Haggerty: Five potential trade chips for the Bruins
It’s interesting to note that the Bruins didn’t have a single player that cracked TSN’s trade bait list for the summer months. That usually portends to a quiet stretch of sitting on the sidelines rather than engineering mind-blowing offseason deals. Still, the Bruins also have a couple of significant spots on their roster that could stand improvement, whether it’s a top-four left side defenseman or a right-wing sniper capable of being paired with David Krejci on the second line.
Perhaps the Bruins re-sign Rick Nash thereby eliminating the second-line winger as an offseason need and perhaps they want to get a look at a young D-man, such as Jakub Zboril, to see if they are ready for prime time. That would make for a truly quiet summer for Don Sweeney & Co., but really shouldn’t be the case after the team appeared to be approaching true contender status with a 112-point regular season.
A couple of shrewd moves to improve the roster could give them the boost they need to go over the top in the next couple of seasons. So, here’s a list of five significant players the Bruins could entertain, might entertain or have no business entertaining as trade chips as the rumors fly fast and furiously. . .
1. Torey Krug
Certainly the riskiest of chips the Bruins could part with, Krug, 27, is among the top-point producing defensemen the past two years and powers a Bruins man-advantage that’s become one of the best in the NHL. There are a number of teams that would highly value Krug for his ability to make an impact on a power play. Plus, he’s worked himself into a viable top-four defenseman capable of playing 20-plus minutes per game despite his 5-foot-9, 186-pound frame. Unfortunately, that smaller frame has led to the D-man getting knocked out of the playoffs the past two seasons with injuries and that’s becoming a problem. Krug is a good pro, an excellent leader, a hard worker and is extremely tough for his size while willing to play through injuries. The shot, puck-moving and passing are all very strong attributes that have led to a whopping 110 points the past two seasons. Krug could be an extremely valuable asset to Edmonton, which needs a power-play quarterback, or Carolina, which could absolutely use a different kind of D-man. This is why Krug is being mentioned so much in potential trade scenarios: His value combined with what he would bring in a return makes him a potentially valuable chip for the Black and Gold and something they could use if they decided to make significant upgrades to their roster.
Why Krug would get dealt: The Bruins are alternately old (Zdeno Chara will be 42) and undersized (both Krug and Matt Grzelcyk are small) on the left side and the Bruins need a makeover on the left side that would give them a bigger, frontline, left-shot D-man among their top-four. With youngsters Charlie McAvoy and Grzelcyk emerging as offensive puck-movers, the time would be right to move Krug if they were going to do it.
Why Krug won’t get dealt: Krug is among the best offensive defenseman in the NHL and he’s a crucial part of Boston’s top PP unit from the point. Subtracting him from the Bruins may do more harm than good unless the B's are certain McAvoy can take over his power-play duties. Bruce Cassidy and Sweeney are fans of Krug’s game, so trading him away would be difficult.
2. David Backes
The power forward, 34, has been mentioned a tiny bit as a potential trade chip, but it seems pretty far-fetched that Backes would be going anywhere. He’s owed three more seasons at $6 million per and his play has dropped as the injuries have begun to mount for a hard-nosed player that’s logged a lot of hard miles in his career. The 14 goals and 33 points in 57 games was decent enough production, but he really hasn’t been a $6 million-per-year player while filling a third-line role. So, the Bruins would need to probably pick up money on any deal they would make with Backes and dealing him would make them even smaller, weaker and younger among their forwards. Also, Backes has been a strong, accountable voice in the Bruins dressing room and filled a leadership void among lead-by-example veterans Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. The best bet for the Bruins and Backes is that he bounces back next season, avoids bad luck when it comes to his health and gives them 80 games worth of the level he played at last year, which was pretty good in the regular season.
Why Backes would get dealt: With the salary cap expected to go up substantially next season, the cap floor is going to rise as well. That means some teams will need to take on money to reach the salary cap floor and perhaps there might be a team or two looking to add on a physical, leader-type as an added salary. Feels like more fantasy than reality, but one never knows.
Why Backes won’t get dealt: He’s a 34 and still effective when healthy, but he’s clearly on the decline while holding down a $6 million-per-season cap hit the next three years. If a team is looking to get out of contracts, it’s traditionally more of a buyout situation than trade situation. Even more importantly, he has a no-movement clause that doesn’t seem like there’s any shot of him waiving.
3. David Krejci
Krejci, 32, another aging, highly-paid veteran who is near the top of the list of contracts the Bruins would love to get out of if they could. Krejci missed 18 games with injuries last season and has battled an increasing level of aches and pains the past couple of seasons, including a troublesome back. While it’s clear Krejci has still playmaking skills, can generate at a level of offense close to 20 goals per season and is still a top-six NHL center, he’s also clearly not a player that’s as good as he was five years ago. In fairness, he doesn’t have Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic on either side of him anymore, but Krejci was as guilty as anybody for the offensive shutdown in the second round against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The declining game along with the $7.25 million cap hit make Krejci a burden on the salary cap and really limit just good Boston’s second line is going to be while he’s still the man in the middle. It would be more about getting out from under Krejci’s contract than getting great value in return if they did make a move with him. As with Backes, it’s a lot easier said than done.
Why Krejci would get dealt: In a salary-cap world, contracts such as Krejci's are hard ones for to teams to manage while staying competitive. Given some of his consistency issues, the value really isn’t there for him at his current $7 million-plus cap hit and those are usually the poster boys for trade rumors.
Why Krejci won’t get dealt: While Krejci isn’t as good as he used to be, the Bruins don’t yet have a young center who could step up and replace him as a top-six center either. The Bruins aren’t even sure if they have a young player who could step up and win a third-line center job if Riley Nash isn’t re-signed, but trading Krejci wouldn’t be advisable until Boston has a replacement plan in place whether it’s Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Trent Frederic, Jack Studnicka or somebody else.
4. Tuukka Rask
The goaltender, 31, is a lightning rod for Bruins fan discussion with some signing his praises as a true elite, No. 1 goalie and others clamoring for something different while pecking at his deficiencies. While Rask might not be worth the $7 million cap hit he’s taking up and certainly is a bit of a high maintenance No. 1 guy who needs his physical and mental rest to be effective, he’s also the best that the Bruins have within their organization. The Bruins can’t even entertain any far-off notions of trading Rask until they have a young goalie who can step in and take his place, or at the very least step in and potentially be his backup next season. The Bruins don’t even have that unless you count a young player in Zane McIntyre who had major consistency issues in the AHL with Providence last season. Instead, the Bruins lost that potential young goalie when Malcolm Subban was claimed off waivers by the Vegas Golden Knights and promptly became a very good backup goalie. So, don’t even start concocting the Rask trade scenarios until the Bruins have some kind of replacement. They’re not even close right now.
Why Rask would get dealt: With a $7 million cap hit and a spotty recent history in big games, the theoretical argument is there that Boston might be better off paying less for a goalie who could give them comparable performance.
Why Rask won’t get dealt: The Bruins have Anton Khudobin, Zane McIntyre and Daniel Vladar as the possible replacements internally if they moved Rask. So, yeah, not happening. Also, the trade value for elite goalies like Rask really isn’t what it used to be in old time hockey days, so there’s a lot of good reasons why dealing him would be a non-starter.
5. Brandon Carlo
The defenseman, who turns 22 in November, was a name often heard on the rumor mill in his first two seasons in the NHL as other teams highly valued Carlo for his size, strength and skating ability for such a big man. Unfortunately for Carlo, some of the luster might be off him as a D-man prospect after he regressed in the offense and puck-moving departments in his second season while playing in a top-four role more often with Krug rather than Zdeno Chara. Carlo dropped from six goals and 16 points as a rookie to just six assists in his second season and again was injured at the end of the regular season and was knocked out for the playoffs. Certainly, there’s still plenty of upside for a player who really seemed to be embracing his defensive-zone battle level prior to getting hurt this season. There are also raw offensive skills that could be developed a bit more were he in a different role. Clearly, the Bruins missed Carlo in the postseason when it came to moving the puck, killing penalties and overall play in the defensive zone, so one would guess they’ll be a lot more reluctant to even entertain moving the big-bodied, young D-man.
Why Carlo would get dealt: If the right deal came along for an impact player, Carlo would undoubtedly still be one of the names asked about in trade talks. If it was a good enough player coming back to Boston, perhaps they would pull the trigger on Carlo, who still has his best years ahead of him as a stay-at-home D-man.
Why Carlo won’t get dealt: It sure seems as if the Bruins don’t want to trade any of their young NHL defensemen and that’s why nothing came of the trade talks with Colorado in Carlo’s rookie season. The Bruins should have had their eyes opened as to how much they missed Carlo in the playoffs and how much they’re going to need him for next season and beyond.