With the NHL trade deadline just days away, there are a slew of teams around the league that know whether or not they are going to be buyers or sellers. The all-important playoff push is upon us and the final 20-plus games will include a clawing battle for a spot above the playoff line.
The Boston Bruins find themselves in a rather interesting position…
They are tied with the Tampa Bay Lightning for second place in the Atlantic Division and sit just three points behind the first-place Florida Panthers. Boston is only one point above the Detroit Red Wings and four above the Pittsburgh Penguins, who occupy the wild-card spots, but the next team, the New Jersey Devils, are five points behind the B’s. In summary, the Black and Gold are part of the most convoluted postseason push in recent memory despite their abysmal 13-15-3 home record.
It truly is comical how the sport of hockey works; one or two teams make a trade deadline move, they catch fire, and they have the ability to make a deep playoff push that could eventually lead to a Stanley Cup. In a seven-game series, however, anything can happen.
Are the Bruins that team in 2015-16? No, not yet.
The B’s are in a decent spot right now, especially with the career year Brad Marchand is putting together. Not only does he lead the team with 31 goals (good for fourth in the league) and a plus-17 rating, but he is also second in the league with four short-handed goals. B’s head coach Claude Julien trusts Marchand to play a pivotal role for this team in all situations, and that has been the case for quite some time.
After serving his three-game suspension at the beginning of the calendar year, forcing him to miss the Winter Classic, he was quoted as saying that he let his team down. Well, he has more than made up for that with the recent tear that he has been on. In his last 18 games, he has notched 16 goals and four assists. Also, three of his goals turned out to be game winners. Talk about tenacity, right?
Marchand’s contract is up at the end of next season and there is no doubt that he is going to get a new extension. Unfortunately—and nothing has been made official just yet—Loui Eriksson will likely be traded off the roster prior to Monday’s deadline. Eriksson has tallied 23 goals and 25 assists in a contract year. The more he continues to produce, the higher a return the Bruins can anticipate. Instead of having him just walk away at the end of the season, the Bruins need to get something for him.
This will not necessarily be addition by subtraction because the B’s still have a playoff berth to chase. However, opening the door for a guy like Frank Vatrano (who is ripping it up down in Providence) will do wonders for his career. Vatrano has already played in 30 games this season, netting six goals. Honestly, there are worse internal options at that spot for Boston.
The Bruins have some flexibility at the forward position. They are extremely deep down the middle once again, young wingers like David Pastrnak and Brett Connolly are playing solid hockey, and the scoring depth is very balanced—10 players have at least 20 points at this point in the season.
If the Bruins are going to be buyers for this year’s trade deadline, the top priority is acquiring a top defenseman.
Without getting into specifics this time around (refer to last article for a more detailed outlook), a right-shot, offensive minded blue liner that can play at least 20 minutes per game alongside Zdeno Chara would be an ideal situation.
Yes, that sounds like wishful thinking.
In all seriousness, the B’s need more scoring from the blue line. Chara (32 points) and Torey Krug (28 points) are the only defensemen with more than 20 points. Chara’s eight goals are the most among B’s D-men, five above Krug in second place.
Chara still remains the workhorse for the team. Although he is on the ice for a seemingly endless array of opposing goals, it is a result from the ample ice time he receives. Miraculously, he is a plus-11 rating and has come back to have a solid season in comparison to his injury-plagued campaign in 2014-15. Simply put, Chara needs help.
The Bruins have draft picks galore, cap space, and young prospects within their system that can be used as viable trade options. Throw Eriksson’s name in the mix and the Bruins have all they need at their disposal to pull off a deal. The time has come for Bruins general manager Don Sweeney to make the signature move that will slightly alter this franchise in a positive way.
Will anything go down between now and Monday? Let’s wait and see what happens.
*All stats accurate as of Thursday morning, February 25…