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Boston Bruins

Boston Bruins

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The closer the Bruins get to acquiring Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov, the less interested we get.

That’s mainly because the asking price has consistently been reported as at least a first-round pick and a third-round pick. Gavrikov, 27, has the skill set of at best a second-pairing defensive-minded defenseman – in a vacuum. But apparently, the Bruins have bigger plans for him – and like him more than some may think.

  • Apr 4, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) battles for the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (44) in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 4, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Taylor Hall (71) battles for the puck against Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov (44) in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

  • According to ESPN’s Emily Kaplan, the Bruins are seeking a specific kind of left-shot defenseman … “somebody with size, and who can play with Charlie McAvoy – which would bump Matt Grzelcyk down in the rotation.”

    None of that is particularly surprising to anyone who’s been following Bruins trade rumors and analyzing their defensive depth. It’s always good to add size on defense, because you can never have enough of it when you have aspirations for a deep playoff run. Bruins GM Don Sweeney has been prioritizing getting bigger on the back end, as evidenced by the acquisition of Hampus Lindholm and the signing of Derek Forbort.

    But if Gavrikov does in fact land in Boston, and is parked next to McAvoy on a regular basis, what does that mean for the rest of the blue line rotation?

  • BOSTON, MA - MAY 21: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins reacts with Charlie McAvoy #73 after scoring in the third period in Game Four of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden on May 21, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

    BOSTON, MA – MAY 21: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins reacts with Charlie McAvoy #73 after scoring in the third period in Game Four of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Washington Capitals at TD Garden on May 21, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)

  • That conundrum was part of the discussion on the newest Sports Hub Underground podcast with Ty Anderson and me, which you can listen to at the top of this article. Anderson and I have gone back and forth on Grzelcyk for yearat this point, and we do agree with the plain reality that Grzelcyk has taken a beating in the playoffs and been targeted by bigger forwards and aggressive forecheckers.

    It seems that Sweeney has seen enough of that and wants a bigger defenseman next to McAvoy, so when teams like the Hurricanes throw Sebastian Aho and Andrei Svechnikov at them, Gavrikov can’t be pushed around so much. At the same time, as Anderson explained on the podcast, the B’s have made stylistic tweaks that allow for more forward support on puck retrievals, as opposed to taking a hit to make a pass, which defensemen routinely did under Bruce Cassidy. The latter was not sustainable in the playoffs, and could mean better health and stamina this time around.

    But all that doesn’t mean that Grzelcyk doesn’t deserve a spot in the Bruins’ lineup. It’s always been an overly polarized misconception that Grzelcyk is either on the top pairing with McAvoy or out of the lineup altogether. And is it worth keeping Forbort in over him just because of the size element? Can you survive with a pairing as small as Grzelcyk and Connor Clifton (who, to be fair, plays bigger than his size)?

  • ELMONT, NEW YORK - JANUARY 18: Derek Forbort #28 of the Boston Bruins scores a second period goal against Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on January 18, 2023 in Elmont, New York. The Bruins defeated the Islanders 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    ELMONT, NEW YORK – JANUARY 18: Derek Forbort #28 of the Boston Bruins scores a second period goal against Semyon Varlamov #40 of the New York Islanders at UBS Arena on January 18, 2023 in Elmont, New York. The Bruins defeated the Islanders 4-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

  • Interestingly enough, Grzelcyk has been productive with or without McAvoy this season. Per Natural Stat Trick, the Bruins’ 5-on-5 goal differential is the same between Grzelcyk & McAvoy and Grzelcyk & anyone else – plus-15. Bet you didn’t think THAT was a thing!

    Anderson views Gavrikov as a defenseman that “might be just as good, just a little bit taller.” Is that worth trading a first-round pick? Ideally, the B’s aim higher if they’re moving that kind of capital. But their only option in that regard may be Jakob Chychrun from the Coyotes.

    You can rest assured that Sweeney will do something ahead of the NHL trade deadline. Kaplan believes he has “contingency plans” in place if a Gavrikov deal falls through. But if and when he acquires an NHL-ready left shot defenseman, it will be very interesting to see who gets bumped out.

  • COLUMBUS, OH - MAY 6: Vladislav Gavrikov #44 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins battle for control of the puck in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Boston defeated Columbus 3-0 to win the series 4-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

    COLUMBUS, OH – MAY 6: Vladislav Gavrikov #44 of the Columbus Blue Jackets and David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins battle for control of the puck in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 6, 2019 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Boston defeated Columbus 3-0 to win the series 4-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

  • Click here for complete Boston Bruins coverage at 985TheSportsHub.com.

    Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @realmattdolloff. Check out all of Matt’s content here.

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