Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

Feb 22, 2024; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

The days of the Bruins happily rolling with the Jeremy Swayman and Linus Ullmark tandem seem to be living on borrowed time.

After dodging death last summer when everybody in the league was more than willing to rip off the cap-strung Bruins for a premier goaltender, the freshly-spilled talk of a potential Swayman extension, along with a goaltending market that’s full of uncertainty has put Ullmark back in the trade rumor crosshairs.

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And with a new potential suitor (maybe) linked to Ullmark.

  • In his latest ‘rumblings’ post for The Athletic, hockey insider Pierre LeBrun linked the Devils as a team who could circle towards Boston with the hopes of luring Ullmark to Jersey.

    “I was also told Monday that the Devils have looked at Ullmark as a possible option if they can’t swing a deal with Calgary. So stay tuned there,” LeBrun wrote. “Perhaps Ullmark, who’s signed through next season at a $5 million AAV, ends up in New Jersey if Calgary won’t move [Jacob] Markstrom.”

  • PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - JANUARY 27: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins greets teammates before playing against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on January 27, 2024 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – JANUARY 27: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins greets teammates before playing against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on January 27, 2024. (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

    The Devils, who just fired head coach Lindy Ruff on Monday, have been linked to the Flames’ Markstrom for what feels like months now, but have (obviously) been unable to swing a deal at any point.

    And with this being peak lying season, it’s always worth wondering if the Devils’ interest in Ullmark is indeed legitimate or simply a case of the Devils putting some pressure on the Flames to finally make a deal.

    One thing that is absolutely real, however, is New Jersey’s need for some goaltending help.

    Through 61 games this season, the Devils’ team save percentage ranks 31st, at .833. Only the Senators (.880) have been worse, and it’s a situation that’s really failed to self-correct, whether that’s been with Vitek Vanecek, Nico Daws, or Akira Schmid in net for the Devils. Daws, for what it’s worth, has handled the bulk of the Devils’ workload in the crease since the All-Star break, and has failed to impress, with a 5-5-0 record, .879 save percentage, and 3.49 goals against average over the last month of hockey.

    With the Devils still having some (slim) hopes of making the playoffs as they sit eight points out of the second wild card with two games in hand, they simply can’t afford any additional lost starts in goal.

  • Oct 24, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) and goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) celebrate their win against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 24, 2023; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Jeremy Swayman (1) and goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) celebrate their win against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. (David Banks/USA TODAY Sports)

    But what’s interesting about the Bruins and a potential Ullmark trade is that the Bruins really, uh, don’t have to do anything if they don’t want to. No matter what happens between now and the end of the season regarding a potential big-money extension between the B’s and Swayman, the 25-year-old Swayman is locked in at under $3.5 million this season. That’s the same with or without an extension.

    And the organization’s No. 3 netminder, Brandon Bussi, does not require waivers until next season.

    It’s not as if the Bruins are facing a decision time between now and Friday’s 3 p.m. deadline. Not in any sense, in fact, as Ullmark is also signed for 2024-25 at an affordable (for his production, anyway) $5 million.

    In other words, the Bruins should hold all the cards when it comes to a potential Ullmark trade with NJ.

  • TEMPE, ARIZONA - JANUARY 09: Goaltender Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins during the NHL game at Mullett Arena on January 09, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona. The Coyotes defeated the Bruins 4-3 in overtime. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    TEMPE, ARIZONA – JANUARY 09: Goaltender Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins during the NHL game at Mullett Arena on January 09, 2024 in Tempe, Arizona. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    And with Ullmark, there’s two major questions.

    First of all, do the Bruins have a real appetite to trade Ullmark?

    The Bruins have openly admitted that their goaltending is the backbone of their team this season. It’s a huge reason why the Bruins are where they are and not in the wild card battle right now. Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery has also already said that the Bruins are going to rotate their goaltenders in the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. And for as good as Swayman has been for certain stretches this year, it still feels like Boston is at its best when they’re able to keep both goalies fresh.

    It would be almost bizarre to see the Bruins reverse course on that right now, with the Black and Gold currently between a white-hot Florida and a surging Toronto, and risk having to burn Swayman out without a viable 1A/1B with him.

    Moving a goalie has always felt like more of an offseason trade than an in-season trade given its value to the Bruins, and the ‘safety net’ it provides in the playoffs given the rather unproven nature of each goalie.

    And secondly, and perhaps more importantly, does Ullmark have an appetite to be traded?

    Ullmark is still in possession of a relatively restrictive trade protection list, with a 16-team no-trade list. (It doesn’t open up all that much next season, either, with that list going from 16 to 15.) An interesting question for Ullmark comes back to who is on that list. Did he go full ‘Phil Kessel in Toronto’ and make it so he wouldn’t have to approve trades to teams with whom the B’s would never trade (think Toronto, Florida, Carolina etc.). Or did he make it so he wouldn’t have sign off on trades to teams with established goaltending situations, because why would a team like the Islanders, Rangers, and Lightning feel a need to acquire him?

  • NEWARK, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 28: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins blocks the net against Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils during the first period at the Prudential Center on December 28, 2022 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    NEWARK, NEW JERSEY – DECEMBER 28: Linus Ullmark #35 of the Boston Bruins blocks the net against Jack Hughes #86 of the New Jersey Devils during the first period at the Prudential Center on December 28, 2022. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    But playing devil’s advocate here — haaaaaah, see what I did there? (I hate myself) — for a second here, let’s say Ullmark could (or would) be dealt to New Jersey. What would be an appropriate ask from the Bruins?

    The difference between Markstrom and Ullmark is that Markstrom is signed for a year longer than Ullmark.

    That said, the Devils are desperate for goaltending help. If the Bruins were to trade away a strength (again, in season) for anything less than a first-round pick, that’s a fail for the Bruins. Desperate teams pay desperate prices. If not, OK, enjoy your .883 team save percentage and beginning every game down 0-1. If there’s no first-round pick attached, the Bruins would seemingly have to get one of the Devils’ younger defensemen (like Kevin Bahl), or perhaps a forward like Dawson Mercer. Again, desperate teams, desperate prices, all that.

    One name you’ll hear thrown out there in any sort of Ullmark-to-NJ hypothetical kicked out there between now and Friday though is longtime Bruins target Tyler Toffoli.

    A pending unrestricted free agent, the 31-year-old Toffoli is still effective, and has scored 26 goals and 44 points through 60 games after scoring a career-high 34 goals and 73 points for the Flames last season.

    But with Toffoli’s age and uncertain future, Toffoli alone wouldn’t be enough.

    And this here is the biggest problem for the Bruin when it comes to trading Ullmark. Like it was when we argued over fan-created hypotheticals that would’ve sent Ullmark to Edmonton back in November, finding a trade that brings the Bruins the same value Ullmark has in tandem with Swayman over the last two years is a nearly impossible task, and almost requires more give-and-take than time allotted between now and Friday.

    But at least the Bruins appear to have another potential trade partner in the picture.

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