The 2021 Stanley Cup Final began Monday night with the Tampa Bay Lightning beating the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1, but for most of the NHL's 31 teams, the offseason is already underway.
That includes the Boston Bruins, who have many interesting/tough decisions to make with free agents and potential trade targets.
Two of the Bruins' primary needs are a left-shooting top-four defenseman and another winger who can score goals. There's one team that could satisfy both areas via trade, and it's the Arizona Coyotes.
"The Boston Bruins may revisit trade talks on Arizona Coyotes captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The bigger question: Could a potential package include winger and Boston native Conor Garland? The Bruins are believed to have interest in both," longtime NHL reporter Frank Seravalli wrote Tuesday on Daily Faceoff.
Seravalli added later in the story: "One way to better pique the interest of the Bruins? Include Garland in the conversation. It’s clear that Garland is on his way out of the desert. The scrappy Scituate, Mass., native has enjoyed success in a Bruins jersey before – racking up 42 goals and 94 points in just 40 games in a season with the Boston Jr. Bruins playing alongside Jack Eichel. (He actually outscored Eichel that season.)"
Ekman-Larsson isn't a great fit for the Bruins for several reasons. One is his contract, which, as Seravalli noted, has six years remaining with a large $8.25 million salary cap hit. That cap hit would be the largest on the Bruins. The Bruins should be saving the bulk of their blue line spending for new contracts with Brandon Carlo (an RFA this summer) and Charlie McAvoy (an RFA next summer).
The Coyotes defenseman's on-ice performance -- whether that includes scoring, various shot metrics, etc. -- also has dipped in recent seasons. He's no longer a top 10 defenseman.
So, while Ekman-Larsson doesn't make a ton of sense for the Bruins, Garland very much does. The Massachusetts-born forward finished third on the Coyotes in scoring with 39 points, including a team-leading 27 assists. Those 39 points in 49 games this past season equaled his total from the 2019-20 campaign when he played 68 games.
Garland would be a solid addition to the Bruins' third line, not only for his offensive skill but also his versatility in being able to play both left and right wing. He's also a productive 5-on-5 player, which the Bruins really need. Garland scored 27 of his 39 points during 5-on-5 action. His 27 5-on-5 points led the Coyotes and would've tied Patrice Bergeron for the third-most on the Bruins.
Garland is a restricted free agent, so the Coyotes control the situation. A trade would probably be the easiest way for the B's to acquire him. If he's actually available, B's general manager Don Sweeney would be wise to inquire and see what it would take to bring the Scituate native back home.