Boston Bruins

SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 04: Nicolas Deslauriers #20 of the Anaheim Ducks fights against Jacob Middleton #21 of the San Jose Sharks in the first period at SAP Center on October 04, 2021 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Consider the Bruins among those interested in Sharks defenseman Jacob Middleton, according to Pierre LeBrun.

“An under-the-radar name for the Sharks that’s garnering some interest? Defenseman Jake Middleton, who has partnered with both Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns at times this year,” LeBrun reported on the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading. “He’s part of that penalty killing crew that’s ranked second in the NHL. He’s a restricted free agent at the end of the year, he’s making only $725,000, [and] he’s a bit of an old school physical brand that teams headed to the playoffs like to stash on their roster. Among the teams that have kicked tires I’m told Tampa Bay, Boston and St. Louis.”

A 6-foot-3, left-shot defenseman, Middleton is certainly in the midst of a career year with San Jose, with three goals and eight points through 39 games. Middleton also ranks third among all Sharks with 70 blocked shots, while his 76 hits are the seventh-most among San Jose skaters this season. As the stats confirm, Middleton can bring the heavy.

Middleton’s toughness goes beyond the hits and blocks, too, as the 26-year-old has also dropped the gloves for eight fighting majors in 2021-22. That’s tied for the fourth-most in the NHL this season, with only the Ducks’ Nic Deslauriers, Arizona’s Liam O’Brien, and the Press’ Tanner Jeannot fighting more than Middleton in 2021-22.

The Bruins are familiar with that aspect of Middleton’s game, too, as he dropped the gloves with Trent Frederic earlier this year.

The Bruins, meanwhile, have totaled 18 fights as a team this season, which ranks as the 11th-most in the league.

Boston’s reported interest goes beyond the face-punching aspect of his game, you would imagine, especially given Middleton’s aforementioned success on the penalty kill this year.

One of 134 defensemen deployed for over 50 minutes of shorthanded time on ice this season (Middleton has logged 59:03 of shorthanded action, to be exact), teams are scoring a league-low 2.03 power-play goals per 60 with Middleton on the ice, and Middleton is on the ice for 40.6 shots against per 60 of shorthanded action, which is the 9th-fewest among that group of 134.

Middleton would also check the box of the Bruins getting bigger on defense. This has become a league trend in recent seasons, and it would only make sense for the Bruins to bump up the average height of their blue line for a postseason run.

The NHL trade deadline is set for Mar. 21.

More from 985TheSportsHub.com…

2022 NHL trade deadline: Taking stock of the Bruins' trade bait

  • Oct 27, 2021; Sunrise, Florida, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk (74) skates on the ice against the Florida Panthers during the third period at FLA Live Arena. (Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports)

    Jake DeBrusk

    This is an obvious one. Jake DeBrusk wants out and the Bruins want to make that happen for him.

    But they’ve also made it clear that they’re not going to simply give him away just to put this behind them, so a deadline deal with some inflated value is certainly the best bet.

    The 25-year-old DeBrusk has certainly done his part to boost his stock of late, too, and has tallied eight goals and 10 points over his last nine games. That production will only help a trade market that was at one point considered rather robust, too, with as many as eight teams linked to the Edmonton native when word of his request first went public.

    But because nothing is ever easy, in addition to what’s been a topsy-turvy road of production over the last three years, interested teams (and uninterested teams for that matter) have been a bit spooked by DeBrusk’s heavy qualifying offer due as a pending restricted free agent this summer. DeBrusk’s camp has, however, made it known that they’re willing to negotiate an extension ahead of that deadline if it makes sense for both parties.

    That’s potential good news for the Bruins getting the most bang for their buck in any DeBrusk trade.

  • STATELINE, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 21: Trent Frederic #11 of the Boston Bruins in action against the Philadelphia Flyers during the ‘NHL Outdoors At Lake Tahoe’ at the Edgewood Tahoe Resort on February 21, 2021. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Trent Frederic

    If the Bruins are to deal from a position of strength, it’s at left wing. The position is headlined by Brad Marchand and Taylor Hall, features Anton Blidh, and left wing is Nick Foligno’s natural position. The Bruins could also move centers Erik Haula and Tomas Nosek to left wing if and when push comes to shove. Both players have considerable experience there. But if left wing shuffling extends beyond DeBrusk this deadline, Trent Frederic is the name that would make most to a potential seller.

    Finally appearing to look like the player the Bruins viewed as a first-round talent back in 2016, the 6-foot-2 Frederic has started to round out his game on a new-look third line with Charlie Coyle and Craig Smith, and has recorded a goal and four points over his last three appearances, and has four goals and 10 points through 37 games this season. The Bruins have also worked with Frederic’s mindset as an offensive threat, and encouraged him to put himself in stronger shooting positions.

    Of course, the Bruins wouldn’t want to trade Frederic now given their investment in him as a capable NHLer, but he’s a name that’ll certainly be of interest given his age, contract status, and always desired game as a player with some nasty.

  • UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 25: Urho Vaakanainen #58 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on February 25, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Urho Vaakanainen

    This season has finally seen the Bruins reap the rewards of the promise of 2017 first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen.

    In action for 15 games this year, the 6-foot-1 Vaakanainen has fit with Charlie McAvoy on the Bruins’ top pairing, played his off side on Boston’s third pairing when asked, and tallied a career-best four assists and 19:17 of time on ice per night. The Finnish defenseman has also stayed true to his roots as a potential stopper of a defender, with 10 hits and 12 blocked shots. But similar to Jakub Zboril, the numbers game is working against Vaakanainen at ‘LHD’ beyond this year, and this year’s sample may be promising enough for the Bruins to maximize their return on Vaak in a potential trade.

    One problem for Vaakanainen and the Bruins? He has played just two games since Kraken forward Yanni Gourde tried boarding him into another dimension and gave him a concussion, and was a late scratch from what would’ve been his third game after telling team trainers that he ‘wasn’t feeling right’ after the pregame warm-up.

  • UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 25: Jakub Zboril #67 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on February 25, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Jakub Zboril

    Bit of a weird one here. The Bruins’ top pick from the forgettable 2015 NHL Draft, Zboril is done for the season with a torn ACL and is actually staring down a potential jump into unrestricted free agency as a Group 6 free agent.

    Given the way the B’s defense looks long term (all three left-shot defensemen in front of Zboril on the Boston depth chart have multiple years left on their deal), perhaps Zboril is wondering if it’s time for a fresh start himself. (It wouldn’t be the first time he’s thought about this.) And if you’re a team looking for a potential low-risk sweetener in a deadline deal, Zboril may be your guy. Especially if the Bruins don’t feel that he’s likely to return to the club in 2022-23.

    Prior to his season-ending injury, the Czech-born defender was appearing to have turned a corner in his development, with three assists to go with 24 hits and 10 blocked shots in 10 appearances.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – MAY 01: Jeremy Swayman #1 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the second period against the Buffalo Sabres at TD Garden on May 01, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Jeremy Swayman

    Jeremy Swayman is one of the Bruins’ few untouchables on the ‘prospect’ front. I honestly think that became official when they effectively chose Swayman over Daniel Vladar last summer instead of putting Swayman in the minors to begin the year, and Swayman’s only become more important to the Bruins since Tuukka Rask’s retirement. Oh, and he’s playing some lights out hockey. But if you’re a general manager looking to make a deal with the Bruins, you wouldn’t be doing your job if you didn’t at least ask about the 23-year-old netminder. You’re just gonna be told to piss off, so be prepared for that.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 02: Jack Studnicka #23 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers during overtime of the preseason game at TD Garden on October 02, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Jack Studnicka

    It’s worth wondering if the Bruins are finally ready to cut bait with Jack Studnicka.

    While patience is certainly a virtue, this is Studnicka’s third full season as a pro, and he doesn’t look any closer to grabbing hold of a full-time NHL spot. The Bruins even season with an open second-line center vacancy, and still, Studnicka’s push didn’t come when the competition ramped up. The 23-year-old Studnicka has totaled two assists in 10 NHL appearances this year, and has one goal and six points in 32 NHL contests over the last three campaigns. In Providence, Studnicka’s tallied 10 goals and 30 points in 34 games this year, and has 34 goals and 91 points in 110 AHL contests over the last four seasons.

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 28: Oskar Steen #62 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on September 28, 2021 in New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Oskar Steen

    Winger Oskar Steen’s fall out of frame at the NHL level is a bit unusual. The Swedish Quadzilla, Steen has put put up two goals and six points in 19 appearances with the Big B’s this season, and the Bruins have outshot opponents 109-86 when Steen is on the ice at five-on-five play. But Steen hasn’t made an NHL appearance since Feb. 8, and the B’s coaching staff didn’t seem to believe in the idea of plugging Steen to the right of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand on the top line. The 5-foot-9 Steen has lit it up in Providence this year, with 14 goals and 26 points in 27 AHL contests this year.

  • BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 16: Jakub Lauko #94 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on September 16, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Jakub Lauko

    A third-round pick (No. 77 overall) in 2018, winger Jakub Lauko has produced 13 goals and 41 points in 75 games since turning pro in 2019. This year has been a big time struggle for the Czech-born Lauko, too, with a Providence-worst minus-19 rating and a career-worst 4.2 shooting percentage to his name through 30 appearances this season. Lauko, who turns 22 later this month, is also on the wrong end of a numbers game as a left-shot forward.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – OCTOBER 02: Zach Senyshyn #19 of the Boston Bruins looks on during the third period of the preseason game against the New York Rangers at TD Garden on October 02, 2021 in Boston. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Zach Senyshyn

    Another first-round pick who wants out of Boston, Zach Senyshyn is dying for an opportunity he doesn’t see himself getting with the Bruins. At this point, it feels obvious that the Bruins aren’t going to give it to him (they’ve decided to play natural left wings at right wing multiple times this season), especially with Senyshyn in the midst of a career year in Providence, with career-highs in goals (17), points (29), power-play goals (5), and game-winning goals (4) through 45 games played.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – FEBRUARY 12: Ilya Kovalchuk #17 of the Montreal Canadiens defends John Moore #27 of the Boston Bruins during the third period at TD Garden on February 12, 2020 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    John Moore

    An underrated weapon this deadline: Cap space possessed by teams like the Sabres and Coyotes. The Sabres are currently slated to have almost $40 million in cap space this summer, while the Coyotes will have nearly $44 million. The 31-year-old Moore, meanwhile, is in the fourth year of a five-year deal that pays him $2.75 million per season, and has spent the majority of the season in Providence as a cap-saving casualty for the Bruins. Moore has totaled one goal and six points in 11 games with the P-Bruins, and could be a potential acquire-and-flip-next-year talent for a team like Arizona or Buffalo.

  • VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – JUNE 21: John Beecher poses for a portrait after being selected thirtieth overall by the Boston Bruins during the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena on June 21, 2019 in Vancouver. (Kevin Light/Getty Images)

    Johnny Beecher

    Boston’s first-round pick from the 2019 NHL Draft, Beecher, a 6-foot-3 left-shot center, has recorded 19 goals and 37 points in 76 games at the University of Michigan over the last three seasons. Beecher’s ceiling remains a considerable mystery, as he hasn’t looked close to matching his 16-point output as a freshman, but is obviously buried down the depth chart on what’s a simply stacked Wolverine forward grouping in terms of high-end talent.

  • NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 28: Fabian Lysell #68 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on September 28, 2021 in New York City. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    Fabian Lysell

    The B’s lucked into something special with 2021 first-round pick Fabian Lysell. Drafted by the Bruins with the No. 21 overall pick, Lysell has dazzled in his first year with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants, with 18 goals and 42 points through 37 games. A player with a tremendous blend of speed and skill, Lysell should be damn near untouchable for the Bruins, if only because he possesses a skillset that the Bruins severely lack in their organizational ranks. But he’s certainly a name that other teams will ask about, especially if the Bruins are going to take a home run swing or two this deadline.

  • MONTREAL, QC – NOVEMBER 05: A detail of the Boston Bruins logo is seen during the second period against the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre on November 5, 2019 in Montreal, Canada. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

    Mason Lohrei

    Drafted by the Bruins with the No. 58 overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, Lohrei’s development has been an interesting one. At one point considered a reach by the Bruins, Lohrei has quickly developed into a player that certainly looks NHL capable, and has recorded four goals and 29 points, along with a plus-16 rating, in 31 games as a freshman at Ohio State. Scouts have raved about Lohrei’s skating game, and with a 6-foot-4 frame to go with that, the B’s are going to fight like hell to keep him out of any sort of trade talks this deadline and beyond. Lohrei and Lysell may very well be the only non-pro untouchables they have.

  • BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 25: Boston Bruins General manager Don Sweeney speaks to the media during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

    BUFFALO, NY – JUNE 25: Boston Bruins General manager Don Sweeney speaks to the media during the 2016 NHL Draft on June 25, 2016 in Buffalo, New York. (Jen Fuller/Getty Images)

    2022 first-round pick

    The Bruins have traded a first-round pick in a deadline deal on two separate occasions under Sweeney’s watch, with Sweeney including a first-round pick in the team’s 2018 deal for the Rangers’ Rick Nash and then again in 2020 in a deal for Anaheim’s Ondrej Kase. You can understand why the B’s would prefer not to part with a first-round pick — the pick sent to New York in the Nash deal was later used in a move-up deal that ultimately ended with K’Andre Miller in Manhattan while the Ducks selected right winger Jacob Perreault with the No. 27 overall pick in 2020 — but sometimes it’s the price of a bidding war.

    For the Bruins, their willingness to part with a first-round pick may very well come down to who and what they’re getting in return. I can’t see Sweeney moving with a first-round pick for a pure rental, but if it’s a player who is under 30 and has years left on their deal? That makes more sense. After all, a win-now team operating within this tight window could use that player more than they could use a late first-round pick who’s probably unlikely to crack an NHL roster within the next two years.

  • BOSTON, MA – JUNE 24: Boston Bruins fans hold a giant flag with the Boston Logo on it prior Game Six of the 2013 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden on June 24, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Elsa/Getty Images)

    2022 second-round pick

    Second-round picks have been common trade fodder for the Bruins under Sweeney. They moved a second (and a fourth) in a 2016 trade for Lee Stempniak, did the same in a 2019 deal for Marcus Johansson, and parted with a second-round pick to bring Taylor Hall to Boston from Buffalo last deadline.

  • BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – MAY 26: General Manager Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins speaks during Media Day ahead of the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on May 26, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    2022 third-round pick

    Another popular round frequently traded by Sweeney for deadline help, the B’s traded their 2022 third-round pick in last year’s deadline deal for Mike Reilly, but they do possess the Flames’ third-round selection in 2022 as a result of last summer’s Daniel Vladar trade. The Bruins have moved a third-round pick at or near the deadline on three separate occasions, parting with such an asset in their 2016 deadline trade for John-Michael Liles, in 2018 for Nick Holden, and for Reilly last year.

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Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. 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.