The Boston Bruins are one of a handful of teams in the Eastern Conference who have a legitimate shot to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. With the trade deadline just over a month away on April 12, it is never too early to start speculating as to who could be on the move.
However, this season is a little bit different…and for obvious reasons.
The 2020-21 National Hockey League campaign is the first “full” season in which the product you see on television is, well, the way it is. No fans (yet), division-only games, safety protocols, limited media availability, Zoom press conferences, etc. It is a different world.
The point here is that all teams across the league are at a somewhat equal playing field in the sense that no one has had a real advantage. The cards have been dealt and the existing NHL teams have played their hands.
In the case of the Bruins, they have a squad that is capable of winning it all. So, why mess around with it? Sometimes, the best moves are the ones you do not make.
An argument can—and will—be made that the B’s best bet is to be patient with dealing any of their forward pieces. Of course, there are players that should always be considered for a trade if it yields a high reward. At the same time, high-end talent is hard to come by. Unless a deal comes across the table that is just impossible to turn down, certain players are absolutely untouchable.
For Boston, Charlie McAvoy and David Pastrnak fit that description, and they are clearly the Bruins’ best trade chips.
McAvoy has been a true workhorse this season and solidified his position as the team’s number one defenseman with the departure of Zdeno Chara during the offseason. He leads the team in time on ice per game with just under 24 minutes. McAvoy has also notched three goals and 14 assists for 17 points. Most importantly, he has been able to stay healthy all season.
As for Pastrnak, he has posted 10 goals in only 15 games so far this season. He has been Boston’s most prolific goal scorer in recent memory and he has the offensive ability to crack the 50-goal mark at some point in his career.
Both McAvoy and Pastrnak will be cornerstones of this franchise for the next decade. They are on the miniscule list of players that should not be moved by the Bruins. Two other young prospects should be included on that list as well: Trent Frederic and Jack Studnicka.
Frederic has been growing into a fan favorite among the Boston faithful. What is interesting is that some might be taken aback with just how quickly this has occurred. The St. Louis native was a first-round pick for the Bruins back in 2016. His ability to play both center and wing, as well as his offensive potential are great attributes. But the truth is that Frederic is known for his toughness and physicality.
The Bruins were in some need of a spark to begin this season, and Frederic has answered that call. He has dropped the gloves on three separate occasions and has been the pest that everyone hates to play against. At the same time, he has also been able to chip in three goals through 22 games this season. This type of player is such a valuable commodity in the NHL. It is no surprise that teams would be willing to acquire Frederic in a trade, but it also is equally unsurprising that the Bruins are not willing to part with him too easily.
Boston would love to keep this kid. He will be able to work his way up to a top-six forward role within the next several seasons. He does not do anything that crosses the line, nor will he put his team in a deficit. With the edginess and scoring ability in his arsenal, Frederic and the Bruins will be a great match.
The biggest problem with that plan is the brand-new team that will be entering the league next season.
One of the rules in the upcoming Expansion Draft for the Seattle Kraken is all first- and second-year NHL players, and all unsigned draft choices will be exempt from the draft. Technically speaking, Frederic would not meet that criteria. The 23-year-old winger played in just two NHL games last season and just 15 games in 2018-19. If he plays in 27 games this season, then he would fit the criteria of being exposed to the Kraken in this summer’s Expansion Draft.
That would be a tough pill to swallow if he were to be plucked away by Seattle without getting something worth his value in return. We will see how the protection list looks for the Black and Gold when the time comes.
Studnicka’s case does not run parallel and would not fall into the situation of being exposed because of the amount of time—or lack thereof—he has spent at the NHL level. However, the Bruins would need to consider the status of David Krejci while thinking about the future of the center position.
Studnicka has been able to take advantage of his opportunities when he has been in the lineup. Although he has seen time at wing throughout his brief stints with the big club, he is noticeably more comfortable at his natural center position.
The Tecumseh, Ontario native does have the confidence to shoot the puck, but his ability to be a playmaker and a pass-first center will be immense. Studnicka does not belong on the fourth line, and maybe…just maybe…the Bruins have noticed.
With Krejci’s contract up at the end of this season, the option to keep Studnicka as the future second-line center starting next season is intriguing. They have a similar style of play and the transition could be seamless. It also helps that Studnicka is 12 years younger and will be millions of dollars cheaper going forward.
Like McAvoy and Pastrnak, Frederic and Studnicka are as close to untouchable as one could be. This is the next core of the Bruins. Nothing should break it up.