Age-old question for Bruins: Better to trade or sign at this stage?

Age-old question for Bruins: Better to trade or sign at this stage?

DALLAS – There’s a reason the Bruins have been linked to free agent Russian sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, and are still holding the door slightly ajar for 33-year-old power forward Rick Nash.

The B’s have a strong core group of proven veterans and several waves of young talent coming through their system in an effective mix of old and young that managed 112 points in the regular season. But they also clearly have some needs on their NHL roster that can’t be met simply by their own players. That fact was pretty obvious when they fell in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of the playoffs.

An established goal-scorer on the second line is what all the fuss is about with Kovalchuk and Nash headed into NHL Draft weekend in Dallas, and the Bruins are clearly very interested in the 35-year-old Russian, as are San Jose, Vegas and Los Angeles.

“We talked very specifically about our roster with [Kovalchuk] and where we see him fitting in, and what he brings to the table. We’ll be excited to continue to explore, but I don’t know necessarily where it goes. The scoring potential, the size and strength [are all positives],” said Don Sweeney. “It is five years removed from the NHL [for Kovalchuk] and a lot has changed in those five years if you think about what’s transpired in the league. But I think he’ll be fine. He’s played in big stages and been very successful. He’s a unique talent and fits into a slot that we could hopefully utilize if it comes to fruition.”

There are other options on the trade market for the Bruins, however, should things fall through with big winger options in Kovalchuk and Nash.

Per Hockey Night in Canada’s Elliotte Friedman, Flyers power forward Wayne Simmonds was due to submit to Philly a list of teams where he could be traded and would be another good “right now” fit for the Black and Gold.

This all begs the question as to what the Bruins prefer philosophically, however.

Signing Kovalchuk would only cost the team money on a short-term deal at this point, and the Bruins have plenty of that, roughly $12 million in cap space, with the salary cap ceiling jumping to $79.5 million for next season. Signing Nash would be roughly the same money as Kovalchuk and would also back up the weighty investment the Bruins made for him at the deadline by moving Ryan Spooner, a first-round pick and prospect Ryan Lindgren for just a couple of months of the ex-Rangers forward’s services.

Dealing for a Simmonds, Jeff Skinner or Corey Perry would involve moving valuable young players, and in Simmonds’ case would also mean a big-time, big-money contract after this upcoming season. That’s a double investment from the Bruins to fill the exact same position on the second-line wing, so the natural question is whether Boston would prefer to go free agency over trades for outside help at this point.

With other NHL general managers asking for the likes of Jake DeBrusk in a lot of deals for players with term, it’s certainly something for Sweeney to consider. It will be well worth considering if the ask becomes Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork instead, and perhaps even becomes a little more of a realistic back-and-forth discussion.

“It always comes down what the terms of the deal are. You know you’re giving up assets to maybe fill up a hole that you don’t really have too. But you’re also trading off term and dollars in those situations. We’ve done that. We’ve filled some holes right and wrong in those situations, and those deals are what they are,” said Sweeney. “Certainly I think that growing and having the depth that we’ve tried to [build] for our organization has been beneficial. Now, if we have areas where a team now wants to look at that and we can trade something off to fill a definitive need….we’re going to look at that.

“I’m not opposed to it. But we also realize that we have some young players that have played just a year in the National Hockey League with some success. I’d like to continue to see how that unfolds. But it’s a good opportunity to see how other teams around the league view those players as well, and what maybe their market value is.”

Are the Bruins getting a lot of curious phone calls about interest in their young NHL players?

“Yeah, there have been a lot of guys that have been intrigued. And I think we are as well,” said Sweeney. “We’ve peeked under the covers a bit and we just want to make sure that if we make a move it’s for the absolute right reasons. I want to make a good hockey trade if we go down that road. We’ve got good players and we’ve got good young players that have assumed roles, and hopefully, they just continue to grow.”

What to make of all this?

Sweeney is right to be cautious after spending a great deal of assets for Nash in a move that didn’t ultimately work despite the best of intentions. The Bruins have built something good and sustainable for the next five-plus years provided they can add a couple of key pieces (left shot D-man, big goal-scoring winger) sooner rather than later. It’s the right time to spend on a game-breaking free agent in Kovalchuk and give up only money in the process.

Trading away coveted young players is only the right move in deals where the Bruins are getting a piece back they are sure is going to be in Boston, and productive, for the long haul. This is why the Bruins are going to push hard for Kovalchuk if they can get him for a couple of years in the $5-6 million per season range. It’s only money to the Black and Gold, and once again this offseason they’ve got ample amounts to spend with some good options to spend it on.    


NHL rumors: Execs view Bruins, Avalanche as fits for a Joe Thornton trade

NHL rumors: Execs view Bruins, Avalanche as fits for a Joe Thornton trade

Joe Thornton is one of the best players in NHL history who hasn't won a Stanley Cup, but will he choose to chase that elusive ring and ask for a move before Monday's NHL trade deadline?

Thornton has played more than 15 years for the San Jose Sharks after the Boston Bruins traded him to the West Coast during the 2005-06 season. The Sharks have been one of the league's winningest teams during the regular season with Thornton, but playoff success has largely escaped them. They've reached the Stanley Cup Final only once during his tenure in San Jose, and the Sharks lost that series to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games four years ago.

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Thornton is 40 years old and in the final year of his contract. If there was a time to pursue a Stanley Cup title with a contender, it's right now. So, if he does want a trade, which teams make sense for the veteran center? Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun spoke to multiple executives around the league who shared their thoughts on the best fits for Thornton.

He has a full “no move” clause, but the Sharks would like to give him the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. If he’s going to be dealt, then league executives believe he’ll only go to a team that has a chance to win, so the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins are both viewed as good fits.

Thornton coming back to Boston, the place he began his Hall of Fame career, and winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins would be an amazing story. 

From a hockey fit perspective, Thornton would be a good bottom-six addition for the Bruins, but only if another move for a goal-scorer was made ahead of the deadline. Thornton alone isn't going to make the Bruins a much-improved team. He's no longer an elite offensive player, and he hasn't hit the 20-goal mark since 2010-11. Thornton is still a decent playmaker and effective on the power play, but the Bruins need secondary goal scoring behind the Perfection Line. A player like New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider would best address this concern, and TSN reported Tuesday that the Bruins and Avalanche have emerged as frontrunners for a Kreider trade.

Kreider and Thornton would be a nice haul for the B's and help give them a strong chance to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the playoffs. All three of these teams have made trades over the last two weeks to bolster their rosters for the postseason.

Being traded to a contender doesn't always work for players in Thornton's position, and Jarome Iginla in 2013 is among the best recent examples. But Thornton absolutely deserves a chance, and the Bruins arguably are best-positioned of any team to win the Stanley Cup this spring.

Top 10 players for teams to target ahead of NHL trade deadline

NHL Rumors: Did Devils GM hint at wanting to acquire a defenseman?

NHL Rumors: Did Devils GM hint at wanting to acquire a defenseman?

The Boston Bruins have been linked to New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri for a while now.

However, the Devils don't appear eager to trade their veteran top scorer at the deadline. Still, if Bruins GM Don Sweeney gives the Devils an offer they can't refuse, then Palmieri very well could suit up on David Krejci's right wing.

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What would it take to land Palmieri? Well, our Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty noted that he could be had for a first-round pick, a young cost-controlled player such as Anders Bjork, and a top-notch prospect. Devils interim GM Tom Fitzgerald had some interesting things to say regarding how his organization would approach the trade deadline.

"We've all underperformed this year. We're in this sell mode right now because of our Octobers, Novembers, Decembers and January. So, there's not one player that feels really good about what the season looks like. Underperforming is really where we're at that drove this situation," Fitzgerald said on SiriusXM's NHL Network. "Certain players, I believe, they will get better. I believe that they can find their games and get it back to where it's normal. We don't need P.K. Subban being a 25-minute-a-night guy. We need to find support for him so he can play at his best -at minutes that will allow him to do what he does well."

Did Fitzgerald just hint at the Devils wanting to acquire a defenseman at the deadline? Maybe. If so, the B's have plenty of defensemen they could send to New Jersey. For example, John Moore, at this point, has been expendable for the Bruins. Prospects such as Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen may be able to improve New Jersey's defensive situation and ease the life of Subban.

While it's just speculation, it would make some sense considering the Devils traded defenseman Andy Greene to the New York Islanders in exchange for a defensive prospect and Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for an offensive prospect and first-round pick over the weekend.

If the Bruins were to land Palmieri, the Devils would acquire some pretty solid assets in return.