There might not be a better time for the Boston Bruins to pursue a deal for Jake DeBrusk before the March 21 NHL trade deadline.
The 25-year-old winger's trade request became public in late November, but the team still hasn't found a deal to their liking. Part of that probably is due to DeBrusk's value being hurt by his lack of offensive production.
DeBrusk scored only four goals in 19 games from the start of December through the end of January.
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Luckily for the Bruins -- and DeBrusk, for that matter -- his play has seen a noticeable uptick of late, highlighted by a two-goal performance in Thursday night's 3-2 win over the Seattle Kraken on the road.
DeBrusk was moved up to the top line alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron -- likely in an effort to showcase him to potential suitors -- and opened the scoring in the first period. He secured the victory in overtime with a goal that extended Boston's win streak to three games.
“He earned his minutes. Really nice job for us. Really good job," Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters postgame. "That’s what Jake can do. He can score goals. He showed it on the first one going to the net, but more so the last one just waiting the goalie out.”
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DeBrusk also spoke after the game -- his first media availability since the trade request went public.
“To be honest, I had a meeting with the guys when (the trade request) first got out there," DeBrusk explained. "I told them I wouldn’t be a distraction, so I respectfully plead the fifth on all of those (questions). I just want to talk about the game and stuff. Obviously, like you said, I haven’t talked to you guys in a while, so it’s a fair question, but I won’t be answering that.”
When asked if he had rescinded his trade request, DeBrusk gave a non-answer.
“I think I just said the answer, in the sense that I don’t want to be a distraction or anything,” DeBrusk said. “It’s one of those things where, obviously, it’s a tough situation. But I’m focusing day to day, like I said earlier in the year.”
DeBrusk has scored at least one goal in each of the last three games. It's his longest streak of consecutive games with a goal since 2020. It's also the first time this season that he's found the back of the net in back-to-back matchups. He's also doing the little things -- like going hard to the net, battling for 50-50 pucks -- that often are absent from his game when the scoring isn't there.
If DeBrusk still wants out, now is the time to move him. He's playing well, and that will probably continue as long as he's on a line with two of the best two-way forwards in the league.
It's unlikely DeBrusk will help the Bruins bring back an impact player -- either a middle-six forward or quality defenseman -- by himself. But if he continues to play well, it will be much easier for B's general manager Don Sweeney to attach DeBrusk with other trade assets to make a move for an upgrade.
However, if DeBrusk is not a distraction, keeping him for the rest of the season isn't the worst outcome.
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The Bruins need more scoring depth for the playoffs, and it doesn't matter if that boost comes from players already on the roster playing better, or from players outside the organization brought in via trade. The Bruins should not move DeBrusk solely because he wants out. They need to get something better in return. Boston isn't in a position to be giving away useful players for lower-than-fair value. This franchise is in win-now mode.
Keeping DeBrusk increases the likelihood of him leaving as a free agent and the B's getting nothing in return. But losing DeBrusk would not be a massive blow to Boston's roster in the short or long term.
The best outcome for all involved is DeBrusk maintaining his recent level of play and showing teams he can be a productive player for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs. Playing with two future Hall of Famers on the top line should help him do just that.