Bruins

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

Bruins trade target Tyler Toffoli dealt to Canucks

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File photo

Bruins trade target Tyler Toffoli dealt to Canucks

If the Boston Bruins are planning on making a big move before the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 24, their options are dwindling.

One of their rumored trade targets, Tyler Toffoli, was dealt by the Los Angeles Kings to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.


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Ex-Bruin Tim Schaller is headed to L.A. in the deal along with prospect Tyler Madden and a second-round pick, per TSN's Bob McKenzie.

Back in January, it was reported by Sportsnet NHL insider Elliotte Friedman the Bruins "could do a deal for Toffoli almost at any time" and "have that in their hip pocket." Now, Boston is forced to look in another direction. New York Rangers winger Chris Kreider is another player linked to the B's in trade rumors.

Toffoli, who had spent all of his eight-year career with the Kings, has 18 goals and 16 assists in 58 games this season.

The Bruins will see Toffoli and the Canucks on Saturday when they face off in Vancouver.

All things considered, the Bruins are in a pretty good cap situation

All things considered, the Bruins are in a pretty good cap situation

Ahead of the 2020 NHL trade deadline, the Bruins have ample cap space to make a deal without requiring much in the way of roster gymnastics.

The Bruins hold roughly $3.1 million in salary cap space according to the invaluable CapFriendly.com, and that’s with a full roster utilizing all 23 spots along with a couple B’s players currently on long-term injured reserve as well.

Some of that is thanks to the $2.5 million cap hit for the injured Kevan Miller that’s never been on the Bruins books at any point this season. And some of that is thanks to the Bruins burying David Backes’ contract in the AHL more than a month ago.

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What it means is that the Bruins can make a decent deadline deal without being forced to dump salary, and would only be pushed into making moves to free up cap space if it were for an impact player with a substantial cap hit in the $5 plus million range.

The Bruins’ cap situation gives the Bruins some room to work while also boasting a roster that’s put up the most points in the NHL midway through the month of February.

That’s a pretty darn good situation to be in for Sweeney and Co. at the deadline coming off a Stanley Cup Final-worthy season.

For example, the Bruins were interested in Blake Coleman’s services prior to the New Jersey forward getting dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning and it would have required zero in cap-clearing moves to bring the speedy, feisty Coleman into the fold. That’s part of the reason the Bruins had a keen interest in Coleman in the first place as a low-cost option for the next couple of seasons.

Miller (fractured kneecap) has been skating on his own for weeks, but isn’t close to returning with legitimate question marks as to whether or not he’ll ever be healthy enough to play this season. That gives the Bruins cap space to play with ahead of next week’s trade deadline and potentially allows them to go over the cap if Miller were to somehow be healthy enough to return just ahead of Boston’s playoff run.  

There is, after all, no salary cap in the Stanley Cup playoffs and a crafty salary cap manager can use that to their advantage over the final few months of the season if the timing of an injured player’s return works out perfectly.

If the Bruins were to bring in a player like Chris Kreider or Tyler Toffoli (both in the $4.6 million range), for instance, they’d need to clear about $1.5 million in cap space ahead of the deal. The Bruins could achieve that by shipping depth guys like Anton Blidh and Jeremy Lauzon to the minors provided everybody else was healthy.

If it’s a more expensive cap acquisition like Mike Hoffman or Wayne Simmonds, then the Bruins would be forced to deal away a roster player with bottom-pairing defenseman John Moore as the most likely candidate to be shipped out of town.

The 29-year-old Moore ($2.75 million cap hit) has toggled between bottom-pairing defenseman and healthy scratch when he hasn’t been injured in his first two seasons with the Bruins. And the Black and Gold have cheaper in-house alternatives in Lauzon and Connor Clifton.

It’s never prudent for a team like the Bruins with Stanley Cup aspirations to trade away defensemen depth down the stretch. But they might not have a choice if they’re forced to go with Plan C or Plan D when the hours start counting down to next Monday’s trade deadline.