Boston Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk's name has been front and center in trade rumors and speculation since his trade request became public in late November, and it seemed that at some point the team would eventually move him.
But after another stellar performance that included a hat trick and an assist in Monday night's 7-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings, the idea of the Bruins not trading DeBrusk should be strongly considered by the team.
DeBrusk notched the first hat trick of his career, scoring the first three goals of the game as Boston jumped all over a good Kings squad early.
DeBrusk scored seven goals in his first 43 games this season. He's tallied seven in the last five. Being moved up to the first line next to the elite duo of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand has helped revive DeBrusk's performance, but not all of his goals have come with those two stars on the ice. DeBrusk has been productive regardless of who he's playing with over the last five games.
"Happy for him," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said after Monday's victory. "It’s made us a more dangerous lineup, obviously, when he’s going and contributing on that line."
The Bruins need to bolster their scoring depth to make a deep playoff run. Acquiring a No. 2 center remains Boston's biggest need before the March 21 trade deadline, but finding another scoring right winger is not far behind. Aside from David Pastrnak, the Bruins have received far less scoring than expected at right wing.
DeBrusk, if he remains with the Bergeron line and isn't traded, could fill that right wing need himself. This would allow B's general manager Don Sweeney to use his best trade assets for a No. 2 center or a top-four defenseman.
"He’s played really good hockey," Bergeron said of DeBrusk before Monday's matchup. "He’s engaged, and those are the things we talked about. We like to go out on the forecheck and find ways to turn pucks over, and that's usually how we create our offense. We need that from him, when he uses his speed, he’s usually gonna be or most likely gonna be first on that puck. When you're able to keep the puck and sustain some pressure in the other team's zone, that's when you create more and start having confidence as a line to make some plays.
"He's a left-handed shot on the right wing, which is the biggest difference from David (Pastrnak) or Craig (Smith). But we've had left-handed shots on that side before -- Reilly Smith was one. It's not that bad of an adjustment, it's more (one) for him than us, if he's comfortable there. It seems like he is, and it's been a good transition."
The Bruins now have two strong lines, and the Trent Frederic-Charlie Coyle-Craig Smith trio on the third line has played very well of late, too. An upgrade at second-line center could make this group quite dangerous come playoff time.
Of course, there are some downfalls to keeping DeBrusk past the trade deadline.
Maybe his recent uptick in scoring production is being driven by the trade deadline, which can be a powerful motivator for a player who wouldn't mind a change of scenery. DeBrusk also has been very inconsistent over the last few years -- he's scored goals in back to back games just five times since the beginning of the 2019-20 campaign. DeBrusk has four separate goal droughts of seven or more games this season.
There's also the threat of losing DeBrusk for nothing in free agency. His qualifying offer is $4.41 million, and that's a bit high for a player of his caliber and a team like the B's without a ton of salary cap space. DeBrusk is a restricted free agent, though, which does give Boston a little control.
Losing a player like DeBrusk for nothing or very little in the summer would sting a bit, but it's far from a disaster scenario. The Bruins are in win-now mode with Bergeron in the final year of his contract and Marchand entering his mid-thirties. The B's need all the quality players they can get as the team prepares for what might be its last good run at a Stanley Cup title for a long time.
Sure, if Sweeney finds a great deal for DeBrusk that brings back a No. 2 center or top-four defenseman with term on his contract beyond this season -- or a rental who could be extended in the summer -- then go for it. But trading DeBrusk just because he submitted a trade request and might not want to re-sign in the offseason doesn't make any sense given his recent play.
Either way, it's a great problem for Sweeney and the Bruins to figure out. DeBrusk's resurgence could not have come at a better time for Boston.