The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away and as the season draws closer to a close, teams will begin to set their sites on a push for the playoffs. The Bruins sit at 39-7-5, 13 points clear of the Toronto Maple Leafs for the Atlantic Division title (with a game in hand) and 7 points clear of the Carolina Hurricanes for the Presidents’ Trophy. The Black and Gold have been nothing short of spectacular up to this point, and there’s buzz around the city that this team could have what it takes to battle for the Stanley Cup.
The Bruins already have some major hallmarks of a cup contender: elite goaltending, depth, balanced scoring and experience. The team’s success thus far is promising but that doesn’t mean they can’t improve in some areas. As the trade deadline approaches, and the winds of the rumor mill begin to spin, one can’t help but be enticed by the idea of adding to this already impressive group. Here, we’ll take a look at potential trade targets for the B’s including who they would, could and should consider.
Perhaps no player in the NHL has been linked to the Bruins more directly than Luke Schenn. The hard-nosed and stay-at home defenseman has experience in the Stanley Cup playoffs, acting as a 7th defenseman for the Tampa Bay Lightning during their back-to-back titles. For those of you thinking the Bruins need to add grit and sandpaper, Schenn is your guy. The 6’2 227 lbs. Schenn averages 4.78 hits per game and is an impressive +8 despite his team’s disastrous 2022-23 campaign. Schenn is on a 2 year deal worth less than $2 million so the price for acquiring him won’t be too high.
The downside to Schenn is that he isn’t the big fish Bruins fans want. He isn’t a significant upgrade over any of their current defensemen and wouldn’t be more than a depth piece. He’s great insurance for a Carlo or Grzelcyk injury but he isn’t a suitable top 4 d-man. If you’re expecting someone to come in and shake up the defensive core (more on this later) Schenn isn’t your guy. What Schenn will do is give you hard minutes, throw his weight around and provide Stanley Cup experience that can help this team.
Bruins fans will remember Ivan Barbashev from the 2019-20 Stanley Cup Finals against the St. Louis Blues. Barbashev, along with line mates Oskar Sundqvist and Alexander Steen, tormented the Bergeron line throughout the series and life a nightmare for the Bruins top line. The gritty, heavy winger made life difficult for Bruins forwards both at even strength and while killing penalties. He’s another great fit for this Bruins roster because of his heavy style of play. The versatile forward plays multiple positions, forechecks hard, finishes hits and is tough to play against.
The downside to Barbashev is that he’s just another depth piece on this roster. He does have 9 goals and 24 points this seasons but there simply isn’t any room in the top 9 for him. This is strictly a 4th line, insurance type move that won’t really move the needle for B’s fans. He’s a solid player and would be an instant upgrade on the 4th line. Although it isn’t a flashy move, a deal for Barbashev could help turn the Bruins 4th line into a matchup nightmare that can play against other teams’ top pairs.
Everything about Nick Bjugstad screams trade acquisition. The versatile forward is 6’6 209 lbs. and is an excellent defender. Bjugstad is top 50 in expected goals against per 60 minutes among forwards with at least 200 minutes played. He’s also been impressive this year on offense, potting 11 goals with very little power play time in Arizona. Injuries have been an issue for him in the past but at the very least he’s a relatively low impact bottom 6 forward. Add in the fact that he can play the wing as well as take faceoffs and Bjugstad is an ideal depth piece.
Bjugstad, despite his size and skill set, isn’t much of a needle mover. I do think a 4th line of Foligno-Bjugstad-Nosek would pose big problems for opposing lines, especially the smaller, more skilled top lines of the Eastern Conference. He won’t produce many highlights or sell a lot of jerseys, but make no mistake that players like Bjugstad are what put contenders like the Bruins over the top.
This one is tough because of the rumors coming out of LA that a deal is pending between the Kings and Arizona. But lets put those to the side for now. You didn’t think I was going to leave him out did you? The 2016 16th overall pick has been nothing short of impressive this season. His initial stats are solid (7 Goals, 20 Assists, 27 Points) and he’s managed to pull of a +6 despite his team’s -45 goal differential. He’s averaging 23:05 per game this season, shoots left-handed, is 24 years old and has 2 years remaining on his current $4.6 million contract. You could slot Chychrun in with Charlie Mcavoy and have a legitimate top defensive pair while allowing Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Carlo to continue the good work they’ve done thus far.
Unfortunately, the asking price for Chychrun may be too steep for the Bruins. They will almost definitely need to part with multiple first round picks, something a team with a rebuild on the horizon may not be keen on doing. They will also almost definitely have to part with either one or two of Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei, as well as Brett Harrison or Matthew Poitras. Basically, the Black and Gold would have to part with a significant part of their already thin prospect pool and future assets for Chychrun. The price is steep, but the talent may just be worth it.
Seeler is exactly the kind of under-the-radar trade acquisition Don Sweeney likes to make at the trade deadline (Mike Reilly, Marcus Johansson). The 29 year old has 10 points in 49 games for the Flyers and is +5. The numbers don’t jump off the page but Seeler’s analytics are impressive. Among defense pairs with 200+ minutes played together, Seeler and the much-maligned Rasmus Ristolainen have a league best 1.81 expected goals against per 60 minutes at even strength. Philly isn’t close to contending and Seeler is a piece they could definitely send away in exchange for future assets.
The thing that bothers me most about Seeler is the lack of buzz surrounding him. From an analytics perspective he’s been a stout shut down defender on a team that keeps the puck out of his own net despite his team’s lack of talent. My concern is that Philly likes Seeler’s $775,000 contract and won’t part with him for anything less than double his market value. Keep your eye on Seeler, he’s someone I could see the Bruins making a sneaky push to get.
Gavrikov’s name has been echoing through the chamber of rumors since the cellar-dwelling Columbus Blue Jackets announced they would allow the impending free agent to contact other teams about a potential contract extension. The Bruins have been looking for an upgrade on their blueline and Gavrikov is someone they’ve already shown interest in. The 6’3 221 lbs. defenseman is a stay at home, defensive defenseman that eats minutes and kills penalties. Gavrikov’s numbers don’t jump off the page at you, but when your team is 15-32-4 it’s tough for anyone’s stats to look good. In an ideal situation, Gavrikov is the big shutdown defenseman the Bruins could pair with Charlie Mcavoy to compliment his two-way game.
Unfortunately, this is where the Bruins prospect pool and salary cap situation come into play. The Bruins are crunched up against the salary cap and still haven’t extended David Pastrnak. Any deal for Gavrikov, or potential contract, would play second-fiddle to the Pastrnak negotiations. The other issue would be the asking price for Gavrikov. The going price for top 4 defensemen usually involves a first round pick, additional picks and a prospect or 2 (see Ben Chiarot and Hampus Lindholm deals). If Fabian Lysell and Mason Lohrei are untouchable I’m not sure the B’s have the picks or the prospects to get a deal done.
This is the part of the article I like to call the pie in the sky section. These deals would require the Bruins to part with multiple picks, prospects and perform salary cap magic to make them work. That being said how can you not love Ryan O’Reilly. The man was an absolute menace against the Bruins in the 2019-20 Stanley Cup and has been nothing but consistent. Since 2013-14 O’Reilly has put up at least 54 points each season. He plays in all situations, has a Conn Smythe under his belt and the Blues look to be headed for a rebuild.
The bad news, he’s coming off of a broken foot and earns $6.2 million per year. On top of clearing Mike Reilly and Craig Smith’s salaries, the Bruins would have to send away at least one other rostered player to make the salaries work. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it is improbable. But all that being said, imagine a 1-2 punch at center of Bergeron and O’Reilly. It’s nice to dream.
Toews has had a challenging and controversial couple of seasons. He suffered a neck injury and missed a large portion of last season, then had his leadership called into question following the revelation of Kyle Beach’s story. Despite all of this, Toews is beginning to round back into form. He has 14 goals and 14 assists this season while playing on an under-manned and talent-deprived Blackhawks roster.
Toews is 34 years old so like O’Reilly he isn’t a long term solution at center but could act as a band aid when the Bruins eventually decide to retool. Toews is owed $6.9 million this season and would require some cap magic from GM Don Sweeney. I personally have questions about Toews’ character and his ability to maintain his level of play in the coming years. All that considered, it would be nice to have his name and pedigree on the Bruins’ second line in the years ahead.
I love love love Adam Henrique’s game. Since his time with the Devils, I’ve always felt Henrique was a criminally underrated 2 way center. Since 2013-14 Henrique has only had one season where he didn’t produce 15 + goals and 40+ points. Henrique would be an upgrade over Nosek on the 4th line and would gladly play for a team with a chance at winning a cup instead of wasting away with lowly Anaheim. Add in Don Sweeney’s relationship with Ducks GM Pat Verbeek and this deal makes too much sense.
Unfortunately, Henrique’s cap hit is $5.825 million contract for this year and next. Sweeney would almost have to get Verbeek to retain some of Henrique’s salary in order to make this deal work. This also isn’t the needle moving trade fans might want, but Henrique is a consistent two-way center that can win faceoffs, defend and chip in on offense.