Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 29: Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins attends the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 29, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

I’m gonna level with you guys here: I have no idea what the Boston Bruins are going to do today.

We know they have needs. Multiple needs, actually. But they also have no cap space, they have no high-end prospects they want to trade (or can afford to trade, really), and they’ve emptied the draft pick cupboard to the point where it’s legitimately difficult to rationalize sending more out the door for part-time help. At a certain point, you gotta call it quits with that approach, especially when you’re looking at a 2024 NHL Draft that currently has you set to sit out the first three rounds.

But we also know that Bruins general manager Don Sweeney does not like to sit on the sidelines. In fact, Sweeney has made at least one trade in every deadline on the job in Boston.

Sweeney’s trade have ranged from home run swings (Hampus Lindholm in ’22 comes to mind there, as well as his entire 2023 deadline in the name of one final run with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci) to small-time plays. On the small-time trade front, the 2017 trade that brought Drew Stafford to town for some middle-six scoring help sticks out.

  • And if I were a betting man, it feels like a small-time move is what Sweeney and the Black and Gold front office will cook up between now and the 3 p.m. deadline. Again, given their situation and lack of capital and names still available on the block, that feels like the safe bet.

    But Sweeney is a man who prefers to move in silence, and there’s an awful lot of smoke out there when it comes to the Bruins and what they could have up their sleeve.

    Here’s six quick-hitter thoughts on the B’s ahead of today’s deadline…

  • In net, part I: Ullmark on the move?

    ELMONT, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 15: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on December 15, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    ELMONT, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 15: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins skates against the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on December 15, 2023 in Elmont, New York. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By now, you know my feelings on a Linus Ullmark trade. Given the holes on this roster and the general uncertainty of the goaltending position as a whole (both in a good way and bad way), it’s just difficult to imagine the Bruins making a trade that gives them something as good — or as potentially valuable — as Ullmark down the stretch and in the postseason. The Bruins also seem legitimately committed to making the tandem work in the playoffs, and even if they don’t, having Ullmark as a backup plan for Jeremy Swayman is one hell of a card in their deck. 

    But I’m not naive. Barring something unexpected, such as Swayman taking a well-below-market-value deal, it’s clear that we are approaching the end days of the one-two punch in goal. This week alone, Elliotte Friedman and Pierre LeBrun wrote about a potential Ullmark move (they’re not doing that for engagement), and even last night, Kevin Weekes came through with a late-night tweet talking about potentially big moves at the goaltending position. 

    It’s entirely possible that the timeline on an Ullmark exit has leapt up on the Bruins. And a scarce goaltending market — the Preds aren’t moving Juuse Saros, the Wild are gonna keep Marc-Andre Fleury, and who knows what the Flames are gonna do with Jacob Markstrom? — may have put the Bruins in the driver’s seat to extract the maximum return on Ullmark. 

    That said, if a team is approaching the Bruins with the hopes of acquiring Ullmark, it’s because they’re desperate for a goalie to save their season. So, like we all argued about in November when this topic last came up in earnest, if that’s the case, the Bruins need to treat it as such and make a desperate team pay desperate prices. The Bruins don’t need to move Ullmark right now. In the summer? Different story. But right now? They’re cool just riding with what they have. 

    This is not a trade you make for the hell of it. Not when you look at how asset-deficient the Bruins are as an organization, and especially not when you look at how it could impact Swayman both on (workload) and off (Ullmark is his best friend) the ice. 

    “I mean, that guy is my brother for life and he’s a huge reason why we’ve had success every year,” Swayman said following Thursday’s victory over the Maple Leafs. “I have no doubt that there’s not gonna be any surprises hopefully. I love that guy to death. Whatever happens, happens. It’s a business. I know it just as well, and whatever happens, happens. We’ve dealt with it over the years, but I don’t want to think about that.”

  • In net, part II: Could we get some Sway news?

    Nov 2, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) skates off the ice during an intermission in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 2, 2023; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) skates off the ice during an intermission in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the TD Garden. (Brian Fluharty/USA TODAY Sports)

    Oddly enough, deadline day has become extension day for Sweeney and the Bruins over the last two years. 

    In 2022, the B’s used the trade deadline to extend Jake DeBrusk on a two-year, $8 million contract. The next year, they signed David Pastrnak to a franchise-record $90 million extension the day before the deadline.

    So, what would be the best way to get Bruins fans to get over the FOMO of a quiet deadline in a hurry? How about coming to terms on a long-term extension with Jeremy Swayman?

    We know the Bruins and Swayman’s camp (led by agent Lewis Gross) are talking about an extension. When Swayman was asked about it on Monday night, he simply smiled and said he’d let his agent handle that. And we also know that this contract extension is going to cost the Bruins a pretty penny, especially after an ugly arbitration hearing between the sides a year ago. There’s even been rumblings that Swayman’s next deal could come with a cap hit of $7 million. If Swayman checks in at $7 million per year on an extension, that would give him the fifth-highest AAV among active goalies for 2024-25, trailing only the Panthers’ Sergei Bobrovsky ($10.5 million), Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy ($9.5 million), Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck ($8.5 million), and New York’s Ilya Sorokin ($8.25 million).

    Of course, the Bruins would like to get that number down and as affordable as possible. Especially if they’re hellbent on adding a high-impact center and a high-impact left-shot defenseman in the not-so-distant future. 

    And while people like myself will say that they’d like to see just a little bit more from Swayman before giving him the bag that essentially guarantees an Ullmark trade, this was the risk the Bruins took when they went to arbitration with Swayman, and this was always the potential fallout. 

    It’s also hard to argue that Swayman hasn’t delivered to date when it comes to earning that payday working off info we have so far (read as: regular-season figures). In addition to his first All-Star nod, the 25-year-old Swayman ranks second in save percentage (.922), fifth in goals against average (2.45), and his .828 high-danger save percentage is ninth-best among a group of 35 goaltenders with at least 30 appearances this season.

  • Taking stock of who’s left on backend

    Oct 19, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson (6) celebrates his goal with teammates during the first period against the Calgary Flames at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 19, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Erik Johnson (6) celebrates his goal with teammates during the first period against the Calgary Flames at KeyBank Center. (Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports)

    The Bruins can never have enough defensemen. 

    It’s practically an organizational credo at this point. 

    And with Hampus Lindholm and Derek Forbort currently on the shelf, it’s no shock that the Bruins were on the hunt for some extra help on the backend, and were at one point considered a leading contender for Washington’s Joel Edmundson ahead of his trade to the Maple Leafs on Thursday. Now, the Bruins hope to get Lindholm, who has been out of action since Feb. 19, back on the practice sheet and in game action sooner rather than later, and they’re currently saying that Forbort’s injury is a ‘minor’ issue.

    But this is still a defensive unit that could use a bit more pop from their backend. 

    With that said, the market’s heavy hitters have already found new homes or stayed put. Calgary shot blocker Chris Tanev landed in Dallas, the Flyers flipped Sean Walker to Colorado while Nick Seeler signed an extension with Philly, and Massachusetts native and rumored-to-be-a-Bruin-forever Noah Hanifin was traded from Calgary to Vegas because of course he was. 

    So who’s left for them at this point? 

    If it’s additional experience the Bruins seek, Buffalo’s Erik Johnson remains on the market. The 6-foot-4 Johnson, who is a right shot, has posted three goals, along with 68 blocks and 93 hits, in 50 games for Buffalo this season. Johnson was also part of the Colorado squad that won the Cup in 2022. On the left side, there’s the Blues’ Marco Scandella (B’s coach Jim Montgomery is familiar with him from his stop in St. Louis as an assistant on Craig Berube’s staff), who has eight points and 40 blocks in 58 games this season. Arizona, meanwhile, has three veteran defensemen on expiring deals between Matt Dumba, Josh Brown, and Travis Dermott. 

    They may not be needle movers, but if it’s experienced depth that the Bruins seek (which is what their interest in Edmundson seemingly confirmed), these are the types that’ll be on their board between now and the final horn. 

  • Jake DeBrusk’s future remains in air

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - FEBRUARY 29: Jake DeBrusk #74 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period at TD Garden on February 29, 2024 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Knights 5-4 (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – FEBRUARY 29: Jake DeBrusk #74 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Vegas Golden Knights during the third period at TD Garden on February 29, 2024. (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Does Jake DeBrusk survive the day? I mean, for what it’s worth, he hopes so.

    In the final year of his current contract, DeBrusk has repeatedly said he’d like to hammer out an extension. But there’s been no update and no progress on that front, which has opened the door to some natural speculation in regards to his future with the club. DeBrusk himself has even admitted that the deadline ‘worries’ him.

    At this point, and this is just a gut feeling, I only feel like DeBrusk is moved if it’s part of a bigger “hockey trade.” I can’t imagine the Bruins have an interest in moving him for futures, and I don’t know if he’s the type of player they’d want to move in a ‘change of scenery’ swap like the Nick Ritchie-Danton Heinen trade in 2020.

  • Will toughness be on menu today?

    Feb 19, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Joel Hanley (44) fights with Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    Feb 19, 2024; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Joel Hanley (44) fights with Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) during the first period at TD Garden. (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

    Internally, the Bruins have not been happy with their lack of a physical presence. So much of that has to do with the loss of Milan Lucic (a brutally self-inflicted move by Lucic if there ever was one), but it’s been noticeable. 

    Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery has tried his best to make it work with what he has, too, and has focused on a different kind of ‘anxiety’ from his fourth line. Talking about the Lauko-Boqvist-Brazeau fourth line last week, Montgomery told me it’s about the forechecking and speed that guys like Lauko and Boqvist can bring that puts defensemen on their heels.

    That line has been relatively effective (they were great against Vegas last week), but the Bruins may want a bit more nastiness on that line. Or at the very least have the option to plug in some nastiness somewhere on that line. 

    The Wild have already shipped Brandon Duhaime (a top-20 hitter since breaking into the NHL) to Colorado, but Pat Maroon is still out there, and same for Arizona’s Liam O’Brien, who is one of the game’s top fighters. If it’s cheap (and the Bruins like and need cheap), I wonder if this becomes a priority as the clock inches closer and closer to 3 p.m.

  • Spitballin’ and speculatin’

    MONTREAL, QUEBEC - JULY 07: President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins look on during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    MONTREAL, QUEBEC – JULY 07: President Cam Neely and General Manager Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins look on during Round One of the 2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft at Bell Centre on July 07, 2022. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    If the Penguins are selling off some pieces in the wake of the Jake Guentzel trade, how about a reunion with old friend Reilly Smith? Smith, who spent the first two years of his NHL career with the Bruins, has posted 11 goals and 29 points in 55 games for the Pens this season. A two-way threat capable of playing both the left and right side (I’d love to see him with Brad Marchand Charlie Coyle as a three-zone weapon for the Bruins), Smith’s 1.70 points per 60 of five-on-five play would rank seventh on the Bruins. 

    The Bruins have apparently checked in on Max Pacioretty. The 35-year-old Pacioretty, who has been through injury hell over the last few years, has scored three goals and totaled 15 points in 26 games for the Caps this year. 

    Earlier this week, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman linked the Bruins to the Sabres’ Alex Tuch. Now that is a move that intrigues me. Not only would this allow the Bruins to stop getting torched by Tuch (four goals and nine points in 10 career games against Boston), but it would also see the Bruins bring in a scoring wing with term, as Tuch is under contract through 2025-26 at $4.75 million per season. The 6-foot-4 right shot has posted 17 goals and 40 points through 57 games this season, and is coming off what was a breakout 2022-23, with career-highs in goals (36), assists (43), and points (79).

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