the final year of his current contract, could be a worthwhile backup plan of sorts should the Black and Gold miss on a winger.

Already on the board with a career-best 24 goals this season, Pageau seems like a player who could thrive on a contender as their third-best center, which is exactly what he would be with the Bruins. I mean, just think about plugging him behind Bergeron and Krejci, and then moving Coyle to Krejci’s right wing as your top-six fix. That’s one deep team.

There’s also the fact that Pageau has loads of experience killing penalties (almost 132 minutes of shorthanded action this season), has somehow managed to be a plus-9 on a team with the second-worst goal differential in the NHL, and the 22nd-best faceoff percentage (52.8 percent) among centers with at least 4,500 battles at the dot over the last four-plus seasons.

But with those numbers, and with Ottawa looking (“having” is probably the better word here) to build something for the future, the price for a Pageau rental is probably astronomical, which is why he barely cracks the top 10 of our Big Board.

OFF THE BOARD: The Senators have agreed to trade Pageau to the Islanders.

8. Brenden Dillon (D, San Jose Sharks)

With Kevan Miller still trying to work his way back from a twice-broken kneecap, Connor Clifton battling an injury of his own, and John Moore struggling to regain his form, the Bruins could be in the market for a depth defenseman. And they may have found that guy with San Jose’s Brenden Dillon, a player they’ve been linked to this deadline season.

A 29-year-old pending free agent, Dillon has spent the majority of his season skating next to Brent Burns on San Jose’s top pairing, and plays an industrious game full of hits, blocked shots, and the nastiness you’d love on a third pairing. The left-shot Dillon has done this while also remaining in action, missing just 12 games since breaking into as a full-time NHLer in 2013.

Dillon also has a ton of playoff experience on his resume, with his 60 postseason appearances since the start of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs standing as the third-most among all NHL defenders over that span.

OFF THE BOARD: The Sharks moved Dillon to the Capitals in exchange for a second- and third-round draft pick.

7. Blake Coleman (C/W, New Jersey Devils)

Blake Coleman is not the sexiest name on the market, but don’t sleep on what this guy can do for your team.

A 5-foot-11 forward capable of playing all three forward positions, Coleman is in the midst of another career-year with the downright terrible Devils, with 21 goals and 31 points through 57 games, putting him just one goal and five points shy of matching last year’s career-best marks, and with 21 games to go. Go back to the start of last year, and you’ll see that Coleman ranks 67th in the NHL in goals scored, with 43. He was also one of just four players to score at least 20 goals and total 200 hits last season, joining a list featuring the Jackets’ Josh Anderson and the Washington one-two of Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson (That’s some damn good company to find yourself in when talking about being a unique talent.) Break it down by rates, and Coleman has averaged the 30th-most goals per 60 minute of even-strength time on ice since the start of last year.

If you’re looking for under-the-radar studs, Coleman’s certainly there.

OFF THE BOARD: Coleman was traded to the Lightning, who are in hot pursuit of the Bruins for the top spot in the Atlantic (and the NHL) in exchange for 2019 first-round draft pick Nolan Foote and a conditional first-round draft pick.

6. Ondrej Kase (RW, Anaheim Ducks)

If you’re looking for a potential dark horse candidate for the Bruins, look towards Anaheim, and at winger Ondrej Kase.

Now, this isn’t an obvious slam dunk, as injuries have been a massive concern with Kase, and 2019-20 has been no exception on that front. After Kase missed 52 games last year due to a concussion and then shoulder surgery, the 6-foot winger has also missed time this season with a jaw injury, and he’s currently on the shelf with what the team has labeled an “illness.”

But the Czech winger, who has been productive when healthy and in action, could present an interesting option for Sweeney and Co. if they’re not interested in mortgaging the future for a quick fix. With 38 goals and 81 points in 145 games over the last three seasons, you’ve seen Kase’s promise as a player who sees the ice extremely well and isn’t afraid to make plays when they’re there. Pairing him with David Krejci, while not the big-bodied, space-clearer presence many want to see riding to Krejci’s right, could lead to some fantastic hockey from a new “Double Czech” combination.

Kase is also signed through next season at $2.6 million, and is an arbitration-eligible restricted free agent at the conclusion of that contract, meaning he could be a potential long-term solution for the Black and Gold if healthy and upright.

OFF THE BOARD, BUT HERE: Kase is headed to Boston. The Bruins have acquired the winger in exchange for David Backes, a first-round pick, and defenseman Axel Andersson.

5. Joe Thornton (C, San Jose Sharks)

If you’re a sentimental idiot like me, there’s probably a part of you that wants to see Joe Thornton return to Boston for one final run with the Bruins. Without going too deep down the rabbit hole, it’s probably because we all love things from our past and simpler times, even if they weren’t so great. I mean, how else could you explain my bi-monthly craving for a Frutopia and a pack of Butterfinger BBs? There’s no way that combination was that good, right?

But a Jumbo return to The Hub could and would actually make some sense.

If you look at this Boston roster — both in the NHL and in Providence for that matter — you’ll notice one thing that stands out: A lack of left-shot centers. Bergeron, Krejci, and Coyle are all righties, and Jack Studnicka (the B’s current in-house, go-to at center should injuries ravage the middle of the ice) is a righty. Fourth-line dynamo Sean Kuraly is the only lefty pivot on the Boston roster. Trent Frederic is a lefty, yeah, but the Bruins seem to be embracing the idea of experimenting with him as a potential power forward on the wing. The 40-year-old Thornton, of course, is a pass-first lefty.

Slide him back to Boston and in the middle of your third line and you’re talking about three lines anchored by strong puck possession, and with a definite comfort no matter the zone or faceoff dot. The Bruins have that now with their current group, of course, but it would open up another set of potential power-play looks and offensive-zone plays based on his stick.

And before you go nuts with “Joe’s a playoff choker” narratives of yesteryear, just consider these stats: Thornton’s totaled 11 goals and 46 points over his last five postseason runs (65 games), giving him an average of 0.71 points per game. That’s the 25th-best rate among the 91 forwards with at least 50 postseason appearances over that stretch. Thornton produced like that while also being asked to be more of a two-way center and match up against the other team’s top talents.

But Thornton isn’t leaving The Bay unless he expresses a desire to chase a Cup elsewhere, and he hasn’t done that yet.

Even with the Sharks going nowhere fast in a completely lost season.

Feb 4, 2020; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; San Jose Sharks center Joe Thornton (19) against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. (Sergei Belski/USA TODAY Sports)

4. Kyle Palmieri (RW, New Jersey Devils)

Much like the Lightning did to the Bruins in 2018 involving the Rangers, the Bruins could counterpunch the Bolts’ move for Blake Coleman by going to Coleman’s old team and getting the even better player available via trade in Kyle Palmieri.

A 29-year-old wing, Palmieri enters deadline week with 22 goals and 41 points in 54 games this season. He’s also recorded 22 goals in every season of his five-year run with the Devils, and has tallied at least 44 points in four straight campaigns. Barring a midseason retirement, Palmieri will make it five straight years of at least 44 points, be it in Jersey or elsewhere.

Palmieri is also an analytics darling, with offensive and defensive advanced metrics that put him in the same breath as The Bergeron Line, Mark Stone, and Sean Couturier among others. That’s some elite, elite company.

The contract is the big thing with the New York native, too, as he’s more than just a rental for any team looking to add him by next Monday’s deadline, as he’s signed through next season, and at a highly-manageable $4.65 million cap hit.

And with Coleman and Toffoli off the board, it’s believed that the Bruins have upped the intensity of their discussions with the Devils in an attempt to pry Palmieri out of Newark and to Boston. It’ll be a steep price, mind you, with a 2020 first-round pick and a player like Anders Bjork (and then some additional assets) expected to be the starting point in talks.

Feb 4, 2020; Newark, New Jersey, USA; Montreal Canadiens goaltender Charlie Lindgren (39) stops a shootout attempt by New Jersey Devils right wing Kyle Palmieri (21) at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

3. Tyler Toffoli (RW, Los Angeles Kings)

The man in the B’s hip pocket, Los Angeles winger Tyler Toffoli seems like the most natural fit for the Bruins.

A 27-year-old right shot with high-skill and playoff experience, Toffoli would immediately slide into Boston’s mix as their second-best right wing behind David Pastrnak, and has the look of a player who could make it work with the Krejci-DeBrusk combination, especially given his status as a shoot-first player who excels at creating rebounds (helllllooo, DeBrusk).

Toffoli is also in the midst of a definite bounce back season with the Kings, with 21 goals and 34 points through 58 games, besting his 2018-19 goal total (13) and matching his 2018-19 point total in 24 fewer contests for Los Angeles.

OFF THE BOARD: Toffoli was traded to the Canucks on Monday night for ex-Bruins forward Tim Schaller, prospect Tyler Madden, a 2020 second-round pick, and a conditional draft pick based on Toffoli re-signing with the Canucks.

2. Chris Kreider (LW, New York Rangers)

If you know anything about the 2020 NHL trade deadline, you know that the Bruins have been the team circling around Rangers winger Chris Kreider from the start. Nothing about this is shocking. Not only do the Bruins have past dealings with the Rangers (Sweeney and Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton made three separate trades during the 2018 year), but Kreider is a 6-foot-3 worker who scores goals from all over the ice, and has local ties to the B’s as a Boxford, Mass. native and former Boston College Eagle. By now, we’ve established how they feel about these players.

Kreider’s more than that, though, and enters the final week of the deadline as the market’s top talent. And the Rangers know it. Fielding calls from the B’s, Avalanche, and St. Louis Blues (and more), the Blueshirts find themselves at a crossroads with the 28-year-old. They could decide to hang on to the All-Star and pending free agent on a massive extension likely to carry into his mid-30s, or they could receive a haul similar to the one they got for center Kevin Hayes last deadline.

It’s not the easiest decision of Gorton’s tenure, especially when you look at Kreider’s unique skillset.

But given some of the other moves made by their top competition in D.C. and Tampa, Gorton may know that the Bruins’ need for Kreider will come with a greater reward than whatever he brings to them on a long-term extension.

In Boston, Kreider would immediately slot next to Krejci — be it on the left or right — and become Boston’s third-best winger behind the first-line one-two of David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. His status as a left shot may be a little worrisome to the Bruins, as he (or Jake DeBrusk) would have to move to the right side, but you could also look at it from the point of view that a Kreider-boosted second line would allow the B’s to potentially put DeBrusk with Coyle for a superhuman third line.

Again, though, the price will be massive. You’re likely talking about a first-round pick, NHL roster player, prospect, and maybe even more to get the Rangers to bite on moving Kreider. Especially if it turns it into an all-out bidding war this weekend.

Something else to consider: The word on the street is that Kreider is likely going to be looking for a seven-year, $49 million contract in the offseason, which could complicate things when it comes to projecting a long-term marriage in Boston.

OFF THE BOARD: Kreider has instead decided to sign a seven-year extension with the Rangers worth $6.5 million per season.

1. Josh Anderson (RW, Columbus Blue Jackets)

If you subscribe to the notion that the Bruins would have won the 2019 Stanley Cup if they were a little bigger and nastier up front, then Columbus forward Josh Anderson is at the top of your trade deadline wishlist.

But Anderson’s more than a potential need exposed during last year’s Cup Final.

It really feels like the Bruins have been on a long and unfulfilling quest to replace an in-prime Milan Lucic that made the Bruins a ridiculously difficult matchup for an opponent. From the net-front finishing to the game-changing hits to the chemistry with Krejci, rarely do you find that kind of balance up front. In 2020 terms, and with Lucic doing his best to survive out in Calgary as the game passes him by, the B’s essentially want a new Lucic (read as: Tom Wilson) of their own. (So does everybody else, really.) They tried it with Matt Beleskey. And failed. They tried with David Backes. And failed even harder. I mean, you can even make the argument that they brought in big bodies such as Jimmy Hayes and Brett Ritchie with the (unmet) expectation that they were going to use their bodies like Lucic to make up for the finish they lacked. All failed.

In the case of Anderson, however, the Bruins would be buying in on his throwback skillset at the right time.

At 25, and coming off a 27-goal 2018-19, Anderson will remain under team control beyond this season as a restricted free agent, and should be set up for an extension that locks a team into the prime of his career. (The cliff tends to come for this style of player around 31-32 years old depending on mileage and health). Again, now’s the time to buy in on what he does.

But there are some issues when it comes to acquiring Anderson.

The first: He hasn’t played since Dec. 14 due to a shoulder injury, and his year has left a lot to be desired after the 2018-19 breakout, with just one goal and three assists in 26 games. That alone creates a potentially troubling dynamic for the Bruins: Are you being asked to pay for the 27-goal scorer of last year or the pending restricted free agent who hasn’t played in two months and had one goal on 63 shots this season? Those are two extremely different prices.

The second: The Blue Jackets, against all odds, remain in the playoff picture. One of the teams in a three-way tie for the wild card spots in the East, Columbus is also just one point out of third place in the Metropolitan Division, though games in hand are currently working against them. And while Anderson went through a relatively difficult contract negotiation process with the Jackets back in 2017, Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen doesn’t have to move him this deadline.

Anderson’s status as an RFA could allow the Jackets to see if he can return and give them a boost down the stretch before a potential offseason trade takes shape. If the Jackets aren’t convinced that he’ll be healthy this season and/or negotiate in good faith this summer, maybe they consider surveying the market for help now and down the line via a huge deadline package.

He seems like a player with as many questions as answers, really. But if those issues can be solved — enough to make the Bruins comfortable in investing in Anderson down the stretch and then throughout his prime on a long-term deal, at least — there’s no telling what he could do for this team down the stretch and in nitty-gritty of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.

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