The Bruins are left with Chris Kreider and Kyle Palmieri as the two biggest top-6 winger names still available on the trade market -- and likely to move -- ahead of Monday afternoon’s NHL trade deadline.
Part of the waiting game for Boston is on the Rangers and Devils, who are mulling if they’re indeed going to deal the impact wingers. Part of the waiting game is a hesitancy on the Bruins part to pay the kind of premium price those teams are still anticipating five days ahead of the deadline.
That means the Bruins need alternatives to Kreider and Palmieri if the cost becomes too prohibitive as it seems like it is right now for Kreider, with the Rangers reportedly looking for a Rick Nash-type package for the speedy, big left winger.
"It's going to be a first-round pick, a prospect and some other piece," NBC Sports and TSN analyst Bob McKenzie said on NBC’s “Our Line Starts” podcast earlier this week. "Some other piece could be a player, it could be a lower-level prospect, it might be a lower-level draft pick, and there might be a conditional pick in there, too, if you re-sign him."
For the Bruins that would mean a first round pick, a top prospect like Urho Vaakanainen or Trent Frederic and then a potential roster piece like Danton Heinen. Certainly there’s flexibility in there with older prospects like Anders Bjork or Jeremy Lauzon potentially in the mix as well, but the bottom line is that it’s going to be a high price for a top drawer rental player like Kreider.
It should be an even higher price tag for a player like Palmieri who's been a big goal-producer and still has a year left on his contract beyond this season at a reasonable $4.85 million cap hit. The Bruins are interested in non-rental players like Palmieri that could solve Boston’s top-6 problem for a longer period of time, but there is most definitely a cost associated with that solution.
Some of the other winger alternatives have already been dealt with both Tyler Toffoli and Blake Coleman moving well ahead of Monday’s deadline, but there are still other players out there that could fit Boston’s needs.
One of those wingers expected to move is Chicago Blackhawks winger Brandon Saad, per Sportsnet analyst Elliotte Friedman on his 31 Thoughts podcast.
“If it’s Kreider, Palmieri or Brandon Saad, they might consider doing it,” said Friedman of the Bruins giving up a first-round pick in a deadline deal. “I think Boston would prefer to do one of their younger players that maybe hasn’t gotten as much of a run [in the NHL] as one would have hoped.”
Saad fits the profile as an offensively viable top-6 winger with considerable postseason experience, and he’s having a pretty good season with 18 goals and 28 points in 48 games with an even plus/minus rating. More importantly, the 27-year-old Saad will be available now that the Blackhawks have fallen hard out of playoff contention with a collapse during the month of February.
Saad has topped out at 31 goals and 53 points in a season during his career, but he’s consistently been in the 20 goal/45 points neighborhood in his career and has 16 goals in 72 career playoff games mostly with the Blackhawks. He’d be an upgrade over players like Karson Kuhlman and Danton Heinen that might get top-6 looks in the playoffs if the Bruins don’t make a move, but he also comes as a less-than-perfect solution as a natural left winger.
Like Palmieri, Saad is also signed for next season and would merit a higher trade cost given that he’s not a strict rental player, either.
Saad brings pretty good size at 6-foot-1, 202-pounds, but he’s not nearly as big or physical as Kreider is on the left wing. Palmieri has an advantage on both Kreider and Saad because he’s the natural right wing that the Bruins truly require right now. Saad also holds a $6 million cap hit that’s higher than either Kreider or Palmieri and that would force a few more hoops for Don Sweeney to jump through before consummating a deal.
While not as impressive in the household name department as Kreider or Palmieri, Sweeney needs options at the deadline and a player like Saad gives him exactly that with the pressure mounting to get a deal done.