Bruins Summer Series: Where will Charlie Coyle end up next season?

Bruins Summer Series: Where will Charlie Coyle end up next season?

Today’s piece on Charlie Coyle is the eighth in a 10-part series over two weeks breaking down the core Bruins group of players, and where they stand headed into next season after last spring’s Stanley Cup playoff run.

Nobody could have guessed how well Charlie Coyle would have meshed into the Bruins lineup by the time they got to the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 27-year-old Coyle was solid during the regular season after getting traded from the Wild to Boston in exchange for prospect Ryan Donato, and he certainly eased the burden on Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci with his two-way play as the third-line center. It’s exactly what they weren’t getting from Trent Frederic and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson before B’s management opted to pull the trigger on the 6-foot-3, 218-pound kid from Weymouth.

But the two goals and six points in 21 regular-season games with the Bruins gave no indication as what he’d do in the postseason.

Coyle’s power, strength and skating game translated to the physical, grinding postseason style of play and he busted out for nine goals and 16 points in 24 games while proving to be one of Boston’s most consistent forwards from beginning to end of the postseason. Both Coyle and Marcus Johansson more than proved their worth as trade deadline acquisitions once the postseason arrived, and now the big center has at least one more season in Boston before both sides have to worry about a contract.

That means Coyle is in Boston's plans for this upcoming season and the debate becomes where best he can help his new team.

Certainly, the Bruins could keep him in the middle on the third line and count on the same consistent, steady play with perhaps a bit more regular-season offense depending on the wingers on either side of him. But the B’s could also take advantage of Coyle’s versatility and turn him into the top-6 winger with size and strength that they have needed over the last couple of seasons. The Bruins could push Coyle up to the right wing with either David Krejci or Patrice Bergeron, and the addition to the B’s top line in particular could be interesting given the power forward dimension he could add to a line with Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

It might not mean huge offense since Coyle has broken the 20-goal plateau just once in his seven NHL seasons headed into this year, but he’s also never played on a line where he’d be set up with offensive opportunities like he could be with No. 37 and No. 63. The Bruins seem open to auditioning Coyle for a winger spot at least in part because they didn’t have the cap space to retain Johansson, or to find another top-6 candidate in free agency last month.

Some of it might also be dependent on the development of guys like Jack Studnicka, Trent Frederic and Oskar Steen in NHL training camp.

But one thing is certain: The Bruins don’t want to bounce Coyle between wing and center once they’ve formulated a plan.

“I’m interested to see what happens with the center ice position. If somebody pops and can play a third-line role at center then we’d certainly look at Charlie on the wing,” said Bruins President Cam Neely in an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Boston. “Bouncing him back and forth I don’t think is good for him or good for any linemate. But he had a solid, solid postseason.

“I thought that [third] line was a big reason we had the success we did. But if we have a centerman in the pipeline or even on the roster that could pop and play a third-line role? Then I wouldn’t be surprised if Butch doesn’t try Charlie out on the wing in a role with Krejci. So we’ll see.”

Interesting that it seems the Bruins only have Coyle in mind as a right winger for Krejci at this point in time, which indicates they're inclined to stick with the Perfection Line again next season. 

Whether it’s top-6 right wing or third-line center, the Bruins are going to need a young player to step up and claim that role at the NHL level just as they needed it last season. The good news is that with the presence of Coyle for this upcoming season, one of those positions is going to be filled quite nicely by the former BU standout.

It just remains to be seen where Coyle is going to play and whether he can build on last spring’s playoff momentum to realize all of his potential while skating for his hometown Black and Gold.

Key stat: 9 – The number of goals for Charlie Coyle during the B’s run to the Stanley Cup Final, which tied him with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak for the team lead in 24 postseason games. Coyle had 12 goals in 81 games during the regular season.

Coyle in his own words: “I haven’t fully processed being able to play for the Bruins and what just happened.”

The biggest question he faces: Where will Coyle play next season? Will he be the driving force as the center on the third line as he was last season in pretty successful fashion? Or will Coyle be the top-6 winger upgrade that Cam Neely talked about at his final press conference of the season following the Stanley Cup Final loss? All of that remains to be seen.

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Why Bruins shouldn't pursue trade for Devils star Taylor Hall

Why Bruins shouldn't pursue trade for Devils star Taylor Hall

The Bruins have not consistently been massive players at the NHL trade deadline over their recent history, but they haven’t exactly been gun-shy either under general manager Don Sweeney. 

A couple of years ago, the Bruins tracked down one of the biggest deadline targets when they used a first-round pick and prospects to land Rick Nash in a move that ultimately didn’t work out. Last season, they bagged Charlie Coyle and Marcus Johansson in a pair of moves that helped them reach the Stanley Cup Final, and led to them signing Coyle to a six-year extension just a couple of weeks ago. 

Clearly Sweeney isn’t shy when his team has needs, even if he is absolutely reticent to trade first-round picks or top prospects unless it’s the kind of asset that fits into Boston’s long-term planning. 

So how does that play into this season’s top trade deadline target in New Jersey Devils winger and former Hart Trophy winner Taylor Hall? 

Undoubtedly the Bruins could use a player of Hall’s caliber as the big, skilled winger that David Krejci has been looking for on his line for the last couple of seasons. It would force the Bruins to rearrange things a little bit, of course, whether it's shifting Jake DeBrusk down to the third line, or requiring one of Anders Bjork, Danton Heinen or DeBrusk to play on the right side rather than the left. 

But those are minor adjustments when it comes to a 28-year-old who's just a couple of years removed from 39 goals and 93 points on his way to the NHL’s MVP Award, and a player who could immediately give the Bruins two extremely dangerous offensive lines while handing Krejci the kind of experienced top goal-scorer he has been without since the days of Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla, and even Loui Eriksson. 

The issues are two-fold with Hall, as they are with any number of big ticket items available at the deadline. The first issue would be the prohibitive cost for a player who's a former No. 1 overall pick and a Hart Trophy winner as well. The Devils would be seeking something along the lines of the Ottawa haul for Mark Stone (forward and D-man prospects along with a high draft pick).  

New Jersey is looking for first-round picks and top prospects with an eye toward defensemen after drafting Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier with high first-round picks in the last couple of years. The cost for the Bruins would be interesting given their organizational assets, and one has to wonder if young NHL roster players like Brandon Carlo, Bjork or DeBrusk would be in the crosshairs for the Devils organization. 

Would the Bruins be willing to give up a first-round pick, 2017 first-round pick Urho Vaakanainen and Anders Bjork in exchange for Hall? How about if it was Carlo and a second-round pick along with Jack Studnicka for a player in Hall who isn’t guaranteed to be sticking around in Boston after this season? Or DeBrusk, Vaakanainen and a second-round pick with it conditionally turning into a first-rounder if the Bruins can re-sign Hall following the conclusion of this current season? 

If the Bruins weren’t given assurances that Hall was willing to stay with Boston ahead of acquiring him, it would be a steep price to pay for a player who would be tasting unrestricted free agency for the first time in his NHL career while still in his prime. 

That brings up one of the other issues: the cost in salary cap damage. 

Hall is in the last year of a contract that pays him $6 million per season, but is due for a substantial raise based on his Hart Trophy season. How much of a raise will depend on how the rest of the current season goes for a player who has four goals and 22 points in 27 games thus far. Hall is on pace for just 12 goals and 67 points, and numbers like those coming off 11 goals and 37 points last season aren’t screaming out max contract to many NHL teams. 

Still, they would likely have to pay him at least as much as their highest paid player (David Krejci at $7.25 million if not more) given his body of work, his age and the amount of demand there will be for him around the NHL if he hits free agency. Given that the Bruins have Torey Krug, DeBrusk, Matt Grzelcyk, Zdeno Chara and Jaroslav Halak among others up for contracts following this season, it sure doesn’t feel like the right time for the Bruins to add another massive piece to their group, despite the desperate need for a top-6 sniper. 

These past two seasons should also be a warning sign to potentially interested teams like the Bruins that Hall is on the downslide of his career as he approaches 30 years old, and that his 2017-18 Hart Trophy season might be as good as it gets for a player who never consistently lived up to the hype. 

For all those reasons, it’s the right call for the Bruins to take a pass on Hall with teams like the Canadiens, Canucks, Avalanche and others in even better position to surrender the moon in order to bring on New Jersey’s slumping star.

Sometimes it’s about being the right fit, at the right time for the right price for an NHL team in big-time trades — and none of those things seem to be aligned for the Bruins and Hall. 

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Danton Heinen's play for Bruins hints there's more to his game

Danton Heinen's play for Bruins hints there's more to his game

Danton Heinen certainly takes a lot of heat when it comes to being a member of the Boston Bruins.

The 24-year-old winger is on pace for 15 goals and 38 points in 82 games this season, and has had his moments for the Black and Gold. One of them was in Tuesday night’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes when he stripped Jake Gardiner at the defensive blue line and then pushed the puck up the ice, leading to the game-winning, third period goal for Charlie Coyle.

It was part of a makeshift line that Bruce Cassidy threw together during the win over the Hurricanes with Heinen manning the right wing alongside Brad Marchand and Coyle while serving in a top-6 role for the Bruins. Now Cassidy looks like he’s going to keep that trio together for Thursday night’s home date against the Chicago Blackhawks while Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Pastrnak form the other top-6 trio.

All of it will cease once Patrice Bergeron enters back into the lineup, but the defensive play and assist on the game-winner showed what Heinen can do when he’s operating at full two-way efficiency.

“Sometimes these young guys, they’re not going to win them all, but [Heinen] stayed with it. He really did. And that’s the part I like — the second effort, to win a puck in a 0-0 game, in a non-scoring situation,” said Cassidy, who has given Heinen power play time this season and been rewarded with some pretty strong passing and puck movement when he’s out on the ice. “It was more of a defensive play than anything, and he stuck with it. You need to be able to do that. He made the play, kind of going up through the neutral zone and the o-zone. He’s going to be able to do those with time and space.

“I was happy for him because we trust Danton in those situations and we don’t want him to lose that [confidence in our trust] when things aren’t falling into place for [him] offensively, you’ve still got to be able to do that. [So] good for him.”

The frustrating part about Heinen’s game is that there is more to his game offensively, as he showed in his rookie season when he posted 16 goals and 47 points. He teamed with Riley Nash and David Backes to carry the Bruins at times offensively as a dynamic third line in the first half of his rookie season, but that confidence hasn’t been as prevalent since that point.

There’s hesitancy from Heinen to shoot the puck with a paltry 32 shots on net in 28 games as clear evidence he needs to look for his shot a little more often than he does right now. 

The cerebral part of the playmaking game and the solid hands are there, and Heinen can finish plays when he's around the net. Even the compete level part of it has improved for the young winger. But the confidence that he can create plays offensively comes and goes, and makes him hit-or-miss when it comes to consistently producing offense. 

The humble Heinen even admitted that the long bank pass off the boards for the game-winning goal on Tuesday was a flubbed pass attempt from him rather than a crafty, creative play.

“It’s nice. I felt like I needed to redeem myself after giving away the puck earlier in the shift,” said Heinen, who had three goals and eight points along with a plus-4 rating in 14 games during the month of November. “There’s definitely not a lot of panic. All of the games have been down to the wire. We’re a confident group in tight games and guys make plays at the right time.”

It was clearly Heinen’s time against the Hurricanes at a great time — both for him and for the Bruins.

The bottom line with Heinen is this: He’s a solid two-way, third-line winger who the Bruins still have on the cheap at $2.8 million per season. Right now it says more about the Bruins' poor roster depth on the wings than it does about Heinen that he’s been thrust into a top-6 role, but the hope is still there that he can reach another level offensively at just 24 years old in his third year at the NHL level.

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