The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 24, so there's a little more than a month for the Boston Bruins and other contenders to make roster upgrades for the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Bruins enter the weekend leading the Atlantic Division and rank among the top Stanley Cup contenders in the league. Despite having a deep roster loaded with postseason experience, the Bruins could certainly use a little more physicality in their lineup, particularly up front. The playoffs often are a grind, where the game slows down and physical play can really wear on players over a seven-game series.
With that theme in mind, here are four players the Bruins could target before the trade deadline to upgrade their physicality (All salary information via Cap Friendly, advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).
Chris Kreider, LW, New York Rangers
2019-20 stats: 46 GP, 16 G, 15 A, 111 SOG
Contract: $4.625 million salary cap hit, UFA after 2019-20, modified no-trade clause
Kreider, in many ways, is the ideal target for the Bruins ahead of the trade deadline. He's a skilled offensive player, he plays a power forward kind of game, and he's a Massachusetts-born player who played at Boston College. Kreider has great hands, good speed, and plenty of effective dangles in front of the net. He's also not afraid to go to the dirty areas around the crease for rebound goals and to set screens. His offensive talents would upgrade Boston's power play, too.
The Rangers are six points out of a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and must soon decide if they'll become sellers at the trade deadline. Kreider is able to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and if there's a chance New York could lose him, it makes sense to deal him to a contender. Kreider would give the Bruins' top-six or third line an injection of speed, offensive skill and impressive size (6-foot-3 and 215 pounds).
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Miles Wood, LW, New Jersey Devils
2019-20 stats: 46 GP, 7 G, 9 A, 94 SOG
Contract: $2.75 million cap hit through 2021-22
Wood is not a rental and signed through the 2021-22 campaign. The 24-year-old forward is capable of scoring between 25 and 30 points over a full season, while also throwing his weight around with a power forward-style of play. The best attribute of Wood's game is his fantastic speed, which would give the Bruins' bottom-six additional energy and another dimension for opponents to tackle.
Craig Smith, C, Nashville Predators
2019-20 stats: 46 GP, 10 G, 10 A, 123 SOG
Contract: $4.25 million cap hit, UFA after 2019-20
Smith would add depth down the middle for the Bruins and give them a physical player who loves battling in front of the net. The 30-year-old center has 10 goals this season, and eight of them have come in the last 14 games. Smith has played his entire nine-year career in Nashville, but if the Predators don't feel like they can (or want to) re-sign him as a free agent this summer, getting some value for him ahead of the trade deadline would be the smart move. The Predators enter Friday six points out of the second wild-card playoff spot in the Western Conference standings.
Josh Manson, D, Anaheim Ducks
2019-20 stats: 28 GP, 1 G, 4 A, 39 SOG
Contract: $4.1 million cap hit through 2021-22, also a modified no-trade clause
How tough is Manson? Well, he fought Milan Lucic during the preseason in 2015, a few weeks before his first full season with the Ducks.
Manson isn't going to provide a ton of offensive production, but his teams have established puck possession at a high rate most of his career. In four of his five pro seasons the Ducks have earned a Corsi-For percentage above 50 at even strength, and in the 2019-20 campaign, Anaheim has a plus-28 edge in shot attempts, a plus-10 advantage in shots on goal and a plus-15 margin in scoring chances at 5-on-5 when Manson has been on the ice.
The 28-year-old defenseman also is fully capable of logging 20-plus minutes per night. He has experience filling a top-four role for Anaheim, but he probably would be a third-pairing defenseman on Boston's blue line. Manson's willingness to block shots and go into the corner to fight for pucks also would make him a valuable penalty killer for the B's. He's averaged 2:10 of shorthanded ice time per game for the Ducks this season.
The Ducks have the worst record in the Western Conference entering Friday. They should be sellers ahead of the deadline. Manson is not a rental, however, and he's on a pretty manageable contract for a 28-year-old defenseman. There's no rush to trade him from Anaheim's perspective, but he definitely is a good target for contenders that want to toughen up their blueline.
Side note: Manson already has an idea of Boston's hockey culture from his three seasons playing for Northeastern University.