Haggerty: Six potential Bruins trade targets
The Bruins made their free agent moves and announcements at the end of the July 1 opening of NHL free agency, but they’re still one significant move short of a truly successful offseason. They have some young options for an open second line winger spot after banking on the young guys up front clearly worked out with Danton Heinen and Jake DeBrusk establishing themselves as NHL players.
But let’s be honest here -- the Bruins need a high-impact goal-scoring winger, preferably with a little size and bite to their game, and they don’t really have that kind of player within their own ranks. A trade may come over the next couple of months, or it may come during training camp once teams are able to gauge their own players, or it may come during the season as it did last season when the Bruins pulled the trigger on a Rick Nash deal.
But it feels inevitable the Bruins are going to make a move for a top-six winger with some scoring ability, so here are the top targets for the Black and Gold with trade talks again kicking up after free agency:
The 26-year-old Skinner has topped 30 goals three times in his career with the Hurricanes, along with averaging 25 goals per season during his eight-year career, and is young enough and productive enough to warrant a significant investment. He’s 5-foot-11, 200-pounds with good skating wheels and the ability to finish around the net, and he’s signed through the upcoming season at a reasonable rate of $5.73 million. Given the Bruins are going to have to give up something good (a potential landing spot for Torey Krug) in order to be in the market for Skinner, they’d have to be pretty certain that he was going to re-up with the Bruins once his contract was up. But based purely on his scoring ability, his durability, his productivity and that he’s in the prime of his career, Skinner would be one of the top options for the Bruins. The question from a Carolina perspective is whether the Hurricanes are going to package Skinner and Justin Faulk together just as they did to get Dougie Hamilton and Elias Lindholm, or if they’d potentially peel off Skinner in a separate deal.
The 26-year-old right-winger has basically averaged 30 goals and 80 points a season in his three years in the NHL, and has done it with both the high-powered Blackhawks and the blue collar Blue Jackets. Despite his right-handed shot, Panarin has played left wing for the most part in the NHL, but has all the ingredients to be the right winger that the Bruins are looking for. Even better, Panarin has been close to a point-per-game player in the postseason as well and seems able to produce offense in any manner of situations. So as a player the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Panarin is the perfect fit for the Bruins, and once again appears available by Columbus after he made it clear he wasn’t going to be signing a contract extension with them ahead of free agency. One would expect Torey Krug would be part of the package for a Columbus team that ranked 25th in the NHL on the power play last season, and that Panarin wouldn’t come cheap. Part of the issue with trading for him is the uncertainty about his contract needs, and the whispers that he wants to play in New York City once he becomes a free agent player in another season. One thing the B’s don’t want to do is give up a high-impact player and then be left with nothing in what could turn out to be a one-season rental. Still, Panarin would be dynamite in Black and Gold and it’s definitely worth pursuing.
t’s really too bad the Simmonds trade possibilities didn’t become anything close to possible before this season, because he would have been perfect in Black and Gold a couple of years ago. Now Simmonds will be 30 years old before the season starts and is coming off hip surgery after logging plenty of hard miles in LA and Philly.. Simmonds is one of those rare power forward-types that can put up 30 goals, 60 points and 100 penalty minutes in a season, and probably will do it again this year entering into his free agent season. Given the age and the wear and tear, the Bruins probably need to steer clear of a player in Simmonds that will cost a pretty penny in terms of assets and then will be looking for a massive contract extension in order to sidestep free agency. That’s way too much of an investment for a player that’s going to be on the wrong side of 30 years old even if he’s still probably got a couple of tough, productive power forward seasons still ahead of him. If he were 25 years old, Simmonds is the kind of guy I’d say that the Bruins absolutely need that’s capable of dropping the gloves, scoring goals and changing momentum with his physicality. But the cost would be too prohibitive for a player that will soon be past his prime.
Can you go home again to Boston if you’re Milan Lucic? Clearly Boston was the best NHL spot for Lucic; it’s where he was drafted and developed into one of the hardest-hitting, most intimidating players in the NHL, and it’s where he won a Stanley Cup while turning into an offensive threat. But things are slowing down for Lucic as he’s now turned 30 years old, and carries a massive $6 million cap hit for the foreseeable future. He’s coming off his worst season in the NHL with just 10 goals and 34 points, even if he did once again finish in the top-five in registered hits this season. They wouldn’t be giving up as much for Lucic in a trade as his value has dropped a bit, and they also wouldn’t be taking him on unless Edmonton was willing to eat at least a couple million dollars per season on a bad, bad contract. But if the Bruins could get him at a reduced rate without giving up too much in assets, would it be worth reuniting Lucic and Krejci on the second line to see if that could spark the power forward back up to 20 plus goals? Certainly the Bruins wouldn’t get pushed around in the playoffs like they did against the Lightning last season, and that’s worth something in and of itself. Besides, if the Bruins were only paying $3-4 million per season for Lucic, a third line role would be something they could swallow cap-wise as well if that’s what he turned out to be in a second B’s go-round. It remains to be seen if Edmonton is even going to move Lucic, but it’s something worth thinking about for the Bruins.
He’s probably the least likely to be traded of anybody on this list, but would be worth a run at, if available, as far as the Bruins are concerned. The 25-year-old center played wing last season on a line with Connor McDavid, and matched his career-high with 24 goals scored for the Oilers. Nugent-Hopkins would have the added value with the Bruins since he could play winger or eventually become the second line center in his prime that Boston obviously was interested in given their pursuit of John Tavares. Still, there’s got to be some questions about a player that was drafted No. 1 overall and has never scored more than 24 goals or 56 points in a season. Nugent-Hopkins has some offensive punch and playmaking ability, but he’s probably a bigger deal in hype/reputation than he’s actually ever been as an NHL hockey player. There are some danger signs with him even if he was available, and I’m not sure he even checks most of the boxes of what the Bruins are truly looking for in that spot. He’s not really a sniper, he’s not an overly physical player at 6-foot, 190-pounds and Edmonton would be looking for a haul for a player of his ilk. If this is the kind of player that the Oilers would offer up in exchange for Krug on the trade market, I’d probably pass on this deal while being willing to pull the trigger for Skinner or Panarin.
The 26-year-old Zucker hasn’t been mentioned much in trade circles, particularly with the Bruins. But the Wild winger might be one of the best possibilities given an excellent season with 33 goals and 64 points last season, and given his youth and pedigree as a solid, productive winger in Minnesota. It was a career season for Zucker, who had topped 20 goals a couple of times with the Wild before completely breaking out last season. The 5-foot-11, 188-pound Zucker is a left shot winger and would probably necessitate some moving around of the pieces up front, and he would come at a premium cost given his age and the season he had leading into restricted free agency. Zucker is coming off a contract that paid him $2 million last season, but the contract part would probably be the easiest part for a Bruins team looking for that kind of a player. He’s not as flashy perhaps as Skinner or Panarin, and he hasn’t done it for as many years as Simmonds has, but Zucker could be a player that is just hitting a high level that he’s going to stick at for the next few years. It could be worth buying in on a rising player like that, but it will cost the Bruins in terms of prospects, players and money together in order to make this one happen.
Just hear me out before you start throwing things. It’s uncertain whether the Senators are going to be able to package Ryan into any Erik Karlsson deal they pull off, so they will also still be looking to dump the 31-year-old right wing elsewhere. Similar to Lucic, he’s a player who wouldn’t cost much in assets the Senators would have to pick up half the money owed him in order to make the deal work. So the Bruins would be getting a 6-foot-2, 200-pound Ryan who has only scored 24 goals in the last two seasons in Ottawa. But they’d also be getting a Ryan that was a motivated stud in the postseason a couple of years ago for Ottawa and put up six goals and 15 points in 19 playoff games while racking up an energetic 42 shots on net. One could make the argument he would be better in the regular season around better players in Boston, but the question becomes whether he’d be worth getting for the kind of veteran performer that he turns into in the postseason. He would be the kind of player the Bruins should only seek out if they’re sure that their own young players aren’t capable of providing that offensive jolt on the second line. But we’re also talking about a big body that’s scored 234 goals in his NHL career, and none of Boston’s young prospects can approach that kind of resume right now.