The Boston Bruins have the salary cap flexibility to make an impactful move before the April 12 trade deadline as the team gears up for another Stanley Cup Playoff run -- perhaps the last with the team's current veteran core.
CapFriendly projects the Bruins to have $8,681,150 in cap space to use at the deadline, which is a pretty large amount and more than several other contending teams.
Who will the Bruins try to acquire using this cap space?
In his latest "31 Thoughts" column on Sportsnet.ca, Elliotte Friedman noted that the Bruins and divisional rival Philadelphia Flyers are both looking to bolster their blue line ahead of the trade deadline.
"Boston and Philadelphia are eyeing defensemen, although both teams must monitor expansion-draft issues," Friedman writes. "You don’t want to make that situation worse, unless of course you are trading something that nullifies the problem.
The B's have two primary needs to address at the trade deadline: scoring depth and a veteran defenseman.
The Bruins are an average scoring team during 5-on-5 action. They rank 25th in goals scored and 26th in goals-for percentage at 5-on-5. This is far from ideal, and a problem that plagued Boston in last year's second-round playoff loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
While scoring depth is an issue, finding another defenseman should be the bigger priority. The Bruins have the best line in hockey led by Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. Second-line center David Krejci returned Wednesday after missing about two weeks due to injury. Craig Smith was signed in the offseason to give more depth, and he should continue to improve.
The blue line has more question marks.
The Bruins made the decision to move on from longtime captain Zdeno Chara and give the young defensemen -- most notably Jeremy Lauzon, Matt Grzelcyk and Jakub Zboril -- an increased role. For the first month of the season, these players stepped up and played better than expected.
But injuries have hit the blue line pretty hard over the last few weeks. Lauzon is early into a four-week (at minimum) absence because of a fractured hand. Grzelcyk and veteran Kevan Miller are out of the lineup due to injuries, too.
Going into the playoffs with Zboril, rookie Urho Vaakanainen and newly signed Jarred Tinordi playing semi-important roles would be bad for the Bruins.
The ideal defenseman target for the Bruins would be Mattias Ekholm of the Nashville Predators. Ekholm is a legit top-four defenseman with an impressive two-way skill set and capable of playing 20-plus minutes per game against quality competition. He's also signed for one more season, so he's not a rental.
The Bruins have a chance to make a deep playoff run. They won't have to face the Lightning until at least the third round of the postseason. This is the year to make a trade deadline splash and fortify the roster for another march toward the Stanley Cup Final.