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NHL trade targets: 5 defensemen for Bruins to pursue before deadline

NHL trade targets: 5 defensemen for Bruins to pursue before deadline

The Boston Bruins have hit their bye week after a quality win over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday.

The break gives the B's some much-needed time to rest up and treat injuries, and it also provides management with an opportunity to analyze its roster and determine what kind of upgrades the team should make before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Bolstering the depth on the blue line is an annual goal for contending teams at the deadline, and the Bruins should be no exception in 2020. Boston has one of the better blue lines in the NHL, but this group's depth is always tested in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Finding a veteran D-man to add to the roster would be a smart move for general manager Don Sweeney in the coming weeks.

Here are five defensemen the Bruins should consider pursuing at the trade deadline (All salary information via Cap Friendly, advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).

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Alec Martinez, Los Angeles Kings
2019-20 stats
: 32 GP, 1 G, 5 A, 43 SOG
Contract: $4 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2020-21

The Kings enter Wednesday tied for the second-worst record in the league, and they should be sellers ahead of the trade deadline. Martinez is one of their best trade chips. He's not going to contribute a ton offensively, but he's a steady presence in the defensive end who can play 20-plus minutes per night. The 32-year-old veteran has played in 64 career playoff games and owns two Stanley Cup rings with the Kings, so he'd bring loads of postseason experience to a contender.

Martinez is fairly versatile, too. He's a left-shot defenseman but has shown an impressive ability to be productive on the right side. Martinez also is not a rental. He's signed through next season at a reasonable cap hit, which helps make him an attractive target for a contending team that expects to compete for a Stanley Cup in the short term.

Brenden Dillon, San Jose Sharks
2019-20 stats
: 50 GP, 1 G, 10 A, 43 SOG
Contract: $3,270,000 cap hit, UFA after this season

Dillon, like Martinez, isn't going to light up the stat sheet with impressive offensive numbers, but he would add some physicality and snarl to the Bruins blue line at 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds. San Jose hasn't played particularly well this season, but Dillon is making a positive impact. The Sharks have a plus-38 edge in shot attempts, a plus-15 advantage in shots on goal and a plus-16 mark in scoring chances at 5-on-5 with Dillon on the ice.

The Sharks are 11 points out of a playoff spot (as of this writing), so it absolutely would be smart for them to trade some of their upcoming free agents. Dillon will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, so he's a rental trade target. If he can be had for merely a draft pick(s), it's definitely a move worth pursuing.

Sami Vatanen, New Jersey Devils
2019-20 stats: 44 GP, 5 G, 17 A, 91 SOG
Contract: $4,875,000 cap hit, UFA after this season

Vatanen is the type of defenseman you acquire for an offensive upgrade on the back end. He's a smooth skater, a good passer (especially in transition) and is able to roam the blue line on the power play. He's actually averaging 3:00 of power-play ice time per game for the Devils, and 10 (one goal, nine assists) of his 17 points have come with the man advantage.

The 28-year-old veteran is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the summer, so he's also rental. Vatanen is a good offensive player and worth pursuing for the right deal. The ideal scenario for the Bruins, however, would be young defensemen Matt Grzelcyk or Jeremy Lauzon giving them scoring contributions from the blue line so the team can use its trade assets elsewhere.

Ron Hainsey, Ottawa Senators
2019-20 stats: 41 GP, 1 G, 7 A, 29 SOG
Contract: $3.5 million, UFA after this season

Hainsey would be a defensive depth upgrade for the Bruins. The 38-year-old veteran is not a top-four player at this stage of his career. He does, however, have plenty of postseason experience. Hainsey has taken part in 39 playoff games over the last three seasons, including a role on the Pittsburgh Penguins' Stanley Cup-winning roster in 2016-17. He's also a decent penalty killer and has played 3:14 of shorthanded ice time per game for Ottawa.

The Senators are still rebuilding and it makes no sense for them to keep a UFA like Hainsey when they could move him at the trade deadline for a draft pick or prospect. Hainsey isn't likely to come in and greatly improve a contending team's blue line, but you can't have enough defensive depth in April, May and June.

Erik Gustafsson, Chicago Blackhawks
2019-20 stats: 50 GP, 6 G, 18 A, 83 SOG
Contract: $1.2 million cap hit, UFA after this season

The Blackhawks are three points behind a wild card playoff berth and four points in back of a Central Division playoff berth, so it's not definite that they'll be sellers at the trade deadline. If they do decide to sell, Gustafsson should be an attractive target for teams that want to upgrade the offensive skill on their blue line.

Gustafsson has a small cap hit, so he wouldn't difficult to fit into a team's salary structure. His ability to generate offense and play on the power play also is valuable. His role would be someone who's deployed on many offensive zone faceoffs.

The Bruins, or any other contender, shouldn't overpay for Gustafsson. He's not a two-way player, and he's not worth a second-round draft pick, but a third-rounder (or lower) or a middle-tier prospect wouldn't be a bad price.

Haggerty: Kreider remains top trade target for B's when time comes

NHL rumors: Execs view Bruins, Avalanche as fits for a Joe Thornton trade

NHL rumors: Execs view Bruins, Avalanche as fits for a Joe Thornton trade

Joe Thornton is one of the best players in NHL history who hasn't won a Stanley Cup, but will he choose to chase that elusive ring and ask for a move before Monday's NHL trade deadline?

Thornton has played more than 15 years for the San Jose Sharks after the Boston Bruins traded him to the West Coast during the 2005-06 season. The Sharks have been one of the league's winningest teams during the regular season with Thornton, but playoff success has largely escaped them. They've reached the Stanley Cup Final only once during his tenure in San Jose, and the Sharks lost that series to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games four years ago.

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Thornton is 40 years old and in the final year of his contract. If there was a time to pursue a Stanley Cup title with a contender, it's right now. So, if he does want a trade, which teams make sense for the veteran center? Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun spoke to multiple executives around the league who shared their thoughts on the best fits for Thornton.

He has a full “no move” clause, but the Sharks would like to give him the opportunity to win a Stanley Cup. If he’s going to be dealt, then league executives believe he’ll only go to a team that has a chance to win, so the Colorado Avalanche and Boston Bruins are both viewed as good fits.

Thornton coming back to Boston, the place he began his Hall of Fame career, and winning a Stanley Cup with the Bruins would be an amazing story. 

From a hockey fit perspective, Thornton would be a good bottom-six addition for the Bruins, but only if another move for a goal-scorer was made ahead of the deadline. Thornton alone isn't going to make the Bruins a much-improved team. He's no longer an elite offensive player, and he hasn't hit the 20-goal mark since 2010-11. Thornton is still a decent playmaker and effective on the power play, but the Bruins need secondary goal scoring behind the Perfection Line. A player like New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider would best address this concern, and TSN reported Tuesday that the Bruins and Avalanche have emerged as frontrunners for a Kreider trade.

Kreider and Thornton would be a nice haul for the B's and help give them a strong chance to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the playoffs. All three of these teams have made trades over the last two weeks to bolster their rosters for the postseason.

Being traded to a contender doesn't always work for players in Thornton's position, and Jarome Iginla in 2013 is among the best recent examples. But Thornton absolutely deserves a chance, and the Bruins arguably are best-positioned of any team to win the Stanley Cup this spring.

Top 10 players for teams to target ahead of NHL trade deadline

NHL Rumors: Did Devils GM hint at wanting to acquire a defenseman?

NHL Rumors: Did Devils GM hint at wanting to acquire a defenseman?

The Boston Bruins have been linked to New Jersey Devils forward Kyle Palmieri for a while now.

However, the Devils don't appear eager to trade their veteran top scorer at the deadline. Still, if Bruins GM Don Sweeney gives the Devils an offer they can't refuse, then Palmieri very well could suit up on David Krejci's right wing.

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What would it take to land Palmieri? Well, our Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty noted that he could be had for a first-round pick, a young cost-controlled player such as Anders Bjork, and a top-notch prospect. Devils interim GM Tom Fitzgerald had some interesting things to say regarding how his organization would approach the trade deadline.

"We've all underperformed this year. We're in this sell mode right now because of our Octobers, Novembers, Decembers and January. So, there's not one player that feels really good about what the season looks like. Underperforming is really where we're at that drove this situation," Fitzgerald said on SiriusXM's NHL Network. "Certain players, I believe, they will get better. I believe that they can find their games and get it back to where it's normal. We don't need P.K. Subban being a 25-minute-a-night guy. We need to find support for him so he can play at his best -at minutes that will allow him to do what he does well."

Did Fitzgerald just hint at the Devils wanting to acquire a defenseman at the deadline? Maybe. If so, the B's have plenty of defensemen they could send to New Jersey. For example, John Moore, at this point, has been expendable for the Bruins. Prospects such as Jakub Zboril and Urho Vaakanainen may be able to improve New Jersey's defensive situation and ease the life of Subban.

While it's just speculation, it would make some sense considering the Devils traded defenseman Andy Greene to the New York Islanders in exchange for a defensive prospect and Blake Coleman to the Tampa Bay Lightning for an offensive prospect and first-round pick over the weekend.

If the Bruins were to land Palmieri, the Devils would acquire some pretty solid assets in return.