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.
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.