Bruins

Could Sekera injury spark renewed Oilers' interest in Torey Krug?

Could Sekera injury spark renewed Oilers' interest in Torey Krug?

The Bruins raised some eyebrows on July 1 when they signed defenseman John Moore to a long-term contract and thereby locked themselves in with eight NHL-caliber defensemen headed into training camp next month.

It sparked plenty of informed speculation that one of the D-men would eventually be moved, with Torey Krug the most likely candidate given his contract, value on the trade market and what the Black and Gold could get in return.

Either way, Don Sweeney said after the signing that having a healthy supply of D-men was a good situation for the Bruins just in case needs arose with other teams around the league. Well, the need around the league is getting greater with the news that Edmonton Oilers D-man Andrej Sekera is out long-term following surgery to repair his Achilles tendon. 

Sekera, 32, a left-shot defenseman who was limited to only 36 games last season, had been a top-4 mainstay for the Oil the previous two seasons. Sekera was being counted on to again be that kind of quality D-man again, but that looks very much in question right now.

That leaves the Oilers badly in need of a left-shot, top-four D-man with some offensive upside and leaves open the kind of job description that Krug could very neatly fill in Edmonton. This is after some very clear interest from Edmonton in the talented, productive Krug last season. It would bring about a reunion of the offensive D-man with the general manager who originally signed him with the Bruins as an undrafted defenseman out of Michigan State.

As has often been stated, the Bruins don’t want to trade Krug, 27, after he produced 110 points the past two seasons with only Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Victor Hedman and John Klingberg scoring more from the back end in that span. Still, they badly need a top-six sniper to even off their forward lines and bring some scoring depth to a team that was far too one-dimensional in the postseason against the Maple Leafs and the Lightning.

Could a strong trade package featuring Krug be enough to pry Ryan Nugent-Hopkins away from the Oilers after he showed some great things on the wing last season? Could he also be a top-six center candidate with Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci entering NHL middle age? Could Edmonton’s desperation to turn things around be enough to really push Peter Chiarelli into desperation mode looking for a left-handed defenseman in light of Sekera’s injury?

These are good questions to ask as the Bruins ready for camp with an abundance of talented, proven NHL defensemen. They'd be dealing from a position of strength as teams, such as Edmonton, suddenly become buyers out of circumstance and desperation. Don’t be shocked if we haven’t heard the last of Krug-to-Edmonton trade rumors because the dominoes are beginning to fall and it continues to look as if it's a very real possibility.     

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Kuhlman jumps back in and helps Bruins while 'keeping it simple'

Kuhlman jumps back in and helps Bruins while 'keeping it simple'

The Bruins immediately went the speed and skill route after removing Brett Ritchie from the roster with Karson Kuhlman notching a pair of assists in a big win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kuhlman finished with the two helpers and a plus-2 rating in just 9:56 of ice time in his first NHL appearance since he broke a bone in his leg back in mid-October. 

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It was obviously a promising start for Kuhlman in his second go-around with the Bruins this season and he immediately showed some chemistry with the second- and third-line forwards he was paired with throughout the 4-1 win on Thursday night. It’s now up to Kuhlman to keep it up after showing in the past that his game fades a bit once he plays a few games in a row and enters back into the grind of the NHL.

His speed and tenacity could help the Bruins in the short term, but only if he’s got the ability to play that way just about every night.

“What I like about [Karson] Kuhlman is what I’ve always said, is that he can sit for stretches. You know, you get into those power plays and he doesn’t get that many minutes, and his motor gets zero to sixty in a hurry,” said Bruce Cassidy. “The bigger-body guys, they just naturally have a tougher time with that when they sit, it just tends to be the way it is. So, that’s one thing we’ve always liked about Kuhly — he can get up, get motor, get on pucks, get on defense, win some races.

“I mean, tonight [Thursday] he obviously chipped in a little bit of offense, good for him. We expect some level of offense and to get it right away is a nice win, it’s nice to have that production. Drives the net on the [Sean] Kuraly goal — something else we’ve talked about, getting inside a little more. Big or small, we need that. Against good teams, you have to be able to do that. All in all, Kuhly, nice night for what he brings and we’re happy to have him back. He’s a nice player for us.”

The Bruins went into this season with Kuhlman earmarked as a top-six winger for David Krejci after he put together three goals and five points in 11 games last season and had a few moments in the playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final as well. It was as much a statement about the Bruins being short on top-six wingers as much as it was about their excitement in Kuhlman’s game. That remains the case with the trade deadline looming next month.  

“It was great to be back, to be honest with you. A lot of adrenaline and my legs were there and my conditioning was there. So, I was happy to be where we were at. I was happy to be back,” said Kuhlman. “It was just getting to the bench and re-focusing on what I can do to help the team win. My game is getting up and down the ice, winning puck battles and getting pucks to the net. Keeping it simple is one of the best things I can do to help this team.”

Some have deduced that Kuhlman (5-11, 185) replacing Ritchie (6-4, 220) means the Bruins have consciously chosen speed and skill over size and strength for the long haul and it remains to be seen if that’s the case. What Kuhlman, 24, did do is again show he's capable of helping the Bruins in short bursts and against smaller, speedier opponents. That in itself is no small feat for a team in search of energy and wins right now.

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

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USA TODAY Sports photo

NHL Top 10: Who are the league's best defensemen right now?

Being an NHL defenseman is not an easy task. There are the obvious responsibilities at the defensive end where these players must block shots, win battles, break pucks out cleanly and efficiently and keep the puck out of their net at all costs. 

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Then there are the requirements for the truly special D-man that also impacts the game at the offensive end. That's what separates John Carlson, Roman Josi and Alex Pietrangelo from the run-of-the-mill NHL defensemen. The top four or five names on this list should be the names you see on the Norris Trophy ballots as they check off just about every box and that makes them the league's best defensemen right now.