The NHL trade deadline is less than a month away, and the Boston Bruins need to make a move or two.
One of the top players rumored to be available is Nashville Predators defenseman Mattias Ekholm. The 30-year-old veteran is a reliable top-four defenseman who excels at both ends of the ice and takes on 20-plus minutes per game with tough defensive assignments. He would be a real difference maker on a Stanley Cup contender's blue line.
Furthermore, Ekholm is not a rental. He is signed through next season at a team-friendly $3.75 million salary cap hit.
What's it going to cost to acquire Ekholm? Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman discussed one potential asking price on "31 Thoughts: The Podcast" earlier this week.
"They are looking for a [Jake] Muzzin kind of package," Friedman said. "Two prospects and a first rounder. And someone's going to pay that."
Who's interested in Ekholm? The Bruins were one team Friedman mentioned.
"Now my question is, who is it gonna be? Winnipeg I think is in. Boston is in. I've had some questions about whether or not Toronto is in. The thing with Toronto is, if you get him, you've got three lefties in Reilly, Muzzin and (Ekholm). What are you doing with that? How are you sorting that out? I've heard at times Montreal is in, but I've also had people tell me that Montreal is not, so I don't know what to make of that. The other wild card there is Philly."
So, should the Bruins pay two prospects and a first-rounder (or a similar package) for Ekholm?
It's a fair price and one Boston should absolutely be willing to pay. But while acquiring a top-four defenseman before the trade deadline would be an excellent move for Boston, it's not the team's most pressing need.
If the Bruins are going to pay a premium -- like two prospects and a first-round pick -- it should be to acquire a top-six forward.
Secondary scoring is a more glaring issue than blue line depth/talent on this Boston roster. The B's rank 28th in 5-on-5 goals, and they've scored only one goal or fewer in four of the last six games. The Bruins don't have any reliable scoring lines outside of the top trio featuring Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak.
Ekholm is fantastic and would make the Bruins blue line much better, but if B's general manager Don Sweeney wants to make a splash at the trade deadline, a top-six forward needs to be the first move.