Boston Bruins

Apr 6, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) against the Boston Bruins at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

For what felt like a billion seasons in a row, the Bruins had the second-line center, but needed the second-line winger.

Last year, they finally got the winger with their heist of Taylor Hall, and actually managed to keep Hall around on a four-year extension, only to lose the center with David Krejci’s decision to leave the NHL for a return to the Czech Republic. Because of course. Why should any of us have nice things? Now, nobody within the locker room or organization faulted Krejci for leaving the Bruins. When you wanna go home, you go home. And he only told us about this plan about six years in advance.

But it did create one gigantic hole for the Bruins to fill on their second line.

(Click here to subscribe to the Sports Hub Underground podcast.)

The Bruins did not address that in the offseason, and when training camp failed to produce a legitimate winner for that vacancy, the Bruins decided to tweak the line by pairing Hall with David Pastrnak on the second line. And with that combo needing a center, the Bruins tabbed Erik Haula as the man the middle of the that one-two winger punch. It’s a combo that’s worked, too, with the Bruins outshooting opponents 151-127 and outscoring them 14-10 in 278 five-on-five minutes together.

“I mean yeah, I guess until you have a better option to consider, right?” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said earlier this week when asked about Haula ‘cementing’ his role as the team’s second-line center.”We’ve had other guys up there, [but] this seems to work the best for the team. He’s embraced it. Done a nice job away from the puck and a nice job in the circle, complementing those guys on the rush .. He seems to have relished that, so we’ll leave him there for now.”

It’s a role that is somewhat familiar to Haula, too, as the Finnish centerman tallied a career-best 29 goals and 55 points as the Golden Knights’ second-line center on their run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

But while this trio has worked, there’s a natural belief that the Bruins may very well be a second-line center upgrade away from legitimate contention, and this trade market may very well have its share of options on that front.

So, who is and could be on the Bruins’ radar between now and the upcoming trade deadline?

  • ST PAUL, MN – OCTOBER 19: Andrew Copp #9 of the Winnipeg Jets during the game against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on October 19, 2021 in St Paul, Minnesota. (Harrison Barden/Getty Images)

    Andrew Copp

    An under-the-radar option ahead of the 2022 trade deadline: Jets center Andrew Copp.

    A do-it-all threat for Winnipeg, the 27-year-old Copp is on the market in the midst of a season that’s included a career-high 20:05 per night, which ranks as the third-most among all Jet forwards, and makes Copp one of just 23 NHL forwards averaging at least 20 minutes per night in 2021-22. The 6-foot-1, 206-pound center has certainly made use of that ice time, too, with 13 goals and 32 points through 53 games, which has him paced for what would be a career-high 19 goals and 50 points. (Not tooooo shabby when you consider his previous career-high marks on both fronts, with 15 goals and 39 points last season.)

    It’s likely that a good chunk of the Bruins’ interest in Copp, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, comes back to his status as a relatively complete player. Copp enters the weekend with the 24th-best faceoff percentage in the league (minimum 500 faceoffs), and has logged the sixth-most penalty kill time on ice among all forwards this season. With those numbers and that potential usage in mind for the Black and Gold, the Bruins would absolutely welcome Copp and his 54.4 defensive-zone faceoff percentage, which is the 16th-best in hockey.

  • Jan 31, 2019; Boston, MA, USA; Philadelphia Flyers center Claude Giroux (28) celebrates his goal with his teammates during the first period against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports)

    Claude Giroux

    If you’re asking me who I believe in as the perfect rental for the Bruins, it’s Claude Giroux. (Disclaimer: I’m an OG Giroux Fanboy and wish this guy spent his entire career in Boston, so there’s that.) But even at 34 years old, this is still a highly productive player, with 17 goals and 41 points through 54 games. And the type of all-zone threat that makes him the perfect replacement for David Krejci and perfect complement to Patrice Bergeron as Boston’s one-two punch down the middle.

    An offensive threat throughout his career, Giroux has proven that he can still create and finish at an acceptable rate. He’d be asked to do both as the driver of Boston’s second line with David Pastrnak and Taylor Hall.

    But Giroux would also provide the Bruins with yet another downright dominant faceoff option.

    While Bergeron ranks atop the NHL with a 62.2 faceoff percentage, Giroux sits right behind him, at 61.4 percent. Giroux has dominated draws in the defensive zone, too, at a league-best 64.2 percentage (Bergeron is right behind him there, at 61.5 percent), and is also top five in offensive-zone faceoff percentage and power-play faceoff percentage among qualifying threats. The ability to roll back-to-back lines with dominant faceoff options (equating to puck possession) and a grinding third line could be simply devastating in the playoffs.

    Giroux would also come to town with significant playoff performance, with 85 career postseason appearances, and with his 73 playoff points the 23rd-most among all active NHLers.

    Now, Giroux does possess a full no-movement clause, so the ball is entirely in his court. It’s been tough for many to forecast where Giroux will go (if he goes at all between now and Mar. 21 deadline), and the Bruins have not been mentioned at the same rate as teams like the Avalanche and Panthers. That’s understandable given their dominance this year, as well as the fact that Giroux would only leave Philly for a legitimate chance at a Stanley Cup given how much being a Flyer has meant to him.

    But honestly, plugging Giroux between Hall and Pastrnak may be enough to make the B’s legit as the rest.

  • SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – DECEMBER 07: Tomas Hertl #48 of the San Jose Sharks reacts after he scored he second goal of the game against the Calgary Flames in the second period at SAP Center on December 07, 2021. (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    Tomas Hertl

    This is perhaps the most interesting situation to watch between now and the deadline.

    The word around the league is that the Sharks want to keep pending unrestricted free agent Tomas Hertl in San Jose. That’s no surprise. Emerging as one of the better all-around centers in the league, Hertl has put up 23 goals and 44 points through 57 games this year, and has been a constant bright spot in a Sharks season that’s short on ’em.

    But if the sides can’t pull a Chris Kreider-Rangers circa 2020 and come to terms on an extension before the deadline, the 28-year-old Hertl would be the top prize of the trade deadline, and the Bruins would be first in line. Because, boy, would Hertl solve a lot of their problems and in the future as a potential long-term to the impending doom that is the future of the center position once the 36-year-old Patrice Bergeron calls it quits.

    Like Giroux, Hertl would immediately slot into the middle of the Black and Gold’s second line with Hall and Pastrnak with absolutely no questions asked, and represent a clear upgrade over Haula given his takeover abilities.

    The big question with acquiring a player like Hertl would be the price going out the door. This isn’t a player the Bruins would be able to acquire for pennies on the dollar. This would be a top-dollar acquisition (and that’s before you even hammer out an extension that could pay the Czech pivot as much as $8 million a year), and would likely test the Bruins’ limits when it comes to parting with prospects they consider untouchable (Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei) as well as a future first-round pick.

  • Mar 9, 2022; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; Vancouver Canucks forward J.T. Miller (9) celebrates his goal against the Montreal Canadiens in the third period at Rogers Arena. Canucks won 5-3. (Bob Frid/USA TODAY Sports)

    J.T. Miller

    The Canucks are in a real weird spot this deadline.

    Since making the switch from Travis Green to Bruce Boudreau behind the bench in early December, the Canucks are a sizzlin’ 21-8-5, and only five teams have posted a better point percentage (the Bruins are one of them, in case you’re wondering). But even with that surge, the Canucks sit three points out third place in the Pacific Division and two points out of the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference. Moneypuck’s playoff probability model gives them a 25.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, and that’s certainly understandable when looking at the teams in front of Vancouver. But when you’ve been that hot for 34 games, it’s awfully hard to suddenly reverse course and decide that you wanna sell, no?

    Now, let’s throw in the J.T. Miller situation and make things real weird.

    A gritty-but-talented center seemingly made for playoff play, the 28-year-old center signed through 2022-23 at a manageable $5.25 million cap hit has been brought up in trade rumors from the moment the Canucks struggled out of the gate this year, and is considered to have a potentially robust market. Miller’s success — the 29-year-old’s 69 points are the ninth-most in the NHL this year, while his 30 power-play points trail only Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid for the most in the NHL — would create an obvious bidding war this deadline, and the Bruins would be stupid not to get involved.

    That said, Miller himself doesn’t believe that he’s going to be traded.

    “I don’t think I’m getting traded,” Miller said earlier this week. “I never thought I was getting traded. Everybody is speculating, so I never even looked into that [the Canucks] were trying to trade me to begin with.”

    Reading between the lines here, getting the Canucks, who are facing a slight cap crunch of sorts up ahead, to bite on a Miller trade would require a good ol’ fashioned hockey trade.

    Those have been rare under this leadership in Boston.

  • COLUMBUS, OH – FEBRUARY 23: Jack Roslovic #96 of the Columbus Blue Jackets lines up for a face-off during the game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationwide Arena on February 23, 2021 in Columbus, Ohio. (Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

    Jack Roslovic

    Not a sexy pick by any stretch, it’s fair to wonder if Jack Roslovic would be considered an option for the Bruins if they’re priced out of, well, just about everybody else this deadline.

    A 25-year-old right-shot center, Roslovic hasn’t exactly thrived with his move from Winnipeg to his hometown Blue Jackets, with 22 goals and 60 points in 106 games with Columbus.The 2021-22 season has been an especially trying one for Roslovic, as Roslovic has averaged his lowest nightly time on ice (12:24) since 2018-19, and has struggled to find his fit under new Blue Jackets head coach Brad Larsen.

    But for the Bruins, Roslovic, who is a pending restricted free agent making a hair over $1.8 million this year, may be a potentially perfect return if they want to go with a change of scenery for change of scenery swap involving Jake DeBrusk by the deadline.

    It’s unlikely that Roslovic is a long-term answer at center, of course, but he would give the Bruins another right-handed faceoff option, with Charlie Coyle and Curtis Lazar currently the only two on the roster right now. And his ability to also play right wing (arguably where he played his best hockey in Columbus) only adds value to a potential Boston fit.

  • Mar 8, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Dylan Strome (17) celebrates his third goal of the game against the Anaheim Ducks during the third period at United Center. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)

    Dylan Strome

    This isn’t the first time we’ve talked about Dylan Strome. When word of Jake DeBrusk’s trade request went public, and with the Blackhawks among those mentioned as potentially interested in DeBrusk, a potential Strome-for-DeBrusk swap just seemed to make sense for both sides, especially with Strome’s name also in the rumor mill around that time. But Strome has since found his footing this season, and has tallied 12 goals and 24 points in 26 games since the start of January. Strome’s contract and his obvious fit between Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane, two players that certainly figure in the Blackhawks’ future plans even with the Hawks approaching an obvious rebuild, only further complicates Strome’s status.

    The No. 3 overall pick 2015 NHL Draft (a.k.a the first player taken after the Connor McDavid-Jack Eichel one-two), the 6-foot-3 Strome has tallied 60 goals and 153 points in 250 career games between the Coyotes and Blackhawks since 2016.

    Similar to a guy like Roslovic (and maybe Copp to a lesser degree), perhaps the Bruins circle to Chicago and inquire on Strome should the asking price for the top-tier targets prove to be a little too high for ’em this deadline.