Plenty of potential D-men for Bruins
Plenty of potential D-men trade targets for Bruins
With the NHL trade deadline less than four weeks away, the Bruins are in the thick of the playoff hunt with clear areas of need on their roster. No matter what the B’s decide with Loui Eriksson the next couple of weeks, the goal for Bruins management is to get back into the Stanley Cup playoffs this season after missing the cut last year.
It’s clear the main goal for a group of Bruins veterans that have the expectation of getting to the playoffs every single season, but also have some pretty realistic thoughts about where this B’s team currently sits within the NHL’s power structure. They aren’t one of the league’s elite anymore, but they’re among a large group of hockey clubs that could easily beat each other in the opening couple of rounds in the postseason.
"Are we the best team in the league? I don't think so,” said a very realistic David Krejci. “But we have a playoff team, and we can just keep getting better as a team.”
There are seven teams within three points of each other battling for playoff spots in the East, and the Bruins currently stand guard over the top wild card spot with Pittsburgh and New Jersey hot on their heels. The Bruins have a profound need for a top-3 defenseman that can move the puck and play large minutes, and provide relief to a D-corps that’s really beginning to look overmatched again even the worst of competition.
They also could use a top-six right winger to skate with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand if we’re talking perfect world scenario, and a bottom-six veteran forward with size, strength and a little bit of nastiness to his game as well. With all those needs in mind, here’s a rundown on trade possibilities for D-men with the Bruins probably going stopgap at this point rather than pulling off a major deal for the young top pairing defensemen they desperately need.
The 30-year-old Byfuglien has the size, the skill, the snarl to fit exactly what the Bruins need right now, and is having another All-Star campaign with 15 goals and 30 points while topping 24 minutes of ice time per night. He’s probably a little more of a rover offensively than Claude Julien’s system could normally handle and playing tight defense has never been his priority. But the Bruins need a horse on the back end, and Byfuglien is most definitely that and then some.
The problem: Byfuglien will cost the Bruins a first round pick and a pretty good prospect at the bare minimum, and doesn’t permanently answer their back end needs unless they’re willing to pony up a big contract for a big-bodied D-man on the wrong side of 30 years old. There’s also the fact people in the know are saying that Winnipeg is focused on signing Byfuglien now, and that he won’t be made available prior to the deadline.
Chances of him coming to Boston: Slimmer by the day, and that’s not a word usually associated with Big Buff. The one piece of good news is that if the Jets sign Byfuglien then another D-man, likely Jacob Trouba or Tyler Myers, all of a sudden might become available.
The 32-year-old Wideman is topping 21 minutes of ice time per game, and is on pace for three goals and 32 points this season. He was awesome for the Flames last season on their playoff drive, and can still play big minutes for a team that can overlook the occasional brain farts Wideman has been known for on the ice. The cost also wouldn’t have been punitive for a D-man Calgary is interested in moving as their playoff hopes for this season are flickering at best, and has another year at $5.25 million for next season. The fact that Wideman has history in Boston with some of the older Bruins players – and with Claude Julien -- also certainly would have worked in his favor.
The problem: In case you’ve been living under a hockey rock, Wideman has been suspended for 20 games for cross-checking linesman Don Henderson from behind. He’ll be suspended for a sizable amount of games even if he wins his appeal, and that kills any chances of a trade to a Bruins team that needs D-man help right now.
Chances of him coming to Boston: They are gone along with the $500,000 plus in salary Wideman will lose for a brief instant of losing his cool on the ice.
The 29-year-old Yandle is enjoying a solid season in what looks like it will be his last year with the Rangers, and has three goals while leading New York with 24 assists on the season. Yandle is playing less than 20 minutes per game, and is a plus-6 while playing the role of left-shot, puck-moving D-man for the Blueshirts. He’s a Boston native that’s always wanted to play for the Bruins while also fitting the profile as a right-handed blueliner capable of playing bigger minutes, and a more expanded role with a Bruins team that needs a player like him.
The problem: The Rangers aren’t going to deal Yandle as a rental unless they fall out of the race, and that doesn’t seem likely given that they sit in second place in the Metro Division. Yandle isn’t as dynamic as Byfuglien and his defense also isn’t a strong suit, but he would be a huge upgrade over what they have right now.
Chances of him coming to Boston: A much better chance of Yandle signing with the Bruins as a free agent this summer rather than arriving via trade this month.
The 27-year-old is on pace for 15 goals and 45 points, is averaging more than 22 minutes per game and would be the perfect solution for what ails the Bruins. He’s an All-Star puck mover with good 6-foot, 207-pound size, solid durability and is a player that the B’s tried to deal for back when he was a prospect with the Colorado Avalanche. Shattenkirk is also very familiar with the Boston area after playing for Boston University, and would transition nicely to the Bruins way of doing things.
The problem: The Blues have endured some injury issues along their blue line over the last couple of months, and may not be in a position to part with Shattenkirk. He may turn into a player dealt in the summer while the Blues are in the middle of a playoff push. The price would also be higher than simply Loui Eriksson given that Shattenkirk has a year remaining on his deal, so once again the Bruins would be dipping into their treasure chest of draft picks and prospects.
Chances of him coming to Boston: This month it might not be realistic, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bruins revisit this in the summer if they’re still shopping for a top-3 puck-moving D-man.
The 25-year-old came into the league with a lot of hype, and also plenty of pressure as the de facto No. 1 defenseman for an Oilers group that’s been lacking in the defense department. He’s on pace for six goals and 17 points this season in 20:16 of ice time per game, and has good size at 6-foot-2 and 196-pounds. He’s also a minus-13 this season, and has never really progressed from posting 11 goals and 33 points in 2013-14. But he’s also got talent, and is still young enough to develop around a better group of players.
The problem: Schultz won’t come cheap as a pending RFA both in terms of assets going back to Edmonton, and in terms of contract past the $3.9 million he’s making this season. There’s also the question as to whether the Bruins will deal with Peter Chiarelli and the Oilers after spurning his offers for Dougie Hamilton last summer.
Chances of him coming to Boston: Of all the available options at the deadline, Schultz might actually be the one that could turn out the best for the Bruins long term. The question is how much improvement the Bruins feel is still left to bring out of his game at 25 years old.
Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm
One of the three young Ducks defensemen should become available at some point either this season or this summer, and each of them provide their own benefits. Fowler would seem like the worst fit based on being a left-handed shot, although he has also played on the right side. Vatanen is a proven, skilled puck-moving defenseman that has flashes of brilliance, and could be a really good fit for the Black and Gold. Lindholm is a big-bodied defenseman that plays big minutes, has good skill and shows the potential to play more of a physical style at the NHL level.
The problem: While Loui Eriksson would fit a scoring need for the Ducks, it would take quite a bit more to get a deal done for any of those talented young Ducks D-men. One of Boston’s first round picks and prospects would also be involved at the very least, and there’s no guarantee any of these players will move this month.
Chances of them coming to Boston: These are the kinds of players that Boston desperately needs, so Don Sweeney should do everything possible to close the deal should discussions get going. The same goes for Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin and Matthew Dumba and the Minnesota Wild with needs very similar to those of the Ducks.
The 35-year-old isn’t a high profile trade target, but is on pace for eight goals and 19 points while topping 20 minutes of ice time per game for the surprising Carolina Hurricanes. Clearly, his days of double-digit goals and topping 40 points per season with the Colorado Avalanche are behind him, but he’s still a very experienced puck-mover that would be an upgrade over what they have right now. The cost wouldn’t be high at all should Michael-Liles become available as a rental.
The problem: Michael-Liles is smallish at 5-foot-10, 185-pounds, and he’s playing for a Hurricanes team that’s still hanging around the playoff bubble.
Chances of him coming to Boston: He could be a safety choice if other bigger, better things fall through for the Bruins.
The 33-year-old Hamhuis hasn’t played since taking a nasty shot to the face back on Dec. 9, but the Canucks are hoping the UFA to be can return prior to the trade deadline. The 6-foot, 208-poun Hamhuis has topped 20 minutes of ice time in every one of his NHL seasons prior to this year, and has topped 20 points in each of his preview three seasons since a near career-best of 38 points in 2011-12 for the Canucks. He’s a rental coming off an injury, so the price wouldn’t be that steep for a Canucks team that is likely to be in sell mode despite their proximity to a playoff spot.
The problem: The Bruins would have to see that Hamhuis is still healthy and effective, and it’s clear that he’s not the same player he was even five years ago. The injury was a nasty one facing a shot after a turnover in the D-zone, and it might take some time for him to get back to 100 percent even when he does jump back into the lineup. He would be a stopgap for the rest of this season until they could find a better alternative, and is a left-handed shot that’s not exactly what they’re looking for.
Chances of him coming to Boston: If other higher profile deals fall through, this could be something the Bruins look into.
Others to keep in mind: Roman Polak (Maple Leafs), Ryan Murphy (Hurricanes)