By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
The Boston Bruins may not be done just yet.
In fact, even after adding Ondrej Kase on Friday, sources have told 98.5 The Sports Hub that the Bruins remain interested in swinging a deal for the Devils’ Kyle Palmieri before Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.
A 29-year-old wing with another year left on his current $4.65 million contract, Palmieri has totaled 22 goals and 42 points through 57 games this season. It’s just the latest chapter of what’s been a certainly consistent Devils career for the 5-foot-11 wing, with at 22 goals in all five of his seasons in Newark, including a career-best 30 goals and 57 points in 2015-16. One of 179 NHL forwards to have played at least 3,000 minutes since the start of the 2017-18 season, Palmieri ranks 24th in goals-per-60 of all-situation play (1.29) and 76th in total points-per-60 of all-situation play (2.4).
Another right-shot, right-wing, Palmieri would absolute boost the Bruins to true contender status, too, as he would give Bruce Cassidy a top-nine group with David Pastrnak (a league-best 45 goals), Kase, and Palmieri on the right side.
What Palmieri costs, however, remains the most important question facing everybody involved.
When talking about a potential deal’s “headliners” at the top of the roster, it’s believed that the Devils would have an obvious interest in one of the NHL roster’s younger, cost-controlled wingers such as Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen.
Either one of those players would help the Devils replace some of what they lost by trading both-side winger Blake Coleman to the Lightning and what they’d lose in a Palmieri trade. And as alluded to, this is where sources believe that the B’s surplus of young, NHL-quality forwards would be used to their advantage, as both Bjork (14 goals and 34 points in 105 NHL games) and Heinen (34 goals and 103 points in 202 NHL games) are still young but have established (or are establishing NHL) resumes that the Devils aren’t exactly flooded with from other teams in their pitches for Palmieri.
New Jersey’s preference on this front has been met with conflicting reports from sources, but it’s generally believed that the Bruins would prefer not to include Bjork (a pending restricted free agent at the year’s end) in a trade. That’s not to say that Bjork is considered untouchable by any stretch, but that they’d prefer to hang on to Bjork, who has looked like a definite fit with Charlie Coyle at times, down the stretch. Heinen, meanwhile, is signed through next year with a $2.8 million cap hit and could have additional value to the Devils as a potential cap floor team, as a Palmieri trade would leave the Devils with just under $50 million in salaries committed for 2020-21. (And for what it’s worth, the Bruins could include Bjork or Heinen in a trade for Palmieri without having to throw in an additional financial asset or make a side trade for cap purposes.)
Below the NHL roster, the Bruins have some noteworthy first-round picks getting their pro skates wet in Providence, including forwards Trent Frederic (2016) and Zach Senyshyn (2015), as well as defensemen Jakub Zboril (2015) and Urho Vaakanainen (2017). Then there’s P-Bruins top scorer (and B’s top pro prospect) Jack Studnicka. But there are some other names to note, including forward Oskar Steen, who has been brought up by multiple sources as a potential player of interest to the Devils. Currently in his first year of North American pro hockey after posting a 17-20-37 line in 46 games with Sweden’s Färjestad BK last season, the 21-year-old has totaled six goals and 20 points in 52 games for the P-Bruins this season.
The obvious problem in any Palmieri deal would be the lack of a 2020 first-round pick, which the Bruins included in the Kase deal (and largely to get the Ducks to take on a slightly-discounted David Backes). Given what the Devils received for Coleman, that seems like an issue. But it hasn’t totally led to a walkaway between the sides, according to sources.
Despite no longer possessing their 2020 first-round pick, the Bruins could get a little complex with it and offer up say a conditional second-round draft pick that becomes a first-round pick should the Bruins advance to the Stanley Cup Final in either 2020 or 2021 (or if Palmieri re-signs in Boston at the conclusion of his contract in 2021). Or they could go straight-up bold and trade another future first-round draft choice to acquire Palmieri. The latter seems a little bit unlikely, as Sweeney would likely prefer to not lose two future firsts in a span of four days, but it’s a gamble that he could make if the price is right.
“The draft and development part is the lifeline of every organization and we’re not going to be any different in that regard,” Sweeney said on Friday. “You can’t continue to trade higher picks to have less opportunity to find the players that can impact your hockey club. You just can’t continue to do it. Albeit, your team when they’re playing well, they want to win, they want to continue to have people that can add. And hopefully we’ve done that for them in this case. That’s what the ultimate goal is.”
Now, does a deal get done? That’s still a little hard to tell.
It seems like there’s some potentially significant ground to make up on both sides between now and Monday. But this is the time of year where we read into everything though, and Saturday’s events certainly seem worth such an adventure.
Following a 3-2 win over the Capitals, the Devils gave Palmieri their player of the game jacket. Palmieri had one assist, one shot, and two hits in 15:55 of action. He wasn’t even one of the game’s three stars. Palmieri also had a military ball charity event (an event that involved the team itself) on Saturday night, so while the jacket could have been for that as a kickoff of sorts, you can also read into the idea of this honor being a going away gift of sorts with the Devils obviously not trading Palmieri out of town before his own charity event. Again, it’s all a little hard to tell this time of year.
But a push for Palmieri certainly fits the bill for what Sweeney, who plays everything close to the vest, ‘described’ as his plans for the final few days of the deadline following the Kase deal on Friday.
“We’ll continue to make calls and look at different opportunities that may exist,” said Sweeney.