A couple of days after the opening of NHL free agency, the dominoes have yet to fall for a Colorado Avalanche team in need of a makeover. Matt Duchene is the main name rumored to be moved this summer, just like last summer, and a number of teams -- including the Bruins -- are reportedly involved in trade discussions for the speedy Avs center.
According to a couple of tweets from Columbus Post-Dispatch reporter Aaron Portzline, the Bruins are involved in talks with Colorado for Duchene, and the name of 20-year-old defenseman Brandon Carlo has again cropped up:
"There are some teams that I've spoken with that may have players that we're interested as well," B's general manager Don Sweeney said vaguely on July 1 after the first day of free agency. "I can't guess where it actually falls in the next few days, but there are some players that [we are interested in]."
Carlo, a Colorado Springs native, was prominently mentioned last season when the Bruins discussed a trade with the Avalanche for left winger Gabriel Landeskog, but the B's wisely avoided any temptation to deal their young defenseman.
Duchene, 26, is a speedy, skilled natural center who averaged 25 goals and 61 points per season in the first seven years of his NHL career before slumping to 18 goals, 41 points and a grotesque minus-34 in 77 games in 2016-17. Other teams, like the Nashville Predators and Columbus Blue Jackets, are also heavily in the market for Duchene, who carries a $6 million cap hit for the next couple of seasons. He would be a welcome addition to the Bruins, based on his offensive track record and the speed with which he plays the game, but the cost is the thing.
The B's would have to part with a top young D-man in Carlo and presumably would need to do more to simply make the numbers work on their own salary cap. The Bruins have roughly $13 million in cap space, and nearly half of that figure is expected to be taken by David Pastrnak once the restricted free agent agrees to a new contract.
There's also the issue of where a natural center like Duchene would fit in the lineup, given that Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci are signed for the foreseeable future. Perhaps he could be shoehorned in as a left wing for Krejci as the Bruins search to fill that position, but that would leave Boston with way too many centers (Duchene, Ryan Spooner, David Backes) playing out of position.
The bottom line: A reloading team like the Bruins, bringing along youth and prospects, should never deal a 20-year-old defenseman like Carlo, who's only completed the first year of his entry-level deal. Carlo and Zdeno Chara could form an extremely effective shutdown pair for the next two or three years at very affordable contracts, and Carlo gives the B's a much different look on the back end than many of their offensive-minded prospects like Charlie McAvoy, Jakub Zboril and Jeremy Lauzon. If anything, Boston should be pushing a package that includes Spooner as a cheaper roster replacement for Duchene, and a prospect like Zboril who could be part of Colorado's core group moving forward.
The Bruins were wise to avoid the temptation to mortgage a young player like Carlo to make a bad, short-term deal last season. They should do the same this summer.